Published June 1998 by Simon Schuster Adult
Source: My dad loaned this one to me
Doris Kearns Goodwin grew up in a suburb of New York City in the years immediately following World War II. Unlike so many suburbs that sprouted up after the war, Rockville Centre had been incorporated more than 100 years earlier, giving it a feel that those rapidly rising suburbs could never hope to have. The houses in Kearns Goodwin’s neighborhood were “so close to one another that they functioned almost as a single home.” On the corner of the residential area lay a group of stores the likes of which is extraordinarily rare these days. There was a drugstore, a butcher shop, a soda shop, a delicatessen, and a barber shop/beauty parlor. Kearns Goodwin writes “the shopkeepers were as much a part of my daily life as the families who lived on my street.” The families didn’t just hand down clothes and toys from their own older children to the younger ones, they passed them from house to house.
New York, in those days, boasted three major league baseball teams. As they were throughout the city, team loyalties were divided in Kearns Goodwin’s neighborhood, loyalties that families carried with them from their boroughs of origin with the Bronx being the home of the Yankees, Manhattan the home of the Giants and Brooklyn being the home of the Dodgers. These loyalties were passed from generation to generation and Kearns Goodwin’s father passed to her his passion for the Dodgers, even teaching her to keep a score book when she was only six years old. She would spend her afternoons listening to the games on the family’s Philco radio and keeping score so that she could replay the entire game for her father after dinner that evening.
Kearns Goodwin intermingles the histories of the teams and players with stories of life in the suburbs from the late 1940’s through the 1950’s when life began to change—the corner stores were driven out of business and the neighbors began moving away. Kearns Goodwin writes of growing up watching the color barrier being broken in baseball when her beloved Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers, watching the McCarthy hearings on television, learning what to do in case of a nuclear attack, becoming aware of the growing civil rights movement, and of watching both the Dodgers and the Giants leave New York.
Kearns Goodwin writes beautifully. I felt as though I were sitting with her listening to her tell me of that long ago time. The book wasn’t entirely what I expected. I had imagined the book to have even more to do with her love of the Dodgers and her father and less to do with the rest of her life. Although she has included detailed accounts of many games, which I often skimmed over, overall Kearns Goodwin does a marvelous job of combining American history, baseball, and her own personal memoir in a book that is charming and nostalgic.
Okay, Mom--I know you're out there, lurking! You and Dad should really send me your impressions so I can let everyone know what you thought of this as well.