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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
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4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
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Halberstam Writ Large
2007-04-23 20:18
by Jon Weisman

I've got more David Halberstam books on my shelves than I can count, mainly because for some reason they're spread on different shelves. Baseball books, history books.

But the book I'll always remember most of his is The Breaks of the Game, his account of a season with the Portland Trail Blazers. I packed it to serve me for a long trip when I was 15. It sure seemed long enough. But I couldn't stop reading it, and it was done before the first leg of the trip was over. So I had to read it again. And I probably read it a third time at some point.

The first thing I thought of after digesting the fact that he had died was, "I wonder what he was working on." You knew it was something, didn't you?

2007-04-23 20:28:45
1.   Andrew Shimmin
"They were headed to an interview he had scheduled with Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle.

"Halberstam was working on a new book, "The Game," about the 1958 NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, often called the greatest game ever played, said his wife, Jean Halberstam."

2007-04-23 20:32:29
2.   D4P
I read that he was working on a book on the Korean War.
2007-04-23 20:41:25
3.   Frip
I read that he was working on a book on trout fishing.
2007-04-23 20:47:55
4.   GoBears
I read 1, 2, and 3.

And all seemed plausible.

2007-04-23 21:03:55
5.   Marty
I'm ashamed to say I've only read one of his books. The Fifties, which I loved.
2007-04-23 21:12:26
6.   D4P
Does it make you feel better to know that I had never heard of the guy until today?
2007-04-23 21:22:08
7.   Gen3Blue
Just want to say that I can't understand why guys like Halbestam and Nj's gov. get ruined in these crashes, and I feel awful.
2007-04-23 21:22:14
8.   trainwreck
Me either. I just keep thinking of Wade Boggs arguing with Barney.

"Lord Palmerston!"

But he seems to be well liked here, so I will look for one of his books.

2007-04-23 21:25:58
9.   Scott Long
I'm glad you mention the Breaks of the Game, as it is one of my 5 favorite sports book of all-time.

Halberstam was one of the select few writers who was so good that he could write about where his heart led him to. We should all be as lucky to have lived as full of a life as David Halberstam.

2007-04-23 21:32:50
10.   Andrew Shimmin
Corzine got wrecked because he was doing 90+ MPH and not wearing his seat belt. Which is a crazy, crazy thing to do, as everybody should perfectly well know. I don't know the details on Halberstam's crash, but it seems unlikely to be the same situation. At least, I hope it isn't.
2007-04-23 21:47:49
11.   Marty
Early reports seem to indicate that he was in the passenger seat and was broadsided by another car. Probably nothing could have saved him. I have no idea if the other car was at fault, or if Halberstam's driver made a mistake.
2007-04-23 22:03:22
12.   Xeifrank
6. I'm in the same boat as you. I figured he probably had something to do with movies or TV, so I didn't bother mentioning it. I am just surprised that The Griddle got scooped on the passing of somebody famous.
vr, Xei
2007-04-23 22:13:43
13.   bhsportsguy
THe Summer of 49 and The Teammates are two very good books, the one man he did not interview about the Yankee/Red Sox battle in 1949 was Joe Dimaggio. But he had a lot great stories from everyone else.

I believe that those two books did as much to shape the late Ted Williams' image as anything Ted did on the field.

2007-04-23 22:20:00
14.   godvls
9 Like you and Jon, I very much enjoyed The Breaks of the Game. My grandma gave it to me as a birthday present while I was in college. I seem to remember that I didn't read if for about a year, but once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. I know I have it packed in a box might be time to revisit it.

It's our loss that he won't be around to complete "The Game".
2007-04-23 22:32:18
15.   LAT
Toy Canon,

How did you like Wicked?

2007-04-23 22:46:48
16.   Linkmeister
I own four of his books, all histories. I had read the baseball ones out of the library, I guess.

He was a tough-minded reporter when he began in 'Nam and he never quit being one.

He'll be missed.

2007-04-23 22:51:14
17.   underdog
Here's a nice new piece on Halberstam by writer Bruce Feiler.
2007-04-24 00:45:54
18.   Eric L
I was on jury duty one year and sat at the court house for day but didn't get on a panel. For Christmas my dad's Christmas gift, I bought him "The Teammates" cause it sort of seemed like an interesting premise. Being that it wasn't Christmas yet, but I had the book and didn't wrap, I figured I would take it to the courthouse with me and read it.

All in all, it was a very good read. I felt a little guilty about reading it before my dad did, but I blamed (rationalized) it on the forefathers.

