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One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  868 ratings  ·  192 reviews
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 represent th
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Katy Mc Treat people well. Believe in them. Entrust them with responsibility. Lift them up.
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One Shot at Forever is the story of the 1971 Macon Ironmen baseball team coached by Lynn Sweet and their unlikely run to the State baseball tournament. Before I go any further, I will let you know that I cannot write an unbiased review for this book. The reasons being threefold. I grew up in the town of Macon and went to Macon High School, L.C. Sweet was one of my teachers, and I was fortunate enough to marry into one of the families featured in this book. That being said, I thought this was a f ...more
I've read a lot of books about sports. This one is, by far, the absolute best. It takes place in south central Illinois in the 1970's. The story is about a small rural high school (so small that basically the same athletes play all sports) that gets that once-in-a-lifetime combination of six or seven exceptional athletes together at once, playing the same sport. It was about a last-minute inexpensive hire of a hippie teacher/baseball coach and his unorthodox methods of teaching, coaching and fig ...more
Owen Good
In 2010, Chris Ballard, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, got a phone call pitching what was, essentially, a "Hoosiers" of baseball: Tiny Illinois high school, in an open-classification state playoff, knocks off a big-city team. The feature Ballard wrote then was widely acclaimed; this is that story, told more expansively and with rich detail.

What gives "One Shot at Forever" its hold on the reader's mind are its strong characters and the indelible moments of their remarkable run as an unlik
Mike Gabor
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 represent 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 ...more
Treat people well,
Believe in them,
Entrust them with responsibility,
Lift them up.

The whole time I was reading this book I kept picturing Matthew McConaughey as Lynn Sweet, the unprepared and unlikely coach of a baseball team from nowhere that through guts and dumb luck, made their way in a field of 371 teams to become the smallest school in Illinois state history to make it to the state final, an achievement that stands to this day.

Happily-ever-after comes in all shapes and sizes and for the Iron
Karen & Gerard
WOW! "One Shot at Forever" by Chris Ballard is a really, really good people book! It is also a good baseball book. It is the true story of a small High School and a bunch of farm boys with a very cool coach. Against all odds, they have a chance to win the state championship. I loved the team--what a great bunch of boys! The games are very exciting to say the least. The best part of the book is years later when the coach talks to all the guys and they look back on the year they had. I got into th ...more
At first glance, One Shot at Forever is obviously a book about baseball. Don’t let the title fool you, however, because it’s really about so much more. Set against the backdrop of the 1970 and 1971 baseball seasons, Ballard tells to stories of Lynn Sweet, the Macon High School baseball players, their families, and their town.

As a new English teacher, Sweet was already causing a stir in Macon, despite his popularity among his students. What with his long hair, bar patronage, and “dangerous readin
Johnny Steinwart
Chris Ballard's purpose for writing this book is to entertain, as well as inform, about the spectacular story of a small-town high school baseball team. Ballard goes in depth of the lives of the kids, as well as the coach, telling funny stories, or how they got to where they were. For example, one boy by the name of Steve Shartzer, climbs up on a grain elevator, and throws tomatoes at passing cars. An example of a background story is when Ballard describes Coach Lynn Sweet's hometown of Champaig ...more
Steve Mcdonald
Connected in so many ways with most of these kids and seeing my sister-in-law's photo when she was 15 made this an enjoyable, nostalgic read. Interested to see comments from others not connected.
"One Shot at Forever" was another book that I begrudgingly began reading because I had (stupidly, I thought) put it on my students' summer reading list. And, as is my practice, if I assigned it to my students, I assigned it to myself as well. I made sure this book was at the top of my reading list, though, so that I could get it out of the way first - I dislike sports in general, and baseball in particular. The only things, in my mind, that this book had going for it were: 1) it was set in my st ...more
Stephen Monahan
"One Shot at Forever" by Chris Ballard is a true story about a 1971 small-town baseball team from Illinois. The Macon Ironmen are led by Lynn Sweet who has an unconventional way of coaching. They emerge from a group of 370 teams to make a special run to the state finals. In doing so, they became the smallest school in Illinois history to make the state finals.
I personally loved reading this book because it emphasizes the story of the underdog. I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life and this b
I read this book because my husband enjoyed it so much. We took two back-to-back road trips and, while he'd reluctantly take his driving shift, he much preferred to read. So I drove, and he laughed and groaned his way through this story of a 1970-71 high school baseball team. I don't even like baseball, but I LOVED this book. Chris Ballard is a Sports Illustrated writer and he has a wonderful way of telling the story of a small-town bunch of boys and their unconventional coach, weaving in backst ...more
If someone were to ask me about my favorite movie genre, it would be, hands down, motivational sports dramas (and yes, Netflix has a category for that). I am a sucker for any type of sports drama, whether I've actually played or followed the sport in my life. Add a dedicated and supportive team of really good kids (while a bit rambunctious at times) and a coach that really is a LEADER? Doubly hooked.

