CONFESSIONS OF A BASEBALL PURIST

Play-by-play man for ESPN’s highly successful Sunday Night Baseball, Miller, with Baltimore Sun reporter Hayman, has slapped together a casual record of his career and a friendly look at the game’s recent history as seen from the press box. Once derogatorily described as a —baseball purist— by Bud Selig, baseball’s acting commissioner, Miller goes on record to try to show that he is anything but. He got his start in the big leagues at the age of 22 in 1974 when he was hired by Charlie Finley’s Oakland A’s, he remembers fondly. He would later spend 14 —wonderful years— with the Baltimore Orioles (two separate chapters are devoted to Cal Ripken and his record-breaking streak) and then the Red Sox. He cites current ESPN partner Joe Morgan as —the premier baseball analyst.— Miller lists among his favorite people in baseball former manager Ralph Houk, one of those who left the game —a better place that when he found it.— Reggie Jackson, Kirby Puckett, Joe Carter, and Eddie Murray also rate highly in his book. Miller’s protestations against being dubbed a —purist— yield mixed results: While he grudgingly admits to liking interleague play, he—d like to see it limited to —natural rivalries— such as the Yankees vs. the Mets, or the White Sox vs. the Cubs. At one point, he decries the suggestion that the game needs to be speeded up; at another, he suggests limiting catcher visits to the mound and giving each team four time-outs. And one nearsighted contention should bring on a shower of boos and catcalls from the stands: The fans, he claims, —don—t read salary lists, and they don—t care who wins or loses arbitration,— he writes. —So don—t bother baseball fans with that nonsense.— It’s a good thing Miller keeps this informal and anecdotal, and presents his arguments with a light touch. Otherwise, purists and other fans might feel they—ve been underestimated, if not sold short.

Pub Date: April 6, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-84518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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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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