|Book Review: A Tale of Three Cities|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on May 21, 2009
The 1962 season will be remembered fondly by baseball fans. Five years after leaving New York, the Dodgers and Giants hooked up for a great division race. The two bitter rivals finished the season atop the National League West standings and played a thrilling three-game playoff to advance to the World Series and play the New York Yankees.
The crux of Steven Travers's book comes from that taut race and the compelling World Series drama. He details the entire season with thorough reporting, mostly for the Giants and Dodgers, and keeps fans who don't know what happened waiting to read the conclusion of a great year of baseball.
But "A Tale of Three Cities" isn't just a recap of game stories. Travers collects interesting anecdotes that set up the action. My favorite was the story behind the Yankees signing catcher Ralph Houk. New York sent two scouts to secure Houk: one to sign him and the other to tell stories with the other scouts until Houk had signed.
Travers paints a beautiful picture of baseball in its golden age, a time that should be remembered fondly. All of the characters with their required personas are there: the declining superstar Duke Snider, the partying Mickey Mantle and the blossoming superstar in Willie Mays. Travers integrates these stories into his storytelling seamlessly. It allows him to shift from topic to topic without catching up readers' attention.
Players from the Giants and Dodgers -- who are the two central teams in this book -- receive a few anecdotes and Travers recaps how their careers ended after playing their roles in the drama of the 1962 playoffs.
"A Tale of Three Cities" covers more ground than baseball, however. The book discusses San Francisco's perceived superiority over its rival city of Los Angeles. Even though Los Angeles has the better weather, the better stadium and the better newspapers, San Franciscans see themselves as sophisticates rather than rubes they associate with Los Angeles. Travers delves into the history of the time, covering the Cuban missile crisis, the death of President John F. Kennedy and the start of Vietnam War, too. He calls it the end of innocence for the United States.
The tension from the 1962 pennant race and the anecdotes drive this story. For those who are familiar with that era of baseball, this book may not reveal anything new to you and may only be a summary of some fond memories. For those who weren't fans then, "A Tale of Three Cities" shines a light on a good era of baseball.
AHP Rating: 2.5 Balls
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Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book store to get a copy.