One Shot at Forever
A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season
By Chris Ballard
(Hachette Books, Paperback, 9781401312664, 288pp.)
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
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"One Shot at Forever is powerful, inspirational. . . . 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
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 370 teams to represent the smallest school in Illinois history to make the state final, a distinction that still stands. There the Ironmen would play against a Chicago powerhouse in a dramatic game that would change their lives forever.
In this gripping, cinematic narrative, 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 the ragtag team, intent on teaching the boys as much about life as baseball. Together they embarked on an improbable postseason run that buoyed a small town in desperate need of something to celebrate.
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 that among a coach, a team, and a town.
"Macon's run at the title reminds us why sports matter and why sportswriting has such great power to inspire. . . . [It's] one hell of a good story, and Ballard has written one hell of a good book." --Jonathan Eig, Chicago Tribune
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.