Kevin Cooney is in his 18th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic
University of the Atlantic Sun Conference and 22nd overall. A former pitching
star at Montclair State, Cooney has led FAU to an average of 46 wins per season
the past six years. He as guided the Blue Wave to a 273-106 record and five NCAA
Regionals in the past six years. This is the second year he has offered his thoughts on
baseball - and other things - for CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
June 30, 2005
A Summer Reading List
Do kids still get
summer reading lists assigned to them? I remember back in high school I got to
read some good books, only because I was forced to read them or face the wrath
of Brother Shea in September. A Separate Peace and Catcher In The Rye
were two books which struck a chord in my adolescence.
I had already
developed a taste for reading during elementary school, despite having never
seen my parents reading anything other than The Newark Evening News.
Understandably my reading interests focused primarily on sports. I devoured
every book in the Chip Hilton series by former LIU basketball coach Clair
Bee. Chip Hilton was a three-sport star in the fictional town of Valley Falls.
He and his running mate Speed Morris were two high school stars who continued
their careers at the local university. I stumbled on two of these books in a
used books store in Aniston, Alabama, while on a road trip. I wish they were
still in print. I’d be interested in hearing what a 12 or 13-year-old boy in
2005 would think of those stories.
For some reason I
was immediately drawn to biographies and historical works. Perhaps it was
because the young readers’ section in the Cedar Grove Public Library had a great
series by Landmark Books. I read the history of the U.S. Marine Corps, the
travels of Lewis and Clark, and biographies of Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox),
Benjamin Franklin, and many others. I reached a point where the only books in
the series left to read were biographies of women. Since this pre-dated the
Women’s Liberation movement, my choices were slim. I was surprised to find that
Clara Barton, Marie Curie, and Betsy Ross actually had led interesting lives.
College is a
difficult time to read for the pure enjoyment of the process. There is too much
required reading and work to be done. That’s my players’ story, and their
sticking to it! I can relate, because the demands of two young children have
ended the days of settling down to enjoy a book by the pool or after dinner. Now
my reading is condensed into the baseball season. Bus and plane rides, coupled
with days in hotels waiting for games, provide my window of opportunity to
pursue my interest in a good book.
All that said…here
is a summer reading list for those of you with the time and interest. These are
some of the books I count among my favorites, with a comment or two on some.
by former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton, was the first “tell all” book in baseball.
It made the author a pariah among the baseball establishment because it was felt
that he betrayed the confidence of the clubhouse. It is a great read and still
is funny today. Interestingly, the use of “greenies” is discussed for the first
time. Today, over 30 years later, Major League Baseball continues to turn a
blind eye to the abuse of this substance in clubhouses throughout baseball.
The Summer Game
was written by Roger Angell in 1972. I read it during my first summer in
professional baseball, and Angell’s love for the game came through on every
page. It was a perfect book at a perfect time in my life. I had to speak in
front of 500 people in my hometown that fall, and Angell’s prose helped me
verbalize how I felt about the game.
America was James Michener’s foray into the world of sports. It was an
impressive work by an author used to writing historical novels of grand themes.
Most of Michener’s warnings back in the summer of ‘72 have come true.
Men At Work,
by the conservative writer and commentator George Will, is probably the best
baseball book ever written. It is a work that probes into all aspects of the
game, giving the reader an inside look into the game of baseball. The section on
managing features Tony LaRussa and his staff. The reader learns that for
everything new, there is something old that still holds sway in the game. The
insight into first and third offense, with LaRussa quoting Billy Martin, has
helped FAU score some big runs.
3 Nights In
August was discussed earlier this year. Author Buzz Bissinger focuses on a
crucial three-game series with the Cubs and Cardinals. His full access to
LaRussa and his players and staff proves priceless.
Dollar Sign On
The Muscle, by Kevin Kerrane, will educate you on the business of scouting.
Read this and you will understand it truly is a business, and that all those
guys standing around with stopwatches and radar guns are doing more than talking
about the best places to eat.
Leon Uris, has always been one of my top three books. If you want to understand
a little about the relationship of the Irish and the English in a great
fictional story- read this one.
Charles Frazier’s story of a confederate soldier trying to get back to the woman
he loves, is another of my favorites. I’ve never seen the movie, but it would be
tough to match the visual imagery of the book.
Mr. Watson is a good read for any Floridian interested in the history of
early 20th century Florida. Peter Mathessen’s work has made me look
differently at the west coast of the Sunshine State.
Gore Vidal, is an historical work of fiction. It’s a good read, but mixing
fiction with history can be dangerous and confusing.
The Cardinal Of
The Kremlin is my favorite of the Tom Clancy books I have read, although
Hunt For Red October is my favorite movie.
