Publishing executive and veteran sports author Silverman (I Am Third, 1982, etc.) produces mixed results as he retells 13 sporting events that had dramatic finishes.
Silverman spans the globe and the 20th century to cover a variety of famous contests. He begins in 1908 at the Polo Grounds, where the New York Giants' Fred Merkle made a mental error that lost a game that tied the pennant—and led to a playoff won by the Chicago Cubs. He concludes in 1999 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, where the USA Women's Soccer Team won the World Cup against China. After 90 minutes of regular play and 30 minutes of overtime highlighted by Kristine Lilly's game-saving header at the goal line, Brandi Chastain created an enduring image with her game-winning penalty shot and spontaneous jersey-removing celebration. The author's best success comes with stories whose participants give modern reflections on the event. Frank Ciampi, who quarterbacked Harvard's amazing comeback to tie Yale in 1968, talks about what the game has meant to his life. American Indian Billy Mills remembers his shocking victory in the 10,000-meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Silverman often undermines his narrative continuity with digressions. The 1980 “Do you believe in miracles?” hockey game between the USA and USSR is repeatedly interrupted by references to the training methods that won coach Herb Brooks the respect (but not the affection) of his players. The author also covers two boxing matches—Dempsey-Firpo in 1923, and Ali-Frazier in 1971 (the only event here that Silverman attended)—as well as Davis Cup tennis in 1938, home runs by Bobby Thompson (1951) and Carlton Fisk (1975), Giants-Colts football in 1958, US Open Golf in 1958, and the Christian Laettner basket that enabled Duke to beat Kentucky in 1992.
Enthusiasm and detail on the positive side; little new information and clunky writing on the negative.