Book Review: Larry King WHY I LOVE BASEBALL
Posted by athomeatfenway on November 28, 2008
Why I Love Baseball. By Larry King with Julie McCarron. Phoenix Books. 160 pages. 2006.
Little Larry King, who would one day become a broadcasting legend, stood on a Brooklyn street with lifelong friend, Herbie Cohen. It was either 1948 or ’49. King, a not so rugged 15 year old, smashed Herbie’s head into a lamppost. Cohen then nailed King with a shot to the chin.
Down on the street they went, both bleeding and struggling.
When the fisticuffs were over, the two friends didn’t speak for a week.
What Cohen said to ignite King was this:. “Snuffy Stirnweiss is a better second baseman than Jackie Robinson.”
That assertion still bothers King to this day. It is shocking and obscene to him.
If that seems extreme to you, well…..I’m not sure I agree with you..
(It bothers me to this day that my beloved brother teased me 35 years ago by referring to my own hero as “Carl Pigstremski, son of a potato pickin’ polack”.)
King’s father died when he was just 9 years old. A fatherless, unathletic kid raised in Brooklyn, King had ample opportunity to get into the bleachers at Ebbets Field when he had the spare change, or into the Left Field Grandstand for free through the courtesy of the Police Athletic League.
King became a hard wired Brooklyn fan. Locked in for life. True Blue.
His cousin Bernie took him to his first Dodger game 2 months after his Dad passed away.
Young King was constantly at Ebbets Field.
He fed Jackie Robinson and Joe Hatten chicken-fat-and-matzo sandwiches from behind the dugout. He watched Pistol Pete Reiser run flat out into the outfield wall, which would help cut short a HOF-bound career.
He dearly remembers the ’47 Series when Lavagetto hit a 9th-inning, 2-RBI double to win game 4, and Gionfriddo robbed DiMaggio in game 6 with an outfield catch that defied logic.
The Boys of Summer were his boyz. Robinson, Hodges, Cox, Reese, Campanella, Snider and Furillo. King observes that Left Field was always a problem for the Brooklyns. They first filled it with Hermanski and later Pafko, neither of whom had as much talent and pizzaz as the rest.
Following the Dodger abandonment of Brooklyn, King refused to transfer his personal loyalty to Los Angeles. They ripped his heart out. A decade later, he threw his loyalty in with two other team.
He became a Baltimore Oriole fan. And a New York Mets rooter.
Living in Washington D.C. in the 70’s, he became acquainted with Edward Bennett Williams, Earl Weaver, the Robinson boys, Jim Palmer, and the rest of the team that provided one of the longest periods of extended excellence in the history of Baseball.
Bobby Valentine was King’s connection to the Mets.
With 30 years experience as a national media man, King briefly recounts the interviews of many stars in this book, including Durocher, Weaver, Sparky Anderson, Torre, LaRussa, Berra, Jackie, Brooks, Mantle, Henrich, Palmer, Reese, Ripken, and others
The memories resonate. In the Barack Obama era, none ring with more import than those of Jackie Robinson, months before his death,
“Don’t put me in the grave telling me that someday my people will have equal rights. Give it to me now, so that when I die I know they have it. I hate promises…”
God Bless Robinson. He led the way in Baseball, and Baseball helped make it subsequently happen on buses, in schools, at the polls.
This book is written like a long sprawling speech made at a hot stove league dinner in winter.
It is a fantastic and fast read.
King includes his memories of–
-His favorite baseball books
-His favorite baseball lyrics
-The 14-year old baseball bookie now in prison
-Past owners, radio broadcasters, umpires and Players Association officials
He includes short essays from Herbie Cohen, Charlie Bragg, Bob Costas, and a 23 page reprinting of George Will’s 99 reasons that Baseball is better than Football.
#13 of Will’s reasons is the following insight….”Football Coaches talk about character, gut checks, intensity and reckless abandon. Tommy LaSorda said, ‘Managing is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it; not hard enough and it flies away.’.”
There are dozens of such jewels in Why I love Baseball.
This book will have its critics. Too facile, too conversational. But if you love Baseball you will find plenty of warm and valuable memories in it.
I give it an A -.