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?


SusanD said...

Is this the book the Keanu Reeves flick was based on?

Donald Capone said...

Yep. I didn't see the movie, but it seems like it was loosely based on the book: i.e. white coach goes into black neighborhood, warm feelings ensue all around. I'm sure it is much different from the book. And cheesier. But I guess I have to see it now.

SusanD said...

Actually, part of what was good about that flick is that it was a little scaled back on the warm fuzzies. I mean, it's a movie, so they were there. But not as corn-syrupy as most. I'll look into this book.