This is sports journalism. Or at least what it's supposed to be. Michael Leahy uses baseball, specifically the Los Angeles Dodgers of the 1960's, as a backdrop to look at the state and turmoil of the country throughout the decade. The first half of the book is primarily focused on race. Baseball integrated about a decade and a half before the rest of the country outlawed segregation and both handled it poorly. Both the sport and the country allowed black people greater access but failed to do anything at all about discrimination and ingrained injustice. The second half of the book's focus is on labor. With how much money players get paid today, people tend to forget that for a long time they were basically indentured servants, the owners controlled every aspect of their professional lives. This book details the hard fought bargaining rights and unionizing the players went through and the cycle of abuse and intimidation they received from the owners. The two players the narrative mainly follows are Maury Wills, the black speedster who slowly learned to stand up for himself and what is right, and Wes Parker, the rich, white first baseman who grew up in an abusive home. The contrast and similarities strengthen and enrich the book and show the struggle everyone went through in that tumultuous decade. It's sort of a cliche at this point to say baseball is a metaphor for life, but The Last Innocents proves that the cliche is sometimes true. Baseball has always mirrored American life in perfect detail and will probably continue to do so for a long time to come.— Danny
Winner of the 2016 CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year
Finalist for the 2017 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing
From an award-winning journalist comes the riveting odyssey of seven Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s—a chronicle of a team, a game, and a nation in transition during one of the most exciting and unsettled decades in history.
Legendary Dodgers Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Wes Parker, Jeff Torborg, Dick Tracewski, Lou Johnson and Tommy Davis encapsulated 1960s America: white and black, Jewish and Christian, wealthy and working class, pro-Vietnam and anti-war, golden boy and seasoned veteran. The Last Innocents is a thoughtful, technicolor portrait of these seven players—friends, mentors, confidants, rivals, and allies—and their storied team that offers an intriguing look at a sport and a nation in transition. Bringing into focus the high drama of their World Series appearances from 1962 to 1972 and their pivotal games, Michael Leahy explores these men’s interpersonal relationships and illuminates the triumphs, agonies, and challenges each faced individually.
Leahy places these men’s lives within the political and social maelstrom that was the era when the conformity of the 1950s gave way to demands for equality and rights. Increasingly frustrated over a lack of real bargaining power and an iron-fisted management who occasionally meddled in their personal affairs, many players shared an uneasy relationship with the team’s front office. This contention mirrored the discord and uncertainty generated by myriad changes rocking the nation: the civil rights movement, political assassinations, and growing hostility to the escalation of the Vietnam War. While the nation around them changed, these players each experienced a personal and professional metamorphosis that would alter public perceptions and their own.
Comprehensive and artfully crafted, The Last Innocents is an evocative and riveting portrait of a pivotal era in baseball and modern America.
“The Last Innocents is a great American story. Baseball in the southern California sun, Maury Wills stealing, Vin Scully narrating, life spinning and sweeping like a Koufax curveball toward the future—the tableau could not be richer for a writer as evocative as Michael Leahy.”
“In an excavation as deep and probing as his splendid book on Michael Jordan, the prodigiously talented Michael Leahy sheds a revealing light on what now seems like an ancient era in baseball.”
“To read Michael Leahy’s well-crafted, resolutely human The Last Innocents is to feel the anger that welled up inside the Dodgers of the era…Mr. Leahy thrives as he describes how the Dodgers navigated this strange new world.”
“A book that seeks to place the team within a broader historical and cultural context... This is the strength of The Last Innocents, the way it moves beyond the game to the issues underneath.”
“The must-read baseball book of this spring and summer so far: The Last Innocents, by Michael Leahy...”
“Brilliantly reported and undeniably powerful... I can’t count the times reading this book I stopped, looked up, and said ‘Holy shit,’ and long before reaching the halfway mark I was slowing down to savor every word… I can’t recommend this book enough...The Last Innocents is an incredible read.”
“[A] gripping narrative... By using their personal experiences to tell the story of an oft-recounted era of American history, Leahy’s book packs an unanticipated jolt of humanness.”
Praise for When Nothing Else Matters: “The best sports book of the year...easily the most fully formed portrait of Jordan ever written.”
“Michael Leahy has written a heck of a book....Mr. Leahy combines an unrelenting eye for detail with extraordinary big-picture analysis.”
“A gripping behind-the-scenes book...an important corrective to our current celebrity culture.”
“When Nothing Else Matters gives us the best look we are likely to have of Jordan in decline...The result is a richly detailed, anecdote-driven account of one of the most famous men in the world approaching the end of his rope.”