A first-class anthology. Fans know that Runyon hit almost every word he wrote straight out of the park, and those new to his...

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GUYS, DOLLS, AND CURVEBALLS

DAMON RUNYON ON BASEBALL

Just in time for the new season: a collection of hitherto scattered baseball pieces by the legendary newspaperman and writer.

Baseball historian and journalist Reisler does a great service to lovers of Angell, Kahn, Stump, and other chroniclers of the game—to say nothing to literate fans of baseball, period—by gathering Damon Runyon’s baseball writings over three decades, beginning in 1911. Runyon held a staunchly democratic view of the game, protesting, for instance, the fact that the rich, and not true-blue fans, got the best seats in the house: “I do not know just how I would arrange it if they left the job to me,” Runyon admitted, “but I would certainly make some provision for the regulars getting the best seats when the best seats are really worth having.” Populist politics aside, Runyon also had an evident interest in the game’s characters, in men such as the unlucky New York Giants pitcher Bugs Raymond, who defied his coach’s ban on drinking and gambling and was forced down to the semi-pros, only to die at the age of 30. “He might have been drawing as much salary as any pitcher in the world,” Runyon sighed in 1911, “not excepting [Christy] Mathewson.” Runyon’s blow-by-blow account of the clincher game of the 1926 World Series, which involved a dramatis personae as great as any baseball has seen—Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander, et al.—is the standout piece here, though even Runyon’s minor sketches and dispatches hold up. That is especially true when Runyon, always a playful writer, goes subversive: for reasons of his own, for instance, he filed one 1919 piece in what Reisler calls “virtual shorthand,” turning in such epigrammatic notes as “Jack Quinn pitched well for us, but not well enough” and “An attempt was made to squeeze Jacobson home, but ‘Baby Doll’ was eradicated at the pan.”

A first-class anthology. Fans know that Runyon hit almost every word he wrote straight out of the park, and those new to his work are in for a treat as well.

Pub Date: April 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-7867-1540-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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