One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season

One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season

4.1 25
by Chris Ballard, Mike Chamberlain
     
 

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In 1971, a small-town high school baseball team from rural Illinois playing with hand-me-down uniforms and peace signs on their hats defied convention and the odds. Led by an English teacher with no coaching experience, the Macon Ironmen emerged from a field of three hundred and seventy teams to become the smallest school in Illinois history to make the state final

Overview

In 1971, a small-town high school baseball team from rural Illinois playing with hand-me-down uniforms and peace signs on their hats defied convention and the odds. Led by an English teacher with no coaching experience, the Macon Ironmen emerged from a field of three hundred and seventy teams to become the smallest school in Illinois history to make the state final, a distinction that still stands. There, sporting long hair, and warming up to Jesus Christ Superstar, the Ironmen would play a dramatic game against a Chicago powerhouse that would change their lives forever.In a gripping, cinematic narrative, Sports Illustrated writer Chris Ballard tells the story of the team and its coach, Lynn Sweet, a hippie, dreamer and intellectual who arrived in Macon in 1966, bringing progressive ideas to a town stuck in the Eisenhower era. Beloved by students but not administration, Sweet reluctantly took over a rag-tag team, intent on teaching the boys as much about life as baseball. Inspired by Sweet's unconventional methods and led by fierystar Steve Shartzer and spindly curveball artist John Heneberry, the undersized, undermanned Macon Ironmen embarked on an improbable postseason run that infuriated rival coaches and buoyed an entire town.Beginning with Sweet's arrival, Ballard takes listeners on a journey back to the Ironmen's historic season and then on to the present day, returning to the 1971 Ironmen to explore the effect the game had on their lives' trajectories-and the men they've become because of it. Engaging and poignant, One Shot at Forever is a testament to the power of high school sports to shape the lives of those who play them, and it reminds us that there are few bonds more sacred than those among a coach, a team, and a town.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A writer for Sports Illustrated, Ballard (The Art of the Beautiful Game) has expanded an article he wrote for the magazine about the 1971 Macon (Ill.) High School’s baseball team’s improbable run to the state finals. Coached by an eccentric outsider, a team of poor farm boys from a small, rural town take on the bigger and richer teams; this story has obvious parallels to the classic basketball film Hoosiers and in Ballard’s capable hands evokes similar themes of inspiration, camaraderie and the pressure of the once-in-a-lifetime moments associated with prep athletics. By exploring the roots of the laid-back managing style of the team’s coach, Lynn Sweet, a “hippie” English teacher who allows his players to warm up to the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar and wear peace signs on their hats, Ballard effortlessly captures the conflict between Eisenhower era beliefs and the changing cultural landscape in Vietnam-era America. But this is first and foremost a sports book, and the core is the dramatic state tournament games that are played out in such detail that it is as if you are sitting in the bleachers with nearly all of the 1,200 residents of Macon. Ballard holds the story of the team together with his conversational prose and boosts the story’s poignancy with a touching conclusion that demonstrates the importance of high school sports and hometown heroes while asking, if not answering, the question of how much “one game,” win or lose, can change a life. B&w photos. Agent: Robert Wilson. (May)
From the Publisher
"One Shot at Forever is tender, fun, bittersweet, with a great narrative that just motors. It also features the funkiest coach not just in the history of baseball but the history of sport-an unforgettable character in a beautiful and unforgettable book."—Buzz Bissinger, author of Father's Day and Friday Night Lights"

There's a reason Chris Ballard has emerged as one of America's top sports writers. One Shot at Forever is powerful, inspirational and-in an era where sports are too often marred by scandal-as pure and true as a warm spring breeze. This isn't merely a book about baseball. It's a book about heart."—Jeff Pearlman, New York Times bestselling author of Boys Will Be Boys and The Bad Guys Won"

This book is so well told by Chris Ballard that it gives sportswriting a good name."—Frank Deford, author of Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter"

Chris Ballard brings a big heart and a winning style to tell a memorable story of small-town Illinois. The boys of Macon renew our understanding of why baseball matters—and sometimes, why it matters too much."—Cait Murphy, author of Crazy '08"

[A] nonfiction gem about an underdog team that made good. This is the kind of baseball book that has long arms: YA readers, avid baseball fans, sports readers, and narrative nonfiction readers who like to be firmly set in a particular time and place should all find it joyful."—Library Journal"

