One Shot At Forever
“Of all the boys, though, Shartzer and Heneberry bonded the most that summer. As the two returning pitchers, they knew they would form the team’s backbone in 1971, but it went beyond that. John was an only child and Shartzer had only an older sister. In each other, they found something of the brother they’d never had.” (82)
Sports in today’s society are a common ground where many kids are able to form lifelong friendships. In One Shot At Forever by Chris Ballard, two young boys, Steve Shartzer and John Heneberry, form a friendships through the game of baseball that propels their team to a state title.
The story begins in the microscopic town of Macon, Illinois and with a peculiar man, Lynn Sweet. He is a man who like to do activities in non-traditional ways and has just move to the very traditional town, Macon. As an English teacher at Macon High School, he has kids write their own obituaries and the content is what they want their lives to be like. This style of writing was revolutionary during the 1960’s and 1970’s, and it caused for many of the townspeople to question his abilities as a teacher. The only problem for the townspeople was that the students loved Mr. Sweet. As his popularity grew with the kids, a job opportunity presented itself for Mr. Sweet to be the coach of the varsity baseball team. Sweet thought he could use the extra money and liked the sport, so he agreed.
People have a habit of wanting things to stay the same because they don’t like the idea of changing. Society has taken a drastic change from 1970 to today. It is very hard to start that change and the first people to change were often frowned upon. Lynn Sweet was one of those people who first changed, and he faced the criticism that many people do when they try and change. Many of the townspeople called him a hippie or communists because of his different points of view. Even opposing teams dislike the style of Mr. Sweet. “‘Hey you hippies,’ they yelled, ‘turn off that damn music’”(121). Bill McClard was one of the leaders who strongly disliked Sweet. He disliked Sweet’s teaching style and wanted to get Sweet fired. The 60’s and 70’s were also a time when a lot of segregation changes were beginning to take form.
During the summer of 1970, the Ironmen of Macon, Illinois have a promising baseball team that could go farther than any team from Macon has ever gone. The Macon Ironmen made it to regional play where they beat Stewarson-Strasburg. There was just one problem: “Then McClard announced that he had bad news: Mr. Roush was not on the official postseason roster that Macon had sent in to the Illinois High School Association prior to the playoffs” (78). This error caused the Macon Ironmen to be disqualified from further tournament play. Stewarson-Strasburg would now advance to the regional finals instead of Macon. The entire team and town were disappointed and heart-broken.
One flaw with the State Tournaments in the 60’s and 70’s was the fact that there was not classification. The small school of 1,000 people like Macon had to play the powerhouses from the suburbs of Chicago. It was extremely rare for any small town to win more than a game or two in the playoffs. Macon was able to overcome the odds and beat those powerhouses. Today, they have changed the State Tournaments to allow smaller school to only play other small school and bigger schools play only bigger school.
Bill McClard, the President of the Macon School Board, used this tragic end to a season to try and get rid of Sweet. McClard did not like Sweet because of the different style he brought to teaching and coaching. “There was his(Sweet’s) salary, listed at $6,000, and a list of his duties: English II and English IV, junior class advisor, and coordinator of the senior play.There was one missing, however: baseball coach. McClard may not have succeeded in firing Sweet, but he had done the next best thing.” (89)
Mr. McClard wanted to get Sweet fired completely from teacher and coaching, but the rest of the board decided they wanted to keep Sweet around. McClard got half of the deal he wanted and this was a win for him. In smaller towns, people who were in authority had a lot of power in the town. People would submit to the demands of the people in power because they didn’t want to face the possible wrath from them. Corruption in small town governments was very common throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and into the 2000’s.
This concludes the first half of the book and the second half will talk about the next season of Macon Ironmen baseball and the years after.