Baseball buffs will enjoy this well-researched, smoothly written biography of a complex man, but readers lacking interest in...

Prolific author Dickson (Contraband Cocktails: How America Drank When It Wasn’t Supposed to Be, 2015, etc.) digs deep into the controversial baseball career and spicy extracurricular life of Leo Durocher (1905-1991).

Durocher was a light-hitting, skilled infielder for the New York Yankees and other teams before achieving national renown as the unorthodox, flamboyant manager of a succession of Major League Baseball teams. Away from the baseball field, he hung out with Hollywood celebrities and alleged organized crime figures. Actress Laraine Day became Durocher's third wife, and their marriage made society headlines during rocky periods and even during calmer intervals. Dickson, who has authored numerous books about baseball, labors mightily to sort through the divergent opinions of Durocher: he was either selfish or generous, a talented manger or inappropriate leader of athletes, and worthy or unworthy of his rocky path to his posthumous election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The author pronounces Durocher's memoir, Nice Guys Finish Last, as broadly fraudulent, and he claims that previous biographies are sometimes questionable in both factual accuracy and evaluation of Durocher’s character. Although Dickson mostly eschews psychological analysis, the details of his subject’s life suggest at minimum a manic-depressive disorder, coupled with occasional psychotic behavior. Durocher's poisonous relationships with sports journalists seem especially inexplicable. As for his on-field and clubhouse managing skills, his public castigating of players, particularly Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, qualifies as cringeworthy. Despite the Banks episode, however, Durocher acted honorably regarding racial segregation in professional baseball. After all, he wanted his teams to win, which meant recruiting the most talented players regardless of skin color. His nurturing of Willie Mays is perhaps the most inspiring of all the anecdotes presented here.

Baseball buffs will enjoy this well-researched, smoothly written biography of a complex man, but readers lacking interest in the MLB may be inclined to dismiss the mercurial Durocher as an unpleasant individual not worth trying to understand.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63286-311-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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