Just as classics like To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Great Gatsby are to American literature, so is The Boys of Summer to sports literature. However, one of the many beauties about this Roger Kahn classic is how it transcends sports. This is a novel that takes the reader through the excitement of fanhood, the success of finally beating those hated cross city rivals (New York Yankees) and the struggle of former middle-aged ball players. I've had the pleasure of reading many books on sports in America, but none have pulled me closer to baseball, old time Americana and myself than The Boys of Summer.
Kahn begins by explaining his interest in the Dodgers as a young boy who lived near Ebbet's Field in Brooklyn. This is basic narrative on childhood support for a favorite sports team that any fan can easily relate to today. He also chronicles the Dodgers struggles against the vaunted Mantle and Berra led Yankees during the late 40's and 50's. This is all of course buildup to the Dodgers' only World Series Championship ('55) as the Brooklyn Dodgers before they moved to L.A. As a New Yorker myself, I had always wanted to know what it was like back in the 50's when baseball was truly New York Cities' game. There was a New York baseball team in 12 out of 13 World Series from '47 to '59. That feeling is certainly captured in the book. However, sports in the 1950's is not the only emotion or feeling Kahn was able to capture in The Boys of Summer.
As an energetic 28 year old, I by no means am even near middle-age. In fact, I'm not one who believes in the number that defines us, but rather the actions that we do at said number. Inevitably however, we do slow down and Kahn is able to explain to us what that was like for many of the Dodgers greats like Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson and more. This is great insight into the professional athlete off the field of play and particularly, the transitional period from athlete to non-athlete. As the reader, you can't help but feel for these once physically great heroes who no-longer posses those same attributes.
As a former beat writer for the Dodgers, Kahn had built relationships with the players from those iconic Brooklyn teams. Those friendships are obvious throughout the book and certainly give the book a slight bias. Ok, whom I kidding. The bias is extremely apparent and strong, but that love for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and really Kahn's Dodgers, is just one of the many emotions/feelings that make The Boys of Summer a must read for sports fans and non sports fans alike.
- You can certainly find copies of The Boys of Summer at your local public library, mega-multimedia store or eBay. For more Hoopography "Book Reviews", simply click here.