by Carl Erskine
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BOYS OF SUMMER
Roger Kahn joined the Dodgers' beat as a sports-writer for the New York Herald-Tribune in 1952 and, of course, later wrote the book The Boys of Summer, etching the Brooklyn Dodgers of those years into the minds of baseball fasn everywhere. But writing a book is like a nine-inning baseball game; the last couple of chapters, like innings, are hard to finish. Roger had that experience.
In the early 1970s, several of the Dodgers were invited to attend a big B'nai B'rith dinner in New York City. After the banquet, Roger grabbed me and said we had to talk. We went to Toots Shor's restaurant and Roger started drinking scotch and pouring his heart out. "I can't finish this book. I'm broke and I'm dry. I keep wondering who's going to read this stuff." He was low. Now I'm no psychologist, and I was having a hard time knowing how to respond. I said all the standard stuff like "You can't disappoint this team. They're counting on you to write this book." Roger just had another scotch and continued his down mood. I tried to be a good listener, but I didn't have any real answers.
Finally, a thought hit me. Dick Young of the Daily News had been a beat writer with us much longer than Roger. Dick had a strong identity with the Dodgers. I said to Roger, "How would you like to wake up tomorrow morning and find out that Dick Young had written your book?"
I helped Roger to a cab, gave the driver his address, and we parted. He did finish The Boys of Summer, which has become a significant piece of baseball literature, not to mention a financial success. I later sent Roger a poem by Robert Service entitled "My Masterpiece." The last stanza of the poem reads:
A humdrum way I go tonightRoger framed the poem and placed it by his fireplace in his home at Croton on the Hudson, New York.
For all I hoped and dreamed remote
Too late ... a better man must write
That little book I never wrote.
From Tales from the Dudger Dugout by Carl Erskine.
Copyright © 2000 by Carl Erskine. Reprinted with permission.