The book: “The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers”
The author: Michael Leahy
The vital statistics: HarperCollins Publishers, 496 pages, $26.99. To be released May 10
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website
The pitch: Maury Wills, Wes Parker, Tommy Davis, Sandy Koufax, Jeff Torborg, Dick Tracewski, Lou Johnson, Al Ferrara, Joe Moeller, Ron Fairly, Claude Osteen …
They really weren’t innocent bystanders.
They happened to be mature enough in age to be playing baseball in Los Angeles, for the Dodgers, in the 1960s, when the Ravine was still shifting.
They reflected the cross pollination of race, religion, class – while winning and losing in a sport that many still considered the national past time — pre-Super Bowl, remember.
The beauty of this 50-year retrospective is that as a group most are still around to talk about it, honestly, putting their trust in a Washington Post writer who started this innocently enough in 2009 by tracking down former DC native Wills to catch up with him about his exclusion from the Hall of Fame was, and continues to be, a gross oversight.
One interview led to a story in the Post Magazine, and a book was organically created when Leahy talked to more and more of Wills’ teammates from that era, particular the introspective Parker, Tracewski, Davis …
We are fortunate Leahy has a personal connection to this subject.
He admits in the acknowledgements that his passion was “ignited long before I had a driver’s license,” and his dad and neighborhood friends would take him to Dodger Stadium – including witnessing Koufax’s perfect game in 1966 from Aisle 27, Row S of the fourth deck, so he can reflect on some of the key plays of that game from his own perspective.
He also knew first-hand the power and reach of Vin Scully’s voice, who, “at thirty-four in 1962, Scully possessed the command of someone twenty years his senior. .. (he) had the wit and a keen eye to complement a melodious voice devoid of any trace of an eastern accent, his speech and style an amalgam of laidback folksy and eloquently descriptive.” He was perfect man for the job when the O’Malley family moved the team from Brooklyn and needed to attract new fans, because “the sound of Vin Scully on their radios was ubiquitous. To make that first trip to Dodger Stadium for the new Californians was akin to embarking on an obligatory family pilgrimage to Disneyland.”