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

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,336 Ratings  ·  275 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
...more
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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,699)
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Felts
May 18, 2012 Felts rated it it was amazing
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
Scott
Feb 16, 2013 Scott rated it it was amazing
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
May 15, 2012 Owen Good rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Perri
Apr 23, 2016 Perri rated it it was amazing
This book was such a relief, after the dark stories I've been reading recently. Who doesn't like a feel good, root-for -the-underdog sports story? Unheralded small town High School baseball team have improbable successful seasons. David vs. Goliath after Goliath after... What elevated this story is Coach Sweet's uniquely laid- back approach to the game. He didn't use the paramilitary methods of his peers, but coached in the best sense of the word- showing choices and possibilities, encouraging a ...more
Aaron Berkowitz
Jan 05, 2016 Aaron Berkowitz rated it it was amazing
One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard is a non-fiction story about the 1971 Macon Baseball team and their run to the Illinois state championship. The hippiesh baseball coach and english teacher L.C Sweet is a caring, comedic person. Trying to make a living at a young age with full grown hair and beard. Showing his students and players that it is okay to be different and learn from different teaching styles. I am going to focus on the baseball team for my review today. In the small town of Macon, ...more
Mike Gabor
Jul 16, 2014 Mike Gabor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
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
Nancy
Jul 13, 2012 Nancy rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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
Helen
May 20, 2013 Helen rated it liked it
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
...more
Sally
Jul 15, 2013 Sally rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-challenge
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
...more
Johnny Steinwart
Dec 07, 2014 Johnny Steinwart rated it really liked it
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
Alex Kaptur Guzman
Aug 30, 2015 Alex Kaptur Guzman rated it really liked it

One Shot at Forever is a classic sports book that will have any baseball fan interested. I was glad to see another person enjoy this book as Scott says,” I’ve read a lot of books about sports. This one is by far, the absolute best. It is uplifting and inspirational.” Now, I for one haven’t read very many sports books but from the ones I have I would have to agree with Scott on this one. This book is a story for all the baseball lovers out there or anyone who likes to read about an adventure betw
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Steve Mcdonald
Jul 14, 2012 Steve Mcdonald rated it it was amazing
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.
Cameron Casey
Jun 03, 2016 Cameron Casey rated it it was amazing
I just finished my book One Shot at Forever it is a realistic fiction book about a small town, high school baseball team in 1971. The plot is based in Illinois. The coach of this team is an english teacher who has no coaching experience at all. This english teacher makes practice optional, the kids know more than this guy does. The team fights through all the hardships and problems they have encountered in their small town. The team is incredibly strong mentally and physically. They can accompli ...more
Anna Fillmore
Sep 03, 2015 Anna Fillmore rated it really liked it
There are so many things to like about this book. Although the book is ostensibly focused on baseball, it is really about what creates meaning in life, how is a good life lived, what makes people tick. The author is consistently curious about human nature, but nonjudgmental. Also enjoyable is the look at small town life, teaching philosophies, coaching philosophies, the flashback to the U.S. in 1970, school politics, and for me the many references to places in Illinois. I particularly enjoyed le ...more
Eric Baker
Nov 02, 2015 Eric Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard is a nonfiction story that takes place in the late 1960s.This baseball team in a small town called Macon, IL plays baseball a little differently than most high schools. Led by Coach Lynn Sweet who has no coaching experience takes over the team and things begin to change.Coach Sweet is a hippie, a dreamer and full of energy and also a English teacher.He doesn’t even run practices, he lets the players decide what to do.This town of Macon is stuck in the losing ...more
Carrie
Jul 07, 2015 Carrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Oct 25, 2012 Stephen Monahan rated it it was amazing
"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
...more
Krista
Jun 27, 2013 Krista rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Dan Zehr
May 14, 2012 Dan Zehr rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Joshua
Jun 29, 2012 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
Neil
Aug 14, 2012 Neil rated it really liked it
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
Emily
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
...more
Sherri
Jun 05, 2015 Sherri rated it really liked it
The philosophy of LC Sweet: "Treat people well. Believe in them. Entrust them with responsibility. Lift them up."

I loved coach L.C Sweet and found this whole story of small town high school baseball uplifting. This is a great read, not just for sports fans but for ANY parent or teacher. Chris Ballard is a great storyteller. I'll be seeking out more of his writing even though I'm not a sports fan!
Itasca Community Library
Kelly says,
This unknown story about a small rural town high school baseball team from Illinois had me hanging on every word. The coach was a brand new teacher with liberal values in the time of the Vietnam War, and the administration often butted heads with him. But the kids loved him for how he taught and how he coached. What the team accomplished was more than the coach, parents, or players ever expected.
Thom
Dec 18, 2015 Thom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Great book - how has it not been made into a movie yet? High school baseball and hijinks and hippies and heartaches pepper this story about a coach and a team and their unlikely playoff run. Excellent sports writing and research, the people of Macon come alive. Highly recommended!
Phil Goerner
Jun 27, 2013 Phil Goerner rated it it was amazing
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
Tara Katz
Apr 18, 2016 Tara Katz rated it liked it
I think I took too long to read this book, so it didn't quite hit like it should have. I ended up really liking it in the end. One of the main problems is that I didn't feel like there was any suspense, because from the cover and opening chapter I thought the end was already known, but actually the book twists in an unexpected way that had an emotional impact; I just had no idea that twist was coming. Ballard does a great job bringing the players and coach alive by using a narrative writing styl ...more
Kyle Theill
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cooper
Dec 06, 2015 Cooper rated it it was amazing
Chris Ballard does a tremendous job of telling the little known story of Macon High School baseball team’s journey. The story is Lynn Sweet, Macon High English teacher with no coaching experience, leading his team to the Illinois State Baseball Tournament. Out of 370 teams they were one of the last ones standing. With his unconventional teaching style spreading to his coaching style, gets the attention needed to guide his players. Since this is telling of the magical season the Ironmen had the a ...more
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