One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season by Chris BallardOne Shot at Forever is powerful, inspirational. . . . This isnt merely a book about baseball. Its a book about heart.
--Jeff Pearlman, New York Times bestselling author of Boys Will Be Boys and The Bad Guys Won
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 the Ironmen would play against a Chicago powerhouse in a dramatic game that would change their lives forever.
In this gripping, cinematic narrative, 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 the ragtag team, intent on teaching the boys as much about life as baseball. Together they embarked on an improbable postseason run that buoyed a small town in desperate need of something to celebrate.
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.
Macons run at the title reminds us why sports matter and why sportswriting has such great power to inspire. . . . [Its] one hell of a good story, and Ballard has written one hell of a good book. --Jonathan Eig, Chicago Tribune
Central High School 1990
"One Shot At Forever"
Despite—or perhaps because of—their ragtag roster and hippie manager, the Macon High Ironmen found themselves in the Illinois state baseball championship. Chris Ballard first chronicled the team in a long piece for SI in , and he's explored them in even more depth in One Shot at Forever. In this excerpt, we visit the team on the eve of their unforgettable season. John Heneberry fidgeted on the dark yellow couch of his living room, a familiar sense of unease washing over him. For years, this had been the family routine: John, his father, his mother, and his grandfather arrayed around the small color TV after dinner, watching the news.
Could a small town Illinois baseball team beat the odds and make it to the state finals? He joins us on Chicago Tonight at pm. Read the prelude and first chapter of the book below. Was this some sort of joke? The work of a smartass kid?
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Meridian High School is a public four-year high school located in Macon, Illinois. It is located about nine miles south of Decatur, Illinois., Macon High School "Ironmen".
The Macon Ironmen. Hyperion, pages. Here in central Illinois we love our high school sports. Granted we also pay attention to the Cardinals, Bears, Cubs, Sox and other sports franchises, but nothing seems to get the juices flowing like high school football, basketball and baseball. It may just be that most high school athletes are unspoiled by money and fame. It could be the desire to relive some long ago accomplishment. Whatever the reason, there is a warm spot in many hearts for the innocence represented by high school teams, coaches and athletes.