Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Review of "We Will Rise"

One of the more tragic stories in college basketball history was the 1977 plane crash that killed the members of the Evansville basketball team.  This book is a very good recount of that crash and how the team and city was able to carry on afterward. 


Title/Author:
“We Will Rise: A True Story of Tragedy and Resurrection in the American Heartland” by Steve Beaven


Tags:
Basketball, college, history, tragedy


Publish date:
January 1, 2020


Length:
276 pages


Rating:
4 of 5 stars (very good)


Review:

On December 13,1977 a plane crash near Evansville, Indiana killed all on board, including the players, coaches and managers of the Evansville University basketball team. The grieving by the school and city as well as their recovery from this tragedy is the topic of this excellent book by Evansville native Steve Beaven.

He uses his first hand knowledge of the town and the Purple Aces history, along with information from over 150 interviews and many other stories to paint an excellent picture of the basketball program. From legendary coach Arad McCutcheon, who won multiple Division II titles in Evansville to the heartbreaking loss in the 1982 NCAA tourney to Marquette, Beavan's account reads like a history lesson of Evansville University basketball. The most interesting part of this information is the six day coaching stint (no games,.practices, or recruiting) by Jerry Sloan, who abruptly resigned after making his alma mater excited about their most famous player coming to coach. Don't feel.sorry for Sloan...he ended up with a long and successful career coaching in the NBA, most notably for the Utah Jazz more than 20 years.

Of course, in the middle.of all this basketball history is the terrible night of December 13, 1977. Here, Beavan describes the night of the crash with great detail, especially with the delayed takeoff and resulting errors that led to the fatal.crash and the doctor who heard the crash, ran out of his house and tried to help any survivors. The reader will also know something about !many of the young men on the plane, such as prize recruit Mike Hoff and Kevin Kingston. Even the only player not on the plane, David Furr, couldn't escape tragedy as he and his younger brother were killed in a car crash two weeks after David's teammates perished.

But this somber story is not the mood for the book, nor the school or its basketball team. There is great detail in how the Purple Aces, under coach Dock Walters, hired to replace the popular Bobby Watson after the crash, built the team.back to its winning just three years after the crash. While Meagan also is able to write about some of the surviving family members of the players and how they mourned, soles and moved on, their stories are not as.prominent in the book after the crash as the basketball is and that is the only minor flaw, in my opinion, in an otherwise very uplifting book.

Fans of the story of the Marshall football team rebuilding after a plane crash, told in the movie "We Are Marshall", will enjoy this similar tale of tragedy and resurrection after a very dark period. Especially recommended for college basketball fans who recall that tragic day.
    
                                                               
Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)


Buying Links:
https://www.amazon.com/We-Will-Rise-Resurrection-Heartland-ebook/dp/B07LF4VRPC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Review of "Stealing Home"

While it is known that the building of Dodger Stadium was controversial in its use of eminent domain, this book puts a human side to the story, and that makes it a great read.  Here is my review of "Stealing Home"

Title/Author:
“Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught In Between” by Eric Nusbaum

Tags:
Baseball, history, politics, Dodgers

Publish date:
March 24, 2020

Length:
352 pages

Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Dodger Stadium is considered to be one of the crowing jewels among ballparks in the United States, nestled in a prime location with beautiful scenery overlooking the park that fans in certain sections can admire during a lull in the action. How the stadium came to fruition, however, is a very controversial journey that is still being talked about today, almost 60 years after its opening.  This excellent book by Eric Nussbaum describes that journey, which took several twists and turns.

While there isn't a lot about the game of baseball or the Dodgers in the book, at least compared to the political aspects of the book, a baseball fan will still enjoy Nussbaum's writing about the team, some of its players in the early days in Los Angeles and also of Walter O'Malley, the owner who moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. 

While these passages make for interesting reading, they are not the heart and soul of this book.  The true heroes of this book are not any baseball players but the Archeiga family, who refused to leave their home in Chavez Ravine, the area where the ball park was eventually built.  When their home, along with all others in the predominantly Mexican neighborhood, was being taken by the government to make way for public housing, the Archiegas refused to accept the money that was being offered after appraisal by the government. 

What followed was a great political story that would make a great novel – except that it was all true.  This was where Nussbaum was at his best.  Two personal stories are good examples of this. Whether he was writing about a man whose goal was to bring public housing to Los Angeles, only to be shamed by the crusade of an anti-Communism committee or he was telling the story of the local city councilwoman who was a key figure in getting O'Malley to move the Dodgers to the west coast, Nussbaum writes about the story in a manner that will keep the reader engaged, entertained and on an emotional roller coaster.  Most of the time, it will be anger – anger at the politicians, at O'Malley, at practically anybody whose last name is not Archiega. 

No matter what type of non-fiction a reader enjoys, this is one book that should be picked up and read cover to cover.  It will explain why despite the beautiful view one gets inside and outside Dodger Stadium, there is a very poignant story underneath.

I wish to thank Perseus Books Public Affairs for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
                                                                  
Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying Links:

Monday, December 2, 2019

Review of "The Whistleblower"

No, don't let the title of the book fool you - this blog has not changed to review political books.  Instead, this one is a very good book on the life of a college basketball referee. 

Title/Author:
“The Whistleblower: Rooting for the Ref in the High-Stakes World of College Basketball” by Bob Katz

Tags:
Basketball, college, officiating, biography

Publish date:
February 3, 2015

Length:
232 pages

Rating:
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
No matter the sport, the job of a referee, official, umpire, or whatever the people in charge of enforcing the rules of the game are called, it is not an easy job.  This book follows one season and part of the career of one of these people, former college basketball referee Ed Hightower.  It provides a great insight into the profession and what it takes for someone to succeed in that profession as author Bob Katz does a nice job of bringing readers onto the court with Hightower.

Katz not only describes Hightower's actions on the court, but he also discusses the intricacies into the profession and why the job of a basketball referee has unique challenges, such as monitoring the activity of 10 athletes whose quickness and skills will require the viewing of a situation, analyzing that situation against the rulebook and making a decision all within a fraction of a second.  When described in that context, which Katz does, and then reading many of the various situations in which Hightower had to perform this task, it makes the reader truly appreciate what an official in any sport must do.  Even if that fan is one who will vehemently disagree with said official if the call goes against that fan's team.

Hightower's life off the court is also a topic of discussion in the book, as he continued his education and eventually became the administrator for a school district.  These duties don't go away when Hightower was on the road, and Katz writes about how he balanced these duties while on the road, usually during an Upper Midwest winter as Hightower's primary referee duties were for the Big Ten conference.   How Hightower was able to juggle this, family duties and the travel involved in his "second" job is nothing short of amazing.

While the book focuses primarily on Hightower, it would be incorrect to label this as a "biography" as Katz delves deeply into the profession of basketball officiating more than the life of Ed Hightower.  It becomes clear to a reader that Katz becomes more focused on officials, leading to the last chapter when he does what the title of the book says he will do and "roots" for the referee. 

While this book does not tell everything about Ed Hightower or everything one can on the profession, this is one that any basketball fan will enjoy as it will give a good perspective of what the people in the striped shirts deal with in their profession – of course, this is in addition to the fans, players and coaches who believe that their version of what happened is the correct one and that the ref is _______.  Fill in that blank with whatever insult or negative connotation you wish.   
                                                                  
Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying Links: