Wait Till Next Year, by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, is a book I have been meaning to read for years but never seemed to get to until now. This has to be at least the third time I checked it out from the library, and I would not be surprised to stumble upon a copy buried somewhere among all the books around the house. As it turns out, Wait Till Next Year is not exactly what I thought it would be – but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
This is Goodwin’s coming-of-age story and, while her love of the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers is at the core of that story, she does a remarkable job of recreating the Long Island neighborhood in which she grew up. It was, to say the least, a different era – more innocent in some ways, and scarier in others. It was when every parent on the street knew, and felt a bit responsible, for every kid that lived on the block. Local merchants knew and appreciated their customers, fathers worked and mothers stayed home with their children, and watching television was a spectacle neighbors enjoyed together. But it was also the age of air raid drills (duck and cover) in public schools, scary civil-defense films, bomb shelters, and polio epidemics. Way too soon, children learned how fragile life really is.
Goodwin’s love for the game began the day her father taught her how to keep her own official baseball score sheet so that she could recount the details of the day’s Dodger game to him each evening when his workday was over. Because, for a while, her father kept the existence of newspaper box scores a secret from her, Goodwin came to believe that she was his only link to all those workweek day games. Her father's eagerness to listen to her daily game-recaps impressed upon her just how integral a part of life baseball becomes for its most avid fans – and she became a lifetime fan.
|Doris Kearns Goodwin|
Goodwin does not neglect the Dodger stars of the day (Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, and Jackie Robinson, among them), nor her horror when the team was yanked from its fans and moved all the way to Los Angeles. And, because New York is one of those cities lucky enough to have more than one major league team, she details the neighborhood rivalries that grew up between fans of the Dodgers, Yankees, and Giants. On 1950s Long Island, baseball was more than a game; it was one of the most intensely felt passions of the day.
The book’s narration tends to be a little too straightforward and dry at times, but for those of us who grew up in the same era, and with a similar feel for the sport, it is a heartwarming reminder of how it all happened and why baseball is still such a large part of our lives and our childhood memories. This one is for all the grown-up boys and girls who loved baseball before the game was a daily television event – when the arrival of the local paper and those magical box scores was a huge event. I do remember when.