Book Review: One Shot at Forever

Jan 25

I’m a sucker for a good baseball book.

I hadn’t heard of “One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season” by Chris Ballard before stumbling across it on Amazon. The Kindle price was but $2.24 (it’s since gone up to $2.99, but still a very fair price), so I thought it would be a good way to start the 2013 reading campaign.

One Shot at Forever

This is more of a historical baseball book as it goes back to remember a small-school baseball teambased in Illinois. They have old uniforms and a unique coach who does things quite a bit differently. This coach — the English teacher at the school who has zero experience in coaching — leads his squad to the Illinois state final. This is back in a time when there were no divisions. Macon is still the smallest school to reach the state final.

The team took on the spirit of its coach — long hair, peace symbols on their hats and a carefree outlook that seemed balanced enough to win over a town.

Ballard is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, so he tells a wonderful story from beginning to end, including catching up with many of these players in the present time.

The Good

This is a great story. If you like feel-good stories, especially in sports, this is a fine read. This shows that all in sports isn’t bad and it brings you back to a glory day when high school sports were serious, but at the same time, it wasn’t as crazy as it is today. Games were serious back then, but society today puts high school sports on a whole different level.

Ballard does a wonderful job of developing all the people in this story, which is tough, considering you have a full team, a coach, his eventual wife, school administration, members of the media and some parents. That’s a lot of people. For the most part, I was able to keep track of who is who throughout, though not always. It was really easy to cheer for certain people and, at the same time, have a bit of a dislike for others.

The book also helps the reader related to the team. Even those who grew up and live in large urban areas should be able to feel the emotion of this town and area and the support of the team. One think to keep in mind is this is the early 1970s, so a different time. Though everybody will be able to relate and see what this type of atmosphere was like, I know I got a bit more out of it because I grew up in a small town and understand the thought process and how people will live for the days of a great high school team to show pride in the town.

The Bad

At times, it was tough when some of the players were being mentioned. Though the big ones were pretty easy to follow with, sometimes one of the more secondary players was mentioned and it would make me stop for a moment. I think that’s the tough part with a book like this because there are so many people who need to be in it. This isn’t fictional, so one can’t just eliminate some in situations. To tell the story, these players need to be in the story.

This is a tough “bad,” per say, but books like this need a few photos. When dealing with historical items like this, I know I like to see what people look like, or anything else to help my mind paint a picture of the town, the field, the players and all that. Ballard does a wonderful job of describing everything, but having a section in the book with images would have helped. If it’s in the print version, I can’t comment. But I didn’t see any photos, outside of the cover photos in the Kindle edition.

Overall thoughts

I truly enjoyed this book. I didn’t take too long to read it as it moved quickly, kept my attention and made me want to keep going. And it really is an underdog story. If you are a sports fan and like something like Hoosiers, you’ll like this book. It’s the same sort of thing — the David vs. Goliath. I won’t give away the ending of this book, but it doesn’t matter what the end result is. It’s well worth the read and I would encourage anybody who likes books about real life, sports, overcoming odds or the little guy to give it a go.

Rating

This is a strong book and one I’d highly recommend to many people. In the end, though not fully perfect, I’d give this book a strong 4/5 and consider a little higher if I gave it a little bit of a longer thought.

Artwork (For The Artful Readers Club)

This book is also one I’m reading for The Artful Readers Club. In this club, we read one book per month and also have to so some sort of a piece of art to go with it. For this one, I decided to take an old baseball photo I took and make an “advertisement” for the book. It’s not great, but I hope people enjoy!

Artful Readers Club artwork.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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46 comments

  1. aha! as you’re on my google reader I get to comment first before you link up with Darcy and everyone piles in :)

    I do very much like a feel good sports story – especially when the underdogs get to show up the favourites – so I would probably enjoy this, despite the fact that I could write everything I know about baseball on a postage stamp :)

    Love your photo and I think it is a perfect fit with the atmosphere of the book as you have described it
    Sarah recently posted..Artful Readers Club January – Heartstone by C. J. SansomMy Profile

  2. Oh an interesting write up don’t think I’ve actually read a feel good sports story, let alone one based on a true story! Loving the artwork too!
    Virginia recently posted..ROCKING YOUR WORLD & ARTFUL READERSMy Profile

  3. sounds like a ok read, im not a sportsfan but its fun to root for the underdogs

  4. I’m not much of a sports fan but this sounds like a fun read… Although saying that I just recently read a book with about 8 main characters and I could NOT keep up.

    I love your advert, the baseball piccie is fab.

    About your comment over at mine – yep that’s the same book. It was called The Postmortal in the US… I think both titles work well with the story. You can get a copy in the new and used section for 0.96 on the .com site :-)
    Carmen recently posted..Artful Readers Club – JanuaryMy Profile

    • Unfortunately with sports books, sometimes there has to be a lot of characters, especially with it being a true story!

