The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, by David Halberstam ISBN 140130057x
Five out of five stars
In October of 2001, the word is out that the great Ted Williams is close to death. Considered by many to be the best hitter of all time, Williams was widely thought of as a temperamental and unstable personality. However, that does not mean that he did not make friends on the Boston Red Sox. Three of his closest friends were Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr. Hearing of their friend’s imminent demise, DiMaggio and Pesky travel over 1,000 miles by car to visit Williams. The serious illness of Doerr’s wife prevents him from going.
This is a story of the old days of baseball when players stayed together on a team for years and formed bonds that lasted for decades. It is also a look into the lives of these players, specifically the temperamental Williams. He was a perfectionist, yet he loved baseball and lived the science of hitting. Williams was also stormy, dominating conversations and situations, yet his friends could tolerate him, and he respected them.
Due to the trip and Halberstam’s account of the events, the reader is given a glimpse into what could have been a team even better than the Yankees. If their top pitchers had not developed serious arm trouble that could be treated by modern medicines, the best team of the late forties and early fifties would have been the Boston Red Sox.
People that know the history of baseball know that the Boston Red Sox were the last major league team to integrate when they hired Pumpsie Green in 1959. The most fascinating fact in this book is that if the Red Sox had not been such a racist organization, they could have signed Willie Mays. If they had, their outfield in the fifties would have contained Ted Williams and Willie Mays. Furthermore, Mays would have played half of his games in Fenway with the short distance to the left field wall. His offensive statistics could have been incredible with that feature and with Williams with him in the lineup.
This is a baseball book that highlights good aspects of four sports heroes. While they were humans with flaws, they were friends, and nothing changed that until they began to die off. While baseball is now a multi-media production, from this book it is clear that in many ways it was better when these men played it.