I don't think it was a deliberate plan, that our women's book club decided to read Wait Till Next Year this month, right before the World Series. Actually, I think I suggested the title, not really knowing the story, except that it was a memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin and we decided to read something light, after the summer.
Everything that occurred in Goodwin's childhood revolved around baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers. She tells us that in her pre-teens, she began to notice boys and the inequality facing girls in school, but first and foremost she was a Dodger fan (and she remains a baseball aficionado.) The book was a pleasure to read, and Goodwin wrote it with a seemingly ease. I want to thank her for the Epilogue and her description of the interviews and research she did. Throughout the book, I was wondering how she remembered all the events she told about. Remember, don't pass over the epilogue!
Goodwin's stories introduce us to a fastidious young girl. I got a kick out of her well thought out plan for the entire neighborhood, in case an atomic bomb was dropped on NYC. I noticed she wrote often about her mother’s health and the way it effected her life. One thing that Doris did as a youngster was to run down to the meat market and pick out food for dinner. She became close friends with the owners, even though they were Yankees fans! All her little stories were so detailed. One account she told, that stuck with me, was how upset she was, when a military parade for Gen. MacArthur (in April 1951) delayed the opening game of the first series between the Dodgers and the Giants. Funny, what we remember!
Often, Goodwin would give the reader a look into the character of her favorite Dodgers with the use of original quotes. I was overwhelmed at Jackie Robinson's compassion for ballplayers. On opening day in 1955, the captain of the Giants (Alvin Dark) proudly raised two pennants up the pole at the top of the clubhouse - the 1954 National League flag, and the world championship banner, which had never flown over Brooklyn. "I looked over at the Giants," Jackie Robinson later said, "and thought of the kick they must be getting out of it. After all, you see people and you have to try to put yourself in their place sometimes. It was like Thomson's homer. Bad as we felt, after it was all over, you couldn't help feeling how thrilled he must be, and what a great thing it was in baseball. So today I just tried to realize how they were feeling at that moment."
The Dodgers came close to winning the World Series many times, but won the pennant only once, in 1955. I thought it was interesting that Goodwin’s next door neighbor and best friend, Elaine, was a devoted Yankee fan. She explains the title of her book with a little story: After the Yankees won the pennant in 1949, "My relationship with Elaine grew strained and suffered for weeks. It was that October that I first understood the pain, bravado, and prayer woven into the simple slogan that served Dodgers fans as a recurring anthem, Wait till next year."
I’ve never followed baseball and the Dodgers weren’t playing in Brooklyn when I was a girl, but I still enjoyed this book immensely. I'd be interested to see if Goodwin was able to cross the gender divide in her writing. Please comment - I’d love to hear from the men out there.
Doris Kearns Goodwin