The Age of Daredevils.
By Michael Clarkson.
Oct. 2016. 344p. Little A, $24.95 (9781503935426);
paper, $14.95 (9781503935419). 797.
Barrel-jumping had its spectacular 15
minutes of fame in the early twentieth century when adventurers found the lure of
Niagara Falls to be irresistible. Clarkson’s
fascinating history of this age of daredevils examines the phenomenon and offers
portraits of those who tried to go over the
falls or attempted other death-defying acts
involving barrels and the turbulent, rapids-strewn waters of the Niagara River. The story
revolves around the Hill family and its patriarch, William “Red” Hill, who made his
living supporting thrill seekers, fishing bodies out of the river, and running businesses
associated with the falls. Hill succeeded in
traversing the Niagara rapids in a barrel but
never realized his dream of going over the
falls, but his sons, especially Red Jr., inherited the family obsession and took it to more
and more dangerous levels. Clarkson’s extensively researched account not only provides
detailed portraits of the Niagara daredevils
but also places their exploits in the context
of the American thrill-seeking tradition.
Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball
By Debra A. Shattuck.
Jan. 2017. 328p. illus. Univ. of Illinois, $95
(9780252040375); paper, $25.95 (9780252081866).
In the mid- to late-nineteenth century,
baseball was in its infancy, and many people
doubted that men should take up this chil-
dren’s game of bat and ball as a profession.
Shattuck sets out to discover how a gen-
der-neutral game became so masculine by
researching women’s organized baseball from
antebellum America through the turn of the
century. After the Civil War, women’s baseball
teams were organized at colleges; enterprising
entrepreneurs put together traveling all-star
teams; and some unscrupulous promoters
put together burlesque-like women’s baseball
troupes. Drawing from newspaper reports
and statistical data, and incorporating histori-
cal illustrations, Shattuck delivers a detailed
and scholarly look at how the media and oth-
er men’s-baseball stakeholders manipulated
the cultural narrative to marginalize women
(and minorities) from the game. Still, women
continued to play, as Shattuck makes clear in
her account of the Bloomer Girl phenomenon
of the 1890s (named for women’s baseball
uniforms, adapted from bloomers) and in her
profile of Lizzie Arlington, the first woman to
play for a men’s professional team. Although a
bit academic in tone for wide general interest,
this volume belongs in many public-library
sports-history and gender-studies collections.
The Boys of Dunbar: A Story of Love,
Hope, and Basketball.
By Alejandro Danois.
Sept. 2016. 288p. illus. Simon & Schuster, $26
(9781451666977); e-book, $13.99 (9781451666991).
The numbers say everything about the
magical run by the boys’ basketball team
of Baltimore’s Dunbar High School in the
1981–82 and 1982–83 seasons: a 60-0 record, 10 players going to major college
programs, 4 reaching the NBA, and 3 of
those being first-round picks. None had a
greater impact on the program than their
leader, the diminutive Tyrone “Muggsy”
Bogues, who at 5’ 3” became the shortest
player ever in the NBA, while carving out a
stellar 14-year career there. Inspirational stories can be found everywhere in high-school
sports, but Dunbar and its legendary coach,
Bob Wade, stand out for the sheer talent to
converge at Dunbar those two seasons, for
Wade’s success at maintaining the players’
focus on academics and basketball amid the
poverty and violent crime that permeated
their tough East Baltimore neighborhood,
and for Muggsy. As author Danois, who
delivers a solid story that pretty much tells
itself, writes, “We’ll see more Michael Jordans before we see another Muggsy Bogues.”
Days of Knight: How the General
Changed My Life.
By Kirk Haston.
Sept. 2016. 180p. illus. Indiana Univ., $22
(9780253022271); e-book, $21.99 (9780253022400).
There have been a lot of books devoted to
former Indiana University basketball coach
Bobby Knight. Many have been celebratory
and many derogatory. Haston, who played
for Knight from 1997 through 2001, un-
surprisingly leans toward the former, but he
manages to avoid bestowing sainthood on his
old coach. When Haston left rural Tennessee
for Indiana, his mother encouraged him to
keep a journal of his collegiate experience. He
did, and that journal provides the source ma-
terial for much of this book. Haston credits
much of his basketball success (he played in
the NBA after college) to Knight, and most of
his Knight anecdotes reflect well on the man.
He was, however, on the team when Knight’s
controversial behavior caught up with him,
prompting Knight’s dismissal from Indiana.
Haston’s account of those tumultuous days
offers a fascinating, up-close perspective
on that period. Above all, Haston’s view of
Knight shows again that the man is difficult to
typecast. He is often profane and can be cruel
and unfeeling. Yet he can also be remarkably
kind, generous, and empathetic. Entertain-
ing reading for those who recall Knight in his
heyday. — Wes Lukowsky
Dust Bowl Girls: A Team’s Quest for
By Lydia Reeder.
Jan. 2017. 304p. illus. Algonquin, $26.95
One of the more unlikely national champions in U.S. sports history was the 1932
women’s basketball team from tiny, financially strapped Oklahoma Presbyterian
College. Coach Sam Babb, who, probably
not coincidentally, taught Psychology 101
at the school, masterfully recruited talent,
solicited funding for the program, created a
culture of unselfish team play, devised unorthodox but effective basketball drills, and
instilled in his players the self-assurance they
would need in facing public opinion that
largely considered basketball “unladylike.”
And, more urgently, in facing (three times
that season) the reigning national champion
Dallas Golden Cyclones, led by legendary
sportswoman Babe Didrikson. Author Reeder, Babb’s grandniece, had access to such
primary materials as player diaries, which
reveal the players’ relationships to one another and their coach, and to a dust-bowl
era and region marked by serious hardship.
YA: A well-told, inspirational story perfect
for YA collections. AM.
The Edge: The War against
Cheating and Corruption in the
Cutthroat World of Elite Sports.
By Roger Pielke.
Sept. 2016. 288p. Roaring Forties, paper, $18.95
(9781938901577); e-book (9781938901621). 796.04.
The head of the Sports Governance Cen-
ter at the University of Colorado uses his
expertise in public policy to
scrutinize current issues in
athletics. The book’s title re-
fers to athletes pushing the
limits of the spirit of sport
to gain advantage in an
Tom Brady and Deflategate,
Lance Armstrong and dop-
ing, for example. Pielke posits that sports’
governing bodies adhere to an outdated set
of rules with regard to amateurism, cheating,
technology, and sexual identity, and he of-