Profusely detailed rendering of the early–20th-century’s melting-pot urban society and the national sport’s place in it. (32...

AUTUMN GLORY

BASEBALL’S FIRST WORLD SERIES

A celebration of baseball’s first post-season championship, later known as the World Series.

While the 1903 series did much to rejuvenate flagging interest in the national pastime, most of its big names failed to deliver. Cy Young, pitching’s living yardstick, started Game One for the home-team Boston Americans, who found themselves down four runs within half an inning; the nicked-up Pittsburgh Pirate legend, Honus Wagner, drove in the first run but never really got his bat into a game after that and eventually struck out to give Boston the series, five games to three. Just like today, Masur (History/City College) assures us, owner greed was never far from the headlines; overflow ticket holders were ushered into the outfield and simply roped off against the wall. A ball into the crowd was a ground-rule triple, leading to both offensive and defensive misplays, and when Boston’s Jimmy Sebring drove one that died just short of the crowd, he parlayed it into the first Word Series homer. Another big difference: the wagering pool was in plain sight, and everybody, including players, managers, and owners, bet on games. The popular wisdom, Masur explains, held that fixing a game as intricate as baseball was impossible because you’d need players on both sides colluding, which would be obvious. Nonetheless, one of the swells cashing out the then-princely sum of $4,000 after Boston’s triumph, the author notes, was a certain Sport Sullivan. He would resurface years later—and $50,000 richer—in Chicago, indicted along with the eight White Sox players bribed to throw the 1919 World Series in an ironic example of what the author tabs as one of baseball’s most American attributes: “Teamwork matters.”

Profusely detailed rendering of the early–20th-century’s melting-pot urban society and the national sport’s place in it. (32 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8090-2763-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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