One Shot At Forever
“On the field, the players lined up and shook hands. Knowing Lane’s reputation, Heneberry expected the players to be bitter or perhaps complain about how we should have beat these sumbitches. They weren’t. Instead, a couple of the boys said ‘Great game.’ Another said, ‘We’re hoping you guys win the title.’” (188)
This quotation takes place after Macon beat Lane Tech in the semifinal baseball game. Lane Tech was the overall number one seed and most people projected them to win the state tournament. Macon was able to overcome the odds and now had a shot at winning the state championship.
Throughout their journey to the state finals, Macon had many obstacles to overcome. The first was the size of the town they live in. Macon only had 1,200 people living in the town and they were facing some school that had over 3,000 male students. The larger schools had an extremely unfair advantage due to the pool of athletes they were able to choose from. The year is 1971 and high schools had not yet been separated by classes(size) to make sports more fair for smaller schools. Every school was for themselves and the state champion was the true champion.
Another obstacle showed itself in the regional finals vs Bloomington. The Macon Ironmen beat Bloomington 3-2, however, Steve Shartzer fractured his hand when he landed on it awkwardly while sliding into home plate. Steve was the best pitcher they had and the leader of the team, and Macon could not afford to lose him for state. Since Steve fractured his non-throwing hand, he pushed through the pain and continued to play baseball. Steve was eventually named the Regional Player of the Year for leading the Ironmen to the championship game.
The Cinderella story came up just short of being complete when Macon lost to Waukegan in the state championship game 4-2. Although the Ironmen fell just short of their dreams, they defied the odds and showed the state of Illinois and the country that they could play baseball. Macon represented all the small towns of Illinois and gave hope to other towns that they could someday do what Macon did. To this day, Macon’s run at the state final is the accomplishment Macon citizens are most proud of.
The Ironmen's coach, Lynn Sweet, was a coach who coached like no one else at the time. Practices were optional, and he let the players run the practices on their own. Lynn had long hair, bushy sideburns, and a mustache during a time when men were supposed to have short hair and clean faces. Most of the reporters at the state tournament disagree, but a few back Sweet up with the idea of letting kids have fun and play how they want. Lynn Sweet was one of the first coaches in Illinois to change their coaching style from yelling at the kids to being more of a friend to the players. Today, you can still see some coaches who yell and demand discipline, but there are many more who are like Sweet and befriend the players on the team.
I think we can all learn something from One Shot At Forever. People can look at a town like Macon and see the success the kids had when they went out and just had fun. From my own experience with sports, kids play much better when they are playing for a coach who truly cares about them. Lynn Sweet coach the Macon Ironmen perfectly to fit the needs of the kids and they give Lynn everything they had. The life lesson I gained from reading this book is to always give a 100% effort no matter how big the challenge you are facing is. The Ironmen proved that anyone can overcome the odds to do extraordinary things. I really enjoyed reading this book because I love sports and I would recommend this book to anyone, especially sports fans.