Study Guide

Roger Kahn

Roger Kahn Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Along with Roger Angell, Robert Creamer, Donald Honig, and Lawrence Ritter, Roger Kahn is one of the most highly respected authors to write on the history and sociology of baseball. The Boys of Summer, his study of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1940’s and 1950’s, is a masterpiece of baseball literature. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Kahn learned to love baseball from his father, a teacher who claimed to have played third base for City College of New York, and from his grandfather, with whom he attended Dodger games. When Kahn’s mother feared that his passion for sports would hinder his intellectual development and pleaded for him to read something, he chose Pitching in a Pinch, a 1912 how-to book by Christy Mathewson, legendary pitcher for the New York Giants.

When Kahn’s dream of being a baseball star himself evaporated because of his limited talent, he hoped to attend Cornell University but instead went to New York University. After three years there, he was a copy boy for the New York Herald Tribune, becoming a reporter in 1948. By 1952, he was covering his beloved Dodgers, growing to feel he was part of one of the best and most colorful teams of all time. His fellow sportswriter, Dick Young, became his mentor, teaching young Kahn to concentrate on the details of a game rather than its outcome. Kahn left the Herald Tribune in 1955 and later worked as a writer, editor, and columnist for Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, and Time.

Kahn wrote a book for young readers, Inside Big League Baseball; a consideration of his ethnic heritage, The Passionate People: What It Means to Be a Jew in America; and an account of antiwar protesters at Columbia University in 1968, The Battle for Morningside Heights: Why Students Rebel, before creating his best-known work. Inspired by his discovery that Dodger former third-baseman Bill Cox was a...

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Roger Kahn Bibliography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Kahn, Roger. Interview by Mike Shannon. In Baseball: The Writers’ Game. South Bend, Ind.: Diamond Communications, 1992. Kahn explains how he wrote The Boys of Summer.

Orodenker, Richard, and Andrew Milner. “Roger Kahn.” In Twentieth-Century American Sportswriters, edited by Orodenker. Vol. 171 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: The Gale Group, 1996. A thorough examination of Kahn’s life and works.

Roberts, Frederic M. “Dem Bums Become the Boys of Summer: From Comic Caricatures to Sacred Icons of the National Pastime.” American Jewish History 83 (March, 1995). Discusses the lasting reputation of Kahn’s masterpiece.

Smith, Leverett T., Jr. “More Versions of Defeat.” Arete: The Journal of Sport Literature 5 (Fall, 1987). Compares The Boys of Summer with baseball books by Barry Gifford and Joel Oppenheimer.

Smith, Leverett T., Jr., and David A. Jones. “Jack Keefe and Roy Hobbs: Two All-American Boys.” Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature 6 (Spring, 1989). Considers the baseball players in Ring Lardner’s You Know Me, Al: A Busher’s Letters (1916) and Bernard Malamud’s The Natural (1952) in the light of Kahn’s treatment of their real-life counterparts in The Boys of Summer.

Solomon, Eric. “The Boy of Summer Grows Older: Roger Kahn and the Baseball Memoir.” Baseball History 2 (Summer, 1987). Traces the autobiographical element and the theme of loss through Kahn’s baseball books and compares them to other works about the sport.