The literary equivalent of a mid-July baseball game: a few highlights but largely forgettable.

READ REVIEW

WHO'S ON WORST?

THE LOUSIEST PLAYERS, BIGGEST CHEATERS, SADDEST GOATS AND OTHER ANTIHEROES IN BASEBALL HISTORY

A collection of anecdotes about some of the worst players, managers and owners in baseball history.

Bloopers are an enduring baseball tradition; fans never fail to appreciate watching some of the best athletes in the world stumble, bumble and trip over themselves. In attempting to import such ineptitude from the Jumbotron to the page, however, something gets lost in translation. New York Daily News columnist Bondy (Chasing the Game: America and the Quest for the World Cup, 2010) does his best to craft compelling accounts of horrendous hitters like Mario Mendoza (for whom the infamous “Mendoza Line”—a .200 batting average—is named), poor fielders like Chuck Knoblauch (who inexplicably lost the ability to make a simple throw from second base to first base) and terrible teammates like Rubén Rivera (who once stole one of Derek Jeter’s gloves and sold it to a memorabilia dealer for $2,500). Unfortunately, these player sketches quickly become monotonous, as there are only so many ways to describe ineptitude or outright mediocrity. Chapters on the worst cheaters and oddest ballplayers of all time fare better, highlighting some of the game’s most eclectic characters (including pitcher Joe Niekro, who was caught using an emery board to doctor balls) and intriguing athletes (including Chuck Connors, who would go on to TV stardom in The Rifleman). The author intends the narrative to be humorous, and he succeeds in places—primarily in the captions of the pictures that appear sporadically throughout the book. Too often, however, the most interesting tidbits aren’t related to terrible on-field performance, but rather to the colorful characters themselves, which would have been a far more interesting focus than using advanced sabermetrics to definitively identify players whose weak traditional statistics speak for themselves.

The literary equivalent of a mid-July baseball game: a few highlights but largely forgettable.

Pub Date: March 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-53612-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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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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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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