One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and A Magical Baseball Season by Chris Ballard (Hyperion, $24.95, 254 pages)
“He loved us boys… He loved us, and we loved him – and we still do.” Steve Shartzer on Macon high’s former baseball coach Lynn Sweet
One Shot at Forever proves that Bad News Bears stories do happen in real life. This is the tale of the 1971 high school baseball team from the rust belt town of Macon, Illinois. The Macon team represented the smallest high school to ever qualify for the Illinois state championship playoff, and they did it not once, but two years in a row. The talented team with the mismatched uniforms and an unconventional coach (he was said to look like a hung-over version of Frank Zappa) was headed to Peoria in 1970, before being disqualified on a strange technicality. It looked like the underdog’s day was over, until the slight, long-haired players very improbably made another championship run in ’71.
The boys from Macon adopted Jesus Christ Superstar as their theme song, and they made it all the way to the state championship final game. Did they win or lose the big game? You’ll need to read One Shot to find out.
Chris Ballard has produced a great, small but big, book about life’s lessons and the value of competition. This one’s especially recommended for younger readers whose wins, losses and draws are still ahead of them.