Eisenberg examines one of baseball’s most venerated records while exploring what it all means, providing a compelling,...

READ REVIEW

THE STREAK

LOU GEHRIG, CAL RIPKEN, AND BASEBALL'S MOST HISTORIC RECORD

The story of baseball’s greatest iron men.

On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken broke Major League Baseball’s consecutive-game record, which had been held by the legendary New York Yankee Lou Gehrig. Once the game was official, the Baltimore Orioles unfurled a banner that read “2,131,” the number of games he had played without fail. As the roaring crowd (which included President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore) and a national audience watched, teammates pushed Ripken from the dugout onto the field, where the future Hall of Famer took an impromptu lap, slapping hands with fans around the perimeter of Camden Yards. It was an inspiring moment that many believed helped to save baseball after a labor stoppage had cancelled the end of the 1994 season, including the playoffs and World Series, and truncated the 1995 season. Ripken had broken a record once seen as untouchable, a record made all the more resonant because of Gehrig’s tragic death soon after due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosus, a disease that would come to carry his name. Former Baltimore Sun sports columnist Eisenberg (Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future, 2012, etc.) intertwines the stories of Gehrig and Ripken with chapters about baseball’s other iron men and the nature of consecutive-game streaks more generally. It would have been easy for the author to simply celebrate Ripken’s and Gehrig’s records and to couch them in terms of commitment, work ethic, and age-old virtues. But while he does not deny these positive attributes, he also thoughtfully explores why these records resonate, whether they really matter, and if, in some cases, they may be a bit selfish. After all, sometimes a player might serve his team best by taking the occasional day off. It is this aspect of the story that makes the book most valuable.

Eisenberg examines one of baseball’s most venerated records while exploring what it all means, providing a compelling, thought-provoking history for fans of America’s grand game.

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-10767-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

WHY WE SWIM

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. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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
more