The Last Magic Summer: A Season with My Son

Overview

After a rollercoaster career as a pro football star and bestselling author, Peter Gent's ride in the fast lane ended in a bruising divorce and custody battle. Afterward, he returned to his hometown to rebuild his relationship with his son, Carter. This chronicle of ten seasons coaching Carter's "Connie Mack" league baseball team celebrates the redemptive power of sports, the healing bond between father and son, and the bittersweet turning point when a father must face the proud ...

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Overview

After a rollercoaster career as a pro football star and bestselling author, Peter Gent's ride in the fast lane ended in a bruising divorce and custody battle. Afterward, he returned to his hometown to rebuild his relationship with his son, Carter. This chronicle of ten seasons coaching Carter's "Connie Mack" league baseball team celebrates the redemptive power of sports, the healing bond between father and son, and the bittersweet turning point when a father must face the proud yet painful process of letting go.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Much of the text early on has to do with the bitter and prolonged divorce in the 1980s of ex-NFL player Gent (North Dallas Forty) and his second wife, whom he portrays as a lying, thieving birdbrain (deciding that she wants a career, she is torn between painting and selling real estate) who is determined to use their son, Carter, as a bargaining chip in their battles. And, as if the catalogue of his domestic woes is insufficient, Gent provides details on his brother's death from cancer, his own recurring back injury and the decline of his hometown of Bangor, Mich., where even the trees died, of Dutch elm disease. What uplift there is here is provided by his account of the summer of 1993, when Gent coached and Carter starred on the Bangor Connie Mack League team, which made it to the district finals, then lost. But with the end of the summer, Carter went off to college, leaving Gent alone with his memories and the prospect of a lonely old age. Intended to be poignant, the story is only gloomy. (June)
Library Journal
Gent, a former football star and author of the best-selling North Dallas Forty (1973), here tackles the subject closest to his heart: his relationship with his son, Carter. Ostensibly, this is a book about amateur baseball. Yet it is really a book about how baseball helped to heal emotional wounds and strengthened a bond between father and son. A finely told story that will circulate well in most libraries.
Kirkus Reviews
This poignant if occasionally rambling memoir is a curious departure for Gent, who is known primarily for his rowdy novels of sporting world disclosure (North Dallas Forty, 1973; North Dallas After Forty, 1989; etc.).

Until the early '80s, former pro footballer Gent admittedly had it all: a successful writing career, a stately Texas ranch, a lovely wife and adorable, perceptive six-year-old son named Carter. One day in 1983, however, that all changed when Gent's wife (whom the author refers to only as "she" or "Carter's mother") announced she was leaving and taking everything—joint accounts, cars, house, and property. The separation, divorce, and ensuing custody battle (which Gent won) are recounted in excruciating detail. Now destitute, Gent moved back home to the rust belt agrarian hamlet of Bangor, Mich., a town where "the Fonz woulda got his ass stomped by every farm kid." Carter grew into an accomplished athlete. And Gent reached for "the only analgesia . . . to mitigate the damage" caused by his troubles: supporting and sharing his son's love for baseball. Coaching Carter's AABC Connie Mack league team (age group 1618), Gent became both reacquainted with his sporting career—a bittersweet reconciliation, given that his body, battered by football, was constantly racked with pain—and better acquainted with his son. But despite the frequent depictions of both Carter's childhood antics and his ball club's valiant struggles against better-funded, more talented opposition, this folksy and dour book is essentially Gent's mid-life memoir.

Frequently touching, this is too often hamstrung by sentimental and self-conscious commentary, a curious and somewhat hollow story coming from a middle-age man best known for his "take-no-prisoners" approach to sports writing, who, like many before him, is forced at once to take stock of his life and confront mortality.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688155612
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/1998
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.71 (w) x 8.93 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Gent, a former Dallas Cowboy, has written five novels, including best-sellers North Dallas Forty and The Franchise. He lives in Bangor, Michigan

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Read an Excerpt

I was sick with anxiety. We were losing! This was it! Bangor versus Kalamazoo Too in Bangor, July 23, 1992.

After winning five of six of our regular season Connie Mack games against Kalamazoo Too, this "playoff game" had been forced on us by league director and Kalamazoo Maroons Organization general manager Mike Hinga. I was pissed and I was scared.

My son, Carter, was coming up to bat. We were behind, 4-3, in the bottom of the sixth with one out and a man on second. All our work. The whole season coming down to this seven-inning game and the pressure was on Carter to deliver.

I was not at all happy about having to play this game. At a meeting earlier in the week, I had argued against it with Mike Hinga. My position was that we had already won the right to a spot in the 1992 American Amateur Baseball Congress Connie Mack State District Tournament on the basis of our taking five of six from Kalamazoo Too. Mike said he had refigured the season using a different win-loss formula and we had to have this "playoff game." It was a one-sided discussion. The Double-header League was his league. Not only was he league director, but as general manager of the Kalamazoo Maroons AABC Organization, Mike had overall responsibility for the other three teams in the league.

All three teams, the Maroons, Kalamazoo Too, and RATHCO,(named after the company that sponsored it), wore Maroons uniforms. His three votes against my one. He had me mouse-trapped. The meeting was simply a pretense that we were having a reasonable discussion, reaching an amicable compromise. Fait accompli, I had lost before I started. Outsmarted. Outmaneuvered. Outcoached. Pure Baseball. Can't hit the corners? Redefinethe corners. It ain't cheating if you don't get caught.

So, we had to beat Kalamazoo Too, again. Six out of seven? This was proving a very difficult task. These guys were good baseball players. They had already beat the Maroons once and tied them once.

Man for man, I thought my kids were better but we lacked KTOO's depth. And we were tired. Carter and his Bangor teammates had spent the day getting the field into playing shape. They were moving water, shoveling mud, spreading sand and crushed rock, and lining the field all day long. Meanwhile, the Kalamazoo Too kids rested at home. It had poured all the night before and nobody from the Bangor Summer Recreation Program could be bothered to repair the field. It was their job. They had the proper equipment. They got paid money for doing it. But I could not get them to do anything but frown and shake their heads.

Since the kids had worked all day in ninety-degree heat, they started tired, without a keen edge and concentration — hell, l was tired and all I had done was watch them work — now, we had big trouble with Kalamazoo Too.

Their Greg Grosvenor had been throwing well and had scat-tered our hits.

If we lost this game to the number two team in the Kalamazoo Maroons Connie Mack Organization, we would fail to qualify for the state district tournament. The alternative was to cancel and I knew that meant Mike Hinga would declare us forfeit and KTOO would get the district tournament seed. (Mike was also the AABC Connie Mack tournament director for our state district.)

My team. My kids. My son. I tried to look out for their interestsand protect their rights. But Hinga had to do the same thing for his teams and he had sixty kids who paid around three or four hundred dollars apiece to play. At those prices, parents wanted winners. They certainly would be upset if their kids kept getting spanked by this little hillbilly town of eighteen hundred people from the swamp thirty miles west on the road to Lake Michigan. I had twelve kids who paid eight dollars apiece if they had it. Many didn't and Carter's grandmother often made up the difference out of her small pension, Social Security, and decreasing savings. The Maroons organization's success was Hinga's responsibility and Mike knew baseball. I was overmatched.

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