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A serviceable biography for hard-core fans of early baseball.

In baseball’s long history, only two men have started a World Series as a pitcher and as a position player: Babe Ruth and, easily, among the best players not in the Hall of Fame, Smoky Joe Wood (1889–1995), the subject of this biography.

For eight years with the dead ball era Red Sox, Wood played with the future Hall of Fame outfield of Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis and Harry Hooper, with the old Cy Young and the young Babe Ruth. He played against and was considered every bit the equal of Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Christy Mathewson. His spectacular 1912 regular season (34-5, 1.91 ERA, 258 strikeouts) featured a classic duel with strikeout artist Walter Johnson, who once said of him, “there’s no man alive that throws harder than Smoky Joe Wood.” After injuring his arm, Wood followed up his remarkable pitching exploits with six more years as a Cleveland Indian outfielder, where he rated among the game’s best hitters. The author never quite gets to the heart of the man—Wood’s jack-of-all trades, peripatetic father emerges as the most interesting personality—but Wood’s minor league beginnings (including a stint, believe it or not, with the Kansas City Bloomer Girls), his bifurcated major league career and his 20 seasons coaching baseball at Yale all receive exhaustive attention. Wood (English Emeritus/Carson-Newman Coll.; co-author: The Voice of an American Playwright: Interviews With Horton Foote, 2012, etc.) skips lightly over any negatives—his subject’s role in the Catholic/Protestant divide among those 1908-1915 Sox teams, his part in a betting scandal featuring Speaker and Cobb—and he hurries through the retirement years. However, most readers will come for the baseball and the stories of this almost-mythic figure from the game’s earliest days, the only man other than Cole Porter for whom Yale’s president left the college grounds to award an honorary degree.

A serviceable biography for hard-core fans of early baseball.

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8032-4499-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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