A solid sports memoir that explores more than just sports.



A former Major League Baseball player offers an affecting account of his unique professional career and dramatic personal life.

Most baseball memoirs hold little appeal for readers who are not already devoted fans. With assistance from sports journalist Brown (co-author, with Jim Abbott: Imperfect: An Improbable Life, 2012), Ankiel offers more, providing candid accounts of his abusive father, battered mother, and criminal brother; the dilemma he faced at age 18 regarding whether to attend college or immediately enter professional baseball, which involved becoming an instant millionaire; his amazing success as a pitcher in the minor leagues after attaining wealth overnight; his dizzying rise and equally dizzying fall with the St. Louis Cardinals; his seeming retirement from baseball, only to work his way back as an outfielder instead of a pitcher; and his final retirement at a young age to spend time with his wife and sons. Despite all those narratives, the memoir hangs together well, as the author uses the story of his sudden anxiety disorder to explore universal experiences of human vulnerability, regardless of a person’s level of accomplishment. All the way through his teen years, Ankiel could pitch a baseball with extraordinary speed and accuracy. Suddenly, though, in the middle of a Cardinals playoff game in 2000, his skill rapidly deteriorated. There was certainly anxiety, but also a seemingly inexplicable mind-body disconnect. One of the most intriguing figures in the book is sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman, who died in 2011. Dorfman did everything he could to help Ankiel through his problems, and he also served as a father figure of sorts while Ankiel’s cruel biological father spent time in prison. Cameos by numerous MLB players, managers, and coaches from the six teams that Ankiel played for add interest for baseball fans.

A solid sports memoir that explores more than just sports.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61039-686-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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

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