Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review of "They Said It Couldn't Be Done"

With this being the 50th anniversary of the "Miracle Mets" championship, there are several books that will be coming out about that team.  This one covers the team and the players in very good detail.  Here is my review of "They Said It Couldn't Be Done"



Title/Author:
“They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: The ’69 Mets, New York City and the Most Astounding Season in Baseball History” by Wayne Coffey

Tags:
Baseball, professional, history, Mets

Publish date:
March 26, 2019

Length:
304 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
The New York Mets shocked the baseball world in 1969 by winning the World Series in their eighth year of existence. In the previous seven years they had finished either last or next to last place. While they have been dubbed the “Miracle Mets” and also the “Amazin’ Mets”, this book by Wayne Coffey goes into great detail to illustrate that their win was not really a “miracle” or “amazing.”  Instead, it tells the details of how the team was put together, the background of most of the players and how the season and postseason baseball played by the team was simply excellent.

By placing well-detailed short synopsizes of players within the details of key games and each postseason game of 1969, Coffey does a very good job of explaining to the reader that this Mets team was not one that surprised themselves by being good.  Indeed, this team, to a man, started to believe in itself the previous season as the manager, Gil Hodges, installed a quiet yet firm atmosphere of confidence in his club.  The reader can’t go more than a few pages without reading about someone stating that Hodges’ leadership was crucial to both his own success and that of the Mets.  

As does most baseball books that cover a particular year or era, this book also has references to the important issues of the year such as the civil rights movement, the Woodstock music festival (there is a nice tie-in between the team and the story of a fan who attended the event) and man’s first walk on the moon that year.  There are a few of these event that feel like they are simply inserted into the book without much reason, but for the most part, they match what is going on with the team.  The best connections to the events of the day are how the embattled mayor of New York City that year, John Lindsey, attached himself to the Mets to gain any political advantage.

However, the best writing of the book is the very detailed description of the eight postseason games played by the Mets.  The reader will learn about practically every play in the three games against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series (a three game sweep for the Mets) and the five World Series games against the Baltimore Orioles.  Some of the best player stories are here as well, tied in with some of the best description of terrific play as well.  One that stood out to me was outfielder Tommie Agee – both in Coffey’s story about his struggles in the segregated South and his two outstanding catches in the World Series. Mets fans will want to pick up this book to either relive that wonderful season for their team or to learn more about the players and manager as well as the baseball.

I wish to thank Crown Archetype for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying Links:


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review of "108 Stitches"

As a viewer who enjoys hearing Ron Darling's broadcasts whether with the Mets or on TBS, I was interested in seeing what stories he would share in his latest book.  Here is my review of "108 Stitches"




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Title/Author:
“108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game” by Ron Darling
Tags:
Baseball, professional, memoir, Mets, Athletics, Expos

Publish date:
April 2, 2019

Length:
272 pages 

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Ron Darling can be described as a baseball lifer, first as a player as he enjoyed a moderate amount of success as a pitcher with the New York Mets, Montreal Expos and Oakland Athletics. He is now a successful broadcaster for the Mets and also for TBS on their national baseball telecasts.  Having spent decades in the game, he would naturally have many stories to tell and he does so in this, his third book.
At the beginning, Darling tells the reader that baseball has its own “six degrees of separation” and that is how everything in the game is somehow connected, but makes a better analogy by describing the makeup of a baseball and its 108 stitches.  Pull one story out of his memory and he connects it with another, which is related to yet a third one and soon one will see how everything in the game is connected, just like the 108 red stitches keep a baseball together.
Darling also drops names of the people in his story in (almost) alphabetical order and these people, mostly players who were teammates at one time or other broadcasters, range from the obscure to the superstar.  Most of the stories are about the Mets, since that is the team with which he has spent the most amount of time, but there are also good stories about his time with Oakland as well.  He was only on the Expos for about two weeks, so he doesn’t recall much about them, but is able to portray that transitional period about as well as one can expect.
These anecdotes can range from hilarious to poignant.  There is one chapter on crying in baseball which was probably the best, as those were the touching stories and a reader will almost tear up when reading some of those.  The best of these for me was the one on a young player in a late season game.  The young player had struck out in the second inning, killing a Mets rally.  The Mets got things going again in the third, the young man’s turn came up again – and the manager pinch hits for him.  This left that player demoralized and was sobbing on the bench – and his teammates felt sympathy instead of the usual indifference.  I left the names out so as not to spoil the story, but this is an example of the prose that Darling produces throughout the book.
The book ends with Darling’s take on the modern game, one which he views from the broadcast booth and while he is critical of many of the strategies of today’s analysis-driven game, he doesn’t come across as a grumpy old man as many former players can do.  Instead, he offers illustrations of what makes today’s baseball different from when he played.  It is a fitting conclusion to a book that starts slow, but picks up steam and ends up being a fast, fun read for hard core baseball fans.  Readers who are more casual fans may not pick up on all the names as easily, but should still be able to enjoy reading about some of Darling’s favorite people and stories.
I wish to thank St. Martin’s Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.Excellent basketball memoir

