An appealing mix of baseball and cultural history.

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SUMMER OF '68

THE SEASON THAT CHANGED BASEBALL--AND AMERICA--FOREVER

During one of the most tumultuous years in our history, a remarkable baseball season unfolded.

In 1968, most baseball players had to work a second job to make ends meet. There were no wild-card teams or division winners. That year the Detroit Tigers became only the third club in history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the powerful St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic. Showcasing this looming match-up, Wendel (Writing/Johns Hopkins Univ.; High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time, 2010, etc.) foreshortens the season by focusing on the stories of individual Tigers Gates Brown, Willie Horton, Dick McAuliffe and, especially, pitchers Denny McLain, who won an astonishing 31 games, and Mickey Lolich, the Series MVP. The author also looks at Cardinal stars Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, Orlando Cepeda and especially pitcher Bob Gibson, among the game’s all-time greatest. He charts the thrilling Series game by game. More intriguing, though, is the season’s unique backdrop: the “Year of the Pitcher” in baseball and the national turmoil surrounding the sports world. In addition to McLain and Gibson’s heroics (both won the Cy Young and MVP awards), the season saw five no-hitters (including a perfect game by Catfish Hunter), a consecutive game strikeout record by Luis Tiant and an unprecedented scoreless innings streak by Don Drysdale. Meanwhile, the country was falling apart. Urban riots and massive antiwar demonstrations helped persuade LBJ not to run again. By the time the Chicago Democratic Convention exploded in the streets, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had already been assassinated. Wendel touches briefly on how the year agitated other sports, but he focuses on the baseball story and the athletes accustomed to ignoring the outside world. They found that impossible to do in the chaotic year of ’68.

An appealing mix of baseball and cultural history.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-306-82018-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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More than just a game book of college football, The Sweet Season at the innocent appeal of sports in everyday life.

THE SWEET SEASON

A SPORTSWRITER REDISCOVERS FOOTBALL, FAMILY, AND A BIT OF FAITH AT MINNESOTA’S ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE

Sports and human interest intertwine as a man rediscovers the pureness of amateur sports as well as the joys of family life.

Journalist Murphy spends a much-needed sabbatical from his stint at Sports Illustrated by taking his family to rural Collegeville, Minnesota, in order to interact with the coach and players at St. John’s, a small Benedictine college, which happens to have the best record in college football history. Through 2000, the Johnnies have won the conference title 23 times, advanced to the national playoffs 16 times, advanced to the title game 4 times, and have won it 3 times—thanks mainly to its head coach, John Gagliardi, the NCAA’s winningest active coach (second on the all-time list to the retired Eddie Robinson) and a regional celebrity. Gagliardi is a friendly and sometimes elusive, Yoda-like coach who insists that his quarterbacks call their own plays and who hides a strategist’s mind behind an unassuming style. But besides Gagliardi, and talented players such as Tom Linnemann, it is the atmosphere of the school itself that Murphy credits with the success of the Johnnies. At first experiencing some culture shock, Murphy and his family settle into life at this place where the Benedictine monks set the reflective tone and unhurried pace. And while Murphy gets involved with the team, he also reconnects with his wife, Laura, and his two young children. With appealing humor, Murphy recounts how he acquires newfound respect for what his wife goes through on a daily basis and how, in turn, Laura sees in her husband “more of the guy she fell in love with.” The epilogue gives a brief synopsis of the 2000–01 year, when the Johnnies lost to Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl.

More than just a game book of college football, The Sweet Season at the innocent appeal of sports in everyday life.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019547-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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THE GRASS OF ANOTHER COUNTRY

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE WORLD OF SOCCER

An engaging journey through, as poet Merrill puts it, ``the enchanted lands of soccer.'' When, in 1990, the US team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years, Merrill (an avid amateur soccer player) followed the team through preliminary games stateside and then to Italy for the month-long tournament. The Americans were 500-1 underdogs, given little chance to do more than make a brave showing, especially with Bob Gansler at the helm, a coach so conservative and defense-oriented that his own players had sworn to scrap his game plan. In the opening game, Merrill says, Czechoslovakia ``outclassed'' the US in ``skill, speed, strength, tactics, and creativity,'' but in the second game—largely through the play of New Jersey goalie Tony Meola—the Americans scored a moral victory against heavily favored Italy, to whom they lost by only one goal. The third game, though, against Austria, was an ugly loss marred by ineptness and fighting. As Merrill progresses through the World Cup play (finally won by West Germany in a brutal match against defending champion Argentina, signaling the imminent downfall of superstar player Diego Maradona, whose drug and prostitution connections would bring him to disgrace and banishment), he offers lovely and knowing passages on the art, architecture, and ambience of Italy's cities and provides deep historical background and understanding of the game of soccer itself. Of particular interest are his insights into why ``the world's most popular game'' has never caught on in sports-mad America. The rarity of goals, Merrill contends, has ``doomed'' soccer in a country ``hooked on instant gratification'': Americans want to see lots of scoring but, ``like poetry and jazz, soccer is a subtle art, a game of nuance.'' An intelligent and literate work that could broaden American interest in soccer in time for our 1994 hosting—for the first time ever—of the World Cup.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1993

ISBN: 0-8050-2771-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1993

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