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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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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