Definitive and exhaustive, animated by a profound respect and admiration.

CONNIE MACK

THE TURBULENT AND TRIUMPHANT YEARS, 1915-1931

The second volume of the author’s massive biography of legendary baseball manager Connie Mack (1862–1956).

Macht’s first volume (Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball, 2007) covered the Hall of Famer’s life up to age 52, a period during which his team, the Philadelphia Athletics, won six pennants and three World Series titles. The current volume covers some wilderness and some promised-land years. His team had aged, so he decided to rebuild, a decision that cost him seven straight last-place finishes between 1915 and 1921. Mack eventually gave up his plan of building from the farm system and began buying players and trading. Between 1929 and 1931, the A’s won three consecutive pennants and two World Series with the sterling efforts of such iconic stars as Lefty Grove, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Jimmy Dykes. The aging Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb even played for Mack at the ends of their careers. Crusty Cobb, it seems, revered his manager. Appearing throughout the text are some of the greatest names in baseball—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Eddie Collins, Walter Johnson and countless others. Moreover, Macht has done such meticulous research that readers will discover the precise layout of Mack’s office at Shibe Park as well as his home. The author combed period newspapers for stories about Mack, quotes extensively from personal letters of the principals, reproduces numerous encomiums to the manager offered by family, players, fans and competitors, describes exciting game action and political battles and rule changes and charts the surfaces of Mack’s diamond-keen baseball sense. In 650 pages he has no ill word for Mack and continually reminds us of his greatness. He was a respected husband, father, leader, role model and humanitarian—maybe even a hero.

Definitive and exhaustive, animated by a profound respect and admiration.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8032-2039-3

Page Count: 664

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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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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