Looking back on it, it was a decent read about a couple of very good guys. I feel sort of ashamed that the only Halberstam books I've read are "The Teammates" and "October 1964".

2007-04-24 00:50:03
19.   Eric L
18 So the second sentence should be "For Christmas, my dad's gift was..."
2007-04-24 01:18:03
20.   Hank
Like many others here, I loved Summer of '49 and October 1964. My other favorite, though, hasn't been mentioned. Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. He uses the prism of Jordan's career (through the second retirement) to examine the changes and global impact of America's sports culture. A fascinating read.
2007-04-24 03:28:11
21.   Charenton
Just this last Christmas, I devoured "The Fifties" and it doesn't matter anymore that I was born in 1960 - I 'lived' the decade of the 1950s through his book… Many years ago, I also read the 'Best and the Brightest" and felt as if I had lived those years as well… But, I wasn't aware that he also wrote about Baseball (!)
Before I go to amazon, which Baseball book gets the highest recommendation?
"The Breaks of the Game" appears to be the winner so far…
2007-04-24 06:18:33
22.   Sam DC
Breaks of the Game is basketball, not baseball. I understand his Belichek book was well received.


Halberstam won the Pulitzer in 1964, a time when most Americans still hadn't heard of Vietnam. Neil Sheehan's Bright ands Shining Lie - one of my most favorite books and a must read for anyone who wants to understand that war - describes that time in the early war and includes much discussion of Halberstam. It it just amazing watching these straight arrow, basically conservative reporters - kids of the forties and fifties - come to terms with the fact that there govmn't, and esp. the military that they revered, was lying to them about such important issues of life and death. And worse, was lying to itself. jurgen Prochnau's Distant Sound of Thunder also describes this period, and focuses directly on the community of reporters trying to get the story out.

2007-04-24 06:29:24
23.   Terry A
The Fifties and The Teammates for me. I enjoyed both, particularly his no-holds-barred portrayal of Teddy Ballgame in The Teammates.
2007-04-24 06:41:40
24.   tskent
Heavens to Betsy. You mean to tell me that all this time the media guide has always been viewable at I feel like a fool. An IDIOT!
2007-04-24 07:01:37
25.   Alex Belth
Breaks of the Game was a lot of fun--I think it's a superior book to his later on on MJ. My favorite bit was when Walton bragged about having a shower with two shower heads (one for him and another for his shorter wife), "One to wash my hair, the other to wash the soap off my balls." Classy, Bill.
2007-04-24 07:21:41
26.   Bumsrap
I recommend THE RECKONING. David Halberstam compares the growth fo Nissan and Ford in this book and the insight into Henry Ford's mind is chilling and fascinating.
2007-04-24 08:28:07
27.   Mush
The Making of a Quagmire is just such a great book. To be able to write it at such a young age was just remarkable.

And I hope this doesn't violate Rule 5 - but I think the campaign's discourse would be much higher if all the '08 candidates read War in a Time of Peace.

2007-04-24 08:39:10
28.   Jon Weisman
Latest remembrance post up top.
2007-04-24 10:14:33
29.   Humma Kavula
Coming late to the wake, I'd also like to put in a plug for The Reckoning. It was assigned to us in my junior year of high school and made me rethink what school history texts could be.
2007-04-24 11:05:37
30.   Michael Green
He also wrote The Powers That Be, which compared the LA Times, the Washington Post, CBS News and Time in how they became important. If you find the current stuff going on at the LA Times chilling--the ownership and budget, as opposed to Plaschke, who's almost always chilling--it's really worth reading (plus it's just a terrific book).
2007-04-24 11:16:02
31.   Bumsrap
I bought The Powers That Be because I thought it would be a great book by a great author and I think it was but after several attempts to get into it, I couldn't. My loss.
2007-04-24 11:17:35
32.   dzzrtRatt
According to, the driver was a Cal Graduate School of Journalism student who had agreed to give Halberstam a lift in exchange for a "private seminar" to be given on the drive back to Berkeley. The student and the school (which I attended) must be devastated. It's an odd thing to hope for, but I hope it wasn't the student's fault.

For those who haven't read any Halberstam and want to now, don't expect to be dazzled by his style. He's just a very good, thorough reporter who is comfortable handling large themes and can tell a good story. His style almost disappears behind the story -- which is an art in itself. His smooth, easy style probably accounts for why he was so prolific. You don't get the sense that he agonized about his writing nearly as much as he did about his reporting.

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