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66 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2005
St.Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa hired Buzz Bissinger ("Friday Night Lights") to pen this study of a three-game series between the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs in August 2003. It's a good read, but won't be of much interest to a non-baseball fan. Bissinger clearly read Daniel Okrent's "Nine Innings" before he sat down to write, for Okrent's book is a detailed look at a single 1982 game, with analysis of personalities, baseball lore, tactics, and psychology sprinkled in as the game goes along. Fortunately, and unlike "Nine Innings", this book lets a few pitches go by in the name of a smooth and lively narrative. So readers don't get bogged down in too many details but can get through the three-game series in 250 pages. Bissinger clearly knows his audience, since the Cardinals big year wasn't 2003 and the season covered by this narrative, but rather 2004 when the team went to the World Series. So the author apends a few pages at the end describing the fates of some of the key players and the 2004 season -- certain to satisfy any Cardinal fan.

The most interesting sections are the discussions of the personalities of the players. Even La Russa, driven and manic and oblivious to the damage he is doing to his own marriage, is not quite as interesting as some of the athletes. There is Cal Eldred's journey from New York phenomenon to effective elder statesman; there is Kerry Robinson, who over-estimates his own talents and squeaks by with the occasional ability to have startling success; there is Yoda-like pitching coach Dave Duncan; the frustrating wasted talents of JD Drew and Garret Stephenson. And of course, there is the great Albert Pujols, with a talent so majestic and sublime that he may eventually rank among the handful of greatest players ever.

"3 Nights in August" is a fun read for baseball fans, and particularly Cardinal fans. Bissinger is a bit rah-rah in his devotion to La Russa, who paid him to write this book, but the cheering --like the book-- is all in fun.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2005
Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August is his best effort yet -which says much, given the Pulitzer Prize winner's achievements with Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City. Three Nights in August is a marvelous blend of insights into baseball technique and strategy (information that will intrigue even the most knowledgeable of the sport) and revelations about the human condition, particularly in the context of teamwork, role-palying and leadership. This tightly written book, which uses as its setting a three-game series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs in the heat of a division race, is one of substance. Anyone who has not read the book and might believe it to be just another cookie-cutter, pedestrian "as told to" vanity piece is sorely mistaken. Like Bissinger's previous works, this is a must-read.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2005
3 Nights in August is an awesome look at baseball and why it is such a great game. Buzz Bissinger follows Tony LaRussa around and chronicles a 3 game series with the Cubs. There are plenty of asides - histories of players, coaches, strategy think sessions, etc. It really brought baseball to life for me. For too many years I have lived through "fantasy" baseball, numbers flying at me through the internet. That is no way to enjoy baseball. To enjoy it through the eyes of a manager and a team that love the game - that was something very fun.

However, if you don't like baseball, you probably will be bored silly throughout this book. But you never know - give it a chance and you may appreciate the game a little bit more.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Bissinger's book isn't as inspiring as FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, but he's a careful stylist, and the depth of his take on manager Tony LaRussa may never be equalled. Tony's fights and reconciliations with his wife, Elaine, over family issues and how to work out a long distance marriage are part of the book, a big part, and any honest reader will see both sides to the story and will come away with admiration for both LaRussa's for trying to handle a difficult issue in public.

Darryl Kile's death, which ironically occurred in Chicago, the city with which St Louis has such a great rivalry, is presented here in moving detail. I feel sorry for Flynn, Kile's lovely wife, and their children. Their little boy is maybe three or four now and yet he will never know his father.

The story of Rick Ankiel is treated more lightly, and will keep you in stitches. Ankiel, the pride of Fort Pierce, comes off in Bissinger's aphoristic prose as a bit of a flake.

The three games Bissinger writes about are thrillingly presented, but when I closed the book it all seemed to have happened so long ago, particularly because only in the past year or so has the issue really been broached about steroid use. LaRussa seems honest about this, but it's hard to tell how much he's covering his own ass about rampant steroid use on his team and what he knew about it. After Jose Canseco's book and congressional hearings into the matter, maybe the real story will have to wait until a few more players die brutal and unexpected deaths. Or perhaps, as Canseco implies, you're not really a man if you can't handle the drugs that go with baseball.

I must also add a word in favor of LaRussa's work with the Animal Rescue people. No matter what people say about Tony, you know his heart is in the right place, and this animal work is nothing new for him, he's been into it for eons. Good for him. If St Louis ever tires of T, there's a place for him reserved at Rainbow Bridge.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2005
This is another wonderful book by Buzz Bissinger. It is not only entertaining, but also enlightening. But what else would we expect from a collaboration between a top writer and one of baseball's best managers? "Three Nights in August" rates as one of my three favorite reads this 2005 season -- with "Hank Aaron and the Home Run That Changed America" and "The Luckiest Man Alive." All three are superb.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2005
It's hard to believe the Tony LaRussa in 3 Nights in August is the same expressionless man I see in the dugout every Cardinals game.

I'm a huge baseball fan and a coach, and I recommend this book to every ball player before he begins playing in high school. The book was educational for me as a coach, and I wish I'd have read it when I was playing. As a fan, it's easy for me disagree with a manager's decisions when he puts in a .230 average utility infielder in a close game, but two of my favorite topics in the book are the importance of bench management and developing younger players.