With that taken into account, I was happily suprised to find Ballard's gem of a book which recoun
Dan Zehr
I've read much of Ballard's work in Sports Illustrated over the past decade, and I got an early look at his latest book, One Shot at Forever. One Shot is a book-length example of his emergence as one of the top long-form narrative writers going today. (For proof, Google his stories about Jill Costello or Mike Powell, or his National Magazine Award finalist piece about Dewayne Dedmon.)

At the highest level, the story runs much like Hoosiers, with a small-town Illinois baseball team going on an unl
This is my favorite baseball related book I've read in a long, long time. Chris Ballard does a terrific job transporting the reader back to the early 1970s and in small-town Illinois as we get to know a group of players and their remarkable coach over a few years. I grew up in a various small-towns in Oklahoma [smallest was Okay] and was in love with the sport of baseball. I related. Ballard weaves in stories of the players, their parents, teachers, the differences between teams, the Vietnam War ...more
A charming slice of life about a team from a very small Illinois town that responded to its counterculture coach's odd methods and had two glorious seasons in 1970 and 1971. Ballard does a nice job here of capturing the time and place and telling the pleasing underdog sports story without succumbing to too many cliches. How could I resist a book with a bunch of farm boys warming up to Jesus Christ Superstar when I'm preparing to play Pilate in that show? This one ought to get made into a film: t ...more
Why I picked it up: YALSA Challenge, plus it’s baseball.

This is nonfiction. Macon is small town in Illinois, population 1,200. An English teacher seen by the town as a hippie with big ideas ends up coaching the baseball team. Practices are optional and he lets the players figure out who plays what position. But in 1970 and 1971, the team does better than anyone could have anticipated, especially for such a small team (both in number of players and size of the players) from such a tiny, unknown
Phil Goerner
I started my teaching profession in a small town school Pre-K through 12 with only 110 kids in it. So when Chris Ballard (a masterful storyteller) talked about Sweets transition to small town life and small school limitations...I was hooked. "This could have been me!" I thought. What wasn't me was the way Sweet had incredible ability to counsel and creatively cultivate success from his students. What a terrific, thrilling story about the baseball team, young folks success (and challenges) and so ...more
Brandon Toot
One Shot at Forever is a book about a high school baseball team making it to the finals of the Illinois state tournament. This high school team's chances were so low saying that their school was one of the smallest in Illinois. Their schools had very poor fields and barely enough money to even buy jerseys and bats. The main character was Lynn Sweet, who moved to Macon to teach English at their high school. His teaching methods were very abstract and many people wanted him to get fired. He played ...more
Reece Sowka
One Shot at Forever is a great story, which I rated 3 stars because I enjoyed it but it only lacked some literal depth. Inspiring all the while, Chris Ballard's novel teaches us the fine principles of teamwork, persistence, and vital as all: faith. This book teaches the reader about these aspects of life through the characters in which endeavor in their realities. Personally, I learned that things aren't always what they seem, and with enough effort, enough work put in, it is more possible to re ...more
The book I read was a baseball book called “One Shot At Forever.” The high school was never known as a sports town. They didn't even have a baseball team. There was a teacher, Mr. Zappa that loved baseball, but nobody in the town was interested in forming a baseball team. The only student in school that was willing to help his teacher form a baseball team was Shartzer. The main conflict in the story is that one teacher and one student wanted to form a baseball team but nobody felt like the schoo ...more
Jordan Hopper
One Shot at Forever was really phenomenal. It makes a reader go deeper and deeper into the book. There was a lot of excitement and thrills that really grab the reader's attention. This sports thriller was one of the best sports books I have ever read. It has parts that will put you on the edge of your seat.

