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October 1964 Paperback – April 11, 1995
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Heroes have a habit of growing larger over time, as do the arenas in which they excelled. The 1964 World Series between the Yankees and Cardinals was coated in myth from the get-go. The Yankees represented the establishment: white, powerful, and seemingly invincible. The victorious Cards, on the other hand, were baseball's rebellious future: angry and defiant, black, and challenging. Their seven-game barnburner, played out against a backdrop of an America emerging from the Kennedy assassination, escalating the war in Vietnam, and struggling with civil rights, marked a turning point--neither the nation, nor baseball, would ever be quite so innocent again. Halberstam, one of the great reporters of the '60s, looks back in this marvelous and spirited elegy to the era, the game, and players such as Mantle, Maris, Ford, Gibson, Brock, and Flood with a clear eye in search of the truth that time has blurred into legend. His confident prose, diligent reporting, and deft analysis make it clear how much more interesting--and forceful--the truth can be.
From Library Journal
This follow-up to the best-selling Summer of '49 assesses the Yankee-Cardinal World Series of 1964.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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However, Halberstam's take on the demise of the Establishment Yankees is the more accurate one. The '63 World Series was won single-handedly by a couple of white guys, Koufax and Drysdale. Yes, the Dodgers did have five black regulars in the starting lineup, but apart from the second inning of the opening game, they just didn't hit, or make history the way Koufax did.
The 1964 World Series was won by the heroics of men that the Yankees didn't understand, by men who couldn't play for the Yankees, by virtue of who they were. The Yankees could accept being struck out 15 times by Sandy Koufax, but when they struck out 13 times against Bob Gibson -- on whom their sole scouting report was woefully inaccurate -- it was an outrage. Gibson wasn't supposed to have courage, or determination! Lou Brock wasn't supposed to get more hits in the Series than Mickey Mantle!
And yet, the '64 Yankees didn't go quietly in the Series, and in fact they scored more runs than St. Louis. Mantle had an incredible seven games. The Yanks had more walks and homers than the Cardinals, and their pitching (behind white youngers Jim Bouton and Mel Stottlemyre) basically matched St. Louis out for out. At least on paper. The Series turning point came when the Yanks' lone black pitcher, Al Downing, gave up a grand slam homer to a Southern good-ol'-boy, Ken Boyer.
This is why "October 1964" is a great book. It's no mystery as to who the heroes are -- the book frontpiece is a team photograph, and that team isn't the Yankees. However, the bad guys gave it a mighty effort. 40 years later, it's hard to remember how much the Yankees represented a world that simply had to end. As someone born well after '64, I didn't even know at first that spring training in Florida was segregated that late. The struggles of Gibson and Brock and Flood and Bill White were relatively new stories when Halberstam first told them. Since Halberstam's skill is in creating whole lives in three or four pages, these mini-biographies are the heart of the book, and not the more desultory game descriptions that reduce the World Series to a sequence of monochrome postcards.
The best anecdote in the book has little to do with the World Series. Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry, then a rookie, brashly introduces himself to a few old men watching a baseball game. "Well, Ralph," one of the men says. "my name is Cy Young. And these fellas over here next to me are Zack Wheat and Ty Cobb."
If you subscribe to the theory of baseball as social history, "October 1964" is a book you'd do well to have on your shelf, and one worth reading every few years.
The book instead focuses more on the background of the players. I'm not suggesting that that wasn't enjoyable, but the race itself could have been done more intensely.
Again, Halberstam frames his story in the context of the cultural changes in the country as well as the game of baseball itself. It was the years when black athletes were dominating the MVP awards and yet still found deep seated hatred from fans, especially in the south,but even from managers or owners.(Keane and Berra the exception).
And baseball was changing. The players were able to make more money often from endorsements and commercials than from salary. Televison made even the utility players instant stars. It gave them independence. That led to disdain for the austere disciplinarians of yesteryear like Solly Hemus, Eddie Stanky, or Leo Durocher. And players rebelled and ridiculed the philosophy of such managers. Perhaps the inability of the Phillies to relax under Gene Mauch was a major reason in their historic fall from grace.
It was also the year that marked the end of the once great Yankee dynasty of 28 years. George Weiss' selfishness and greed robbed a once great farm system of its youth and so after 64 the Yankees were no longer the talk of the town.
Still this is a very good book for anyone who loves the history of the gam and who idolized players like Brock, Gibson, Mantle, Maris, Ellie Howard, Flood and so many more.
There are also a few laugh out loud anecdotes and I feel compelled to share them. Both of course involve Bob Uecker who played that year for the Cards. In the first, the team was posing for a team picture. Uecker whispered a moment before the photographer shot, that they should smile and hold hands which they did. When Cardinal brass saw it, the picture was redone.
Uecker's humor helped relax the team and that should not be undervalued-the clubhouse was loose in contrast to the ravings of Mauch. The second story, please don't be offended by the messenger, involves a card game invented by Uecker. He had a friend with the Philly detective bureau who would give him mug shots of ugly people who would get arrested. Uecker would keep them in his Ugly Deck until he had 52 cards. Then players would play like hearts. Whomever put down the ugliest photo of the four players put down, the winner would get all the cards. There was one card of a woman serial killer that was hands down the ugliest and Uecker would hide it up his sleeve like an ace up hi sleeve. Once he showed the card to Dixie Walker and told him, "Dixie, that's my mother. Walker replied, "She's rather attractive isn't she". Okay so call me immature(I loved Ball Four for the same reason).