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October 1964

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Thirty years after the end of the Yankee dynasty — 30 very often embarrassing years — the team is again showing some spunk, which makes this season the perfect season for David Halberstam’s new baseball tome. The story of the Yankees’ last World Series in their unprecedented reign (they won the American League pennant 14 times from 1949 to 1964), it is also the story of a critical time in the evolution of the sport: Integration had yet to be embraced by some teams, including the Yankees. Stars like Mantle and Maris had passed the prime of their careers; and the seeds were being planted for the labor rebellion that still preoccupies baseball today. Legends like Yogi Berra, owners like Gussie Busch (of beer fame), and the second generation of black players — Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Lou Brock, and Bill White — all make appearances as Halberstam traces the journey of the Yankees and the Cardinals to the Series. The collision of old (Yankees) and young (Cardinals) makes for a promising dramatic frame, but the tension and emotion are hamstrung by Halberstam’s desire to cram as much information as possible into his pages. There are so many different names floating around that the reader, unless already a baseball aficionado, is forced to spend much of the time trying to figure out who’s who. Ultimately, October 1964 is for the truly fanatic, who will be able to appreciate it for what it is: a reporter’s documentary-like re-creation of a historic turning point in our national pastime. B+