Written with Angell’s usual economy and intelligence, and with a tact that matches its subject’s reticence, this look at an...

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A PITCHER’S STORY

INNINGS WITH DAVID CONE

A look at the life, last Yankee season, and psyche of an elder statesman of the pitching rubber.

Ever since Cone joined the New York Mets in 1987, he has been one of the most interesting, frustrating, and formidable pitchers in either league. He helped the Mets rumble to a divisional title in 1988, only to collapse against the Dodgers in the league championship series. Tarred with a reputation for hard living and dangerous high jinks, Cone was traded away from the Mets in 1992—and landed with the Yankees in 1995. His dramatic Bronx career included a wrenching loss to the Mariners in the first round of the playoffs, seven no-hit innings and a World Series–saving win against the Braves in 1996, and a perfect game against the Montreal Expos in 1999. New Yorker baseball writer Angell chronicles Cone’s career in the context of his gut-wrenching, heartbreaking 2000 season, his last with the Yankees. Interspersed with the story of his increasing frustration over what would become a 4–14 record and the Yankees’ own lackadaisical slide into the playoffs are chapters on his Kansas City childhood and his domineering father Ed, his early career in the Kansas City Royals’ farm system, his bittersweet Mets years, his return to New York as a Yankee, his work as a players’ union representative, and his decision this year to go to spring training with the Boston Red Sox. Throughout, Angell provides insight into the psychology of pitchers and the mechanics of the slider, the wild escapades of young ballplayers on their own for the first time, the ambivalent feelings of the rich sons of working-class fathers, and the void left by the loss (at an age when most people are only hitting their stride) of the skills of a champion—and, finally, of the game itself.

Written with Angell’s usual economy and intelligence, and with a tact that matches its subject’s reticence, this look at an unusual baseball life will appeal to all students of the game—even those who have little use for the Yankees.

Pub Date: May 23, 2001

ISBN: 0-446-52768-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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An enjoyable and insightful look at a wild and wooly era in American sports.

THE LAST HEADBANGERS

NFL FOOTBALL IN THE ROWDY, RECKLESS '70S: THE ERA THAT CREATED MODERN SPORTS

Sports journalist Cook (Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything, 2010, etc.) recalls “pro football’s raging, reckless, hormonal, hairy, druggy, drunken, immortal adolescence” of the 1970s and that era’s role in making the NFL the predominant American sport.

The nicknames of three Oakland Raiders defensive players give a quick idea of the nature of football in the ’70s: Dr. Death, the Assassin and the Hit Man. Pro football was brutal and violent and played (by and large) by men who made little money, lived life precipitously on the edge, played the game for keeps and partied afterward. There was no such thing as being concussed, and the use of performance-enhancing (as well as recreational) drugs, from steroids to horse testosterone, was pretty much the norm. Later, many players would pay a high physical or mental price for their football lives, yet few seem to express regrets. Cook brings to life both the outsized personalities of the era—party animal Ken “the Snake” Stabler, chain smoking Fred Biletnikoff, the troubled Terry Bradshaw, Broadway Joe Namath, Mean Joe Greene and so many others—and also the great rivalries and games of the era, particularly among the Steelers, Raiders and Cowboys. Out of this era, Cook demonstrates, came the modern game. Rule changes had made the forward pass, rather than the plodding running game, dominant. Players were becoming bigger and faster. Add a little sexiness to the carnage via the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, and the game was perfect for TV. A major contributor to this televisionization of football was the advent of Monday Night Football with the irascible Howard Cosell and sidekicks Frank Gifford and Don Meredith. Cook narrates the hilarious uncensored on- and off-air adventures of MNF. There may be a bit too much football lingo here—“flex defense,” “stunt 4-3,” “three-deep zone”—for the casual fan, but Cook does not go overboard.

An enjoyable and insightful look at a wild and wooly era in American sports.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-08016-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A fun, frenetic memoir of one of the more volatile college gridiron campaigns in recent memory.

SATURDAY RULES

A SEASON WITH TROJANS AND DOMERS (AND GATORS AND BUCKEYES AND WOLVERINES)

Attention college-football fanatics: If you couldn’t find your way to either the Golden Dome in South Bend or the Swamp in Gainesville last season, never fear, Austin Murphy (How Tough Could It Be?: The Trials and Errors of a Sportswriter Turned Stay-at-Home Dad, 2004, etc.) is here.

College football always has its share of soap-operatic story lines, but the 2006-07 season was about as gripping as it gets. It had enigmatic Coach Urban Meyer overseeing the University of Florida juggernaut, Notre Dame quarterback/golden boy Brady Quinn going through a roller-coaster senior year and the University of Southern California Trojans trying to pick up the pieces in their first post–Reggie Bush/Matt Leinart season. For these college football powers, the year had a compelling natural arc, making their parallel journeys a natural subject for a book-length memoir from an intrepid, fly-on-the-wall reporter. Enter Murphy. Once referred to by Dallas Cowboys behemoth Nate Newton as “that preppy motherf***** from Sports Illustrated,” Murphy wears his love for the sport on his sleeve (or, in this case, on the page). Rather than merely cover the season, he takes a put-the-author-into-the-story tack, a tricky approach that succeeds thanks primarily to his unabashed enthusiasm, unpretentiousness and insider access. Nothing is taken too seriously, which is exactly the way it should be; after all, it’s just a bunch of kids playing ball. The prose is loose, the reportage at times flat-out comedic—think Frank Deford meets Nick Bakay. Murphy also makes the wise choice to periodically step away from college football, reporting on Terrell Owens’s suicide attempt, professional golfers and his fellow journalists. All of which is why you don’t have to be a Trojan, or a Gator, or a Buckeye or even a college football aficionado to appreciate this book—you just have to be a sports fan.

A fun, frenetic memoir of one of the more volatile college gridiron campaigns in recent memory.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-137577-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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