A tour de force that will appeal to devoted baseball fans, architecture devotees, and even casual readers.

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BALLPARK

BASEBALL IN THE AMERICAN CITY

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Vanity Fair contributing editor and renowned architecture critic Goldberger (Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry, 2015, etc.) sets his gaze on the design of Major League Baseball stadiums. The detail of the research, both its breadth and depth, is remarkable, and the author doesn’t limit himself to current stadiums; he also looks at some dating back to the 19th century. The volume also includes more than 150 illuminating photos scattered throughout the text. Though the narrative is not always cohesive—Goldberger jumps from one ballpark and city to another—each chapter carries a theme and subthemes as the author demonstrates trends in stadium design. He discusses the evolving designs in terms of the quality of the viewing experience for fans, and he evaluates how each stadium shapes the city around it—and is simultaneously shaped by the characteristics of that particular city. Goldberger’s touchstone is Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles that opened in 1992. It’s clear that the author considers Camden Yards the most exciting stadium ever constructed, and in his opinion, since it was built, it has not been surpassed. In addition to discussing inanimate qualities such as the wood, steel, stone, and concrete of the edifices, Goldberger provides miniportraits of hundreds of men (and a few women) who have owned the baseball teams, influenced the politics of the cities where the stadiums sit, and designed the stadiums in both derivative and original ways. Goldberger is aware that he could have also included ballparks from the minor leagues across the United States, from the now defunct Negro League, and from baseball cultures outside North America. He explains that such inclusivity would have yielded an encyclopedia rather than a smooth narrative, so he set limits on the scope of the book, which is quite impressive in its current form.

A tour de force that will appeal to devoted baseball fans, architecture devotees, and even casual readers.

Pub Date: May 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-307-70154-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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