Usually a sports memoir will follow the same pattern. An ex-athlete will talk about his childhood, his career while playing his chosen game and his life after retiring. While some of this is true for Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest), his story takes on extra meaning because of his willingness to talk about his mental health issues so candidly.

He does verify some of his more off beat moments, such as working at Circuit City while still a player. He does
Book Format Read:
E-Book (Kindle)

Buying Links:
https://www.amazon.com/108-Stitches-Threads-Darndest-Characters-ebook/dp/B07D2BXK3Q/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=  

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Review of "The Four Home Runs Club"

Every now and then I will receive a book from an author or publisher from out of the blue.  That was the case with this book, as I didn't know there was a book about the 18 players who have hit four homers in a game.  Here is my review of that book, "The Four Home Runs Club"



Title/Author:
“The Four Home Runs Club: Sluggers Who Achieved Baseball’s Rarest Feat” by Steven K. Wagner

Tags:
Baseball, professional, history

Publish date:
June 28, 2018

Length:
224 pages

Rating: 
3 of 5 stars (okay)

Review:
Only 18 players in the history of Major League Baseball have been able to hit four home runs in a single game. These players have had various amounts of success in their careers. Some are known by people who are not baseball fans, such as Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig; while others may only be known by hard-core fans, such as Scooter Gennet and Pat Seery.  The stories of all eighteen of them are told in this book.

The book follows the same format for each man – a brief biography of his life and baseball career before the big game.  Then a description of each of the slugger’s at-bats during the game with four home runs, whether or not that resulted in one of the home runs, was next.  This would include the opposing pitcher and the game situation, i.e the home run extended his team’s lead.  Then the chapter would conclude by chronicling the player’s career following the historic game and his life after baseball.  The only exception to this format was that there are three players who are still active as of the date of publication (Gennet, Josh Hamilton and J.D. Martinez) and as a result, their chapters are slightly shorter.

Like any other collection of stories, some of them are fascinating more so than others, but for this collection, each one of them shared one thing in common – a historic game and offensive show that anyone who saw it, whether player, fan or the hitter himself, will remember. That is evident with the numerous quotes from other players, especially pitchers who gave up some of the historic home runs.  Those were the best parts of the stories – especially quotes from those pitchers whose pain faded with time and are looking back fondly at the show put on by those hitters.

The book doesn’t dig deep into the lives of any of the players and there are many sources of more complete information on many of them, especially stars like Mays, Gehrig and Mike Schmidt.  But if a reader wants to learn a little bit more about these historic games and hitters, this is a good starting point.

I wish to thank Rowman and Littlefield for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying Links:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review of "When the Crowd Didn't Roar"

A very unusual baseball game took place in Baltimore on April 29, 2015 - it was played with no fans in attendance.  The story of that game and the circumstances that led to the decision to play the game is captured in this excellent book. Here is my review of "When the Crowd Didn't Roar"




­

Title/Author:
“When the Crowd Didn’t Roar” by Kevin Cowherd
 
Tags:
Baseball, politics, race, Orioles, White Sox

Publish date:
April 1, 2019

Length:
192 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:

On April 29, 2015, the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox played the first major league game in which no spectators were allowed into the ballpark.  Earlier in the week, two other games between the two teams were postponed for security concerns due to the rioting that was taking place in Baltimore following the death of an African-American in police custody. The city of Baltimore and Major League baseball did decide to have the April 29 game played, but with no fans in attendance so police and other law enforcement officials could concentrate their efforts on the aftermath of the rioting. The circumstances of both the game itself and the events that led up to that decision are captured in this excellent book by Baltimore sportswriter Kevin Cowherd.
 
Two characteristics of this book stand out. One is that Cowherd takes an explosive issue like the treatment of African-Americans by law enforcement and writes about it in a balanced, non-judgmental manner.  He was writing about factual information without inserting his own opinions.  While the book is considered a baseball book, it is much more than that as it is important for the reader to understand the circumstances that called for this unusual atmosphere for the game to be played.
 
