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The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball's Golden Age Hardcover – April 2, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The war was over, and the stars were home. Baseball was back, after five long war years in which the action on America’s major-league playing fields looked like the fat guys versus the tall guys at the company picnic. But it was a different America from the one that was plunged into war on December 7, 1941. Weintraub, a frequent New York Times contributor and author of The House That Ruth Built (2011), paints a portrait of an America that was thrust nearly as unexpectedly into peace as it had been into war. Washington succumbed to public pressure and released a million and a half soldiers per month into civilian life from late 1945 through 1946. The breakneck reintegration caused a crippling housing shortage and a contentious labor movement that nearly included major-league baseball. Within this informative context, Weintraub covers the key story lines of the 1946 season, which included Ted Williams’ deteriorating relationship with the Red Sox fans contrasted with Stan Musial’s love affair with the St. Louis faithful. Naturally, the season came down to a dramatic World Series showdown pitting Williams’ Sox against Musial’s Cards. The baseball history makes great reading, but the larger story of our sometimes painful transition to peacetime gives the book its staying power. Fine popular history. --Wes Lukowsky

Review

"Robert Weintraub recounts the game's joyous reacclimatization, duly honoring the fine record of service of many players, shedding light on veteran returns and underscoring significant contemporary events.... Admirably wide-ranging." -- New York Times Book Review

"Weintraub loads the bases with the kind of entertaining anecdotes, minutia and quotes that separate baseball -- and baseball writing -- from other sports, and he skillfully captures the facts and texture of the '46 season with meticulous research and a conversational style. Weintraub is a big-league storyteller." -- USA Today

"Weintraub tells myriad good stories. If you want generous context for a great season of baseball when it was still the national pastime and the country was in fascinating flux, Weintraub is your man." -- Washington Post

"A meticulously researched and elegantly written chronicle of what happened in 1946... From start to finish, The Victory Season is a home run." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"As Robert Weintraub's measured, elegant prose illustrates, "The Victory Season" makes an irrefutable case that baseball's golden age begins in 1946. Grade: Grand slam." -- Mark Hodermarsky, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A beautifully written paean to the 1946 baseball season, when normalcy returned to the national pastime." -- Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

"The Victory Season leaps off the page like a newsreel." -- Allen Barra, Chicago Tribune

"The baseball history makes great reading, but the larger story of our sometimes painful transition to peacetime gives the book its staying power. Fine popular history." -- Booklist (starred review)

"An entertaining read... Scattered among those big stories are little gems about players most of us have never heard of." -- Minneapolis Star Tribune

"We see a lot of baseball books each spring, but few will be more supremely entertaining than The Victory Season... Impossibly charming... A winning account." -- Newsday

"Even if you think you know the history of baseball, Weintraub will surprise you with many gems from his meticulous research. The Victory Season is an important work featuring an all-star cast." -- James Miller, co-author of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN

"There was more to baseball in 1946 than Ted Williams and Stan Musial marching home from war. The tectonic plates were shifting beneath the game's surface as the color line developed its first cracks and greedy team owners unwittingly inspired baseball's labor movement. With a Halberstam-like sense of purpose, Robert Weintraub captures it all in The Victory Season." -- John Schulian, co-editor of At the Fights, author of Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand

"Bright writing and the sweat of painstaking research bring baseball's Greatest Generation to life in this tale of a poignant and pivotal season in the game's history. Robert Weintraub's magic trick is to make you feel as if you're watching Leo Durocher, Ted Williams and company in real time." -- John Eisenberg, author of Ten-Gallon War: The NFL's Cowboys, the AFL's Texans, and the Feud for Dallas's Pro Football Future

"In the tradition of Robert W. Creamer's classic 'Baseball in '41,' Robert Weintraub's 'The Victory Season' doesn't merely revisit a pivotal baseball season, it places that season in a larger historical and cultural context. It is a season - and a book - to be relished, as America returns to a very familiar place: at home, at peace, and ready to follow DiMaggio, Musial, Williams, and their compatriots across another glorious summer." -- Michael MacCambridge, author of America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured A Nation

"Rob Weintraub has written a fascinating tale of a pivotal year for baseball and America. The research and storytelling are first-rate." -- Jonathan Eig, New York Times bestselling author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316205915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316205917
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Two years ago I wrote a review here on Amazon on one of the best baseball books I have ever read called "The House That Ruth Built" by Robert Weintraub. I have now finished reading another one of Mr. Weintraub's gems entitled "The Victory Season" which relates the 1946 season in baseball with a concentration on three teams, the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. This book is not only baseball history but what was taking place in America at the time. Several of the prominent players in this book took part in World War II with many of the names on bubble gum cards which I started collecting in the early 1950s.

