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Perfect, Once Removed : When Baseball Was All the World to Me
In the winter of 1956, Phillip Hoose was a gawky, uncoordinated 9-year-old boy just moved to a new town--Speedway, Indiana--and trying to fit into a new school and circle of friends. Baseball was his passion, even though he was terrible at it and constantly shamed by his lack of ability. But he had one thing going for him that his classmates could never have--his second cousin was a pitcher for the New York Yankees. Don Larsen wasn't a star, but he was in the Yankees' rotation. And on October 8, 1956, he pitched perhaps the greatest game that has ever been pitched: a perfect game (27 batters up, 27 out) against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. It forever changed Phil's life. Perfect, Once Removed, recalls with pitch-perfect clarity the angst and jubilation of Phil Hoose's 9th year. To be published on the 50th anniversary of The Perfect Game, it will be one of the best baseball books of 2006.
Although sports journalist Hoose's memoir of a baseball-obsessed childhood has the potential for the usual suspended-in-amber nostalgia of supposedly more innocent times, his endearingly self-deprecating tone and refusal to trade in clich�s gives his story a welcome snap. Growing up in Speedway, Ind., during the 1950s, Hoose (Hoosiers) was an ungainly kid prone to being bullied: "Mine was a toxic combination, weak and mouthy." Like many a bookish boy, Hoose found escape in an obsession: baseball. But unlike his peers, Hoose had a special connection--his cousin (once removed) was Don Larsen, pitcher for the New York Yankees. They corresponded occasionally, and Hoose even shared one thrilling ballpark visit with Larsen. Hoose received even more reflected glory from his famous relative in 1956, when Larsen pitched the first perfect game in the history of the World Series (against the Brooklyn Dodgers). The event was announced to the school by the principal and the normally unpopular author was surrounded by cheering, congratulatory classmates. Although the book drifts into less-interesting territory in its later sections as Hoose tries to find some closure to this (some would say unfairly) glorious childhood episode, it remains, all in all, a well-chiseled memento of one boy's love of the American pastime. (Oct.)
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March 03, 2008
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