LEFTY

AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY

An amiable portrait of a baseball great—like Yogi Berra, Dizzy Dean and Satchel Paige—whose outsized personality looms even...

A veteran author teams with the daughter of Vernon “Lefty” Gomez (1908–1989) for a biography of the Yankee legend.

One of the game’s singular personalities and greatest big-game pitchers, Lefty Gomez entered the Hall of Fame in 1972. In a career cut short by injuries, he nevertheless managed to win 20 games four times, lead the league three times in strikeouts and shutouts and twice in ERA. A fierce competitor, he started and won six of seven World Series games (while losing none), and three of four All-Star games. Daughter Gomez and Goldstone (Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865–1903, 2011, etc.) dutifully cover the baseball heroics, from Lefty’s California boyhood, the town teams and semi-pro ball, his signing with the San Francisco Seals and his storied Yankee career. The narrative’s chief delight, though, is the treatment of Lefty the character. For his pranks, eccentricities and high-spirited antics, he acquired the nickname “El Goofo,” but the moniker belied a steady character that led teammates to confide in him, a keen native intelligence and ready wit. Sure, he once famously held up a World Series game as he contemplated a passing airplane, but this same man perfectly captured the fearsome slugger Jimmie Foxx by remarking, “He has muscles in his hair.” Thanks partly to his marriage to showgirl June O’Dea and his post-playing career as sales rep and goodwill ambassador for Wilson Sporting Goods, Lefty traveled widely and appears to have hung with an endless list of famous friends: sitting in with bandleader Eddy Duchin, chumming with James Michener, dining with Hemingway, fishing with Ted Williams, playing cards with the Babe. Though this largely adoring treatment acknowledges some dark passages—a near-divorce, a midlife bout with alcoholism, the motorcycle death of a beloved son—the overwhelming impression is of a crowded, accomplished life exuberantly lived.

An amiable portrait of a baseball great—like Yogi Berra, Dizzy Dean and Satchel Paige—whose outsized personality looms even larger than his considerable athletic achievements.

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-52648-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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