Tag Archives: sports

Baseball, kids and a child’s book to be appreciated by young and old

April 25, 2009

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“A Glove of Their Own,”

by Debbie Moldovan, Keri Conkling and Lisa Funari-Willever,

illustrated by Lauren Lambiase

All summer long it happened every day at Edwards School Playground on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

The grounder would stick in the shortstop’s glove, he’d whirl and fire to the pitcher — pitcher’s hands “out” — for the third out before the batter could step on first base, an old newspaper with the rock on top (so it wouldn’t blow away).

The four-five-six guys in the field would run in for their turn at bat, and the team that had been batting took the field. Inevitably somebody from the team in the field flipped his glove to one of the guys who didn’t have a glove.

That was baseball — and still is — in the free-of-all-cares world of kids and summer vacation, and it’s what makes “A Glove of Their Own” more than just a nostalgia piece, although the first few paragraphs above are evidence that it certainly is that.

As good a growth- and person-building experience as organized sports can be when caring, trained, thoughtful coaches and supportive parents make them so, there’s a special growing up that happens in pick up games — games umpired not by adults but by children’s sense of fair play, games not pressurized by league standings or playoffs, games in which kids don’t have to “make the team” but just show up in order to get to play.

This colorful, child-sized book won’t win any awards for plot, although it’s cute enough.

It won’t take a Newberry Award for creative writing.

Details in some of the illustrations will make the trained-eyed sports person wince: The hands of the batter separated on the bat? YIKES! The first baseman standing right in the middle of the base and the runner headed straight into him? Quick, dial 911!

But youngsters in the primary grades who like sports will love the story and its rhyming cadences. And the messages in this short, simple child’s book are sure to sew seeds of generosity and caring for those less fortunate, like youngsters who have to play baseball without a glove of their own.

I can’t wait to have my grandsons read it to me. — bz

P.S. — Franklin Mason Press, the publisher, has partnered with Danjulie Associates in a nonprofit effort to raise funds for sports equipment for needy youth. A portion of book sales are donated to selected youth sports organizations, and the company also will partner with groups to do book-selling fundraisers. For details, visit http://www.franklinmasonpress.org. And kudos to Jack Hannahan and Robb Quinlan, two Minnesota Catholic high school products, for their support of this worthwhile project.
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Golf book offers chance to sharpen your short game with God

March 11, 2009

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“And God Said Tee It Up!”,

by Gary Graf

Gary Graf is not a theologian, nor does he pretend to be.

But he’s done a whale of a job of research about both great memories in professional golf history and down-to-earth spirituality that move readers painlessly from the the fairway to reflecting on their own relationship with God.

The stories about golf’s great moments and the detail that describes the particular holes at great golf courses like St. Andrew’s, Winged Foot, Troon, Oakmont and Pebble Beach are likely to be gobbled up by sports fans.

When it comes to connecting those moment to faith, Graf takes more of a regular-guy, meat-and-potatoes approach. A scholar might take exception to linking which club to use to appreciating all the gifts God gives us, but you know, it’s really not all that much of a stretch. And Greg Norman’s dying — in the Masters — and rising to terrific success in several businesses is a good reminder of not only Jesus’ dying and rising but our own.

As Graf writes, “Granted, Norman’s fall and subsequent rise are but poor human analogies to something divine and mysterious. But each and every day we must die to something old and rise to something new. . . . Life presents us with the opportunity for rebirth, if we are open to it. As for Jesus, paradoxically his most devastating moment — his crucifixion — was the catalyst for his crowning glory.”

Take a hole at a time

Each chapter heading is a hole on a golf course — including the 19th, the post-match session in the clubhouse to congratulate and commiserate — and that makes for 19 short reading sessions if you read a chapter at a time.

That would be a good way to play — I mean, read — “And God Said Tee It Up!”

You can only absorb so many golf facts and so much golf history in one setting before they become a blur, and that will give you time to reflect on the spiritual points that Graf offers for pondering in each chapter.

The stories of Lee Trevino, Payne Stewart, Arnold Palmer and more are good copy, as are the background anecdotes about the naming of holes called “The Pulpit” and “The Valley of Sin,” the berms called “Church Pews,” and the course called “The Sistine Chapel of Golf” — Cypress Point Club at Pebble Beach, where “every hole is a work of art.”

Thanks to Acta Publications for being willing to get “Tee It Up” into print. — bz

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Book of Prayers from the stars needs less stats and more prayer

May 1, 2008

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“A Book of Prayers: To the Heavens from the Stars,”
by Chuck Spinner

Chuck Spinner knew he didn’t have this project exactly right. He says so right up from by acknowledging some weaknesses.

The idea of asking celebrities from the sports and media world their favorite prayer is a good one, and even better is Spinner’s introductory remark about the purpose of his book. Actually a quote from former football coach and present 49ers’ GM John McVay about the importance of formal prayer, the purpose is to “get us started talking to God.”

That’s a great measure of success, and to that end, Spinner has been successful.

But I think he could have done better. And I think this could have been a book that really touched folks deeply and done a lot to initiate more conversations with God.

I think readers will find there is a bit too much celebrity biography and not enough prayer.

I’m not sure how many readers will care to know all the years that Ann B. Davis won Emmy’s for “The Brady Bunch.” Was it crucial to include U.S. Olympic hockey hero Mike Eruzione, telling all his collegiate all-star mentions, when his favorite prayer is the Our Father!

That repetition of prayers is one of the weaknesses of the book that Spinner acknowledges, but after the third time he includes the text of The Lord’s Prayer or the Memorare, it’s not reinforcing or even interesting, it’s plain irritating.

And some celebrities sent in poems, not prayers; they should have been edited out.

There are gems, though, and the salvation of the book comes when you find them.

There’s the ending sentence from Olympic softball star Leah O’Brien-Amico’s favorite: “Change me from the inside out and make me the person you want me to be.”
Pitcher for the old Brooklyn Dodgers Carl Erskine sent in: “Lord, I don’t pray for life to be easier, but for you to make me stronger.”

All in all, I’m forced to say that this is a use book of prayer. Advice to readers might be, ignore the biographical introductions to all these folks and search for prayers that touch you. Mark them somehow, and return to them when you need a kick start for your own conversations with God. — bz

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Everything by a top-selling author is not gold

February 11, 2008

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“Playing for Pizza,”
by John Grisham

Do not waste your time reading “Playing for Pizza” just because John Grisham’s name is on the cover.

With a weak, predictable plot, this will make a made-for-TV movie of the poorest kind.

Here’s a guess: John G. went on vacation to Italy, and, to write-off the expenses on his taxes, he wrote this garbage-y tripe to pass off his airfare, train, hotel and restaurant bills as “research.”

All the “local color” can be found in any guidebook on Italy. Actually, some of those guidebooks make better reading than this football-based schlock.

If Grisham had the slightest sense of shame he would travel the world buying back this book from all who have wasted their money on it. – bz

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