I know this is a little off-topic, but when I saw the news of David Halberstam’s death in a car accident on Monday, I was stunned into silence. Then I felt the need to write something. So even though this isn’t Minor-Legaue related, I hope you’ll bear with me.
Halberstam was many things, an award-winning journalist, an historian, a social commentator, a baseball fan. He was often all of them at the same time. I had the honor to interview him on a couple of occasions in a previous lifetime when I worked at the New York Post. A man as accomplished as he was certainly could have had an air about him, a sense of intellectual superiority. Nothing could be further from the case. He was extremely accessible, both in terms of how easy it was to reach him and his language. One thing I always loved about his writing was how informative and complex it was, while being gripping and page-turning at the same time while dealing with some pretty heavy subject matter.
As a journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Vietnam War, he didn’t write like some academics do. And his sports books — particularly Summer of ’49 and October 1964 — combined sports and history in a way I’ve never seen before. In both books, his discussion of how the country was changing — especially in regards to race relations — and how it intertwined with the sports world is unparalleled.
I am the son of a history professor, so I always looked at Halberstam’s work as the ideal, combining two of my passions. He was, without him ever knowing it, a bit of a role model, perhaps an idol of sorts. He’s still what I want to be when I grow up.
There are several of his works I have yet to read. But here are the books I have read and I highly recommend them to anyone. Feel free to weigh in with your favorite Halberstam work in the comments. Thanks for reading.
Summer of ’49
The Fifties (not a sports book)