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HARDBALL by Daniel Coyle

HARDBALL

A Season in the Projects

By Daniel Coyle

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1994
ISBN: 0-399-13867-6
Publisher: Putnam

 An eye-opening chronicle of the fears, frustrations, and small triumphs of playing and coaching Little League baseball amid the squalor and violence of Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project; by an editor at Outside magazine. Founding a baseball league in a neighborhood where there's at least one shooting-death per month would seem a fool's errand but, in 1991, two men--one white, one black--believed the kids were worth the effort. Unfortunately, Bob Muzikowski, a former addict- turned-devout Christian, and Al Carter, a Department of Human Services employee specializing in gang relations, agreed on little else. Muzikowski was to provide the sponsors and coaches for the New North Little League, while Carter would supply the kids. Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Continental Banks, and other firms backed the project, which was to have teams of black children coached by middle-class white males. As Coyle--who acted as one of the coaches--notes, the conflicts were inevitable: Muzikowski couldn't restrain proselytizing, while Carter, who wanted everything to reflect the kids' African-American heritage, was suspicious of the white do-gooders. Coyle's team, the Kikuyus--an ever-changing group of youngsters aged 9-12--made it to the championship game despite, as the players would say, all the ``busters'' on the team. They lost, but completing two seasons was a victory in itself given the bitter feuding between the founders. Coyle captures the speech, fears, boyish bravado, and personality quirks of the children trying to have fun in an environment in which survival itself is a daily challenge. He also reports that, as of the opening of the 1993 season, Muzikowski was charging Carter with misappropriating funds from the project; meanwhile, Carter had formed a second league. The crack of the bat heard over the sound of gunfire: a testament to the innocent courage of children, as well as to their ability to endure in spite of all, including the adults. (Film rights sold to Paramount)