A meticulously researched and occasionally moving biography of the man judged by many to be the greatest baseballer ever. Although his on-field exploits were well known and highly praised by admirers ranging from Casey Stengel to Ernest Hemingway to Paul Simon, Joe DiMaggio was always something of an enigma to his adoring American public. Here, in text and a collection of rare photographs, DiMaggio emerges as a ballplayer of unmatched elegance whose growth as an athlete far outpaced his social growth. This early relative immaturity coupled with prejudice against Italian- Americans, still prevalent in the 1930s, helped set DiMaggio at a distance from his fans. Yet due to his immense prowess, Joltin' Joe quickly became the game's biggest draw since Babe Ruth. Throughout his career, DiMaggio exhibited a less tangible greatness than the Babe or even the contemporary with whom he is most often paired, Ted Williams (who wrote the foreword to this volume and who is the subject of a 1991 illustrated life by Johnson and Stout). Apart from his 56-game hitting streak in 1941 (a record that still stands) and his nine World Series and ten American League pennants in 13 seasons, DiMaggio set few records. But as Luke Salisbury and Tom Boswell point out in essays contributed to this volume, statistics mean little in assessing Joe DiMaggio. As a symbol of the game in an uncertain era that began during the Depression and ended at the dawn of the Cold War, DiMaggio was a constant and comforting presence for a nation that found little comfort elsewhere. Joe's life away from the game kept him in the limelight- -he was briefly wed to a rising starlet named Marilyn Monroe and later was a baseball instructor and a pitchman of outstanding success (in the '70s, kids knew him as ``Mr. Coffee''). Today, DiMaggio appears to be a man at peace with both himself and his legend. In their thoughtful treatment, the authors make it clear that he has earned that peace. (180 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 1995

ISBN: 0-8027-1311-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1995

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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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