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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than an underdog story
Everybody loves an underdog story. Chris Ballard's One Shot at Forever provides all of the nail-biting excitement characteristic of the David and Goliath tales of the sports world. I am sure that many will make comparisons to Hoosiers -- with its local color (Hickory - Macon, IL), star athlete (Jimmy Chitwood - Steve Shartzer), and controversial coach (Norman Dale -...
Published on May 16, 2012 by Padrepat

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing pages
Great book actually despite the fact about 30 pages were missing. But caused me to use my imagination I guess.
Published 13 months ago by Carl J. Sefl


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than an underdog story, May 16, 2012
Everybody loves an underdog story. Chris Ballard's One Shot at Forever provides all of the nail-biting excitement characteristic of the David and Goliath tales of the sports world. I am sure that many will make comparisons to Hoosiers -- with its local color (Hickory - Macon, IL), star athlete (Jimmy Chitwood - Steve Shartzer), and controversial coach (Norman Dale - Lynn Sweet) -- and justifiably so. But One Shot at Forever is so much more.

This book transcends the sports genre. It is a character-driven page turner that will appeal to sports fans and non-sports fans alike. It offers a layered and nuanced portrait of Coach Lynn Sweet, the unforgettable protagonist whose unconventional approaches will captivate most readers just as the Robin Williams character did in Dead Poet's Society. And it pays careful attention to temporal characteristics and weaves them into the story in subtle fashion, much like Matthew Weiner does in Mad Men. Readers will feel transported to the early 1970s whether they lived through the era or not and will have a hard time not feeling nostalgic, as if they were part of Macon Ironmen themselves.

Ballard is a gifted writer who draws on his superior reporting and keen attention to detail to paint an intricate picture of a group of boys--bound together by America's game--coming of age against a small town, Vietnam era backdrop.

I couldn't put it down.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Story and an Indelible Portrait of a Small Town, May 15, 2012
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Best book I've read this year. As Ballard is a writer at SI I was hardly surprised that this is a fantastic baseball story. But I was delighted to discover that the book delivers so much more. The main character, a teacher and coach named Lynn Sweet, is as remarkable a character as I can recall. He's a sensitive, courageous, free thinker, who finds himself plunked down in a time and place where conformity is the rule. As a high school teacher, I found myself inspired by Sweet's story. And the book is also the portrait of a small town seeking an identity through the exploits of its baseball team. Ballard's exquisite reporting not only preserves that identity for the town of Macon, but he also allows the rest of us to savor the folkways of a (recently) bygone era.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a sports story, May 15, 2012
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I've read much of Ballard's work in Sports Illustrated over the past decade, and I got an early look at his latest book, One Shot at Forever. One Shot is a book-length example of his emergence as one of the top long-form narrative writers going today. (For proof, Google his stories about Jill Costello or Mike Powell, or his National Magazine Award finalist piece about Dewayne Dedmon.)

At the highest level, the story runs much like Hoosiers, with a small-town Illinois baseball team going on an unlikely run against larger schools. But the real power of the book comes from the interplay of a small town stuck in the 1950s, an outsider coach straight out of the hippie-ville 1960s, a bunch of kids coming of age in the early 1970s, and the memories still seared in their minds as adults today.

Those memories are the real payoff of what's already an engaging story. The narrative is engaging on its own, but the way the games of their youth still stick in the psyche of many of the players, who now are in their 50s and 60s, goes right to what we cherish about high school sports -- whether we played them, coached them, or just cheered on our hometown heroes.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coach Briggs, May 22, 2012
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Steve Briggs (Decatur, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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Chris Ballard has created a book that is so much more than a sports story. It's a story about the town where I coached and taught for 33 years and the people who played, worked, and lived there. I began my teaching career in 1972, the year after the Ironmen had gone to state and I've met many of the players and heard all of the stories about their dramatic run to the finals. Ballard has recreated a wonderful time for this community that changed the lives of these young men and showcases the great leadership talents of their coach L.C. Sweet. For over 30 years he touched the lives of countless students in the classroom as well as the athletic field in a positive way. What an achievement, and what a book!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, May 15, 2012
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I read the article when it came out about a year ago, and couldn't wait to get my hands on the book. Ended up devouring it in one sitting (and stayed up way too late!). Several scenes in the book had me laughing and/or crying. Long live Lynn Sweet!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, May 17, 2012
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I finished this book in two days - it was impossible to put down. I'm an Australian who knows very little about baseball, but I still found this to be a really good read. The book covers so much more than the story of a baseball season.

