A welcome addition to baseball history, especially given that Flood’s battle is now all but unknown.

A WELL-PAID SLAVE

CURT FLOOD’S FIGHT FOR FREE AGENCY IN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

A readable study of baseball’s bad old days, when owners kept players on short leashes and superstars made only $100,000.

When the Cardinals traded Curt Flood to the Phillies in 1969, he didn’t want to go; in a time of black civil-rights activism and considerable tension, he likened the swap to a slave auction. There was small support in the baseball world; when Flood filed suit against the Cards ownership, players such as Carl Yastrzemski accused him of trying to ruin the game, while, as attorney and sports enthusiast Snyder notes, the fans “lacked sympathy for . . . athletes perceived to be spoiled and overpaid, rather than subjugated and oppressed.” Flood did not help matters when he insisted that a well-paid slave was still a slave, and the trade was not undeserved. Flood spent much of his free time drinking, and his performance in the 1968 World Series was maddening: An error he made in the final game cost the Cards the championship. Still, Flood was a man of some integrity, even if the portraits for which the former art student was richly commissioned were painted by someone else and merely signed by him. He accepted responsibility for the loss of that crucial game, and, insisting that he was acting on behalf of all players, he fought against the hated reserve clause, which in essence gave owners unilateral power to extend a player’s contract for a year and cut his pay in the bargain. Flood teamed up with an unconventional attorney, Marvin Miller, who recruited former Supreme Court justice Arthur Goldberg to argue the case all the way up to the Supreme Court—where they lost. Nonetheless, as Snyder capably shows, the case did open the way to free agency and to today’s player-centric landscape, for better or worse.

A welcome addition to baseball history, especially given that Flood’s battle is now all but unknown.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03794-X

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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