Destined to take its place among the classics of baseball literature.

BOTTOM OF THE 33RD

HOPE, REDEMPTION, AND BASEBALL'S LONGEST GAME

New York Times columnist Barry (City Lights: Stories About New York, 2007, etc.) delivers an all-angle take on the longest, and surely the strangest, game in baseball history.

On a frigid evening in April 1981, 1,740 Pawtucket, R.I., Red Sox fans settled into their seats for a game with the Rochester Red Wings of the AAA International League. With the score tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, the teams played on. And on. On past 12:50 a.m., when the curfew provision, mysteriously missing from that year’s edition of the rule book, would have suspended the contest; on past the 21st inning, when each team maddeningly scored a run; on past the 29th and record-tying inning; on past 4:00 a.m., the bottom of the 32nd, when the league president was finally reached and ordered the umpires to suspend the contest. Wittily and gracefully, Barry works out his Easter themes of hope and redemption, providing, of course, an account of the game, but most memorably capturing the atmosphere of the city and the stories of the people who shared this weird moment in baseball’s long history: the players, two headed for the Hall of Fame, a few who would establish substantial major league careers, scrubs who would never make it, others only on their way to or back from the proverbial cup of coffee in the bigs; the dutiful umpires and the team managers, baseball lifers both; the hardy double-handful of fans who stayed the course, including a father and son bound by their promise never to leave a game; the clubhouse attendants, batboys and devoted player wives; the makeshift radio broadcasters and jaded newsmen sentenced to cover the game; the millionaire, blue-collar PawSox owner and the dismal team and decrepit stadium he inherited; the burned-out but still-defiant city of Pawtucket, where baseball would, indeed, eventually rise from the dead. When play resumed two months later, the entire baseball world descended upon the stadium, eager to participate in the historic game’s conclusion, prefiguring the enthusiastic attention Barry’s wonderful story richly inspires.

Destined to take its place among the classics of baseball literature.

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-201448-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE GRASS OF ANOTHER COUNTRY

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE WORLD OF SOCCER

An engaging journey through, as poet Merrill puts it, ``the enchanted lands of soccer.'' When, in 1990, the US team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years, Merrill (an avid amateur soccer player) followed the team through preliminary games stateside and then to Italy for the month-long tournament. The Americans were 500-1 underdogs, given little chance to do more than make a brave showing, especially with Bob Gansler at the helm, a coach so conservative and defense-oriented that his own players had sworn to scrap his game plan. In the opening game, Merrill says, Czechoslovakia ``outclassed'' the US in ``skill, speed, strength, tactics, and creativity,'' but in the second game—largely through the play of New Jersey goalie Tony Meola—the Americans scored a moral victory against heavily favored Italy, to whom they lost by only one goal. The third game, though, against Austria, was an ugly loss marred by ineptness and fighting. As Merrill progresses through the World Cup play (finally won by West Germany in a brutal match against defending champion Argentina, signaling the imminent downfall of superstar player Diego Maradona, whose drug and prostitution connections would bring him to disgrace and banishment), he offers lovely and knowing passages on the art, architecture, and ambience of Italy's cities and provides deep historical background and understanding of the game of soccer itself. Of particular interest are his insights into why ``the world's most popular game'' has never caught on in sports-mad America. The rarity of goals, Merrill contends, has ``doomed'' soccer in a country ``hooked on instant gratification'': Americans want to see lots of scoring but, ``like poetry and jazz, soccer is a subtle art, a game of nuance.'' An intelligent and literate work that could broaden American interest in soccer in time for our 1994 hosting—for the first time ever—of the World Cup.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1993

ISBN: 0-8050-2771-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Ideal for Chicagoans, both casual and die-hard sports fans, and anyone who wonders, “What happens when you have a dream and...

MONSTERS

THE 1985 CHICAGO BEARS AND THE WILD HEART OF FOOTBALL

A fan’s engaging yet ultimately melancholy love letter to his beloved team and his hometown.

“Pick your team carefully, because your team is your destiny.” Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone contributor Cohen’s father’s solemn advice can be easily understood by sports fans. However, other readers will enjoy this entertaining, if profane, history of the 1985 NFL champion Chicago Bears. That team symbolized Chicago through their fierceness and audacity and by playing a “blitzkrieg” style of football that would certainly be banned today. Throughout, the author provides comical anecdotes about head coach Mike Ditka, a pugnacious tantrum-thrower whose method was “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Ditka’s orneriness mirrored that of “stingy, angry and mean” team owner George “Papa Bear” Halas (a founder of the NFL) and met its match in the defiant quarterback Jim McMahon, who, despite being undersized with a weak throwing arm and a bad eye, played without regard for his body and led his team to a 15-1 record. Cohen’s telling of the Bears’ founding and its tradition of nastiness is by turns devastating, regarding the irreparable harm done to players’ bodies and minds, and moving, as when he explains that Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton was “Chicago as Chicago wanted to be: a fighter…who’s been knocked down but always gets back up.” Cohen thankfully avoids sentimentality and doesn’t bog readers down in lengthy game reports or analyses. The author is at his best in the interviews with 32 retired players and executives who offer their impressions of the Bears’ famed “46” defense, “the most devastating force in football,” and its characters, including the Hit Man, Mongo, the Black & Blues Brothers and, most famously, the Fridge.

Ideal for Chicagoans, both casual and die-hard sports fans, and anyone who wonders, “What happens when you have a dream and that dream comes true?”

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-29868-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more