A string of pearly anecdotes that reverberate far beyond the diamond.

THE TEAMMATES

Affectionate, informed, and smooth-as-cream portrait of four Boston Red Sox greats and their abiding friendship over many years.

Even back then, it was “something unusual for baseball: four men who played for one team, who became good friends, and remained friends for the rest of their lives.” Now, writes Halberstam (Firehouse, 2002, etc.), with free agency creating volatility in the rosters and salaries serving to lessen the connection between teammates, this story of Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, and Johnny Pesky is especially poignant. All four were Bosox stars in the 1940s and Halberstam re-creates many of the great moments of that decade, though perhaps even more enjoyable here are the sweet nuggets and inside observations of the men—of Pesky taking the fall for a bad play by Leon Culberson that lost the 1946 World Series because of the code mandating one player never point a finger at another, and reminiscing of Yankee pitcher Spud Chandler, “God, he was mean. He'd hit you in the ass, just for the sheer pleasure of it,” and tuning in to excerpts from the Ted Williams Lecture Series. As ever, Halberstam, always a welcome sportswriter, finely delineates the personalities: Doerr's preternatural emotional equilibrium, the guileless Pesky, Williams’s contentiousness, animal energy, and generosity. He also provides enough family history to give a sense of how extraordinary it was these four men came to be such great players, and how each in turn readily acknowledged their great good fortune at having been able to be part of the game at all. And the story lightly revolves around a car trip by Pesky, DiMaggio, and humorist Dick Flavin for a last visit with the rapidly dwindling Williams, highlighting the fact that all of the men may soon be gone and with them a classy style of play no longer in evidence.

A string of pearly anecdotes that reverberate far beyond the diamond.

Pub Date: May 14, 2003

ISBN: 1-4013-0057-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

DUMB LUCK AND THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

The latest collection of interrelated essays by the veteran fishing writer.

As in his previous books—from The View From Rat Lake through All Fishermen Are Liars—Gierach hones in on the ups and downs of fishing, and those looking for how-to tips will find plenty here on rods, flies, guides, streams, and pretty much everything else that informs the fishing life. It is the everything else that has earned Gierach the following of fellow writers and legions of readers who may not even fish but are drawn to his musings on community, culture, the natural world, and the seasons of life. In one representatively poetic passage, he writes, “it was a chilly fall afternoon with the leaves changing, the current whispering, and a pale moon in a daytime sky. The river seemed inscrutable, but alive with possibility.” Gierach writes about both patience and process, and he describes the long spells between catches as the fisherman’s equivalent of writer’s block. Even when catching fish is the point, it almost seems beside the point (anglers will understand that sentiment): At the end of one essay, he writes, “I was cold, bored, hungry, and fishless, but there was still nowhere else I’d have rather been—something anyone who fishes will understand.” Most readers will be profoundly moved by the meditation on mortality within the blandly titled “Up in Michigan,” a character study of a man dying of cancer. Though the author had known and been fishing with him for three decades, his reticence kept anyone from knowing him too well. Still, writes Gierach, “I came to think of [his] glancing pronouncements as Michigan haiku: brief, no more than obliquely revealing, and oddly beautiful.” Ultimately, the man was focused on settling accounts, getting in one last fishing trip, and then planning to “sit in the sun and think things over until it’s time for hospice.”

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6858-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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