Saturday, December 24, 2022

One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard

 A baseball book review. 



This is the story of a magical baseball season with an unlikely coach in a small town in Illinois.  


Synopsis


The year is 1971. The town is Macon, Illinois, a very small rural farm community in central Illinois. The team is a rag-tag high school baseball team in a school population that is so small that the boys have to play every sport in order to have enough players to make a team (football, basketball, baseball). The unlikely coach of the baseball team is the school's English teacher with no coaching expertise. 


This is a charming true story of a small-town baseball team, playing in hand-me-down uniforms, who emerged from a field of 370 teams to make an improbable run to the State Final.  


The boys of Macon renew our understanding of why baseball matters.


Lynn Sweet arrives in Macon in 1966.  He's a long-haired hippie, a dreamer and an intellectual who brings progressive ideas to a town stuck in the 1950s. The son of a hard-driving Army Sergeant, Sweet is the opposite; fond of bucking convention and convinced the world is full of good people who occasionally have bad ideas. The students love him; the administration not so much! 


Call me 'Sweet' he tells his students on the first day of school. This in a school who wants and expects proper behavior, such as calling their teachers by Mr. & Ms/Mrs. His classroom has four round tables instead of desks. There are posters on the walls and rows of bookshelves. The bookshelves have novels and short stories unlike any before seen in Macon. There are also magazines and comic books.  But there are no grammar textbooks. Sweet teaches with unconventional assignments and tells the students “Have fun with it.”


Summary



When Sweet takes over the baseball team (because no one else wants the job) he becomes intent on teaching the boys as much about life as baseball. Inspired by coach's unconventional methods, the undersized Macon Ironmen embark on a postseason run that amazed everyone, infuriated rival coaches, and buoyed a little town that was suffering from a damaging drought and the shadow of the Vietnam War ~ a town in desperate need of something to celebrate. They became the smallest school in Illinois history to appear in the championship game, and that distinction still stands. The experience would change the lives of this high school baseball team forever. 


Author Chris Ballard


Chris Ballard is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated where he specializes in the narrative. One Shot at Forever is delightfully written in a gripping narrative as it tells the story of the members of that special 1971 team, and its coach. A true story well worth reading. 




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*One Shot at Forever Book Review written by 

~Wednesday Elf, the Baseball Contributor on Review This Reviews


Book available on Amazon


*Image sources: Pixabay















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9 comments:

  1. This sounds like a wonderfully inspiring book! Even though a sports story would not normally fit within my preferred genre, I do love a winning underdog story. It is amazing how one person can affect so many lives. I must admit, as a parent, I'm not sure how receptive I would have been to such an unconventional teacher at our children's school. Can't help but wonder if Sweet continued teaching.

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  2. Sweet may have been unconventional in looks and manner, but he taught these kids so much more than just book learning. He instilled moral values about life and living and caring about your fellow man. Baseball (and even English classes) were just ways to instill a love of learning and hope for a better future where you can do anything you set your mind to. Thanks for visiting, Mouse. And, yes, he taught for many more years and even won over the Principal and other teachers who at the beginning did not approve of his teaching methods.

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    Replies
    1. Just goes to show we shouldn't judge a book (or a person) by it's cover!

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  3. Elf, this sounds absolutely wonderful! I would want to read it even if it were fictional, but the fact that it’s a true story makes it a must-read for me. This teacher and coach clearly had a huge positive impact on the students he taught and coached, and the ripple effect of instilling positive fundamental values in those students on the additional lives those kids subsequently touched must be significant. Thanks so much for reviewing and recommending this book!

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    Replies
    1. I love baseball stories in general and this one in particular. It was a marvelous true story of compassion and determination in an impoverished community that needed something to cheer about.

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  4. Ms. Elf, this sounds like a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dawn Rae. It WAS a wonderful story filled with hope and determination.

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  5. Although I would not normally be keen to read a sports orientated book I was intrigued by your review of this one and so glad I read on. I love the unconventional teacher and coach "Sweet" the way he changed the layout of his classroom and methods of learning, setting unconventional assignments and how he tells his student to “Have fun with it.” I would have loved a teacher like that! How wonderful he teaches the students as much about life as baseball and what a positive impact on those young people. A really inspiring wonderful true story. Thank you for your review and recommendation.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Raintree Annie. I, too, wish I had had a teacher like Sweet.

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