Chris Ballard does a terrific job of making the reader feel like they've been transported to Macon in the early 1970's. The characters - especially coach Lynn Sweet - provide an engaging storyline that really give an insight into the social changes going on in that era.

This is not a game-by-game review of the baseball season - this is a book that shows how a small town can be defined by the exploits of a few, and how one person can have such an influence on those he guides.

There's no question this is worth five stars.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Shot at Forever is a must, June 6, 2012
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First of all, One shot at Forever is a wonderful story. It is a story of courage, leadership, loyalty and a magical chemistry of a team and coach and their unbelievable climb to success and fame.

It is a baseball story and in some ways it reminded me of Money Ball.

I loved Money Ball and how Michael Lewis was true to Billy Beane's character and the story of how he single handedly changed professional Baseball.

Chris Ballard, in One Shot at Forever, is as true to this wonderful story and characters as Lewis;
And his characters are all so lovable.

I also think that One Shot, for so many reasons, is an important read for all of us.
It is a great, great American story in a tough time in American history.

Thank you Chris for doing such a thorough job in the research and at the same time turning this into an exciting and inspirational story to read.

If parents and coaches could only read One Shot at Forever and follow Lynn Sweet's main values:
Have fun, don't take it too seriously and facilitate the chemistry and whatever else it takes to give your kids an unconditional confidence that is so strong that it takes them far beyond what any person in their right mind could have predicted.

Sweet claims throughout the book and his life that he did not know how to coach and that he did not do anything but the kids did it all.
It reminded me of another wise man by the name of Socrates who claimed he did not know anything....

I read One Shot in one night.

I cried more than once.

Bravo, bravo, bravo!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming and timely for Father's Day, May 24, 2012
By 
Owen S. Good (San Jose, Calif.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In 2010, Chris Ballard, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, got a phone call pitching what was, essentially, a "Hoosiers" of baseball: Tiny Illinois high school, in an open-classification state playoff, knocks off a big-city team. The feature Ballard wrote then was widely acclaimed; this is that story, told more expansively and with rich detail.

What gives "One Shot at Forever" its hold on the reader's mind are its strong characters and the indelible moments of their remarkable run as an unlikely baseball power. John Heneberry, the lanky junkballer who "ain't got s---" but confounded his opposition thanks to his father's scouting, was my favorite. There's the intense Steve Shartzer, laying in his hotel bed staring at the ceiling, suffused with a responsibility he will feel his entire life. And at the center of it is Lynn Sweet, the iconoclast coach helped by an understanding, pragmatic superintendent and thwarted by a hard-ass drill sergeant of a principal.

A lesser writer would have approached this story on rails, as its arc will feel familiar to most readers. But even as Ballard explores well known themes of coming of age, beloved mentors, and impossible triumphs, he writes anything but a typical story. This is a great, unknown tale of American sports, one infused with a strong sense of place that will be visceral to anyone who grew up in a very small town, or in the early 1970s, and especially both.

"One Shot at Forever" is an eminently recommendable book for any sports fan, and a perfect fit as a Father's Day gift--not so much for the sports angle, but for what Sweet represents, still after all these years, to the young men he helped raise.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Blast from the Past, January 19, 2013
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I lived in Macon when this story took place. My brother played baseball with those boys at the elementary school. I watched them all from the top of the slide at the playground. I remember them telling my brother that he would be batting "clean-up" as he was a power hitter. He joined the Marines and did not play on the team. Mr.& Mrs. Sweet lived directly behind me In the trailer park and Mrs. Sweet was my typing teacher. I listened to the final game on the radio and waited in the high school gym for the team to return so that I could watch my sister graduate. It was a great time!
So was this book. One Shot at Forever really captures the flavor of living in Macon during that time. He people are dipicted accurately. The story is riveting and inspiring. I hope the book is made into a movie, but I doubt the best actors in Hollywood could hold a candle to this real cast of characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed much!, July 30, 2013
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Probably one reason I enjoyed it so much ....we were visiting family in Mt. Zion, IL when I read it (several of the family read it), so we even went on a "field trip" to Macon to see the locale for ourselves. Also think Chris Ballard is a very talented writer & am anxious to read some of his other books
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One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season
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