Chris Ballard took this narrative book to a whole new level, making a reader actually feel as if they were there when the events took place and really drawing them in. Ballard's descriptive w
Trey Knapp
This book is about how a small town baseball team is able to get to the state baseball championships. In 1970 a language arts teacher named Lynn Sweet takes the job as the baseball coach of the Macon Ironmen. With a very rag-tag team of baseball players they get to the regional tournament. But before the tournament even starts they get disqualified for having a player a on their team who wasn't on their tournament roster. Then the next season they try to overcome the fact that they don't have as ...more
This is a guy book, especially if the guy is a jock, although it is very well written. Chris Ballard, the author, writes for Sports Illustrated and you have to be a good writer to write for it. It is the true story of a small back-water town's high school baseball teacher/coach/hippy, the players on the team, town's people, school administrators and one incredible, memorable baseball season that defined some of the participants' lives. Engrossing, satisfying read.
What a fun read! This book was recommended by my son who is himself a sports journalist for the AP. I figure that any time a sports writer recommends another sports writer’s book it has got to be pretty good. And it was.

Combine two parts "Welcome Back Kotter" with one part "Bad News Bears" while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Add a tablespoon of 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," mix thoroughly and you have the approximate recipe for this true story of an unlikely team with an even more
I read this book, One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard. It was a great book about, not only baseball, but friendship. This book was truly inspirational, that tells you to never give up, and to keep trying your best. In this book, the main character, Lynn Sweet comes to Macon High school to teach an English class. later on he becomes the coach and leads the team from the bottom, all the way to the top. Him and his team, the Macon Iron Men, go all the way to the championship to face a big powerhou ...more
Cole Greer
This book reminds me of my summer baseball team. We are a small town team but go to many states and play a lot of big city all star teams. That is why I loved this book. It felt like some one followed our team around and wrote this story about us.

The theme of this story is all about leadership. It shows you examples of leadership and how to be a leader. This book really reminds of my team.

I recommend this book to all baseball fans and the fans who love seeing the underdog win. I am fans of both
Tyler Zikias
One Shot At Forever is not only a great baseball book, but a great book about team building and defeating odds. Macon High School in Illinois has the talent to be a great baseball team. However Lynn Sweet, their new coach, doesn't know a thing about coaching a team. These players have their thoughts on his ability and the way he is coaching the team which sparks great dialogue between them. There are some strong personalities, which is great to see because it shows how these players need to come ...more
When I started reading "One Shot at Forever" by Chris Ballard I was really drawn to the main character of the book, Lynn Sweet. I liked how Lynn Sweet was a rebel, and wanted to be different than everybody else. An example of this can be found on page 7 when the author says, “Lynn Junior often went by his initials “L.C.” to differentiate himself from his father.” I think the way Ballard described Lynn Sweet kept me into the book because I felt some similarities between him and myself. Lynn just ...more
Colton Carter
Mar 02, 2014 Colton Carter rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Baseball fans
Recommended to Colton by: My mom
The book One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season is a great book! The author's purpose for writing this nonfiction story is to tell how a small Illinois town high school baseball team works hard to come together to form a winning baseball team. The author uses a narration style writing to include all of the recollections of the Macon baseball team members, including the coach. The author's theme is not just to tell the story about a great baseball team ...more
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