An intriguing tale, capably written, but lacking a greater sense of significance, either to golf or to professional sports...

THE MATCH

THE DAY THE GAME OF GOLF CHANGED FOREVER

The latest from novelist and golf writer Frost (The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf, 2004, etc.) examines a historic match, when legendary professionals Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson squared off against top amateurs Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi.

The author ably demonstrates how the golf landscape of 1956 differed significantly from the golf world most fans would recognize today. In the first half of the century, professional golfers were seen as more blue-collar athletes, men who had been forced to become pros to pay the mortgage. Thus, they were unable to enjoy the life of the more dignified and respectable amateur, who more likely could claim blue-blood roots and not be forced to sully the dignity of the great game for money. Frost relates how Hogan used his keen intensity and near-religious devotion to hone his skills to the point at which he was among the game’s greatest. Nelson, similarly, was a self-made man who was forced to live on a shoestring before rising to the game’s elite ranks. At the same time, the amateur circuit was not viewed as the preface to the pros, but its own entity, composed of some of the game’s most adept talents. In 1956, a pair of millionaires, Eddie Lowery and George Coleman, made a wager on who would emerge as golf’s greatest—the top amateurs (and Lowery employees) Ward and Venturi, or any pair of professionals that Coleman could assemble. Coleman, never a man to shrink from a wager, was able to tempt two of the game’s greatest champions, and the match was set. While Frost does an excellent job relating the histories of the men who played the game and the conditions of the course, wrapping each chapter in vibrant and descriptive prose, there was actually little at stake in the match. Unlike the author’s previous book on golf, which chronicled a paradigm shift in what kind of player could become champion, there was little more than bragging rights riding on the outcome of this fabled match. Hogan and Nelson were able to squeeze out a one-stroke victory, but the result was not nearly as dramatic as the book’s subtitle implies.

An intriguing tale, capably written, but lacking a greater sense of significance, either to golf or to professional sports in general.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4013-0278-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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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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