The game lasted an hour and 43 minutes. Cubs pitcher Bob Hendley pitched a one-hitter, losing 1-0. Vin Scully, the legendary voice of the Dodgers, said when it ended, "On the scoreboard in right field, it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California."
Leahy in "The Last Innocents, the Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers" sees that moment as the high point of a sunny, confident America cruising on the jet stream of postwar prosperity.
That ignores the national trauma of President Kennedy's assassination in November 1963. The country's Vietnam war effort had begun to unravel. Los Angeles' Watts riots had just occurred in August 1965. Leahy's detailed account of those tense nights undercut his rosy picture of a month later.
While cracks had begun to appear, the country enjoyed a buoyant optimism from economic abundance and a continuing wave of new artistic wonders. Many of the events that darkened the '60s had yet to occur.
The killings of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and the Tet Offensive would come in 1968, along with the violence of the Chicago Democratic convention. The Summer of Love of 1967 would turn bad, and flower power bring the Manson murders.
Through the shattering changes, the Dodgers exuded a cool professionalism. World Series champions in 1963 and 1965 and frequently on national TV, the team had left behind its working-class Brooklyn roots to become symbols of California glamour. Led by the masterful Sandy Koufax and the fireballing Don Drysdale, the Dodgers won with guile and artistry more than power.
Shortstop Maury Wills, who deserves Hall of Fame recognition as Leahy advocates, broke Ty Cobb's hallowed base-stealing record and gave the Dodgers the one or two runs they needed to win behind Koufax, Drysdale and the team's other fine hurler, Claude Osteen. Wes Parker was renowned as probably the best defensive first baseman in the game's history, and outfielders Tommy Davis and Willie Davis were flashy stars. Ron Fairly was another fine player, along with the ancient Junior Gilliam.
Marred by spells of clumsy writing and Leahy's at times strained efforts to link the Dodgers to larger historic events, "The Last Innocents" at its best illustrates baseball's grace, beauty and cruelty. Leahy shows the complexities of each player's personality.
Most memorable are his portraits of Wills and Parker, who both overcame personal demons to excel on the field. Along with Koufax and Drysdale and the Davises, the book also portrays less talented players like Lou Johnson, Jeff Torborg and Dick Tracewski.
His portrait of Parker reveals one of the game's most endearing characters. Born into a wealthy family, Parker's self-esteem was shattered by his hypercritical parents. Parker overcame daunting odds in his late pursuit of a baseball career, and always suffered self-doubt despite his good looks, attractiveness to women and baseball stardom. His upper-class attitudes - as the Dodgers' mismatched players' representative he stood alone in voting against a strike - was married to an artistic soul.
A main theme is the players' battles to gain a few more dollars from the tight-fisted owner Walter O'Malley and his manipulative consigliere Buzzie Bavasi. Leahy provides a well-resarched account from the Dodgers perspective of how players union leader Marvin Miller changed baseball's economics.
As Leahy recounts in one of his most effective passages, Koufax and Drysdale had to walk out in tandem to break the $100,000 salary barrier. One of the saddest moments comes when the Dodgers refuse to give the aging Wills the $100,000 he longed for, forcing him to sign for $97,000, the highest salary he ever received. Earlier, Bavasi had blocked Wills from dating Doris Day.
Drawing upon his childhood delight at the game, Leahy shows a gift for re-creating the drama of moments like Koufax's gem and San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal's assaulting Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a baseball bat. While his historical digressions meander, he gives a gripping account of how the Watts riots and the Robert F. Kennedy assassination shook the players.
Levy achieves a dramatic scene that can stand with baseball's classic literature when he describes the moment that Dodgers manager Walter Alston tells the 40-year-old Wills that the rookie Bill Russell will take over as the Dodgers' starting shortstop. Full of compassion, Alston comes out to the field and tells Wills, "Why don't you go in, get a whirlpool and let the kid pick you up?"
The boys of summer are eternal.