What makes this book special to me is the number of anecdotes the author relates regarding the individuals in this story. The book is NOT a rehash of one game after another throughout the season which quickly, at least in my case, makes for very dull reading. The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox took part in the World Series in 1946 with the Cardinals' pitching staff of Howie Pollet, Murry Dickson, and Harry "The Cat" Brecheen all taking part in World War II. Mickey Grasso, a catcher later with the Washington Senators, was captured by the Germans while other players experienced other horrors. Author Weintraub does a magnificent job in expressing interesting stories that even the most well-read baseball fan has not been aware of.

The Brooklyn Dodgers are an important part of the year 1946 as this was the year Jackie Robinson played for the Montreal Royals, a farm club of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey, Larry MacPhail, and Leo Durocher are all prominently featured.

The Fall Classic featured the Cardinals of Stan Musial and the Red Sox of Ted Williams, two illustrious super-stars neither of which did well in the Series.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was not a bad book and every night I looked forward to reading a little further. Most interesting was the recounting of war experiences of those big league ballplayers who served, including one ballplayer who dived in a ditch to escape an incoming artillery shell and found that the person diving in next to him was none other than George Patton. Unfortunately these interesting anecdotes grow thin as the book moves on, and the very interesting picture Weintraub paints of post-war American society fades into the background as the book begins to focus increasingly on the 1946 baseball season. In the end it reads like so many baseball books lapsing into a somewhat boring recounting of the individual games of the 1946 world series. It would have been a better book had Weintraub been able to sustain his look at post-war America until the end of the book. And this is where this book differs from another recent book from the same era, the bio of Lefty Gomez which was just packed with detail about life in America in the fist part or the 20th century.

Weintraub writes well overall but the prose is sometimes ( though not often) hoaky. I find the comparisons of the ballplayers in the 1940s with modern day athletes like LeBron James and Roger Clemens irritating. After all, I pick up books like this to avoid reading about the modern day ballplayers. When I am reading a book about the 1946 baseball season, I do not want to have one thought of Roger Clemens.

But it is a good book. Not the best but if someone asked me if they should read it I would reply, sure. Maybe just wait until it comes out in paperback.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting look at the tail end of the war years in baseball, as well as the early post-war years, often called the golden age of baseball. Jackie Robinson playing in Montreal, before he moved up to the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Boston Red Sox and the St Louis Cardinals facing off in the World Series (and the key plays and players from that epic series). Stan Musial. Ted Williams.

The author skillfully weaves relevant non-baseball historical occurrences into the narrative to make for a more entertaining book.

As I say, it's interesting and it's got a lot of great information. He's got a nice writing style but he jumps around just a tad too much for my taste. I don't like a straight historical narrative but I also don't like the other extreme either. Still, this is a baseball book I'd recommend.
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Format: Hardcover
For those who like a little, or even a lot of history with their baseball, The Victory Season by Robert Weintraub is as good as it gets. By now, everybody knows the story of how Eisenhower, unbeatable by the highest level waring powers in WW II, got surrounded and stopped in his tracks by American mothers on his way to a joint session of Congress. They demanded their husbands, brothers, and sons back and Ike could do nothing but stop and listen. Weintraub picks up on this theme early in the book, showing it happened not only to Eisenhower, but to Congressmen, Senators, in short, any cog in the commonweal moveable to action, so that in an oblique way, by 1946 Weintraub makes it seem Americans were also demanding their ballplayers back.

The book opens with a perfect metaphor - Yankee Stadium's cavernous open areas gutted to accommodate a renovation. It is one of the best depictions of a nation transitioning from a war footing to peacetime endeavors that you will find anywhere.

The book is an antidote to the constant barrage of baseball salary issues that act as standins for between-the-lines baseball action which I've always thought belong in The Wall Street Journal. Not that the business of baseball doesn't get coverage here, it does. But the business story of post World War II baseball is such a smaller story it doesn't dwarf our expectations, its numbers are manageable, and the author captures this perfectly on page 271 where we get: "there were no huge television contracts, no $9 beers," (and the worst excess) "no stadia publicly funded on the backs of taxpayers." Put simply, public buildings generating private profits was not on the radar screen.
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