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

TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY IN MUDVILLE

MY LIFELONG PASSION FOR BASEBALL

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more