Published on February 28th, 2013 | by Josh Chapdelaine0
Summers At Shea Review
When a Pulitzer Prize-Winning author creates a compilation of their works that reads like a novel, the results tend to have a mesmerizing effect. As a diehard New York Mets fan,I’m enlightened to much of the team’s history, but Summers At Shea by Ira Berkow had me entranced in a classic style of writing that truly served as a time machine to the periods that were being discussed.
Summers At Shea encapsulates some of Berkow’s best columns from his time spent around the New York Mets organization and the book largely reads in chronological order. In particular, Berkow’s columns written about Mets manager Casey Stengel were particularly entertaining, insightful, and true-to-heart. Berkow details Stengel’s flirtation with Vaudeville before being overshadowed by Babe Ruth, Stengel’s ambiguous Wills that he left behind, and many other entertaining pieces. However, one that truly must be read is Stengel’s first dealings with future Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn. Written in 2003 following Spahn’s unfortunate passing, Berkow accounts for the time that Stengel called Spahn “gutless”. Spahn, of course, would go on to serve in World War II and win 363 games en route to becoming one of the game’s most iconic pitchers.
From Stengel’s tenure with the New York Mets through the early-21st century, nearly 50 years of New York Mets history is accounted for. The darkest caves are explored (1974-1981), while the highs are equally as celebrated. In accounting for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets, Berkow masterfully projects the unity a championship can have for a city.
There are three-pipe problems, 21-gun salutes, and now 500-ton celebrations. Six hundred forty-eight tons of shredded paper, weighed to the last ounce by the department of sanitation, were showered on the conquering heroes Tuesday after their 8-5 victory in the seventh game of the World series, and a city was overjoyed.
Those who have followed the team will instantly be immersed in the memories of watching the parade as confetti fell from the sky to celebrate one of the most notorious clubs in baseball history. Those who didn’t experience the celebration in person are taken aback by the importance a championship can have for a city. Yet through the celebrations, Berkow examines the world at large and how problems still persist. He looks at the struggling Vietnam conflict following the 1969 World Series Championship, and puts the game into perspective: That while baseball is a grand form of entertainment that has the power to unite a city in one sector, that the world is largely uninfluenced by sporting events and problems will persist. Berkow doesn’t present a pessimistic tone while saying this, but rather looks to put a championship in perspective with other worldly issues.
There’s something about a well-written column that has a sense of timelessness to it. When one reads a column penned by Berkow in September 1969 about the soon-to-be Championship Mets, and then compares it to one written in 2004 about David Wright learning to adjust to the Major Leagues, they’ll notice both are written with such attention to not only the big picture and story trying to be conveyed, but the smaller, less noticeable details that help to complete and take the column to another level.
That’s the wonder of Summers At Shea. Berkow’s award-winning works have made for a wonderful read that serves as a chronological guide to New York Mets history. Whether you’re looking to brush up on history, learn more about the true character of some of the players, searching for insight about the time period that surrounded the clubs, or are just looking to read about the New York Mets, Summers At Shea is a work that you won’t have to think twice about purchasing. To purchase Summers At Shea, click here.