Tuesday, April 24, 2007

RIP David Halberstam

Horst Faas/Associated Press

His reporting for The New York Times from Vietnam left little doubt that a corrupt South Vietnamese government supported by the United States was no match for Communist guerrillas and their North Vietnamese allies. For that work, Mr. Halberstam shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1964.

David Halberstam wrote three of my favorite books: The Best and the Brightest, The Breaks of the Game, and The Teammates, about my favorite topies: politics and sports. He died yesterday in a car accident in California, on his way to interview Y.A. Tittle, the former quarterback of the New York Giants. I would have liked to read that book. When I was a kid I had the famous picture of Y.A. Tittle's last game, bloodied and bowed, on the door of my closet:

David Halberstam books are books I passed around, or bought to give as gifts. In my mind, reading The Breaks of the Game is inextricably tied with the 1980s Larry Bird Celtics. All my Celtics fan friends read the book, and we marveled at the writing and at the insider's view. I listened to The Teammates a few years ago as a book-on-tape and was brought to tears several times (always dangerous while driving!) as he described the life-long devoted friendship between Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio. I will miss his writing. Here's a piece he wrote for the Boston Globe about Red Sox Nation (hat tip, A Red Sox Fan in Pinstripe Territory):

David Halberstam, Boston Globe, 8/29/03: Facing the Nation
Up-close look at the Red Sox fan base finds it is as passionate as ever

For a Citizen of the Nation, beating the Mariners or A's is merely winning a baseball game, while beating the Yankees is the very essence of life itself....


It's a condition, being a Red Sox fan, not a cult, nor a religious affiliation, although there are on occasion certain religious experiences. (Think Yaz in '67, and Fisk in the World Series in '75.) Most Americans are relatively indifferent to the past, believing that America is so powerful that history does not matter, that our nation is so strong and energetic, that we can mold the present to our needs, despite the burdens of the past. Not Red Sox fans: They know the past matters, and they know as well that you are, more than you realize, a prisoner of it. In a country where there has been an amazing run of material affluence for almost 60 years with the expectation built into the larger culture that things are supposed to get better every year, citizens of RSN know better. They know that things do not always get better. They know that the guys in the white hats do not always win in the last five minutes of the movie. They know the guys in the black hats have plenty of last-minute tricks, and that they can pick up just the right player off the waiver list in the waning days of a season (think Johnny Mize, 1949).

The Red Sox fan knows that the fates can be cruel. Never mind the Babe. Just think a mere 31 years ago -- why it was like yesterday: Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater. A 27-year-old lefthanded reliever, who had pitched in 184 games in the previous three years, and had saved 16 that year (and would save a league-leading 35 the next year) for a 32-year-old first baseman with up to then 52 career home runs. Oh dear.

David Halberstam, ESPN Page 2: One Splendid day [with Ted Williams]

David Halberstam, ESPN Page 2: Sports can distract, but they don't heal

David Halberstam, ESPN Page 2: Thanks, soccer, see you in four years

salon.com: David Halberstam, 1934-2007
In a host of Salon interviews, the great journalist talks about the depths of his work and passions, from Vietnam to Michael Jordan.

WaPo: David Halberstam, 1934-2007
Author Uncloaked Vietnam Blunders

NYTimes: David Halberstam, 73, Reporter and Author, Dies

San Francisco Chronicle: DAVID HALBERSTAM: 1934-2007
Author was on his way to an interview
He was to meet with Y.A. Tittle to talk about football

San Francisco Chronicle: DAVID HALBERSTAM: 1934-2007
Car crash ends award-winning writer's life

SFGate.com: Friends and former colleagues remember David Halberstam

Academy of Achievement: The David Halberstam Interview

wikipedia: David Halberstam

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