31 July 2008

"The Teammates" by David Halberstam

The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship
Written by David Halberstam
Date of publication: 28 April 2004
Cover price: $13.95
217 pages

David Halberstam's--I'm sorry, Pulitzer Prize-winning David Halberstam's--book--I'm sorry, New York Times Bestseller--The Teammates is an account of the last time Dominic DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky drove down to see Ted Williams before the Splendid Splinter passed away. Little of the book itself is actually about the drive or the visit, but rather a biography of each of the three, along with teammate Bobby Doerr (unable to make the trek, as he was needed at home with his ailing wife), and the telling of how they became lifelong friends.

Out of reading this book alone, my estimation of Ted Williams has gone from The Greatest Hitter of All-Time to a guy whose only real difference between himself and my grandfather is that his sports were baseball and fishing, and my grandfather's are drinking betting on the ponies. By every account in The Teammates, Williams was a foulmouthed, at times stark-raving tyrant who "won 33,277 arguments in a row...because he shouted all the time and appointed himself judge and jury at the end of each argument to decide who won." Each person's testimony about Williams is always tempered by vouching for his generosity, but actual examples are few and far between.

The downside is that by the time DiMaggio and Pesky get to Williams's home in Florida, as a reader it's almost hard to even care or like the guy. Reading through the lenses of today's pop pyschology, one wants to insert oneself into their lives and tell them, "You're all co-dependent on a man who browbeats you! You put up with him more out of fear and habit than devotion!" By contrast, the other three men--DiMaggio, Doerr and Pesky--are each, by all accounts, decent, likable men, part of a dying breed.

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