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Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Boys of Summer: The Human Side of Baseball

Just last month, iconic baseball write Roger Kahn passed away. That event prompted me to take a look back at his famed book, The Boys of Summer, and his anecdotes about some of those midcentury Brooklyn Dodgers.

Sandy Amorós seems to me like the epitome of that team. Amorós is a perfect example of the role player, someone who can perform in the major leagues even with some deficiencies and who can play almost every day. And the whole team acknowledged and valued his work. They knew what he was able to do with his glove and his bat. Amorós was often a substitute, like many part-time players, yet most of his teammates treated him respectfully. He had his place on the bench and was allowed to speak and participate in the team’s discussions.

Manager Walter Alston knew about Amorós’ talent for baseball; he had watched him fielding long fly balls or chasing dangerous line drives, saving would-be extra-base hits. So Amorós was always very careful about what was going on around the practices and the regular games. Once in a while, he would make suggestions to outfielders George Shuba, Carl Furillo, and even the great Duke Snider: how they were playing every batter, where they should be according to the moment, the kind of deliveries the pitcher was throwing. At first, the outfielders looked at him strangely. But as time went on, Amorós convinced Shuba to look for a second at the dugout, just a moment before each pitch. He made signs about the best place to cover that hitter, and most of the time the ball went to that place. Soon Snider and Furillo also started to follow Amorós’ signs, and the team dubbed him the wizard, the magician of the dugout.

Clem Labine had a 13-5 record and 11 saves in the 1955 season. You don’t see players pitch complete games much anymore, but Labine carefully controlled his deliveries, which perhaps allowed him to throw so much without hurting his arm. When the outfielders threw a shot to the infield, he was always behind third base or home plate to back up the infielder. If the batter hit a high pop-up to the middle of the diamond, Labine was almost always the first one to open his arms and shout, “I got it!” Many years after his days as a ballplayer, Labine confessed to Kahn that he blamed himself for being away all the time playing ball when he should have spent more time with his son Jay, nurturing him, being sensitive. Maybe then Jay wouldn’t have joined the Marines and lost his leg.


QLE Posted: March 19, 2020 at 01:25 AM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: roger kahn, the boys of summer

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