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Showing 1-10 of 59 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 69 reviews
on September 29, 2012
You've seen the titles before. The Most Astuounding, Greatest, Apocalyptic/Player/Team/Game Ever. So many of them and thousands of comparable books promise thrill-a-minute adventure, but stumble and fall slogging through descriptions of individual games.

By sharp and happy contrast, author Mark Beech is a sprinter pulling readers out of box score boredom to the living finish line of a splendidly told story.

When Saturday Mattered Most examines the history of Army's undefeated 1958 football team ... which immediately raises the question: Who wants to read about an old football team? The answer? Anyone who gives thanks for fine writing and a glimpse of timeless magnetism and courage; frailty and pain; scandal and character, the fascinating puzzle of men together.

The book far surpasses football. It tells the story of Red Blaik, a head coach of few words, who suffered the dismissal of more than 30 players (including his own son) because of honor code violations in a 1951 scandal. Here is Blaik clashing with the West Point brass over the place and future of Army football. Here is Blaik writing weekly summaries and game assessments to General MacArthur. And here is a coach evoking reverence among some and disdain among others, both views echoing down to the present.

This is also the story of the "Lonely (Lonesome) End", in the vanguard of the wideout style of football. And here is the story of Pete Dawkins the most decorated of cadets (Head of the Corps of Cadets; captain of the football team; class president; Rhodes Scholar; player of six musical instruments; tenth in his class; winner of the Maxwell Award; Winner of the Heisman Trophy) and possibly the second-best back on the Army team.

The book is so powerful and compactly written that Blaik's eventual resignation comes not so much as a surprise that he quit, but as a surprise that the book is nearly finished. The story and the writing are so appealing that I even read the acknowledgments. I never do that.

Best of all, the What-Became-of-Them section eloquently reminds us that those with a role on any Saturday that mattered most inevitably become the Monday-through-Friday everyday people, regardless of former status as hero, reserve, or fan in the stands. When Saturday Mattered Most ends with the stark fact built into every game: The fastest thing in sports is glory fading. A marvelous book.
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on May 7, 2014
This book chronicles the 1958 West Point football team that was undefeated with one tie. Army football in the 1940's was equivalent to Alabama today; it was still an elite program in the 1950's and annually produced All-American players. The 1958 team had three with a fourth, Bill Carpenter All-American the following season.

I read this book over the span of three days. There are a number of interesting subplots--Head Coach Colonel Red Blaik's redemption from the 1951 scandal; the rise of Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins, the emergence of Bill Carpenter (the Lonely End or Lonesome End) who subsequently became a highly decorated Viet Nam Veteran and three star general, and the personalities of other lesser known but outstanding college football players on the team. Football was much different in the mid 1950's than even a decade later. The Army players were much smaller--at least much lighter--than today's players and almost all played both ways. The games were endurance contests. It was also just prior to the emergence of the NFL as a national game and the proliferation of players' salaries. The latter seemingly discouraged the top players from attending the service academies because of the multiyear military commitment following graduation.

It is important to note that more that 20 lettermen on the 1958 team served in Viet Nam including one killed in action. It is far to say those men were patriots as well as great athletes. They were from a different era; true heros in every sense of the word.
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on December 29, 2012
I lived the last Blaik season as a cadet. It was something special. The Corps and the team were a common body and the team did not let us down. Sadly, Army football has fallen victim to the rise of the pro leagues, extended service obligations and the virtual certainty of combat duty. But at one time Army football was always in the hunt for national ranking. Those were the days. Saturday was really something to look forward to. Unlike football powerhouses of today, Army players did not receive special treatment. They were integrated into the Corps and lived with all of the same duties and obligations of any cadet. They were just one of the guys. As a result there was a special bond between the cadets and the team. When something happened on the field you could put faces and personalities on the players involved. Yes, Saturday truly mattered back then. If you follow Army football this is a great book to read.
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on November 5, 2012
We are in a different world now with many teams competitive for high football ranking but sadly not the various services. A lot has happened since the 1940s and 50s in the world of service sports-Viet Nam, professional teams, incredible salaries, and loss of tradition. For a group of young men then as now the honor of service and the chance for education and excellence is the compelling force. This story is about comeback. It is about rebuilding. It is about a group willing to say screw this lets try it again. I wish to say in spite of the cynacism of the current age these men now as then serve. They may indeed play a game but they will also stand on the wall.
Thank you gentlemen.
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on September 29, 2013
This terrific book is a look at the undefeated Army (West Point) football team of 1958, the last time that Army really contended for the national championship. The focus is on legendary coach Red Blaik and how he brought the Army team back after the cheating scandal of the early 1950's decimated the football team.

Interesting information about their "Lonesome End" approach on offense, whereby the flanker was lined up way, way out there, opening up room for their running game.

Very much recommended for sports fans.
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on January 21, 2013
Mark Beech tells the story of the 1958 season at Army while weaving in the background of Army Football traditions. I have been going to Army games since 1966 and I thought I knew the whole story of Coach Blaik's last season, but I learned a few things too. what i found to be the most interesting theme of the book was that it spelled out exactly why Army Football has struggled to win consistently since 1958. In that sense, the philisophical differences between Coach Blaik and General Davidson continue today.

The book also validated why I continue to go to Army games. there is nothing better than watching a team of guys playing D-1 football purely for the love of the game at a true 110% level of play. When they win, it is very special. Beech captures the feel of Army in '58 well. In many ways, the atmosphere at West Point on a football Saturday is still the same today.
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on January 14, 2013
If your over 60 and had a family who followed college sports and your from the east coast this is a most read. This brought back familiar names and how the service academies were considered at or near the top. One of my goals in my sports life was to see an Army Navy game and in 2009 I did when I was 60 yeas old.

For sports people like me this book brings back times when we were young and remembered who the players were and there was no coach bigger than Red Blaik. Although Mark Beech does a good job with the book it was more about my being familiar with the time, the place and the people that brought me back to when I was 12 and followed every college game , local and on TV, and dreamed of playing myself. And one of those places would be West Point.
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on September 24, 2012
I pre-ordered this book because I love Army football. It met all my expectations and more with one exception. I was diappointed that the author did not include anything from a prior book I read on the scandle in 1951. I assume it was because it was not as complimentary to Col. Blaik and Gen. McAurthur. To me it shows me a bias by the author, someone I would expect a bit more from given his background. Still....overall a great read for any fan of service academy football...and of history as well. Really good in following players in the years after their West Point days were over. I read it in one setting...and it will be on my list to be read again.
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on January 24, 2017
Great book about a great team. Go Army!
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on March 11, 2013
Mark Beech has done a wonderful job of telling a compelling story and weaving in all sorts of interesting background about Red Blaik, General MacArthur, the Army football program, college football in the 1950s, and the great Army players including Pete Dawkins and the "Lonely End," Bob Carpenter. Terrific and very enjoyable, feel good story. An easy read. If you liked "When Pride Still Mattered" about the great Vince Lombardi, you will certainly enjoy "When Saturday Mattered Most." Ah, the names from my childhood!
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