Sunday, September 9, 2012

Book Review: One Shot at Forever

The last of the three baseball books consumed this summer and the most enjoyable is One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard (2012).  This is a true account of the incredible achievements of the 1971 Macon (Illinois) High School baseball team.  In Hoosier-like fashion, the Ironmen of Macon, with an enrollment of a few hundred students, make the State playoffs and cause upset after upset, beating much larger schools along the way.

The odds seemed stacked against the Ironmen starting in 1970, when some of the better baseball playing seniors graduated.  The team is made up of farm boys and coached by their eccentric / hippy English teacher, Lynn Sweet.  His unorthodox coaching methods (either no practice, or practice accompanied by the soundtrack to Jesus Christ, Superstar) drove the parents and school administration to such distraction that Coach Sweet was not supposed to be in charge for the memorable 1971 season.  Common sense prevails and Coach Sweet takes charge of his minuscule roster and depleted equipment room - they had about five bats between them and a bunch of mis-matched uniforms.  What the boys lacked in equipment, they made up in skill and determination.

The book is well written and researched, author Chris Ballard spent two years in Macon interviewing players, teachers and fans - even members of the opposing teams.  As the Ironmen win successive games, it is fascinating to see how the town unites and rallies around the team and attendance swells to the point that no-one is at home when the Macon High Ironmen are on the field.

My only gripe is that I borrowed the copy I read - now I need to get my own.

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