Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer upstaged Roger Angell's The Summer Game when those two fine books appeared more or less simultaneously four years ago. Now Angell's Five Seasons, reviewed here in May, has stolen a march on Kahn's A Season in the Sun (Harper & Row, $8.95), getting on base first in the bookstores and scoring with the critics before Kahn's book had a chance to bat. It's a shame the two books did not appear together, perhaps in a boxed set, because they complement one another beautifully. This is so even though their authors share—along with exceptional talent, a common first name and a penchant for putting the same word in their titles—a genteel disdain for one another. Well, they say W. C. Fields couldn't stand watching Charlie Chaplin perform, and maybe Chaplin felt the same way about Fields. It didn't stop anyone from enjoying them both, which is the way an intelligent reader feels about these two.
Kahn's A Season in the Sun, which grew out of a series of articles he did last year for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, is a reappraisal of baseball, a look at one season from spring to autumn. Unlike many who return to a world they once knew well, Kahn looks at it with a clear eye, unclouded by prejudice. Kahn visits Walter O'Malley, the eminent owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kahn is not an O'Malley fan, but he absolutely catches O'Malley's complex nature and, perhaps, the secrets of his success. In L.A.'s Dodger Stadium, Kahn remarks what a pleasant office O'Malley has. "Not so pleasant," O'Malley says. "Outside my window there's a grounds keeper standing in center field with a hose, and I wonder, if he's going to use a hose, why the hell did I put $600,000 into an underground sprinkler system?" "Why does he use a hose?" Kahn asks. "Because we brought him out from Brooklyn and he used a hose there," O'Malley says impatiently.
Thus, penny-pinching and lavish expenditures, innovation and stubborn loyalties. You learn about O'Malley, and you also learn what it's like nowadays to manage a minor league team in Massachusetts. You learn what life has been like for a good black player to whom Organized Baseball has opened its doors too late, and what the game was and is like for Stan Musial, whose triumphs did not change his innate decency. Puerto Rico, Bill Veeck's Chicago, Johnny Bench's world—they're all there, perfectly described. One year, but a comprehensive picture of the game.