Just the thing for spring training, and a lovely farewell gift from a clear-headed and passionate thinker.



In this sparkling collection, the late paleontologist and popular science essayist (The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox, see above) gathers random writings on one of his many passions: baseball.

All right-thinking people worship the game, of course, and as Gould remarks in his wind-up to these pieces (originally published in venues such as the New York Review of Books, American Heritage, and the Wall Street Journal), intellectuals have taken to it more than to any other sport except, perhaps, boxing—though, he notes, “I don’t for a minute attribute such favoritism to any inherent property of the game itself.” Gould’s own addiction to baseball began in the late 1940s and early ’50s, a glorious era during which all New York kids were baseball nuts, “barring mental deficiency or incomprehensible idiosyncrasy.” After all, he notes, in that more innocent New York, the separate boroughs, city-states of a kind, fielded their own major and minor teams, and a kid didn’t have to look too far to find a hero. (Gould notes that ethnic groups tended to favor their own: among his relatives’ Jewish heroes were Moe Berg, “a mediocre player, but absolutely outstanding character,” Hank Greenberg, and Sandy Koufax.) And in all events “between 1949 and 1964 a New York team played in the World Series in all years but 1959,” with the Yankees alone winning nine pennants. Still, ever the statistician and contrarian, the author names not a New York team for his choice as the greatest squad in modern baseball, but the 1954 Cleveland Indians, who had “an incredible winning percentage of .721” and slaughtered just about every team they met that year. Gould’s assessments of baseball players and teams, books about the game, and the sport itself are smart, well-written, and eminently entertaining, even though devoted fans may find themselves arguing with some of his pronouncements, just as Darwinists were forever taking issue with Gould’s stands on evolution.

Just the thing for spring training, and a lovely farewell gift from a clear-headed and passionate thinker.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-05755-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.


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...


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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