Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Fight of Their Lives

Book: The Fight of Their Lives
Author: John Rosengren
Edition: eBook
Read:  March 29, 2014
400 pages
Rated: 3 out of 5

In 1965 the Dodgers and the Giants were playing each other in San Francisco. It was Koufax and Marichal with Johnny Roseboro behind the plate. Roseboro threw the ball back to Koufax, a bit to close to Marichal's head. Marichal attacked Roseboro with his bat and pandemonium broke out. This book tells about the fight, the stories of both players both before and afterwards.


For as much as the title of the book includes Story of Forgiveness and Redemption, Rosengren does not spend much time on this aspect. He is more concerned with the formation of Marichal and Roseboro. He also shows that they did become friends. With Marichal, he sees that his contritness is due to his upbringing and his Catholic religion.  But why does Roseboro feel guilt? Particularly since Rosegren talks about how rough of a person Roseboro was. Is it due to hitting the low of divorce and loss of skills in his trade, and bad financial decisions? 

Roseboro looks like he did not have as good of a marriage as what Rosengren painst from before the fight. Rosengren talks about how Roseboro needed to separate from rooming with Maurry Wills, even though they were good friends because of Wills' philandering. But in leading to his divorce, Rosengren says that Roseboro had several affairs while on the road. I do not think the books needs to go in depth on Roseboro's affairs, but to bring it out of the blue, you wonder what else did I either miss in the story or Rosengren did not talk about.

Rosengren tries to be even with his treatment of Marichal and Roseboro. But as the story gets morepersonal than a treatment of facts, you see it more and more from Marichal's point of view rather than Roseboro. In the credits you understand why-Marichal granted Rosengren access to himself; Roseboro had died by the time the book was started. I wonder what this book would have been like if Roseboro had been able to tell what was going on from his side.

The one set of stories which seem out of place in this book is his emphasis on discrimination. I do agree it is part of these men's story since it is what they needed to live with. But how was it part of the fight? How was it part of the reconciliation? As far as the later, Rosengren does talk about how the discrimination may have helped Marichal seek Roseboro's help in gaining access to the Hall of Fame.

  I am a life long Giants fan, even saw Juan Marichal pitch his no-hitter against Houston. Which makes the Dodgers a team to root against. Yet the incident this story is about was so wrong and so ingrained into my sports psychic that it is a measure of what can go wrong in a game.

So seeing this book about this incident made me want to read it, to understand what happened and why the tensions rose to the level they did. Rosengren does a good job of tracing both men's histories, both before and after the game. But his writing is more suitable for a sports column rather than a book.

I enjoyed reading the stories I knew so well. But I do not think this book pushes beyond a story already known.

Book References:
  • Rosengren lists 40 pages of sources and 13 pages of bibliographical references.

Good Quotes:

  • First Line: More than a million people were watching on television, but none of them saw it happen.
  • Last Line: And then Marichal, the Hall of Fame pitcher who would forever be remembered alongside the man they were memorializing, concluded, "I wish I could have had John Roseboro as my catcher."


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