DRIVING MR. YOGI

YOGI BERRA, RON GUIDRY, AND BASEBALL'S GREATEST GIFT

A well-told tale of friendship with baseball as the backdrop.

An exploration and celebration of deep friendship under the cloak of a baseball book.

Other than starring in Yankee pinstripes, though not at the same time, Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry wouldn’t seem to have much in common. The Hall of Fame catcher from the Italian ghetto of St. Louis and the pitcher young enough to be his son, from the Cajun swamp country of Louisiana, might not even seem to speak the same language, unless that language was baseball. Yet baseball isn’t the focus of this book about the transgenerational bond forged by the two men, a story that germinated in a New York Times spring-training column written last year by Araton (When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks, 2011, etc.). It’s the story of a younger player and the idol who became his best friend. There is no talk of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, nor of salaries exponentially inflated since the two played. There is little about games that mattered, since much of the book concerns the spring training rituals that annually reunite the two. It’s also the story of two genuinely likable, admirable athletes, though the nuanced portrait of Berra is pricklier than the cuddly caricature so often depicted. He adheres strictly to routines, from a rigid schedule to his rotation of restaurants and the meals he orders there. Guidry understands Berra well enough to know when to poke fun at him and when to protect him from the attention he most certainly doesn’t crave. Other indelible characters play a part—including George Steinbrenner, whose alienation of Berra and reconciliation with him proved key in the lives of both—but this is mainly the story of two buddies and the sport over which they have bonded.

A well-told tale of friendship with baseball as the backdrop.

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-74672-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

WHY WE SWIM

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

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. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

CONCUSSION

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

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. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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