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Halberstam had a way with words

I was just skimming through my copy of the late David Halberstam’s book “Everything They Had: Sportswriting from David Halberstam” (Hyperion, 401 pages, $24.95) when I came upon a couple of great quotes.

Both come from the essay “Maybe I Remember DiMaggio’s Kick,” which was published on Oct. 21, 2000, in the New York Times. In the piece, Halberstam addresses the notion of memory’s importance in explaining New York’s excitement toward the success (at the time) of the city’s two major-league baseball teams, the Yankees and the Mets.

The first involves the notion of memory itself. Does Halberstam really remember the great Joe DiMaggio, in a 1947 game that Halberstam attended, hitting an apparent homer? Does he remember the ball being caught by Dodger outfielder Al Gionfriddo? And does he remember DiMaggio showing his frustration, something he rarely did, by delivering a well-publicized kick at the dirt near second base?

“Who knows?” Halberstam wrote. “Memory is often less about truth than about what we want it to be.”

The second quote comes a couple of pages later, when Halberstam is addressing the perplexity that New Yorkers feel when told that “much of America … sees us as loud, noisy and aggressive, above all insensitive to the nuances and pleasures and cultures of other places.”

“That is,” Halberstam wrote, “the rest of the country sees New York much the way the rest of the world sees America.”

David Halberstam, 1934-2007. Rest in peace.

Below: In the classic newsreel below, you can see Joe DiMaggio’s moment of frustration.