THE STREAK

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

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

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 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

WHY WE SWIM

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

CONCUSSION

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

Close Quickview