Apr 24, 2007

David Halberstam (1934-2007)

This news saddened me greatly today. David Halberstam died in a car crash today just south of San Francisco. We have lost a giant of the literary world. Mr Halberstam covered topics as diverse as the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and sports. In 1964 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Vietnam War. Born in New York in 1934, his career spanned over 50 years. In fact he was researching a book on American Football at the time of his passing. So not only did we lose the opportunity for many more wonderful books, but by all accounts we lost a man who was regarded as erudite, compassionate, giving, steadfast and intelligent.

Some of his greatest works were "The Best and The Brightest" (Vietnam), "The Powers that Be"(Nixon) and "The Children" (Civil Rights Movement). But for me I absolutely loved his wonderful books on sport. I love American sports, particularly baseball and his writings were always engaging, insightful and managed to not only bring a human element to scores and stats but place the sports events in the context of the happenings of society at the time. Two books he wrote on basketball that I loved were "Playing for Keeps" (Michael Jordan) and "The Breaks of the Game". But my two favourites were "Summer of 49", which chronicled the pennant race between the Red Sox and the Yankees and the great rivalry between their legendary champions Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. This is more then a book about sport, it manages to become a snapshot of postwar America and its hopes and dreams. But my absolute joy is "The Teammates", a riveting and moving account of the friendship over a fifty year period between 4 Boston Red Sox greats, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr. This is a true testament to everlasting friendship between 4 men of disparate backgrounds. Some people like to belittle sport as little more then a frivolous past time. But I ask you, imagine the joy that would disappear from our life if sport left us. I believe that baseball is the most beautiful, graceful and aesthetically pleasing sport there is and when words as fine as David Halberstam's report on it our lives can only be enriched. A quote I always love that came from the mouth of legendary basketball coach John Wooden goes something like this "Sport doesn't build character it reveals it".

David Halberstam, we will miss you.


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