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

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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 ...

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

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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 fiery star 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.

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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
"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
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."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452660295
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2012
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: MP3 - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 7.59 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Ballard is a Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated. In his ten years at the magazine he's written features, columns and bonus-length stories and covered a range of subjects, from the NBA and MLB to high-stakes pigeon racing and bass fishing. His work has been anthologized in the Best American Sports Writing series and he has twice been nominated by SI for a National Magazine Award. Ballard has also written a number of stories for the New York Times Magazine and is the author of three books: Hoops Nation (Holt, 1998), The Butterfly Hunter (Doubleday, 2006) and The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA (Simon & Schuster/SI Books, 2009). He lives in Berkeley, CA.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part 1 Welcome to Macon

Prelude 5

1 Beginnings 7

2 Shark 14

3 Write Your Own Obituary 20

4 "Practice Is Optional" 32

5 Lost in the Corn 42

6 He Ain't Got Shit 49

7 It Only Takes One 65

8 The Announcement 77

9 Long Summer Nights 81

10 Un-American, or Unpatriotic 90

Part 2 The Forever Season

Prelude 99

11 Another Shot 101

12 Hippies, Tape Decks, and a Silent Infield 109

13 The First Step 120

14 We've Only Just Begun 129

15 Big Coop 140

16 Riding into Peoria 153

17 The Baseball Factory 171

18 The Drums 177

19 One Shot 189

20 June 1971 201

Part 3 Ghosts

21 Never the Same 207

22 The Return 221

Acknowledgments 231

Notes 235

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 25 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    GREATTTTT!

    I couldn't put the book down. What a great read. Ballard captures life in small town America. David vs. Goliath.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 15, 2012

    You will LOVE this story!

    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!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    Home...home

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    excellent EXCELLENT Excellent

    I really enjoyed this book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    I found this book to be a very enjoyable read. Growing up durin

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2014

    I selected this book because the summary on the back of the book

    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 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    The Heart of Baseball....

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2014

    I thought this book was good, but was a little slow in the begin

    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. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2014

    I chose to read this book because I love the game of baseball. I

    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.   

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 26, 2014

    I selected this book because the summary on the back of the book

    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. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 10, 2013

    Sports fan or not, a must-read!

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2013

    Book review

    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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 11, 2013

    A great story about unlikely heroes. Ideal for baseball fans, b

    A great story about unlikely heroes. Ideal for baseball fans, but really for anyone who loves a good "David vs. Goliath" true life story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Very good book

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    LIFE LIES WITHIN THESE PAGES

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    More Than Just A Book About Baseball

    Great Story. Excellent writer. If you played baseball in high school, particularly at a small school as I did, you will enjoy this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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