Michael Leahy's credentials as a sports writer include his much celebrated book When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan’s Last Comeback, which GQ Magazine described as “the best sports book of the year….easily the most fully formed portrait of Jordan ever written and one of the best sports books in recent memory.” David Maraniss has written of his new book, “The Last Innocents is a great American story. Baseball in the southern California sun, Maury Wills stealing, Vin Scully narrating, life spinning and sweeping like a Koufax curveball toward the future---the tableau could not be richer for a writer as evocative as Michael Leahy.”
This book must have presented Leahy with challenges quite different than those of his book on Michael Jordan. That book focused on a single personality and a time period much more limited than the decade-long survey of the Dodgers that Leahy has attempted in this book. Leahy’s ambition here was to evoke a period in baseball history--and our national history--and to bring that era to life in a way we all felt and remembered. To do that, he goes behind the public face of the game to tell us about what we didn’t know was happening at the time, to show us how dominant currents of social and political change in the 1960s impacted the team. He looks at the relationships of the players with each other, a dynamic that made an extraordinary team. He chronicles the changes that were developing between players and baseball management in this transitional period. Above all, he gives us a window into the minds and emotions of the players, letting us understand what drove the performance and what made the period thrilling and memorable. Leahy had exactly the right sense of the task; ambitious, yes, but not overreaching. A lesser ambition would not have resulted in the rich and compelling portrait of the era he has given us here.
|Author Michael Leahy was there that night at Dodger Stadium, September 9,1965|
to see Koufax pitch his perfect game against the Cubs. Also in the picture,left to right,
Willie Davis, Wes Parker, Ron Fairly, and Don Le John
Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, and Willie Davis celebrating Koufax''s
Game 5 shutout against the Twins in the 1965 World Series.
The portraits that emerge of certain players--Maury Wills and Wes Parker in particular--are wonderful revelations about the differing motives and struggles players have in relation to the game, something we don’t usually know about and seldom think about. Their stories go far beyond the statistics, and are quite moving. The toughest challenge Leahy faced, it would seem, is how you tell the story of an era in Dodger history when the person who defined the period more than any other doesn’t want to talk about his own career with a reporter.
|Don Drysdale celebrates his victory in Game 4 of the 1965 World Series with|
two Dodgers who hit home runs in the game, Lou Johnson and Wes Parker.