Ages are “golden” only in misty-eyed retrospect, but Barra excels at showing these athletes’ superhuman abilities and...

Veteran sports journalist and biographer Barra (Yogi Berra, 2009, etc.) returns with a dual biography of two of baseball’s all-time greats.

The author does not employ Castor and Pollux imagery in his treatment of these two very similar athletes, but he might as well have. Throughout his well-researched and generous tale, he continually alludes to the similarities of these Hall of Fame centerfielders. From their baseball-playing fathers to their eerie physical resemblances to their remarkable multiple talents (hitting, power, speed, throwing arms), Barra highlights the enormous improbability of two such gifted athletes arriving simultaneously. Of course, there were differences. Mays, an African-American, always had to contend with race; there were critics who thought he did not do enough for civil rights. Mantle was an alcoholic (Mays never drank), a weakness that tarnished his image and limited his still-remarkable achievements. Mantle also suffered a bad knee injury in the 1951 World Series, and Barra reminds us that Mays hit the fly that Mantle was chasing at the time. Another difference: Mays entered the military, and Mantle, classified 4-F because of his osteomyelitis, had to endure taunts early in his career about his courage. Barra follows both men from childhood to the present (Mantle died in 1995), writing about their families, marriages, miscues, relationships, friendships (they liked each other) and post-baseball lives. He includes some social history, as well, including the Curt Flood lawsuit, and he blasts Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The author argues that both players should have won MVP awards more often than they did.

Ages are “golden” only in misty-eyed retrospect, but Barra excels at showing these athletes’ superhuman abilities and all-too-human frailties.

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-71648-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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