Zach Herman's Reviews > Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager

Three Nights in August by H.G. Bissinger
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Mar 11, 12

bookshelves: 2012, baseball, nonfiction, sports
Read from February 20 to March 11, 2012

Buzz Bissinger is a tremendously unlikable author, and Tony La Russa is an equally unlikable baseball manager. But somehow, Bissinger's book about La Russa is likable -- or, at least, entertaining enough to fill the afternoons of a chilly offseason.

The buzz upon its release pegged "Three Nights" as a fawning tribute to La Russa's tactical and philosophical genius, but this is not a hagiography. Bissinger clearly admires La Russa and agrees with most of his old-school baseball principles, but he also devotes space to La Russa's troubled family life. The manager's borderline-obsessive behavior during the season is not glorified, but reported dispassionately.

The book aims to deconstruct a crucial three-game series between the Cubs and Cardinals in 2003, but Bissinger seems caught in the middle a little bit. He offers some good insight into the unorthodox strategy and in-game maneuvering that made La Russa famous, but he also works hard to explain the game to readers who may be unfamiliar with it. As such, "Three Nights" may be more compelling for the novice than for the studied fan, despite its clear ambition to be an in-depth look at the game.

Unfortunately, the narrative grinds to a halt whenever Bissinger chooses to interject the sanctimonious twaddle for which his writing is best known. He is an able reporter, but reading his analysis of what ails the game (You guessed it: greed!) is like listening to a child discuss "Othello." Bissinger doesn't waste a lot of space railing against high salaries and selfish players, but it is noticeable when he does. He's simply out of his depth.
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