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Praying for Gil Hodges: A Memoir of the 1955 World Series and One Family's Love of the Brooklyn Dodgersby Thomas Oliphant
Synopses & Reviews
On a steamy hot Sunday, the Reverend Herbert Redmond was celebrating Mass at a church in Brooklyn, when he startled his congregation thus: “It’s far too hot for a sermon. Keep the Commandments and say a prayer for Gil Hodges.”
Praying for Gil Hodges is built around a detailed reconstruction of the seventh game of the 1955 World Series, which has always been on the short list of great moments in baseball history. On a sunny, breezy October afternoon, something happened in New York City that had never happened before and never would again: the Brooklyn Dodgers won the world championship of baseball. For one hour and forty-four minutes, behind a gutsy, twenty-three-year-old kid left-hander from the iron-mining region of upstate New York named Johnny Podres, everything that had gone wrong before went gloriously right for a change. Until that afternoon, leaving out the war years, the Dodgers and their legions of fans had endured ten seasons during which they lost the World Series to the New York Yankees five times and lost the National League pennant on the final day of the season three times--- facts of history that give the famous cry of “Wait Till Next Year!” its defiant meaning.
Pitch by pitch and inning by inning, Thomas Oliphant re-creates a relentless melodrama that shows this final game in its true glory. As we move through the game, he builds a remarkable history of the hapless “Bums,” exploring the Dodgers' status as a national team, based on their fabled history of near-triumphs and disasters that made them classic underdogs. He weaves into this brilliant recounting a winning memoir of his own family's story and their time together on that fateful day that the final game was played.
This victory thrilled the national African-American community, still mired in the evils of segregation, who had erupted in joy at the arrival of Jackie Robinson eight years earlier and rooted unabashedly for this integrated team at a time when the country was thoroughly segregated.
And it also thrilled a nine-year-old boy on the East Side of Manhattan in a loving, struggling family for whom the Dodgers were a rare source of the joys and symbols that bring families together through tough times.
Every once in a while a book provides a certain view of America, and whether it is The Greatest Generation, Big Russ & Me, or Wait Till Next Year, these works strike a chord with readers everywhere. Praying for Gil Hodges is such a book. Written with power and clarity, this is a brilliant work capturing the majesty of baseball, the issue of race in America, and the love that one young boy, his parents, and the borough of Brooklyn had for their team.
Due to his achievements as a player and manager, as well as his sterling character, Gil Hodges deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as much as any player honored by the institution. A towering figure during the Golden Era of the 1950s, Hodges was the Brooklyn Dodgers powerful first baseman who, alongside Jackie Robinson, helped drive his team to six pennants and a thrilling World Series victory in 1955.
Dutifully following the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958, Hodges longed to return to New York City, and in 1962, joined the original Mets. He took over the managers spot on their bench in 1968 and transformed the team from a joke to World Champions in 1969—the Miracle Mets. Yet behind his stoic demeanor lay a man prone to anxiety and scarred by combat during World War II. His sudden death in 1972 shocked his friends and family and left a void in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.
Acclaimed authors Tom Clavin and Danny Peary delve into one of baseballs most overlooked stars, shedding light on a fascinating life and career that even his most ardent fans never knew.
Written with clarity and power, this book captures the majesty of baseball's golden era, the issue of race in America, and the love that one young boy, his parents, and the entire borough of Brooklyn had for their team.
About the Author
Thomas Oliphant has been a journalist, columnist, and commentator in Washington, D.C., for forty years. He has covered everything from the trials of Vietnam and Watergate to the invasion of Iraq, and every presidential campaign since 1968. His work on the tumultuous desegregation of Boston's public schools helped win the Pulitzer Prize's Gold Medal for The Boston Globe and he has contributed analysis for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS for a decade.
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