Chris Ballard finds the heart in the heartland, in this inspirational tale of a small-school ball club that reaches for glory."—Edward Achorn, author of Fifty-nine in '84"

This story has obvious parallels to the classic basketball film Hoosiers and in Ballard's capable hands evokes similar themes of inspiration, camaraderie and the pressure of the once-in-a-lifetime moments associated with prep athletics . Ballard effortlessly captures the conflict between Eisenhower era beliefs and the changing cultural landscape in Vietnam-era America . [He] holds the story of the team together with his conversational prose and boosts the story's poignancy with a touching conclusion that demonstrates the importance of high school sports and hometown heroes."—Publishers Weekly

Jeff Pearlman
"There's a reason Chris Ballard has emerged as one of America's top sports writers. One Shot at Forever is powerful, inspirational and-in an era where sports are too often marred by scandal-as pure and true as a warm spring breeze. This isn't merely a book about baseball. It's a book about heart."
Buzz Bissinger
"One Shot at Forever is tender, fun, bittersweet, with a great narrative that just motors. It also features the funkiest coach not just in the history of baseball but the history of sport-an unforgettable character in a beautiful and unforgettable book."
Frank Deford
"This book is so well told by Chris Ballard that it gives sportswriting a good name."
Cait Murphy
"Chris Ballard brings a big heart and a winning style to tell a memorable story of small-town Illinois. The boys of Macon renew our understanding of why baseball matters--and sometimes, why it matters too much."
Edward Achorn
"Chris Ballard finds the heart in the heartland, in this inspirational tale of a small-school ball club that reaches for glory."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781452640297
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
09/28/2012
Edition description:
Library - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Ballard writes very well and avoids the usual pitfalls of the inspirational story, the cloying platitudes and rah-rah nonsense. These kids were simply good ballplayers coached by a guy with an open mind, a lot of common sense, and a zest for fun." —-Booklist

Meet the Author

Chris Ballard, the author of The Art of a Beautiful Game, The Butterfly Hunter, and Hoops Nation, is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

Mike Chamberlain is an actor and voice-over performer, as well as an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning audiobook narrator. Along with animation and video game characters, Mike performs narration and voices promos for television. He lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California.