As for the game itself, the best parts of the writing about it were about the players. This is especially true for Orioles players, especially Adam Jones, who was thrust into the role of the unofficial spokesman for an African-American viewpoint from the Orioles.  Chris Davis and Caleb Joseph are also followed through the game.  Joseph’s actions of pretending to sign autographs for fans is one of the actions taken in order to try to give the game a sense of normalcy but at the same time illustrates the awkwardness the players, umpires and other crew members feel.  Many times Cowherd describes how much the normal sounds of a game – pitches hitting the catcher’s mitt, spikes on bases, even the chatter and spitting in the dugout – are magnified in this stadium void of fans.
 
Through it all, there is some humor thrown in for good measure.  Cowherd writes about the Orioles television broadcasters, Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer, and what they were saying and doing during this game.  Like the players, there was some humor attempted – a line by Thorne when he was telling a play in a whispered tone that he was using his “Masters voice” was very funny – but it was overshadowed by the enormity of the situation.  Again, all of this is brought to life by the excellent writing of Cowherd.
 
There is one story Cowherd told that captured the spirit of this book, the Orioles and the city.  A young African-American man who wrote a blog about sports from his perspective was provided press credentials for one of the cancelled games.  But he felt he had to be a part of the no-fans game, so using his expired credential, he made his way to the post-game press conference of Orioles manager Buck Showalter. He asked the manager a question that was unlike the typical press conference question and Showalter didn’t back away from the question, but instead gave an answer that made the young man happy.  Of course, he was discovered and had to leave the conference, but this story is the best of the book because it captures the feelings of everyone involved, regardless of their race or political affiliation. For the full details of this story, it is best to read about it in the book as a review cannot do that story justice.
 
This book should be read under the knowledge that while it is about an unusual baseball game, it is more than just a baseball book.  The reader will have a much better understanding of what the city of Baltimore was enduring during that week and how this game both gave the city a small amount of normalcy during a trying time and was a illustration of how grim the situation seemed at that time.
 
I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.Excellent basketball memoir

Usually a sports memoir will follow the same pattern. An ex-athlete will talk about his childhood, his career while playing his chosen game and his life after retiring. While some of this is true for Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest), his story takes on extra meaning because of his willingness to talk about his mental health issues so candidly.

He does verify some of his more off beat moments, such as working at Circuit City while still a player. He does
 
Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying Links:
 
https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/university-of-nebraska-press/9781496213297/
 
https://www.amazon.com/When-Crowd-Didnt-Roar-Baseballs/dp/1496213297/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Review of "Dark Trade"

Avid readers like me know that when a book makes you say "Wow!" or something similar when you finish, you want to shout out to the world that everyone else should read this book.  That is what I want to say about this one - one of the best books on boxing I have ever read.  Here is my review of "Dark Trade"



Excellent basketball memoir

Usually a sports memoir will follow the same pattern. An ex-athlete will talk about his childhood, his career while playing his chosen game and his life after retiring. While some of this is true for Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest), his story takes on extra meaning because of his willingness to talk about his mental health issues so candidly.

He does verify some of his more off beat moments, such as working at Circuit City while still a player. He does
Title/Author:
“Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing” by Donald McRae
Tags:
Boxing, biographies  
Publish date:
March 15, 2019 (third edition, first published September 18, 1997)
 
Length:
528 pages
Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:

Boxing is a sport that can bring out the best and the worst in human beings. This is true for the fighters, the managers, the fans and nearly anyone with a connection to the sport. Whichever way a story or personal tale goes, this book on the sport in America and Britain during the 1990’s is widely hailed as one of the best books on the sweet science ever written and this reviewer agrees with that assessment.

Donald McRae, a writer for the British publication The Guardian, has been transfixed by the sport for a long time so he set out on a year-long journey to the United States and his adopted homeland of Great Britain (he is a native of South Africa) and through his exchanges with some of the best fighters of that era, he paints a very compelling picture of not only the boxers but also of the role that race, violence and social status play in the game.


Some of the fighters portrayed include Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr., James Toney (whose portrait graces the cover), Chris Eubank, Oscar de la Hoya, and Nassem Hamed. Of course, promoters like Don King and Bob Arum are portrayed as well as some others such as Jackie Kellum, the manager for Toney and one of the very few females involved in the sport at the time.  

However, instead of simply rehashing information that can be found in other sources, McRae dives into the minds of the people involved. The reader will feel like he or she knows the person portrayed more intimately than before turning the pages. Just for one example, the reader will learn that Mike Tyson is as well versed in Hemmingway and Mao (and many other authors) as well as uppercuts and body blows. While that wasn’t secret, it isn’t something that is described in as rich detail in other sources as it is in this book.


