While it's arguable that 1960—as golf-pro turned golf-writer Sampson claims—was the watershed year for professional golf, it does offer a springboard for an interesting if slipshod study of golfing greats Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Ben Hogan at contrasting stages of their careers. At age 19, Nicklaus, the chubby ``Golden Bear,'' was in 1960 the youngest National Amateur champion since 1910. A pharmacology student at Ohio State, he had no intention of turning pro (and didn't until 1962). In the meantime, Palmer, 31, was enjoying one of the great hot streaks in the history of golf, winning the US and British Opens and going on to win 38 other tournaments during the decade, beginning with the 1960 Masters, in which his thrilling come-from-behind charge gave birth to ``Arnie's Army.'' Palmer would cash in on his fame, Sampson notes, eventually earning $8 million annually in endorsements. And while 1960 wasn't quite Ben Hogan's ``last hurrah,'' at age 47 his putting was embarrassingly bad and his attention was divided between the golf course and the boardroom. Though Sampson strives to find drama in the competition among the three golfers, there actually was little: At the Masters, for instance, Hogan tied for sixth, while Nicklaus finished 12th. At the US Open, though, where Palmer came from eight strokes behind to win, Nicklaus finished second, his 282 total a new amateur record for the Open, while Hogan, in contention up to the 17th hole, misplayed a chip shot and triple-bogeyed the final hole. Sampson concludes anticlimactically, with the P.G.A., won by Jay Hebert. There, Hogan missed the cut and Palmer came in a distant seventh. An update on the narrative's major players closes the text. Sampson fails to reach the authority and quality achieved by Michael Bamberger in To the Linksland (reviewed above), but his book has obvious appeal for golf-history and nostalgia buffs. (Sixteen-page b&w photo insert—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-87833-788-1

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Taylor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1992

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.


A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...


A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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