cover image OCTOBER MEN


Roger Kahn, . . Harcourt, $25 (392pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100628-1

When it comes to writing about baseball, especially New York City baseball, Kahn is king of the hill. In the tradition of his seminal The Boys of Summer, this work is a spirited portrait of a team whose unbelievable comeback and tumultuous clubhouse exemplified New York City and the whatever-goes decade of the 1970s. Relying on a relationship between the press and the team that will never be seen again, Kahn illuminates the diverse characters who were the 1978 Yankees, and their tenuous and often violent relationships with one another. He unsentimentally yet compassionately presents the team's issues of alcoholism, broken homes, racism and greed as a mirror of American society, using firsthand accounts, historical analysis, social history and personal insight. The portraits of manager Billy Martin, a violent drunk with a great baseball mind, and Reggie Jackson, an eloquent but brash slugger, present a compelling clash of old and new America that defined the country and baseball at the time. When Kahn comes to the game itself, whether describing a player or a game with one of his literary, historical or baseball references, his keen eye and a knack for describing the lyrical action between the white lines demonstrates a love and knowledge that few writers are able to convey. Transcending the mere action of the game while celebrating the joy and power of the sport, this book is a marvelous achievement for a writer who has already achieved so much. Photos not seen by PW. (May)