I was particularly struck by the portrayal of James Toney as he had a background similar to many other fighters.  That is, having no father figure in the house, a hard-working and supportive mother and a close call to being another victim of the streets instead of finding salvation in the gym. While all of these are true in Toney’s life, he went through a different path, most notably helping his mother, who was astute in business, by working at her bakery. Hiring a Jewish woman as his manager and getting married young and having a daughter is also important to his story as McRae illustrates how much the women in Toney’s life affect him so much both in and out of the ring.  Since this book is best read in pieces, one person at a time, Toney’s story is one that should be digested fully as the reader will come away mesmerized.


These are just a few examples of the fantastic prose shared by McRae in this book that is now in its third publication and should be read by every person with any interest in the sport. It is one that I will come back to for re-reading sections time and time again.


I wish to thank Hamlicar Publications for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Excellent basketball memoir

Usually a sports memoir will follow the same pattern. An ex-athlete will talk about his childhood, his career while playing his chosen game and his life after retiring. While some of this is true for Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest), his story takes on extra meaning because of his willingness to talk about his mental health issues so candidly.

He does verify some of his more off beat moments, such as working at Circuit City while still a player. He does
Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Review of "The New York Yankees of the 1950's"

The decade of the 1950's is considered to be the Golden Age of baseball, especially in New York City as the city was blessed to have three competitive, exciting teams during most of that decade.  One, the Yankees, dominated the sport like no one else has for a decade and this book tells about the team during that time. 



Title/Author:
“The New York Yankees of the 1950s – Mantle, Stengel, Berra and a Decade of Dominance” by David Fischer
 
Tags:
Baseball, history, championship, Yankees

Publish date:
April 1, 2019

Length:
280 pages

Rating: 
3 ½  of 5 stars (good)

Review:

During the decade of the 1950’s, the New York Yankees had an incredible run of success.  They won the World Series for the first four years of the decade as part of a streak of five consecutive championship seasons.  Then they followed up with four more American League pennants and two more World Series championships in 1956 and 1958.  This amazing decade of baseball in the Bronx is the subject of this book by David Fischer.

Using numerous sources for his research such as newspaper articles and other books, Fischer relives each year of Yankees baseball and shares some anecdotes about the star players.  These include players whose careers peaked earlier and ended in the 1950’s (Joe DiMaggio), those who began play in the 1950’s and continued (Mickey Mantle) or those who just began later in the decade (Elston Howard).  While the writing is not greatly detailed or insightful, a reader will learn much about the players and manager Casey Stengel.
 
As like any other book that describes a team or athlete during a certain time frame, this book will make references to important social or political events during that time. The topics are varied, such as television, cars, civil rights and President Eisenhower. Sometimes these are smoothly woven into the baseball text and at other times, they seem to be added simply because they occurred during the year that the exploits of the Yankees are currently being discussed.
 
If a reader is a very knowledgeable, well-versed Yankee fan or historian, then he or she may already know about most of the material in this book.  If the reader is a casual fan or is just interested in learning why New York was the dominant baseball team of the 1950’s then this book is for them. 
 
I wish to thank Lyons Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.Excellent basketball memoir

Usually a sports memoir will follow the same pattern. An ex-athlete will talk about his childhood, his career while playing his chosen game and his life after retiring. While some of this is true for Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest), his story takes on extra meaning because of his willingness to talk about his mental health issues so candidly.

He does verify some of his more off beat moments, such as working at Circuit City while still a player. He does
 
Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)


Buying Links:

 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Review of "The Masters: A Hole-by-Hole History of America's Golf Classic"

Soon the eyes of the golfing world will be on Augusta and the Masters golf tournament. It has a very interesting history and this book takes a different look at that history, describing it at each hole on the course.  Here is my review of "The Masters: A Hole-by-Hole History of America's Golf Classic"




Title/Author:
“The Masters: A Hole-by-Hole History of America’s Golf Classic, Third Edition” by David Sowell
 
Tags:
Golf, history, championship

Publish date:
March 1, 2019

Length:
304 pages
 
Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Anyone with any level of interest in golf knows about the Masters tournament.  Played on the course designed by Bobby Jones, it has been the site of many memorable shots, charges to a championship and the awarding of the green jacket to the winner of the prestigious even held every April. These memorable moments, both good and not-so-good, are captured in this excellent book by David Sowell.
 
Using a unique format in which the history of events that happened at each hole is described, Sowell will inform readers about golfers in every era.  Just about any great golfer - course designer and founder Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth – will be mentioned on at least one of the holes. Whether it was a memorable eagle or birdie or the highest stroke total on one hole, 13 (“accomplished” three times, most notably by Sergio Garcia), the reader will enjoy reliving some memorable tournament moments.
 
