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Yankees-Red Sox rivalry: Read all about it

If you think the New York-Boston rivalry is intense today, take a look at the summer of 1949.

By / April 2, 2010

There's nothing new about the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

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Let me state my bias right up front: I'm a New York Yankees fan. I have been all my life. But for the past six years, I've lived in Boston. Believe me, that's not always easy and it's not always fun. Sometimes it's downright wearisome, particularly on any day that I dare to wear an item of clothing that sports a Yankees insignia.

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But I feel better since I discovered "Summer of '49" by David Halberstam and learned that – at least in Halberstam's estimate – there was a time when the friction between these two teams was even more intense than it is today.

"Summer of '49" is also a terrific read for anyone who loves the sport. Halberstam takes us back to 1949, when, he asserts, baseball was still a more innocent game. It was also a year when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry raged (the pennant race wasn't decided until the last game) and Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams were the toasts of their towns.

But the game of baseball has inspired so many great books. Here's my list of the 10 best, but I'm happy to have you disagree.

1. Eight Men Out, by Eliot Asinof. This story of the "Chicago Black Sox" and the fixing of the 1919 World Series is more than just a great baseball book. It's also an eminently readable examination of life in America at a particular moment in time.

2. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud. It's almost impossible not to like this dark but poetic novel by Pulitzer Prize-winner Bernard Malamud about a naturally gifted baseball player who, outside the ballpark, proves only too human.

3. The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn. Roger Kahn writes about the mid-20th-century Brooklyn Dodgers – the team that integrated Major League Baseball and also the team that Kahn covered for the New York Herald Tribune. A Monitor reviewer wrote of "The Boys of Summer" that it "isn't a book; it's a love affair between a man, his team, and an era."

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