Megdal writes with the easy fluency of a Jim Bouton, delivering a book that’s of value to students of business as well as...

THE CARDINALS WAY

HOW ONE TEAM EMBRACED TRADITION AND MONEYBALL AT THE SAME TIME

Revealing look inside the locker room and front office of a storied baseball franchise.

What is the “Cardinals Way?” On one hand, writes seasoned sportswriter Megdal (Wilpon's Folly: The Story of a Man, His Fortune, and the New York Mets, 2011, etc.), it’s “a product of a hundred years of serendipity,” the result of the confluence of the ideas of numerous baseball pioneers and the realities of the playing field. On the other hand, it’s the outcome of a not-always-easy fit between the insistence on old-fashioned, people-based fundamentals and a devotion to metrics and analytics. Megdal digs deep into the business of how a player is picked. We can expect to see one, a young pitcher named Daniel Poncedeleon, in the 2016 season, and a fine choice he will be, capable of hurling hellacious heat and uttering menacing utterances like, “I like someone in there that wants to hit the ball so I can strike ’em out,” while also revealing himself to be a pretty nice guy. Having picked a player, the Cardinals coaches now have to groom and train, and therein lies a heavy program of enculturation. After grooming and training, they have to retain their best players, which means paying money, something skinflint owners don’t like to do but that does keep a player happy and loyal. Money pervades the game, always figuring in the calculus of who is signed and who is cut and, in the case of the Cardinals, involving “analytic firepower to confidently run an estimate for a player going forward.” By that calculus, writes the author, Poncedeleon carries an on-paper value of $1.75 million, cinched for a $5,000 signing bonus—not a bad deal at all and speaking to the shrewdness of the staff and the hunger of a kid eager to show his stuff on the field.

Megdal writes with the easy fluency of a Jim Bouton, delivering a book that’s of value to students of business as well as baseball fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-05831-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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