Baseball fanatics will love this illumination of the sport’s colorful past.

THE LEAGUE OF OUTSIDER BASEBALL

AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF BASEBALL'S FORGOTTEN HEROES

In his first book, artist and writer Cieradkowski combines a passion for the sport (nurtured by his late father, who he says inspired this project) with his credentials as a graphic designer, where his credits include the graphics at the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards.

This book represents a natural progression from the author’s Infinite Baseball Card Set blog, where he continues to design cards for players who never had them (as well as some who have)—not the bubble-gum cards of the modern era but “the beautiful old tobacco cards that were manufactured at the turn of the century.” Such illustrations—and others, some full page—accompany anecdotal remembrances of the famous (at early stages of their careers), the infamous (the Black Sox and more violent criminals), the little known and those better known for other achievements. If you want a baseball card illustration of Eisenhower, Castro and Sinatra, this is your book. Prodigious research informs both the art and the text, though much within the latter will be familiar to those who have read the same baseball books the artist has. But even the well-known career of Pete Reiser, “the stuff of tragic legend,” merits celebrating again, while the tales of radicals who immigrated to Russia and brought baseball with them or the hurlers who used their strong arms with hand grenades (American and Japanese alike) will be fresh for all but the most ardent baseball historians. Pretty much every country where there is baseball has its own Babe Ruth, and they’re all represented here (as is Ruth). While newer generations of baseball fanatics have become more numbers oriented, the author is an old-school throwback who highlights the players in terms of their personalities. He effectively evokes a golden era of what was once the national pastime.

Baseball fanatics will love this illumination of the sport’s colorful past.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7523-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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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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