If you are having a hard time finding the perfect gift for that die hard baseball fan you may want to consider “October 1964.” Published in 1994, the book is far from a new release but is destined to be a classic. Written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New York Times, David Halberstam; “October 1964” looks through the eyes of the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals at the racial, cultural, social and political upheaval of the early 1960s.
In the 1964 World Series, the Yankees and Cardinals faced off for a seven game series that brought the end to a Yankees’ dynasty that gripped baseball since the 1940s. Sounding the death toll for the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals won the series in seven games.
However, baseball is the setting for the book not its main theme. Halberstam does keep the avid baseball fan interested by taking the reader through all the highlights of the 1964 pennant race, ending in the World Series; but it is much deeper than a book on baseball.
Halberstam digs deeply into the characters that were the most prominent players in this postseason drama including August “Gussie” Busch Jr, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Keane Bob Gibson, Ken Boyer, Tony Kubek, Bill White and Elston Howard. There were no black players on the roster of the St. Louis Cardinals when St. Louis based Anheuser-Busch purchased the team in 1953.
Integration was in its first stages of the game in 1964. Busch, having progressive attitudes toward race in the 1950s, ordered team management to integrate the team. This was mostly a business decision, since Busch was aware that Budweiser was popular among African-Americans.
By 1964, the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization was well known for its progressive racial policies. Of course, this did not sit well with all of management or motel policies of the time. During spring training, Bill White complained that black and white players could not stay in the same hotels. Busch remedied the situation by purchasing his own hotel.
The times were changing and Halberstam weaves all the tales of the era with insights from the greatest players of the time. While thinking they were reading about baseball, young fans will also gain valuable historical insights from the book. However, “October 1964” makes a perfect stocking stuffer for baseball fans of any age.
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