Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hardball: A Season in the Projects

Hardball: A Season in the Projects by Daniel Coyle.

If you need a baseball fix this winter, I heartily recommend Hardball. I found this gem on the discard shelf of my library, and picked it up for ten cents!

It chronicles a Little League team in Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing projects during the summer of 1992. It's about more than just baseball, however. Author Daniel Coyle does an excellent job of weaving the personal lives with the baseball personas of the individual players. You get to know each player, his home life and personality, and how and why he came to join the team, the Kikuyus. The field is the players' escape from the reality of the projects' gang wars, murder, teen pregnancy, and broken families.

The book also discusses the politics that seep into the league, and the tension that arises between the original founder of the league (who is African-American and from Cabrini-Green), and the white coaches who volunteer their time to try and teach the kids baseball, as well as win their trust and friendship.

This is an old book, published in 1993. An excellent journalist, Coyle has since gone on to write a novel, and a book about Lance Armstrong, Lance Armstrong's War. You don't have to be a baseball fan to like Hardball. It's about society, and opportunity, and community. Pick it up.
A side note to Mr. Coyle: It's been nearly 15 years since you wrote this book. I'd love to see a follow-up, even if it's an article and not a full-length book. Where are the kids now? What are they doing? Who succeeded? Who succumbed to the lure of gang life? What has happened to the residents—and gangs—of Cabrini-Green, now that a new urban renewal is happening, and the old projects of the neighborhood are coming down?

Rebel Press nominates 6 stories for Pushcart Prize

Rebel Press is proud to announce its nominations for this year's Pushcart Prize.

Roof Whirl Away, by Tom Saunders, Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction
Bloodlines, by Susan DiPlacido, Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction
On the Bridge, by T.J. Forrester, Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction
Everything is Something to Somebody, by Marcus Grimm, Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction
Quiet, by Katrina Denza, Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction
nineleven, by Donald Capone, Stories From Sunset Hill

Pushcart Prize
Rebel Press

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Big Bam Review

The Big Bam by Leigh Montville.

How do you go about writing a biography of one of the most famous and beloved people in American history? How do you convey what he accomplished, the exalted status Ruth attained? It's a tall task for a biographer. Leigh Montville was up for the job.

Babe Ruth was—and still is—larger than life. And it wasn't just hype and good PR. He earned it with his bat, his personality, his full throttle attack on life. He lived like a rock star thirty years before rock n' roll was even born. Montville does the job of conveying this by placing the reader squarely in Ruth's time. And not by over-describing the settings, or the fashion of the day. But with the little things, like the Babe getting a speeding ticking for doing 27 MPH! Or showing what went on during the train rides the Yankees took when they traveled to other American League cities. Or describing news events of the day, like Charles Lindbergh's successful flight across the Atlantic, and the crash of the stock market in 1929.

All the familiar territory is also covered: the Babe's time at St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys as a kid, coming up to the Red Sox as a pitcher at age 19, his trade to the Yankees, his homeruns, his called shot in the '32 World Series, his relationship with Lou Gehrig, his off-season barnstorming tours, his two marriages, his baseball tours around the world, his exit from baseball, his retirement, and eventually his death from cancer.

Ruth's personality, too, comes through, and not just the cartoon image many of us are familiar with: the over-eating, the over-drinking, the many women. His love of life, his sense of humor, his rebelliousness, and his heart also all come through. Ruth wasn't a phony. He was real. One classic moment in the book was a reprint of an interview with poet Carl Sandburg. Sandburg was out to knock Ruth down a peg, show how uneducated Ruth was. But it backfired. Ruth was a ballplayer—a great one—and never pretended to be anything more. He was a big kid who pulled himself up from nothing and conquered the world with his bat. That's why he was loved.

My only complaint (and this goes for many other baseball biographies): Why on earth wouldn't you print the career stats of the player at the end of the book? I had to keep looking on the internet when I wanted to see Ruth's stats. Hopefully they'll add it to the paperback version.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Rebel Writers

The writers of Rebel Press are currently featured on Susan DiPlacido's blog (she's a rebel herself). Robin Slick and Myfanwy Collins are the first two authors to be interviewed. Check it out!

Coming next: Rebel Press's Pushcart Prize nominations.