A good, if at times windy, story. Even if his proposal got smothered by the small-city political weight, he got the voice of...

READ REVIEW

FOUL BALL

MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES TRYING TO SAVE AN OLD BALLPARK

Populist maverick, pariah of professional baseball bigwigs, Bouton (Strike Zone, 1994, etc.) tells of his efforts to preserve—and a coven of movers-and-shakers and good-old-boys to abandon—a historic baseball park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

When it comes to baseball parks, writes Bouton, “ ‘If we build it, they will come’ has evolved into ‘If we don't build it, they will go,’ ” referring to the rash of new, economically dubious stadiums. Pittsfield's Wahconah Park, built in 1892, one of the oldest in the US, was about to become another of these statistics, until Bouton and his comrade-in-arms Chip Elitzer decided to offer an alternative to the $18.5-million, pork-barrel proposal for a new stadium: “We'll spend private dollars to renovate an existing ballpark for a locally owned team.” Bouton—as zealous to entertain his readers with tangy one-liners as he is in uncovering the myriad corruption, deals, and fixes that attended the drive for a new stadium—adroitly manages a number of stories at once. There’s the backroom power-brokering, ego-strutting, and just plain greed of making taxpayers foot the bill for a stadium they have time-and-again voted down in referendums; the historic importance of old ballparks, with their quirks and intimacy and evocation of the game's past; and an environmental subplot: the land being touted for the new stadium may be a toxic dump. Capping it with a ballpark would put paid to the millions of dollars it would cost to clean it up. (Bouton points fingers, too, at other infamous polluters—General Electric, for instance. After a GE lawyer was set to invest in PublicAffairs, Bouton's intended and enthusiastic publisher, PublicAffairs suddenly requested that the GE material be excised. Bouton smelled a rat—et voilà: a self-published work.)

A good, if at times windy, story. Even if his proposal got smothered by the small-city political weight, he got the voice of Pittsfield's regular folk heard and the ballpark saved, for now.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-9709117-1-8

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Bulldog

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more