The book: “Baseball and the Baby Boomer: A History, Commentary and Memoir”
The author: Talmage Boston (forward by Frank Deford)
How to find it: Bright Sky Press, 288 pages, $24.95
Where we’d go looking for it: Amazon has it (linked here)
The scoop: The Baby Boomer age is defined in American culture as a person born between 1946 and 1964 — both years of St. Louis Cardinals’ seven-game World Series triumphs. I’ll fall into the later part of that window — 1961, the year the Los Angeles Angels were at the old Wrigley Field, born the day between Roger Maris’ 17 and 18th home runs during his 61-HR season (two of them came at Wrigley Field that year, including No. 50 on Aug. 22), the 109-win New York Yankees winning the World Series over Cincinnati with an ailing Mickey Mantle.
If you just narrow the sport of baseball from the prism of those who’ve experienced it from that era — meaning, by the time they experienced it for the first time, we’re talking the years 1950s through 1970s — the game seems so far away from its present day status, but the population of that time frame continue to cling to the ideas that it can still somehow be that way again. Or, maybe not. We’ve grown up with the game, played it, coached it and seen our kids play it as well.
Baseball was integrated. It happened on TV instead of the radio, yet we only knew of the players from stories in newspapers and magazines. Players stayed with their teams. There was no tier of playoffs other than the World Series. And baseball cards were affordable with that brittle stick of gum. Artificial turf and domed parks were fantasy.
What Boston, a trial lawyer and baseball historian, tries to do here is not just rehash those times, but go into some depth about people and places that really hit home and stayed there with the Baby Boomer generation. They are what Boston felt was important, mostly to him, and without digging into minutiae but “I like to think my strength as a writer is the ability to synthesize information into cmplete, concise and vivid self-contained chapters,” he writes. “Readers and critics can determine whether I’ve succeeded in doing that with this book.”
To highlight a few chapters:
== Mutt Mantle may have played hours of catch with his son, Mickey, and John Piersall may have done the same with his kid, Jimmy, but despite their good intentions, “the ony dreams their time in the game produced for their sons were of the nightmare variety,” Boston writes in Chapter 1 about the “dark side of fathers and sons playing catch.” This, in contrast to the poet Donald Hall who once waxed eloquent in his essay, “Fathers Playing Catch with Sons” in the 1970s, and the 1980s movie “Field of Dreams” showing how Kevin Costner only wanted to have a catch one more time with his dad.
== Nolan Ryan “Baby Boomer Symbol of the Game” in Chapter 4. Humility, loyalty, common sense, self-discipline, coming home again.
== Bart Giamatti, “the most eloquent voice ever to address the many facets of baseball,” in Chapter 5.
== The author’s first visit to Cooperstown, in Chapter 6, and what it meant to him.
== The saga of Maris, comparing it to the baseball steriod era of today, in Chapter 7. Writes Boston: “Roger Maris was part hardshell crab and part high-flying bird. In 1961 he lifted up the baseball world onto his strong but medium-sized shoulders and created an image, a legacy, and a non-steroidal record that stays with us to this day.”
How it goes down in the scorebook: A booming homer to right field, right where Maris would have put it.
The author’s official site: http://www.talmageboston.com/
Also check out: Boston’s 2005 book, “1939: Baseball’s Tipping Point,” forwarded by John Grisham (linked here)