WHEN THE BOYS CAME BACK by Frederick  Turner


Baseball and 1946
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 A fresh perspective on the season when premier players such as Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, and Bob Feller returned from WW II. Against the backdrop of the Nuremberg trials and a nation awash in the uncertainties of a postwar economy, spring training was a welcome diversion. In all, 500 major leaguers had served in the armed forces; Turner (The Culture of Hope, 1995, etc.) focuses on players from the pennant-winning Red Sox and Cardinals but also examines the return of DiMaggio, who'd been gone since 1942, and Feller, who had missed almost four full seasons. Some players, such as Musial, had it relatively easy during the war. Teammate Harry Walker, on the other hand, contracted spinal meningitis while at Ft. Riley, saw intense combat in Germany, and was a much-decorated veteran. As Turner follows the pennant races, he takes a look at the blossoming of rookies such as the Pirates' Ralph Kiner and the sad case of the Senators' Cecil Travis, a shortstop who had batted .359 in 1941 but who was unable to overcome frostbitten feet and four years of military life. In recounting the final days of the pennant races and the World Series, the author pays particular attention to the contributions made by the returning veterans and the impact they made on their teams' fortunes. Feller, whose Indians were out of it, finished with an astonishing 348 strikeouts in 371 innings, 10 shutouts, and a no-hitter. DiMaggio, injured early on, had, for him, a so-so season. The Cardinals, stacked with returning stars, defeated the Red Sox in the World Series on Enos Slaughter's famed ``Mad Dash'' from first base on a single off the bat of Harry Walker. Turner's writing could be livelier, but baseball fans will enjoy this account of a unique season. (45 b&w photos and drawings, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8050-2645-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996


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