I was saddened this morning to see the news that Roger Kahn has passed away, in Mamaroneck NY, on Thursday February 6th. He was 92.
Roger was a wonderful writer. After finishing school at New York University, (studying poetry, among other things,) he started out at the New York Herald Tribune in 1948 as a copy boy. He must have been pretty talented, as he was soon writing for the paper, initially in a variety of roles, and then, at the young age of 25, he started covering the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952. Maybe that sort of promotion was more common back then, but I doubt it happened very often. (There are no “copy boys,” anymore. Those days are long gone. Too bad. A lot of great writers started out as copy boys. It was probably a great education for a writer.) Kahn covered the Dodgers for two seasons, and learned the art of sports writing from some of the masters, such as Red Smith and Heywood Broun.
Twenty years later, Kahn wrote about those Dodgers again in the baseball classic The Boys of Summer. (Checking my book list on the blog, it’s astonishing that I haven’t re-read this lately. It’s now officially on the “To Read” list. What the heck kind of a crummy baseball blog is this, anyway?)
The Boys of Summer made Kahn famous and is undoubtedly his most read work, but I picked up another of his titles recently, Memories of Summer, which was also wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Kahn writing about his up-bringing and how he came to be a baseball writer, and about his experiences covering the Dodgers.
Kahn was a thoughtful and graceful writer. His profiles of ballplayers are intimate and nuanced. This being February, it’s the perfect time of year to pick up one of his books and enjoy the summer game.
I thought Kahn might have won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, but I just checked the list, and I don’t see his name. Unfortunate. He is certainly deserving, and I’m sure he would have enjoyed the honor. Now it’s too late for that, but they should still put him on the list.
“Ebbets Field was a narrow cockpit, built of brick and iron and concrete, alongside a steep cobblestone slope of Bedford Avenue. Two tiers of grandstand pressed the playing area from three sides, and in thousands of seats fans could hear a ball player’s chatter, notice details of a ball player’s gait and, at a time when television had not yet assaulted illusion with the Zoomar lens, you could see, you could actually see, the actual expression on the actual face of an actual major leaguer as he played. You could know what he was like!”
- Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer
Good game, Roger.Thanks for all the books.