Hardball: A Season in the Projects

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Four blocks from Chicago's affluent Gold Coast, the Cabrini-Green housing project looms, a notorious inner city of poverty, violence, and despair. Not an easy place to play ball. But in 1991 two men - one black, one white - started a Little League, twenty teams sponsored by Chicago corporations. Daniel Coyle volunteered to help coach one of the teams, the First Chicago Near North Kikuyus, and the following season, he decided to record their story: fourteen remarkable children and their six coaches, an unlikely ...
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Overview

Four blocks from Chicago's affluent Gold Coast, the Cabrini-Green housing project looms, a notorious inner city of poverty, violence, and despair. Not an easy place to play ball. But in 1991 two men - one black, one white - started a Little League, twenty teams sponsored by Chicago corporations. Daniel Coyle volunteered to help coach one of the teams, the First Chicago Near North Kikuyus, and the following season, he decided to record their story: fourteen remarkable children and their six coaches, an unlikely group thrown together on a baseball field in the midst of Cabrini's gang-ruled streets. From the team's first practice to the end of all unexpectedly triumphant season, Hardball chronicles the Kikuyus, on the field and off. Coyle brings us into the lives of children both carefree and exultant at play yet disarmingly sober in the face of their family circumstances, kids startled by the sight of cows and cornfields during a trip to Iowa yet inured to the sound of gunshots at home. With frankness and poignancy, he tells of the team's joys, losses, and small but essential victories, and of the neophyte coaches whose role moves haltingly from teaching baseball to being big brothers, disciplinarians and ultimately friends. Hardball is a powerful story of a team's struggle against the odds, a struggle that in the end speaks to the most important concerns of our time and to the resilience of children everywhere. In the Kikuyus we see not only a deeply troubling image of the way things are, but also a hopeful glimpse of the way they might be.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
More a sociological study than a book about sandlot baseball, Coyle, senior editor of Outside magazine, takes us inside Cabrini-Green, the nation's second-largest housing project in one of Chicago's most crime-ridden neighborhoods. We enter a society whose pecking order is determined by guns and crack and where status is marked by Air Jordans. The Near North Little League/African-American Youth League came into being because of the efforts of white Bob Muzikowski, a former drug addict turned Christian insurance executive, and African American Al Carter, who worked for the city's Department of Human Services. Between them a sometimes cool political alliance existed as they strived to help the project's 8- to 12-year-olds. We meet the Kikuyus team: Calbert, the earnest, asthmatic, junk foodie; Freddie, a 44, 100-pound butterball with a great fastball; and Maurice, who always called ``I got it. I got it,'' but seldom did. Through the imprisonments, shootings and AIDS deaths that mark the ghetto, we see the Kikuyus coalesce as a team. This heart-wrenching tome offers little hope as crack and guns continue to control the project, but as Maurice says: ``It ain't really so bad, living here. In summertime, we play baseball.'' BOMC and QPB featured alternates; film rights to Paramount. Jan.
Library Journal
Hardball , a chronicle of Little League baseball in Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project, adeptly illustrates the harsh realities of inner-city life. The story quickly shifts from the action on the diamond to descriptions of sniper fire or gang brawls. Coyle examines many of the players' backgrounds and family lives and how their upbringing reflects on their attitudes toward baseball and the mostly white coaches. At times the book focuses too much on the politics of the league, but almost every Little League is plagued by the interference of adults. Ultimately, the game of baseball touches all of the participants, as when Coyle describes a player receiving his uniform: ``Rufus chose number 1, the smallest jersey. He didn't say anything, just hugged it to his chest and trotted away to show his mother.'' For most collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert. LJ 9/15/93.-- Jeffrey Gay, Bridgewater P.L., Mass.
Kirkus Reviews
An eye-opening chronicle of the fears, frustrations, and small triumphs of playing and coaching Little League baseball amid the squalor and violence of Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project; by an editor at Outside magazine. Founding a baseball league in a neighborhood where there's at least one shooting-death per month would seem a fool's errand but, in 1991, two men—one white, one black—believed the kids were worth the effort. Unfortunately, Bob Muzikowski, a former addict- turned-devout Christian, and Al Carter, a Department of Human Services employee specializing in gang relations, agreed on little else. Muzikowski was to provide the sponsors and coaches for the New North Little League, while Carter would supply the kids. Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Continental Banks, and other firms backed the project, which was to have teams of black children coached by middle-class white males. As Coyle—who acted as one of the coaches—notes, the conflicts were inevitable: Muzikowski couldn't restrain proselytizing, while Carter, who wanted everything to reflect the kids' African-American heritage, was suspicious of the white do-gooders. Coyle's team, the Kikuyus—an ever-changing group of youngsters aged 9-12—made it to the championship game despite, as the players would say, all the "busters" on the team. They lost, but completing two seasons was a victory in itself given the bitter feuding between the founders. Coyle captures the speech, fears, boyish bravado, and personality quirks of the children trying to have fun in an environment in which survival itself is a daily challenge. He also reports that, as of the opening of the 1993 season, Muzikowski wascharging Carter with misappropriating funds from the project; meanwhile, Carter had formed a second league. The crack of the bat heard over the sound of gunfire: a testament to the innocent courage of children, as well as to their ability to endure in spite of all, including the adults. (Film rights sold to Paramount)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061008573
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/1995
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 368

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