67 of 78 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.
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.
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 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.
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.
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.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 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.
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.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2006
This lifelong Cardinals fan managed to get through the book, but it's hard to imagine any non Cardinals fan who is not a speed reader doing the same.
Though I am not an obsessive baseball fan (haven't seen a game even on TV for nearly 20 years), the in-game stategies Bissinger details are nothing surprising; in context, anyone, experienced or not, would seem likely to come up with them. Readers will learning virtually nothing here.
To give Bissinger a break, it seems he agreed and perhaps signed a contract to write this book without realizing there would not be anything to say.
Bissinger does not deserve a break for his criticisms of Lewis' "Moneyball," however. (The hardback edition of "3 Nights," perhaps, is not so strongly positioned against that far better book, but the paperback I read contains an afterword devoted entirely to trashing Lewis' book without (a) any understanding of it, (b) apparently, a rereading of it, and (c) any evidence whatsoever to butress Bissinger's "ya gotta have heart" position.
Likewise, Bissinger deserves no break for the horribly bad, lazy prose here. Examples: Pujols is referred to in his first 20 or so mentions as "the great Pujols." No variations (not even "the really great") of the phrase are used. Page 275: a player plays "each and every game at five hundred percent." Page 254: a World Series victory is marked by a "Rubik's Cube of a hug." Page 243 (and elsewhere): "sultry hot," as if "sultry" does not imply "hot." Page 224: "white hair as finely woven as pasta." This is the kind of writing folks compose deliberately to win bad writing contests.
Disappointingly, the paperback edition, at least, doesn't even have any pictures.
Stay away from this one.
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 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.
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.