“Wait Till Next Year” was the refrain of Dodgers fans back in the days when they still resided in Brooklyn and were perennial bridesmaids at the Yankees’ many weddings. If you were a regular reader of this website then you’ve had to wait a little over a year as other aspects of life have pushed reading to one side for me. Heading into 2019, however, I am back on track and space has opened up for books once more with Doris Kearns Goodwin’s childhood memoir getting me off to a strong start.
I’m a fan of football and baseball, but when I read books about them I like an author to mix in a bit of social history and context that takes them beyond being simple sports books. Wait Till Next Year takes us back to the author’s early years and combines a love for the Dodgers, inherited from a father who taught his daughter to score games while listening to the radio, with the changing world of the 1950s.
Goodwin is a celebrated historian so it is no surprise that she seamlessly blends the Dodgers legends of Robinson, Campanella, Snider and Pee Wee Reese with major historical events such as the Cold War, McCarthyism, Korea and perhaps most engagingly the development of suburban America. The movement of families from the city to the newly built suburbs, the development of friendships, a Catholic upbringing and deep connections within a new local community are all well drawn, as is the place of baseball in the culture with key games broadcast into school.
The ‘50s Dodgers have featured quite heavily in my baseball reading to date so the names are familiar and it was nice to share in the author’s memories of them. It’s a time that is hard to imagine from the perspective of both the struggles to overcome racism and also the impending departure of legendary teams to the opposite coast. Racism continues to cast a shadow over football in England but segregation thankfully seems completely alien, whilst the one experience of franchising in the game continues to stoke anger in many football fans.
The Giants and Dodgers continue their rivalry in California now but as a result of my reading it is hard for me not to associate them with New York and Brooklyn. I’ve visited the AT&T stadium in San Francisco but I pine for the Polo Grounds and Ebbett’s Field even though I will never see them. My relationship with baseball is like that, rooted more in a sentimental association with the history of the game and its place in culture than the latest round of games, and formed from the writing of eloquent fans like Doris Kearns Goodwin.