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Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir

A book by Doris Kearns Goodwin

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  • Mar 23, 2006
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Doris Kearns Goodwin took a break from national history to get personal in this 1997 memoir of her experiences growing up a Long Island girl in the 1940s and 1950s rooting for the hard-luck Brooklyn Dodgers. Like Bob and Ray used to say, her loss is your gain.

I admit approaching this book with some trepidation. Clearly the book was inspired by Goodwin's participation as one of many talking pinheads on Ken Burns' self-important 1994 TV documentary "Baseball." On that show, where various hoi pollois traded their mortarboards for Yankee caps and extolled the Wagnerian ideal of a Whitey Ford fastball, Goodwin was a frequent, annoying presence, obviously trotted in to water down the testosterone as if George Will wasn't enough to accomplish that.

And for the first hundred pages of this not-big book, I felt justified in my prejudices, as Goodwin fills her pages with pat descriptions of suburban life loosely connected to a baseball team she writes about her enthusiasm for without any evident enthusiasm.

But once the book got going, my opinion changed. That happened when little Catholic Doris enters a confessional before her first Holy Communion. With wholesome piety, she tells the priest her darkest, most sinful secret: A wish that Yankee pitcher Allie Reynolds would break his arm.

That's not all. "I wished that Enos Slaughter of the Cards would break his ankle, that Phil Rizzuto of the Yanks would fracture a rib, and that Alvin Dark of the Giants would hurt his knee."

The priest is put out, not at her fantasies of carnage but because he's a Dodgers fan, too: "I believe they will win the World Series someday fairly and squarely," he tells her. "You don't need to wish harm on others to make it happen."

But it's easy to imagine Doris thinking otherwise, especially after Bobby Thomson slams a Ralph Branca fastball along with the Dodgers' hopes for making the Series in 1951. As Goodwin writes about that and later seasons, her account takes on a riveting poignancy that reminds one why Goodwin's books are so celebrated in the first place, not for her originality as a historian but for her synthesizing skill as a writer.

She even gets the chance to see her heroes close up, and unlike the baseball stars of today, they don't disappoint. Gil Hodges accepts her gift of a St. Christopher medal to help him out of a batting slump with gentle affection. Jackie Robinson signs her autograph book with a bit of hard-earned wisdom: "Keep your smile a long, long while."

No, the book's not perfect. It starts slow, and her attempts to tie her childhood in with big stories of the day like the Army-McCarthy hearings and the integration standoff in Little Rock feel like strained, politically correct cocktail chatter rather than a real accounting of a young life amid confusing times.

But most of the way through, you get a really sweet and sharp picture of what it was like to care about baseball when it was worth caring about. Goodwin has a gift for making history live again in the pages of her books, and like Ebbets Field, presents her readers here with a real diamond in the rough.

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More Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir reviews
review by . January 27, 2003
There isn't much of a plot to "Wait Till Next Year"--Brooklyn girl and rabid Dodger fan grows up very Catholic in the late '40s and early '50s, while her mother slowly wastes away and dies. The title is a catch phrase that Brooklyn Dodgers fans used over and over again when their team was eliminated from the pennant race for yet another year. Dodgers trivia jostles against family history, and wonderful set-pieces on, for instance what it was like to own the first television on the block.If you were …
review by . December 30, 1999
Pros: wonderfully written, fabulous book     Cons: it ends     Last fall, I would read "Wait Till Next Year" every morning while eating breakfast. I didn't want to put it down. As a result, I had to rush to catch the bus. When the book ended (entirely too soon!) I felt a void in my life.       Doris Kearns Goodwin is a fantastic historian. Her other works include books on FDR, JFK, and other important figures of our time. In "Wait …
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Bill Slocum ()
Ranked #299
Reading is my way of eavesdropping on a thousand conversations, meeting hundreds of new and fascinating people, and discovering what it is about the world I enjoy most. Only after a while, I lose track … more
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About this book


When historian Goodwin was six years old, her father taught her how to keep score for "their" team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. While this activity forged a lifelong bond between father and daughter, her mother formed an equally strong relationship with her through the shared love of reading. Goodwin recounts some wonderful stories in this coming-of-age tale about both her family and an era when baseball truly was the national pastime that brought whole communities together. From details of specific games to descriptions of players, including Jackie Robinson, a great deal of the narrative centers around the sport. Between games and seasons, Goodwin relates the impact of pivotal historical events, such as the Rosenberg trial. Her end of innocence follows with the destruction of Ebbets Field, her mother's death, and her father's lapse into despair. Goodwin gives listeners reason to consider what each of us has retained of our childhood passions. A poignant but unsentimental journey for all adults and, of course, especially for baseball fans.?Jeanne P. Leader, Everett Community Coll., Wash.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to theAudio Cassetteedition.
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ISBN-10: 0684847957
ISBN-13: 978-0684847955
Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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