My only complaint about the book is Buzz Bissinger's vocabulary. I read because I enjoy it and it keeps my mind sharp. I have reasonable intelligence and a decent vocabulary. But I think Bissinger, like too many authors, sacrifices the flow of the story to boast his own vocabulary, and, in the process, he makes the reader feel intellectually-inferior. Any word that isn't used at least rarely in a conversation should be equally absent in a book. It's frustrating when I'm reading about baseball and I have to stop to figure out or look up the meaning of words like leitmotif.

Aside from the abundance of unnecessary foreign words, I loved the book. Bissinger did a great job of showing the different personalities of the Cardinals players, coaches, and behind-the-scenes workers.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2005
This book taps into the incredible baseball mind of Tony La Russa, who has managed three great teams - the White Sox, the A's, and now the Cardinals - and spent 40 years studying and absorbing the game. Bissinger is a great fly on the wall - Friday Night Lights is one of my favorite books of all time - and his inside the dugout view is informative, interesting, and occasionally very moving. The chapter about Darryl Kile had me in tears. Buy this for any baseball fan in your life.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2005
This book gives a good look into the strategy that TLR uses in his management style. If I wasn't a Cardinals fan I probably wouldn't have enjoyed this book as well. I will likely re-read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2007
3 Nights in August provides an interesting narrative to talk about a baseball team including the players, managers and all of the supporting staff. By limiting the book to just one series of three games, it uses small incidents to imply season-long issues. Yet, the author does blend in backstory to provide context.

This is one of the first books I have read that effectively counters sabermetric studies by giving more a detailed view of how a manager is treating particular players on a given night. The book includes glimpses such as LaRussa trying to manage the hurt feelings of millionaire players. Rather than showing sympathy for anyone, it provides a straight look at why LaRussa, who has never been known as a softie, must balance player personalities with their skills or risk having professionals act unprofessional.

Since the book is essentially told from LaRussa's point of view, it does gloss over some of the most significant criticisms of the manager. However, that is not the point. Since LaRussa is known for being a manager who feels the weight of every loss, this does a nice job of communicating how last night's game impacts this manager's view of tonight's game. All-in-all, I would recommend the book to any baseball fan who wants a closer look into the dugout.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2005
3 Nights in August is a very solid baseball book, one that should be enjoyable to any baseball fan. It is interesting to see how an accomplished manager thinks throughout the game, not only about the specific strategies of the three games in question, but also about his players, about players on other teams and about other issues in baseball. While describing the accounts of an important three game series in August, 2003 against the Chicago Cubs, Bissinger also tells us about how Tony La Russa, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, thinks about some general baseball issues. These issues include: throwing at hitters, handling individual players, looking at statistics as a guide only, steroids, and family life.

Some of his ideas are controversial. For example, it seems La Russa believes that any opponent pitcher that hits one of his batters did it on purpose. In particular, a pitch thrown by Kerry Wood in the second game of the three game series grazes the shirt of Pujols. It doesn't even hit any skin, muscle or bone, just nicks the shirt. In baseball, this is still considered a hit-batsman, and Pujols is awarded first base. However, La Russa still has vengeance in his head, and it is described how he plans to plunk Sosa, and is perturbed when his pitcher does not do the job correctly in the following innings. An eye for an eye, anytime his hitters gets hit, he wants to go after their guys. That's La Russa's philosophy, and in my opinion, it's a dangerous one and a stupid one. If he's going to plunk Sosa, what would stop the opposing manager from taking retaliation himself - especially if Pujols was not even hit, but it only nicked the shirt? I'll bet if La Russa was in the manager of the opposing team too, he would look at a possible Sosa plunking as reason to go after another one of the Cardinal hitters. And that's how these beanbrawls escalate.

The book also covers a bit about La Russa's views on steroids. He's one of the few people in baseball that admits that he had an inkling that baseball players, on his team and others as well, were using them. However what bothers me about the account about steroids in this book is the lack of insight into Mark McGwire. La Russa was his manager for many years with Oakland and St. Louis. Yet the discussion in this book is more on Canseco than McGwire. There's even a bit of propaganda that Bissinger writes: "He (McGwire) was big when he came into the league in 1986..." This was mentioned to mean that McGwire didn't get all that big, therefore he wasn't on steroids. But anyone who has ever seen one of McGwire's rookie baseball cards (just hit it up on ebay and you can find one) can easily see that by 1998, McGwire was about four times as big as he was back in his rookie season in 1986. He was a twig back then, a tall lanky guy with a long swing. In 1998, he was Paul Bunyon in real life, making even Sammy Sosa look like a little man. Why spend the time to harp on Canseco when McGwire is the more important baseball figure, and the one that La Russa knew more about? That was disappointing, but understandable since La Russa is still loyal to McGwire, but not to Canseco.

As for some folks that think this is an anti-Moneyball book - it is not...definitely not. There is rare mention of Moneyball or sabremetrics.

All in all, I thought this was a worthwhile book. Bissinger does a good job in relaying how La Russa thinks. Of course, not everyone is going to like or agree with every one of his thoughts, but the fact they were presented clearly and in an enjoyable way makes this book highly recommended.
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