THE ERA: 1947-1957

WHEN THE YANKEES, THE GIANTS, AND THE DODGERS RULED THE WORLD

An agreeably digressive and anecdotal trip, with a perceptive guide, down a remarkable span in baseball's memory lane. Drawing on experiences gained as a young sportswriter during the post-WW II period he resurrects here, Kahn (Games We Used to Play, The Boys of Summer, etc.) hits the high and low points of nearly a dozen seasons. The author's golden age began with Jackie Robinson's arrival as the first black to play in the major leagues and ended with the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants heading west to California, momentarily making the Yankees the only game in town. In between, the Big Apple's three clubs dominated the national pastime, winning nine out of eleven World Series (as often as not, from one another). During these years, moreover, triborough baseball had an almost perfectly marvelous cast of characters- -including Yogi Berra, Leo Durocher, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Walter O'Malley, Pee Wee Reese, Branch Rickey, Red Smith, Duke Snider, and Casey Stengel. In telling detail, Kahn recalls the notable achievements of lesser lights who frequently outdid their superstar teammates in championship contests. Cases in point range from Bobby Thomson's pennant-winning homer through Don Larsen's perfect game and the ninth-inning double by Cooky Lavagetto that broke up a no-hit bid by another Bronx Bomber (Bill Bevens). The author also sets the record straight on what the storied Joe DiMaggio was like off the field; the identity of the player who was Brooklyn's first choice to break baseball's color barrier; Larry MacPhail's alcohol-accelerated retirement; and the impact of the emerging medium of TV on ballpark attendance. While Kahn covers a lot of well-trampled ground here, he does so with an elegant authority that—without false sentiment or excessive nostalgia—puts certain of the diamond game's good old days in clear and compelling perspective. (Photographs—not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-56155-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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