One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach, and A Magical Baseball Season is about a baseball team from a tiny town in Illinois that had a fantastic season. They beat teams from schools larger than the population of their entire town. The book is as much about the players as it is about their coach Lynn Sweet. Sweet had an unconventional teaching and coaching style. He seemed to take great pleasure in tweaking the system, whether by throwing out the English curriculum (that was normally all about grammar) and letting kids read whatever they wanted without concern for fundamentals, to letting the baseball players decide when and how they wanted to practice. In a league of coaches straight out of the military who expected their players to act like army recruits, Sweet – with his hippie style and team that warmed up for games by listening to Jesus Christ Superstar – was an oddity and was ridiculed by coaches and townspeople.
The writing is excellent, and I love a good underdog story, but what I most liked about this book is how it showed the various personalities of each person involved with the team. In many ways this baseball season guided the rest of the players’ lives. They were heroes to the town, and that legacy haunted one player for forty years afterwards. Then there was Sweet – unconventional to the end – who always marched to his own drummer and refused to be pigeon-holed by someone else’s version of success. Although I usually read fiction, this is one non-fiction book that I would highly recommend, although be warned, it’s an adult title so there are some adult themes to this book.