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.
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 menone white, one blackbelieved 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 Coylewho acted as one of the coachesnotes, 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 Kikuyusan ever-changing group of youngsters aged 9-12made 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)