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After a monster 1998 season, baseball is back. But to Morgan, a Hall of Fame player and highly regarded analyst for ESPN, baseball still needs help in getting and keeping fans. Morgan goes point by point, describing what’s best about baseball and what needs fixing. Secure in his status within the game, he isn—t afraid to name names or step on a few toes. Morgan is blunt in his criticism of baseball’s poor administration. He discusses why the leagues and teams repeatedly fail to hire qualified black and Latino players for management positions, and suggests ways to correct the imbalance. He notes the declining interest among African-Americans in playing and watching baseball, and offers steps to rekindle this interest, largely through an expanded presence in inner-city kids— lives. Officiating also comes under Morgan’s microscope in a chapter with the self-explanatory title —Don—t Kill the Umpires! (Just Teach Them the Strike Zone),— in which the author outlines how the Major Leagues, the players, and the umpires can unite in making officiating more consistent and therefore better. However, Morgan confines most of his observations and advice to the game on the field. He chides current managers for ignoring fundamentals, such as base stealing. And he offers advice on how to rein in the excessive scoring that detracts from the game’s subtle balance between hitters and pitchers (raise the mounds for starters, shorten starting pitching staffs from five to four pitchers, don—t overuse young hurlers). Naturally, Morgan’s passion for the game doesn—t permit him only to focus on the negatives. Endlessly citing baseball’s charms (while addressing its miscues and shortcomings), Morgan identifies the players and managers most worth watching. He even playfully engages in the debate over which is the game’s greatest team, the 1998 Yankees, or his own 1975—6 Cincinnati Reds. Lovers of baseball, detractors of baseball, and even those alienated from it—all will be drawn to this outstanding and outspoken, no-punches-pulled prescription for the ills of the Grand Old Game. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1999

ISBN: 0-609-60524-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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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

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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...

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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