Day 27: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: Another take on the Dodgers (and Giants) leaving New York

As the Dodgers and Giants fight it out again, this time in San Francisco, we revisit the team’s move West from New York more than 50 years ago with …

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The book: “After Many a Summer: The Passing of the Giants and Dodgers and a Golden Age in New York Baseball”

The author: Robert E. Murphy

How to find it: Union Square Press, 432 pages, $24.95

Where we’d go looking for it: Amazon has it (linked here)

The scoop: Remember that book by Michael D’Antonio called “Forever Blue” that we reviewed earlier this month (linked here and linked here and even more linked here)?

Here’s the consenting opinion. Or, the prevailing opinion that still lingers in New York from those with abandonment issues.

Murphy’s bio: He lives in Brooklyn. He’s a senior writer for “The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge.” Essentially, he knows his Dodgers and New York Giants background.

From just the bookjacket blurb, Murphy says he’ll reveal: “How legendary power-broker Robert Moses, who has received much of the blame for the team’s departure, actually did more to keep them in New York than is commonly believed.” And: “How the two owners (Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham) carried out secret talks with California officials even while insisting that they had not decided to leave New York.”

In the introduction, Murphy admits he lived within walking distance of Ebbets Field, how his brother John and sister Mary took him to games. “It was wonderful to sit among all those other people who loved the Dodgers,” he wrote. “… Baseball in New York City, where the modern game had developed, gripped a six-and-a-half-year-old boy’s life in the spring of 1956.” He was that kid.

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Murphy also says he has another reason for writing this book, other than the fact it appears that only the Dodgers left New York and the Giants just kind of went along for the ride: “It is clear that, over the past two decades, a revisionst view of that happened in New York baseball in and before 1957 has taken hold, a view that Walter O’Malley — and, to some degree, Horace Stoneham — were more sinned against than sinning, and that the blame for the loss of the Dodgers, at least, belongs to New York City officials, principally Robert Moses. I have not trusted this thesis, and it has bothered me to see it become the standard version of events. Indeed, I have found it to be an inadequate explanation of very complicated developments. They are complicated, in part, because O’Malley, Stoneham, Moses and other characters in the story were complicated, even contradictory, men, and what they were thinking at various points in the drama cannot always be known. Sometimes it was the same as what they were saying, but often it was not. It is possible, therefore, to argue that each of the owners over the course of years was forced by circumstances to remove his ballclub from a city that he did not want to leave. But that view underestimates each man’s calculating mind and powerful ambition — Walter O’Malley’s in particular. …”

Murphy concludes: “Although my interestes in this subject comes out of my own boyhood, I will leave the first person here in this preface and yield to my curiosity about a time and a place and a series of events that took place when I was very young. It has now been 50 years since the endgame took place, so this seems a suitable time to look back.”

From interviews with many folk, Murphy writes that O’Malley, in particular, has plenty of examples of his contradictory life. He could be “thoughtful, graciouis, generous, particulary to former ballplayers.” He could be headstrong, irritable and intolerant. He needed to be in control and did eventually control all of baseball … He was what the Irish call ‘a poor mouth’ — or as Red Smith once described him, an ‘Irishman (unexcelled) at crying with a loaf of bread under each arm.’”

The depth at which Murphy brings the New York Giants into this Dodger moving scenario is obviously what’s missing from D’Antonio’s book, which is focused, obviously, on the Dodgers only. Murphy also admits later in the acknowledgements that he did favor New York writers Red Smith, Arthur Daley and Dick Young — all very anti-O’Malley in their opinions, much of which was for tabloid newspaper writing. “Though he generally remained cool in print, what was happening to them made him angry as well it should have,” Murphy wrote of Young in particular.

Murphy also writes that he used previous books such as “The Dodgers Move West” by Neil J. Sullivan in 1980, and “The Power Broker” about Moses by Robert Caro.

But he also says that using the WalterOMalley.com website was “most valuable” even though this was “obviously set up up by is family as an apologia for Dad, containing as much evidence as they could find to prove that he really, really wanted to keep his team in dear old Brooklyn, ‘where they belonged,’ and only took them away because no one in the city understood him or would help him.” As for interviews, Murphy relies on those with New York Times columnist Dave Anderson, the late Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi, Newsday columnist Stan Isaacs, author Roger Kahn, Brooklyn baseball historian Tom Knight, and Lester Rodney, the Daily Worker sports editor.

How it goes down in the scorebook: Thankfully, history can be written by many authors, but their perceptions do come into play, whether real or not as far as the reader goes. Those who can show the most unbias approach tend to be the most levelheaded. Murphy has some biases, but maybe not so much to take his wack at O’Malley with just a grain of bitter salt. The flipside to the “Forever Blue” book is warrented and appreciated. And, again, the public is left to judge what’s more real and truthful than the other.

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Please don’t mistake this book for another that looks similar: “A Tale of Three Cities: The 1962 Baseball Season in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco” by Steven Travers (linked here)

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