Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-03-12
- Reviewer: Staff
A writer for Sports Illustrated, Ballard (The Art of the Beautiful Game) has expanded an article he wrote for the magazine about the 1971 Macon (Ill.) High School’s baseball team’s improbable run to the state finals. Coached by an eccentric outsider, a team of poor farm boys from a small, rural town take on the bigger and richer teams; this story has obvious parallels to the classic basketball film Hoosiers and in Ballard’s capable hands evokes similar themes of inspiration, camaraderie and the pressure of the once-in-a-lifetime moments associated with prep athletics. By exploring the roots of the laid-back managing style of the team’s coach, Lynn Sweet, a “hippie” English teacher who allows his players to warm up to the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar and wear peace signs on their hats, Ballard effortlessly captures the conflict between Eisenhower era beliefs and the changing cultural landscape in Vietnam-era America. But this is first and foremost a sports book, and the core is the dramatic state tournament games that are played out in such detail that it is as if you are sitting in the bleachers with nearly all of the 1,200 residents of Macon. Ballard holds the story of the team together with his conversational prose and boosts the story’s poignancy with a touching conclusion that demonstrates the importance of high school sports and hometown heroes while asking, if not answering, the question of how much “one game,” win or lose, can change a life. B&w photos. Agent: Robert Wilson. (May)