  5. I have never been a sportsman, but i am a sucker for a feel good story. I love the historical references. I like you would love to see more photos in books like these. I truly feel that they need the visual reinforcement.

    your art piece is pure genius, such a cool idea to make it into an advert/poster. Really well done, even without the overlayed test the close up of the dirty ball is a great image.
    darcy recently posted..ARC JanuaryMy Profile

    • Thanks on the art piece. It was the one thing I was worried about with your challenge. Hopefully I can do it 11 more times!

  6. The artwork would work as a movie poster if the book was made into a movie. That would also ‘fix’ the difficulty of following who is who and give photos. Thank you for your thoughtful review.

    • I think if it was switched around a little, I would agree on the movie poster. Would be fun to design that!

  7. Love what you did with the baseball photo P.J… very clever… and your book sounds like it was a good read… and something I would enjoy too…

    Jenny
    Jenny recently posted..[Artful Reader’s Challenge… January…..]My Profile

  8. Oh, I think your Art is great! I’m terrible with anything digital and this looks very professional! I’d say I even like it better than the original cover!!!
    San Hoogland recently posted..The Subtle Knife – Philip PullmanMy Profile

  9. What a brilliant review and I really like your chosen advertisement form of art – well done.

    I’m not at all sporty so this book wouldn’t appear on my reading list however I really appreciate what you’ve done here.
    Dee recently posted..Reviewing "The Best of Times" by Penny Vincenzi for the ARC challenge (Book 1 of 12)My Profile

  10. I’m glad you enjoyed your book. I am not sporty at all but this does sound like an enjoyable read. I really like your photo and what you have done with it, great idea :)

  11. Wow how detailed is this, wonderful! I love it and I am sold
    ManonX
    manon recently posted..The people of the lie.My Profile

  12. Chris Collins /

    Before you decide this book should not be on your reading list, please read a couple chapters and then tell me this. This is an awesome book about an awesome story. I was a ten year old boy growing up in this small town, Macon Illinois, when these events took place.

    BTW, there are 23 photos in the hardcover book.

    PS: The movie is in the pipeline, just not sure if it’s gonna make it out of the pipeline. Would be a great film.

    Cheers,
    Chris Collins
    PS: I can answer any questions you might have about his book and how it came to be, if you’re interested.

    • Hey Chris — thanks for dropping a note. It’s a shame the photos didn’t make it into the Kindle edition, as images usually do. I would have liked to have seen them. The book, for me, was a lot of fun. Hopefully others realize that and give it a chance. I hope this does become a movie. I agree that it would make for a great film.

    • One more note — after reading the comment again. Not sure if all of this was directed toward the review or if it was at other people commenting. But I obviously did read the book as I wrote the review etc.

  13. Loved reading your review. Great idea for the art. Looks great!
    NatashaMay recently posted..Book 1My Profile

  14. Leialoha /

    FABulous review…love that you used your own photo to represent Ballard’s fantastic story…

  15. I love a good underdog story!
    This one sounds a good read (but I too like photos so I can see the people concerned).
    Cool idea to use the photo and produce an advert!
    Hugs xx
    p.s. Have you seen “The Greatest Game Ever Played”? A true golf story – great film.

  16. Thanks for a great review. It reminded me of the tv series, Friday Night Lights. Great photo depicting the books.
    Michelle Vanstrom recently posted..Life of Pi Book ReviewMy Profile

  17. A wonderful review of the book…and your “publicity poster” actually gave me goosebumps. A heartfelt appreciation of a heartwarming story :D XXX
    Gina recently posted..Year of the Rabbit…My Profile

  18. Thanks for the review. The book sounds very different from anything I have read as I’m not much of a sports fan. The photo you have used for the back drop for your advertisement is a great photo. Clever idea to make it into the ad!
    Ali recently posted..January Artful Readers’ ChallengeMy Profile

  19. Sports books are not my usual read, in fact I have not read any but it was good to come and read our review. Great idea to do the artwork as an advert and it looks fabulous.
    Shirley recently posted..Artful Reading Book OneMy Profile

  20. There is something to be said about books with too many characters… I’ve been reading a series told from the point of view of about 10 characters (no joke), the first three books are wonderful. Book by book four the thing becomes a bit of a mess… I still like it though.

    I love your art work. It is a great reflection of the book. And a great picture, too. I’m a sucker for baseball… I think it’s a Dominican thing *cough, cough* ;-)
    Magaly Guerrero recently posted..Witches in Fiction 2013… to the BoneMy Profile

    • If you are a sucker for baseball, you should definitely give this a read. Well worth the time.

  21. Love your take on the artwork. Not my sort of book but we can’t all like the same sort of thing can we?!
    Maz H recently posted..ARC January 1st Book ReviewMy Profile

  22. Great review of the book. I’ll have to mention it to my husband and boys. They live and breath sports and my oldest son has been training with his high school teammates since December. I’m sure they would love this book (although it may already be on our bookshelves since my husband is a bit of a book hoarder). Love the artwork. One of my goals for the year is to work on my digital art skills.

  23. What a fantastic illustration! Love it!
    Teri recently posted..The Babies at Terrazza GrillMy Profile

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