Fans won’t argue the game’s significance to the sport, but Frost’s narrative is over-the-top and gushing, making it strictly...

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GAME SIX

CINCINNATI, BOSTON, AND THE 1975 WORLD SERIES: THE TRIUMPH OF AMERICA'S PASTIME

A pitch-by-pitch account of the game best known for the image of the hopping, waving, ecstatic catcher Carlton Fisk, whose 12th-inning home run won the game for the Boston Red Sox.

Sports nonfiction vet Frost (The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever, 2007, etc.) is a bit too fond of superlatives. Sox outfielder Dwight Evans made the “greatest catch in the history of the World Series”; at game’s end Boston Globe sportswriter Peter Gammons wrote “one of the most lyrical, inspired and impressionistic columns ever written about a baseball game.” And so on. All the players were larger-than-life. Carl Yastrzemski had the greatest work ethic since John Henry; Sox pitcher Luis Tiant loved his father more than anyone since the baby Jesus; Reds’ third baseman Pete Rose had a “gap-toothed Huck Finn enthusiasm for the game.” Sprinkled throughout the breathless game narration are allusions to historical events from the mid-1970s: the presidency of Gerald Ford, the imminent American Bicentennial celebration, the advent of Saturday Night Live. Between pitches, Frost delivers the back stories of just about everyone involved: the sportscasters and -writers, the players, the owners, the managers—even the Fenway Park organist. The diction is often of the aw-shucks variety. Reds manager Sparky Anderson once ripped a couple of guys a new one; writer Maureen Dowd was “a sharp young cookie.” Fisk finally comes to bat in the 12th nearly 300 pages in. After a page-long description of the flight of the struck baseball, Frost devotes nearly 100 more pages to the aftermath of the game. He tells us what happened to everyone and claims that this particular game rescued baseball from a serious drought.

Fans won’t argue the game’s significance to the sport, but Frost’s narrative is over-the-top and gushing, making it strictly for baseball die-hards.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2310-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

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. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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