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KLIATTOver the past 30 years, Paul Hemphill has published over four million words as a newspaper columnist and as an author of 14 books. His first success was in sports writing, and it is that abiding interest that has led to present these previously published essays. Hemphill insists in his Prologue "this collection is not a sports book." He recalls that his editor at Sport, the legendary Dick Schaap to whom this book is dedicated, "was always looking for pieces that would dig deeper" and the essays selected for this book do just that. In this light, the book is logically divided into three sections. Part I deals with "boys hoping to become men"; Part II shows us "men at work"; Part III gives us "glimpses of twilight, the time of broken dreams." In Part I, "The Dawning," Hemphill reminisces about his passion for minor league baseball as a youngster. We meet a construction worker, Marty Malloy, with a dream of playing in the major leagues. In Part II, we spend some time with Rodney Dickson, a young man with a family, a job mowing lawns, and a passion for driving racecars. There is a profile of Karl Wallenda, of the world-famous Flying Wallendas high-wire act, who performs without a net, believing "that there is never anything to be afraid of ... if you know what you are doing." The worlds of semiprofessional football and the Roller Derby are also visited. In Part III, Hemphill describes his encounter at a baseball camp with an aging Ty Cobb, "gun-toting, hard-drinking, all-but-certified psychotic wife-beater" who also happened to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. In "Whatever Happened to What's-His-Name?" Hemphill follows up on some of baseball's original "bonusbabies," who live today "with the memories of shattered expectations and broken dreams." In a brief Epilogue, the author updates us on some of the characters profiled. We learn, for example, that Marty Malloy did fulfill his dream of playing major league baseball and that Karl Wallenda died while attempting to walk a wire between two skyscrapers. Hemphill's eye for detail makes these essays especially effective. These are stories of dreams, ambitions, hard work, success, and failure. As Hemphill states in the Prologue, these "pieces ... ultimately deal not so much with sport but with life." The interest level for this book should be high among most young people, and the insights gained should be significant as well. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Univ. of Alabama Press, 173p., Ages 15 to adult.
— Anthony Pucci