In his foreword to the book, Buzz Bissinger does what few authors would dare: He reveals that THREE NIGHTS IN AUGUST was once a very different book. Specifically, he was approached to write a book with St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, something much more of a straight biography than what emerged as a portrait of a baseball team and a manager in a snapshot of a three-night series against arch-rivals the Chicago Cubs. Well, thank goodness!
My love for Buzz Bissinger was never in doubt since FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, so it's not surprising that I enjoyed this book more than THE BOYS OF SUMMER or THE NATURAL. Like Roger Kahn, Bissinger followed the team all year in order to produce this book, like a photographer who takes pictures every day to train his eye and finger for an action shot, and that research shows. If his adulation of Tony La Russa gets a little much, its delivery in observation -- the evidence through which he builds his case that La Russa is one of the last great baseball managers -- convinces the reader without the author nudging us over that line. This book actually inspired me to go back to the first place I ever read about sports, Sports Illustrated, which sadly has moved away somewhat from the elegiac essays of my youth.
Can't wait to read his next book, which according to this January '08 interview is tentatively titled FATHER'S DAY, a more personal work about his relationship with his twin sons. (In that interview he also mentions tomorrow's topic, MONEYBALL, as "deflat[ing]" his bookstore visits. Find out if it will deflate mine!)
Is This The Great American Baseball Novel?
Filmbook: "The Natural" (1984)
Roger Kahn, A Boy Among Boys
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