As a lifelong Red Sox fan, David Halberstam’s The Teammates was an interesting read. In a nutshell, it tells the story of Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dominic DiMaggio – the four core members of the Boston Red Sox throughout the 1940′s. These guys came up together, played almost their entire careers together, and became lifelong friends in the process.
I do have to first give it up for this book in the sense that it was the perfect distraction during the off-season from what is the modern-day Red Sox organization – talk about a good time to catch up on teams of Red Sox past (one benefit of the current squad being in shambles is I got 28-1 odds of them winning it all this year – check out your odds here before placing your bet on your favorite team in MLB.)
The book is set with a backdrop of Johnny Pesky and Dominic DiMaggio driving down to Florida to say good-bye to Ted Williams, who is essentially on his deathbed. My knock on the book is that Halberstam is clearly writing about his boyhood idols – he’s much to quick to heap praise upon each of the men, while limiting his criticisms, and the whole book reads much like Tuesdays with Morrie in the sense that it has a gushy, reflective feel to it.
That said, it’s clear to me that these guys were all great players, and Williams aside, humble, genuine people. Growing up with parents who were fans of a different generation of Red Sox greats, I learned at a young age all about the games of Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Carlton Fisk, and Luis Tiant. While I was well aware of the names of Williams, Doerr, Pesky, and Dimaggio, aside from Ted Williams I couldn’t tell you much about these guys as players except for their position. This book was a great read for me in the sense that I learned a lot more about the Red Sox organization as a whole in the 1940′s, and these players in particular. I’ll leave you with one point of interest with regards to each:
Johnny Pesky – A lifelong Red Sox in one capacity of another, Johnny Pesky was known as “The Needle” because of his pointy nose. He led the American League in hits his first three seasons in the league, despite taking three years off after his rookie season to serve in World War II.
Bobby Doerr – A 9-time All-Star, Doerr averaged 19 homers and 108 RBIs per 162 games for his career – as a second baseman.
Dominic DiMaggio – At 5’9 and 168 pounds Dominic lacked the size and grace of his more famous brother, Joe. Best known for playing a feverish variety of center field, most historians believe the Red Sox would have won the 1946 World Series had Dominic not been injured late in game seven. A 7-time All-Star, Dominic averaged 121 runs per 162 games for his career. Ted Williams, for one, thought he should be a Hall of Famer.
Ted Williams – A 17-time All-Star, Ted Williams would undoubtedly be close to unanimous pick for the title of “Best Hitter Ever” had he not missed nearly five years in his prime while serving in both World War II and Korea. One of my favorite baseball stats of all-time is Williams’ career on-base percentage – .482, good enough for best all-time (ahead of Babe Ruth). That included 5 seasons where Williams had an OBP over .500.
All in all, The Teammates was a nice winter distraction, as well as valuable read for historical perspective it gave me on the Red Sox teams of the 1940′s.