8 Booklist April 15, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
Although Wo W disciples and other MMORPG participants are the author’s obvious
primary target audiences, readers interested in
all games, tech trends, sociology, and marketing
will also glean valuable insights from this fascinating peek inside one of the Internet’s most
popular online communities. —Carl Hays
YA: YA gamers will be fascinated. CH.
The Captain Class: The Hidden Force
behind the World’s Greatest Teams.
By Sam Walker.
May 2017. 368p. Random, $28 (9780812997194); e-book
Walker, who helped create the Wall Street
Journal’s sports section in 2009, begins his
study of leadership with a selection of the 16
greatest teams of all time, worldwide, among
them the New York Yankees (1949–53), the
Montreal Canadiens (1955–60), the Boston
Celtics (1956–69), the Brazilian men’s soccer
team (1958–62), the Soviet men’s ice-hockey
team (1981–84), the Cuban women’s volleyball
team (1991–2000), and the San Antonio Spurs
(1997–2016). The list itself is grist for animated
sports conversation, but Walker then gleans the
often-surprising qualities found among all the
captains of such dissimilar teams: doggedness,
aggressive play up to and beyond the rules, tak-
ing on thankless but necessary tasks, shunning
big speeches, displaying commitment nonver-
bally, speaking truth to power, and possessing
an ability to shut off strong emotions when
they’re not useful. Not included, interestingly,
is athletic talent. As theoretical as his book
might sound, Walker fully backs it with stats,
names, games, even specific plays. Profitable
reading for any sports organization; pleasurable
reading for any casual fan. —Alan Moores
Return of the King: LeBron James,
the Cleveland Cavaliers and the
Greatest Comeback in NBA History.
By Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin.
Apr. 2017. 288p. illus. Grand Central, $18.99
(9781478971689); e-book (9781478971665). 796.323.
When LeBron James left his hometown Cav-
aliers in the summer of 2010 in order to pursue
what he felt was a better shot
at an NBA title in Miami,
many accused him of dis-
loyalty, but it worked out for
him: two championships in
four years. Still, in 2014, he
decided to return to Cleve-
land. This book chronicles
the 2015–16 season, which
ended with the Cavs overcoming a three-
games-to-one deficit in the finals to beat the
heavily favored, defending-champion Golden
State Warriors. Authors Windhorst and McMe-
namin, both veteran NBA reporters, provide a
nuanced context for the championship season.
It was a difficult year in which the Cavs coach,
David Blatt, was fired midseason, and an un-
proven assistant, Ty Lue, was elevated to his
first head-coaching position. The authors make
it very clear that coaching the world’s greatest
living basketball player is not easy. Beyond his
physical abilities, James is a basketball genius,
but, like all athletes, he needs to be held ac-
countable. Lue was able to do that, making it
clear that he was the coach, and James was a
player. This account of how a championship
was built is the best NBA book in many years.
YA: Teen LeBron fans will be all over this
Running with Raven: The Amazing
Story of One Man, His Passion, and the
Community He Inspired.
By Laura Lee Huttenbach.
May 2017. 256p. illus. Kensington/Citadel, $25
(9780806538426); e-book (9780806538440). 796.357.
Some sports streaks are legendary, like Cal
Ripkin Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive baseball games
played or Wayne Gretzky’s 51-game scoring
streak. Huttenbach introduces a less-famous
man to that list: Robert “Raven” Kraft. A high-school dropout, Kraft made a resolution to
run eight miles every day in 1975 and has not
stopped since. Throughout the years, hundreds
of runners have joined his Raven Runs on Miami’s South Beach. He is a purist (not a fan of
costly road races) and often compared to the
fictional Forrest Gump. He welcomes runners
of all abilities, whether on holiday from Europe
or recently out of prison. This memoir includes
interviews and testimonials from the cast of
characters who have joined his community,
each earning coveted nicknames like the Astrologer and the Taxman. Even Huttenbach, also
a runner, is given the name White Lightning.
Not deterred by hurricanes or even surgery,
the Raven has battled through tremendous obstacles. Is his streak an obsession or dedication?
It’s a tough question, but his daily commitment
demonstrates how anyone can rebuild a life,
step by step. An entertaining, tender account
of an authentic sports hero. —Brenda Barrera
The Slide: Leyland, Bonds, & the Star-
Crossed Pittsburgh Pirates.
By Richard Peterson and Stephen
Apr. 2017. 232p. illus. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $24.95
After a dismal decade, in 1986 the Pittsburgh
Pirates named young unknown Jim Leyland
as manager, his hiring eliciting a collective
“Who?” from the Pirate faithful. Leyland was
tasked with providing on-field leadership while
longtime scout Syd Thrift rebuilt the roster
as general manager. The partnership worked,
almost; Thrift was replaced in 1988 but the
teams he helped build reached the National
League championship series in 1990, 1991,
and 1992, each time failing to advance to the
My Cubs: A Love Story.
By Scott Simon.
Apr. 2017. 160p. Penguin/Blue Rider, $23 (9780735218031). 796.357.
The host of NPR’s Weekend Edition has traveled the world and seen some of its most
beautiful vistas but flatly states the most breathtaking sight is Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
Growing up in Chicago, Simon attended school a few blocks from the Cubs’ home field;
he and his friends would mimic their baseball heroes, pretending they
possessed the sweet swing of Billy Williams or the solid upright stance of
Ron Santo. Legendary Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, originator of the
jubilant “Hey Hey!” home-run call, was even Simon’s godfather. (Simon
says he met a woman who claimed to know that a man was from Chicago
if he yelled “Hey Hey!” at the moment of climax.) This very entertaining
recollection of Simon’s baseball love affair covers years of just plain lousy
baseball, flare-ups of competence (never sustained), and the heartbreak of
1969’s September collapse, as well the infamous playoff in 2003, when a
fan, Steve Bartman, possibly interfered with Moises Alou’s attempt to catch a foul ball. There
will be many books about the Cubs’ 2016 World Series win, but it’s doubtful any will surpass
Simon’s for humor, poignancy, and, well, love. —Wes Lukowsky
The Plan: Epstein, Maddon, and the Audacious Blueprint for a Cubs Dynasty.
By David Kaplan.
May 2017. 304p. illus. Triumph, $24.95 (9781629373263). 796.357.
Since the author is a broadcaster for a company, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, that is 25
percent owned by the Ricketts family, who have a 95 percent stake in the Chicago Cubs,
this probably won’t be the most impartial account of that team’s historic run to the 2016
World Series title. But Kaplan’s access to principal owner Tom Ricketts, general manager
Theo Epstein, manager Joe Maddon, and numerous coaches and players was key to his
understanding, then sharing, the process by which Ricketts was able to purchase the team,
attract long-term corporate sponsorships, rebuild its depleted farm system, modernize its
outdated spring-training facility (with public help), bring Wrigley Field into the twenty-first
century—for better or worse—and at last win a title after a 108-year drought. Kaplan occasionally gets mired in the details, like his account of the financial squabble between the Cubs
and the owners of rooftop properties behind the outfield bleachers, but he otherwise stays on
task in delivering a fine case study in how to create a winning baseball culture. —Alan Moores