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Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager

4.3 out of 5 stars 150 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bissinger eschews the usual method of writing about baseball in the context of a season or a career, choosing instead to dissect the game by carefully watching one three-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs in late 2003. The Pulitzer-winning journalist and author of Friday Night Lights had unprecedented access to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, as well as his staff and team, and he used that entrée to pick La Russa's formidable baseball brain about everything from how he assembles a lineup to why he uses certain relievers. As the series unfolds, Bissinger reveals La Russa's history and personality, conveying the manager's intensity and his compulsive need to be prepared for any situation that might arise during " 'the war' of each at-bat." Typical characters—the gamer, the natural, the headcase, the crafty old timer—are present, but Bissinger gives new life to their familiar stories with his insider's view and cheeky descriptions (e.g., "Martinez's response to pressure has been like a 45-rpm record, a timeless hit on one side, and the flip side maybe best forgotten"). Bissinger analyzes each team's pitch-by-pitch strategy and gets the dirt on numerous enduring baseball questions: What does it feel like to have to close your first game in Yankee Stadium? Who knew about players using steroids before the current scandal hit? Do managers tell their pitchers to throw at hitters? Mixing classic baseball stories with little-known details and an exclusive perspective, this work should appeal to any baseball fan.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Bissinger, whose "Friday Night Lights" celebrated high-school football in Texas, here explores baseball through the eyes of the St. Louis Cardinals' current manager, Tony La Russa. A three-game series against the Chicago Cubs in 2003 frames the narrative, and provides an opportunity to explore the quirks of the contemporary game; clubhouses offer four flavors of sunflower seeds, for instance, while a Cardinals' relief pitcher performs his pregame rituals in the nude. La Russa comes across as a passionate, conflicted man. He's an animal-rights activist who drives an Escalade, and an information omnivore prone to misusing baseball statistics; and, while he's the sixth-winningest manager in history, he still gets so upset about losing that he has been known to stomp off the team bus and walk in solitude back to his hotel after a defeat. Granted complete access to La Russa and the team, Bissinger has studied closely, but he betrays a weakness for platitude and for odd turns of phrase, as when he ascribes to one hitter "the slightest oregano of arrogance."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618710531
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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