The Teammates

 

by David Halberstam (Hyperion)

 

David Halberstam proves again that true sports stories can be just as moving and funny as Ring Lardner's made-up tales. Here he scores with The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, his memoir to the lives of four Boston Red Sox players of the 1940s and 1950s whose personal and family bonds extended through the end of the century. The players are Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio. Williams is undeniably the central figure. He's not only the overpowering hitter, whose .406 batting average in 1941 remains the best of modern major league baseball, but he's also the larger-than-life character always in the news for good or ill. As they appear to be this year, the Red Sox have too often been the American League runner-ups: in this period they were second to the Yankees in '38, '39, '41, '42 and '49 and to the Indians in '48. Only in 1946 did they win the American League pennant, only to be beaten in the final game of the World Series by the famous run by Enos Slaughter. (The story of that episode is one of the best in this book. Clearly the designated "goat", Johnny Pesky, has been wrongly blamed.) Theirs was a different time in baseball with smaller salaries but, in the case of these four at least, higher values. No one in this group would have belittled his teammates; they're out of step with today's sports -- and politics.-- Gerry Rising