The basic layout of each hole is described in great detail at the beginning of each chapter.  A map of the hole, followed by a description of the layout starts the chapter. Other details such as pin placement, slope of the green and the fairway, and the shrubs or trees surrounding the fairway are also included. Between the detail of these layouts and the minutia of many of the famous shots made by players, the book is not a quick read but instead one that is best digested slowly. This detail also makes the book geared toward the avid golfer or fan. As a reader in this category, this information was very helpful for me to learn the complete history of the tourney and to understand just HOW some of those great shots were made. This book is recommended for readers who fall into this category.
 
I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
 
Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying Links:
https://www.amazon.com/Masters-Hole-Hole-History-Americas/dp/1496212835/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
 
https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/university-of-nebraska-press/9781496212832/

 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Review of "No Malice"

This memoir certainly didn't read like many other sports memoirs - but then Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, didn't exactly have a career and life similar to many other athletes, hence my interest in reading this book.  Here is my review of his memoir.




Title/Author:
“No Malice: My Life in Basketball or: How a Kid from Queensbridge Survived the Streets, the Brawls and Himself to Become an NBA Champion” by Metta World Peace and Ryan Dempsey
 
Tags:
Basketball, memoir, Lakers, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks, Rockets  

Publish date:
May 15, 2018

Length:
282 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Excellent basketball memoir

Usually a sports memoir will follow the same pattern. An ex-athlete will talk about his childhood, his career while playing his chosen game and his life after retiring. While some of this is true for Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest), his story takes on extra meaning because of his willingness to talk about his mental health issues so candidly.

He does verify some of his more off beat moments, such as working at Circuit City while still a player.
Usually a sports memoir will follow the same pattern. An ex-athlete will talk about his childhood, his career while playing his chosen game and his life after retiring. While some of this is true for Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest), his story takes on extra meaning because of his willingness to talk about his mental health issues so candidly.

He does verify some of his more off beat moments, such as working at Circuit City while still a player. He does speak frankly about the infamous brawl in Detroit during the 2004 season that cost him nearly five million dollars in salary and many years of bad memories. But it's clear to a reader that he has turned things around and, appropriately enough, seems to be at peace with himself.

Any basketball fan who knows about Artest/ World Peace should pick up this book. A great and fast read, one will be happy with the eventual outcome of a man who finally is at peace with him
 
Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying Links:

 
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/no-malice-metta-world-peace/1126250975?ean=9781629374031#/

Friday, March 1, 2019

Review of "After the Miracle"

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the "Miracle Mets", the first championship won by the New York Mets. Many people, fans and players alike, have fond memories of that team and one of the players, Art Shamsky, has shared them in a book co-written with Erik Sherman.  Here is my review of "After the Miracle"




Title/Author:
“After the Miracle: The Lasting Brotherhood by the ’69 Mets” by Art Shamsky and Erik Sherman
 
Tags:
Baseball, history, memoir, Mets, championship

Publish date:
March 19, 2019

Length:
336 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
The 1969 New York Mets are known for a very surprising championship season that was considered by some to be a miracle, hence they got the moniker “the Miracle Mets.”  One of the players from that team, outfielder Art Shamsky, got together with three of his teammates and author Erik Sherman to relive that glorious season and share many baseball stories.
 
Shamsky and Sherman, along with Bud Harrelson and Ron Swoboda, paid a visit to Tom Seaver’s home in California and there all four players shared some great stories together, laughing frequently despite the health issues of Harrelson and Seaver.  While those passages made up the best parts of the book, they really did not take up a lot of the book.  Instead a great portion of the book is a full season recap of that 1969 season, mainly from Shamsky’s viewpoint.
 
However, because Shamsky obtained many different quotes on the season from many of his teammates, it is far from a dry recap of games and victories.  The various viewpoints from many players, stars and bench players alike, give the reading of the 1969 Mets season a fresh look. It also helps to validate the notion that every player contributed to that special season, not just a few star players.  While Shamsky writes his recollections in a nice conversational manner, the stories from others give it a nice touch.
 
While this reader wishes the heartwarming reunion between the four teammates in a nice California home was a bigger part of this book, it is nonetheless a book that every Mets fan should have on his or her shelves.  With so many people remembering this team fondly, even if they weren’t born yet to witness them, any book on the 1969 Mets is sure to be enjoyed by the team’s fans of any age.
 
I wish to thank Simon and Schuster for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying Links:
 
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/after-the-miracle-art-shamsky/1128863841?ean=9781501176524#/