The Inspirational Story of a Coach, a Baseball Team, and the Season They'll Never Forget
In 1971, a small-town high school baseball team from rural Illinois
playing with hand-me-down uniforms and peace signs on their hats
defied convention and the odds. Led by an English teacher with no
coaching experience, the Macon Ironmen emerged from a field of 370
teams to become the smallest school in Illinois history to make the
state final, a distinction that still stands. There, sporting long
hair, and warming up to Jesus Christ Superstar, the Ironmen would play
a dramatic game against a Chicago powerhouse that would change their
In a gripping, cinematic narrative, Sports Illustrated writer Chris
Ballard tells the story of the team and its coach, Lynn Sweet, a
hippie, dreamer and intellectual who arrived in Macon in 1966,
bringing progressive ideas to a town stuck in the Eisenhower era.
Beloved by students but not administration, Sweet reluctantly took
over a rag-tag team, intent on teaching the boys as much about life as
baseball. Inspired by Sweet's unconventional methods and led by fiery
star Steve Shartzer and spindly curveball artist John Heneberry, the
undersized, undermanned Macon Ironmen embarked on an improbable
postseason run that infuriated rival coaches and buoyed an entire
Beginning with Sweet's arrival, Ballard takes readers on a journey
back to the Ironmen's historic season and then on to the present day,
returning to the 1971 Ironmen to explore the effect the game had on
their lives' trajectories--and the men they've become because of it.
Engaging and poignant, One Shot at Forever is a testament to the power
of high school sports to shape the lives of those who play them, and
it reminds us that there are few bonds more sacred than that among a
coach, a team, and a town
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Chris Ballard is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, where he specializes in narrative longform stories. He has also written for the New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and his work has twice been anthologized in the Best American Sports Writing series. Ballard is the author of four books: "Hoops Nation", "The Butterfly Hunter", "The Art of a Beautiful Game" and the forthcoming "One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach and a Magical Baseball Season".
Ballard joined SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in September 2000. He has covered the NBA and MLB, written nearly 20 cover stories, penned the back page "Point After" column and written features on everything from pigeon racing to Jake Plummer's post-football life to the Vancouver riots. He is one of five 2012 finalists for a National Magazine Award in profile writing, is a past recipient of a National Headliner Award and was the 2011 winner of The Joanie Award for a story about Cal Berkeley coxswain Jill Costello, who died of lung cancer after her senior year. His 2010 story titled "Magical Season of the Macon Ironmen," which was included in the "Notables" section of the Best American Sports Writing anthology, provided the inspiration for his latest book.
Before joining SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Ballard was an intern at the Courier-Post in Camden, NJ. He has written for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other publications. Ballard has appeared on The Charlie Rose Show, ABC News with Dick Schaap, and Outside the Lines, and speaks regularly to groups of journalism students. A native Californian, Ballard graduated from Pomona College, where he played basketball and was on the track and field team. He lives in Berkeley with his wife Alexandra and two daughters, Callie and Eliza.
To read a collection of Ballard's best feature stories, go to: byliner.com/chris-ballard
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