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One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down. What a great read. Ballard captures life in small town America. David vs. Goliath.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this nonstop Well written about a small town and its phenomenal players, teachers and families. For me it was trip back to the places I called home during my chilhood and adolescence. It was a softer, more slow paced time that I only wish I could pass on to my grandchildren.
sistersam More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! What a great story....it's a quick read, and you'll want to pass it around! A GREAT gift! This teacher taught these small town boys so much more than how to win at baseball. I can't wait for the movie!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a very enjoyable read. Growing up during this time period in neighboring Indiana I could relate to much of what the main characters in the book were going through as they made their way thru the turbulent 1960's and early 1970's. The story definitely makes you think of the movie Hoosiers as they work their way through the Illinois state baseball tournament. The book was well researched and is more than just a sports book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I selected this book because the summary on the back of the book was very relatable to my life. I used to play baseball and just like the Macon Ironmen we were not expected to win. We were in last place in our league. With all of the hope and support from everyone and a great coach making us better we won the championship just like the Ironmen. I would definitely recommend this book to another high schooler because it is very inspiring to read and fun to see the team keep on winning and building their confidence more and more as they win. Anyone who likes baseball should read this because there is so much action and scenes that you may be able to relate to because you play. This book definitely met my expectations because it was a fun and action packed sports book. My favorite books to read are sports books but not every sports book is interesting and has a lot of action but this one did. I will definitely read another one of Ballard's books 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A candid look into the heart of baseball. These kids just loved to play and their unconventional coach allowed them to have fun. Also a poignant reminder of a special time of life. Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book.
RickyS1 More than 1 year ago
One Shot At Forever tells the unlikely story of a small town high school baseball team from Illinois, and their "hippie" coach, who went from a group of nothings to one of the best baseball teams in Illinois. I chose this book because baseball is one of my favorite sports, and when I read what the book was about it just sounded really interesting. Chris Ballard creates a suspenseful story of the classic situation of the big city versus the small town that no one had ever heard of. This story brings the reader back to Macon, Illinois in 1971, the book makes the reader feel like they are hanging out with the team and Lynn Sweet. The book puts the reader on pins and needles from start to finish. All the setbacks that Macon had to face in the story made the book so much better. Ballard put so much detail into making sure he incorporated the group of boys actual bond. It wasn't faked to make it look they they liked each other more, it's written how it actually happened, they were all one big family. The entire story inspired me to try to become a better baseball player. It made me think that if these guys from Macon, Illinois can do that well playing against who were thought to be better teams, than I probably can too. One of the things I loved about the book was how none of the team cared about what people thought about them, with their controversial long hair and hippie coach. This book went beyond my expectations, I thought it would be like any other baseball story that I’ve read. However this book was very different, one of the things that I loved about the book was that it was a true story, when I was reading all about all the amazing things that the team did I had to keep reminding myself that it was actually a true story. Overall I loved this book, I didn't want to put it down. I would recommend this book to others because it is such an inspirational story, especially if you play baseball I think this would be a great book to read.
Rickysjr More than 1 year ago
One Shot At Forever tells the unlikely story of a small town high school baseball team from Illinois, and their "hippie" coach, who went from a group of nothings to one of the best baseball teams in Illinois. Chris Ballard creates a suspenseful story of the classic situation of the big city versus the small town that no one had ever heard of. This story brings the reader back to Macon, Illinois in 1971, the book makes the reader feel like they are hanging out with the team and Lynn Sweet. The book puts the reader on pins and needles from start to finish. All the setbacks that Macon had to face in the story made the book so much better. Ballard put so much detail into making sure he incorporated the group of boys actual bond. It wasn't faked to make it look they liked each other more, it's written how it actually happened, they were all one big family. The entire story inspired me to try to become a better baseball player. It made me think that if these guys from Macon, Illinois can do that well playing against teams who were thought to be better teams, than I probably can too. One of the things I loved about the book was how none of the team cared about what people thought about them, with their controversial long hair and hippie coach. Overall I loved this book, I didn't want to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was good, but was a little slow in the beginning. I selected this text because i am a huge baseball fan and i love everything to do with the sport.  I would absolutely recommend this book to any other fellow students that love baseball, or are looking for a great book about being an underdog. I think this book reached my expectations, especially when the baseball season began for the boys of Macon. I look forward to reading any other books by Ballard. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I chose to read this book because I love the game of baseball. I've played the game all of my life and there's no other sport quite like it. I would recommend the text to another high school reader because the book is addictive and quick to read. Though it is short, the story was filled with many lessons and morals I can relate and learn from. The text met my expectation of a great book because of the excitement of the games and the strong connection I felt towards the team. It reminded me of my past summers on the Medway all star baseball teams. Playoffs were always the best part of summer baseball and our team always found a way to overcome the strong teams in our way.   
RJDunne More than 1 year ago
I selected this book because the summary on the back of the book was very relatable to my life. I used to play baseball and just like the Macon Ironmen we were not expected to win. We were in last place in our league. With all of the hope and support from everyone and a great coach making us better, we won the championship just like the Ironmen. I would definitely recommend this book to another high school student because it is very inspiring to read and fun to see the team keeps on winning and building their confidence increasingly as they win. Anyone who likes baseball should read this because there is so much action and scenes that you may be able to relate to because you play. This book definitely met my expectations because it was a fun and action packed sports book. My favorite books to read are sports books. Not every sports book is interesting and has a lot of action as this one did. I will definitely read another one of Ballard's books. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tday More than 1 year ago
Ballard does a masterful job of recreating that special time that some of us still remember, when there was only one state tournament for each sport across the state. No classes, big schools vs small schools, winner take all. This is a story that inspires and entertains at the same time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book alot i am a die hard baseball fan so i really did enjoy it. If i can read it agian i would!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DJHGoBlue More than 1 year ago
A great story about unlikely heroes. Ideal for baseball fans, but really for anyone who loves a good "David vs. Goliath" true life story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great story. It traces a small town high school baseball team during an amazing two seasons. The coach uses completely unorthodox methods to mold his team into a winning unit. If you are a baseball fan or not, this is a true David versus Goliath story. It goes on to briefly trace the lives of the participants to show how they continued to be affected by these two magical seasons.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Through the liives of these unknown heroes and their free spirited coach, you can tag along for the one shot at forever. You will cheat yourself if you do not read this book that touches on all the truly important things in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Story. Excellent writer. If you played baseball in high school, particularly at a small school as I did, you will enjoy this book.
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