A simulacrum of the author’s career—some swings and misses, but generates enough hits to maintain interest.

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THE GAME FROM WHERE I STAND

A BALLPLAYER’S INSIDE VIEW

Former big leaguer dishes dirt on clubhouse etiquette, romantic relationships and on- and off-the-field challenges faced by professional athletes.

Many former baseball players have penned post-career tell-alls offering an “insider” perspective on controversial aspects of the game, but few are former high-school electronics-club members who can claim an engineering degree from Penn and openly cite Hall and Oates as their favorite band. Despite Glanville’s unique profile, however, his career typifies the Major League experience of most non-superstar players—an arduous stint in the minor leagues, marked by long bus rides and shabby accommodations, followed by an up-and-down experience playing for Philadelphia, Texas, and the Chicago Cubs in the Majors. With no World Series championships, statistical records or personal steroid use to discuss, Glanville’s hook is the perspective of an articulate, highly educated African-American in a sport increasingly devoid of black players and lacking in college graduates. Unlike accounts from notorious cheats like Jose Canseco, Glanville’s narrative supplies no stunning revelations, focusing instead on in-depth coverage of the life of average ballplayers and the challenges they face, from trying to compete with more famous teammates’ extravagant expenditures on cars and houses to the difficulties of maintaining a relationship to the mixing of race and culture in the clubhouse. The author, as straight an arrow as can be found in professional sports, comes off as almost comically innocent in describing his encounters with celebrities or recounting his rare nights out, confessing to only one instance of obvious drunkenness in front of teammates. Though short on front-page controversies, the book’s eclectic nuggets of insight—from the virtues of different sunflower-seed flavors to how managers play aging veteran journeymen against the league’s best pitchers in order to protect the confidence of their young stars—make it a good diversion during the seventh-inning stretch.

A simulacrum of the author’s career—some swings and misses, but generates enough hits to maintain interest.

Pub Date: May 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9159-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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

BACK FROM THE DEAD

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...

CONCUSSION

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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