The Gold Coast
is arguably the most literary of all Nelson DeMille’s works. You can pick up
virtually any book by this author and not be disappointed. If you are familiar
with the “old money” of Long Island, or know something of Organized Crime, this
book will hold your attention.
is not the story of a naval disaster. It is about rabbits. Richard Adams’ book
about Fiver, Hazel, General Woundwort and a cast of heroes and villains is my
favorite piece of fiction. I have read this book at least three times. The tale
of a group of rabbits fleeing their home because of an impending tragedy is an
exciting allegory for the state of Europe during the rise of Hitler, yet it is
essentially an exciting adventure.
Citizen Soldier are two outstanding World War II books by Steven Ambrose.
What struck me most reading these two books was the realization that this war
was won by kids the age of my players.
Band Of Brothers
is the third of four Steven Ambrose’s works on this list, but stands as a
riveting tribute to the American fighting man. If you saw the mini-series, you
should still read the book.
Courage, also by Ambrose, is the story of the exploration of the American
West by Lewis and Clark. What those men and women faced and observed is
incredible. It’s a long but easy read that is well worth the time.
A Sorrow In Our
Heart - The Life Of Tecumseh is one of the longest books I ever read. It’s
also one of the best. Alan W. Eckert’s account of the great Shawnee chief was,
for me, a life altering experience. No one can read this book and view the
history of North America and its native people, in the same way ever again.
A Rumor Of War
is the one book about the Vietnam War that should be read if you could only
read one. Philip Caputo’s account of his experience brings the personal horror
of that war home to any who read his story.
Anthony Swofford, gives you a great view of a U.S. Marine in the Gulf War.
is the tale of the same war experienced by the author Buzz Williams. The
difference, and what makes it topical today, is that Williams was a Marine
Reservist who went from campus to combat in 38 days.
The Lessons Of
Terror should be required reading for the American public. Caleb Carr
details “the history of warfare against civilians” in such a way that you
realize few civilizations are exempt from having used the tactic that has become
our rallying cry for evil in the world.
is Hampton Sides’ story of the historic rescue of the survivors of the Bataan
Death March of WWII.
Black Hawk Down
is a book that reads like a movie. The fact that it came before the film
makes it better. Mark Bowden’s tale of the battle in Somalia is heart-wrenching
and inspiring. It also provides one of my favorite quotes, “The difference
between a coward and a hero isn’t being scared- it’s what you do while you’re
is the account of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, told by Edmund Morris. Where
has this type of president gone?
Life - John F. Kennedy 1917-1963, by Robert Dallek, provides information
about Kennedy that had never before been available. Mostly in the area of his
medical records, this information makes one wonder how JFK lived long enough to
ever get elected. The information that was hidden from the public regarding the
candidate and subsequent President’s health is staggering. Greater insight is
also provided into the sordid side of Camelot, not from a tabloid approach, but
rather an interesting telling of the Kennedy family, and his father’s
contribution to the dark side of his character, as well as the greatness that
was John Kennedy. Anyone who grew up hiding under their desk in school during
air raid drills, or held their breath during the Cuban Missile Crisis, will
enjoy this book.
Highway, by Howard Bounes, is a biography of Bob Dylan which I read during
the Regional in Alabama in 2002. For that reason alone it remains a favorite.
made me feel as if I was reading a part of my life. Frank McCourt’s story of his
mother and family rang true with many of the facets that make up an
Irish-Catholic family. I must add that our family was nowhere near as poor or
dysfunctional as the McCourts.
The Case For
Christ, by Lee Strobel, takes an investigator’s method of determining the
historical existence of Jesus Christ
Sword, by James Carroll, is easily the best and most influential book I have
ever read. This study of the history of the Catholic Church (and Christianity in
general) and the Jewish people is something that everyone should read. It’s a
long, exhaustive book, rich in footnotes and history, but never, ever boring. It
has had a profound affect on me as a person, to the extent that it has helped me
clarify the place of religion and God in my life. This book will hurt to read if
you are Catholic, but read it you must. Only after learning the historical facts
of what transpired over centuries, will you be able to make an educated analysis
of your faith. As you read the horrors and duplicity practiced against a race of
believers that should been allowed to remain brothers and sisters with Christ
and his followers, your heart will ache. Throughout the course of the book I
became angered and confused. What, now, of my faith? My question was shared by
the author, and answered at the end of the book:
“This has been
the story of the worst thing about my Church, which is the worst thing about
myself. I offer it as my personal penance to God, to the Jewish dead, and to my
children, whom I led, by accident, to the threshold of Hitler’s pit. Nietzsche
warned that if we stare into the abyss, it may stare back, and this book proves
Nietzsche right. My faith is forever shaken, and I will always tremble. The
Christian conscience– mine -can never be at peace. But that does not say it all.
This tragic story offers a confirmation of faith, too. God sees us nevertheless.
When the Lord now turns to me to ask, ‘Will you also go away?’ I answer, this
too with Simon Peter, ‘Lord, to whom shall I go?’ “
So, with the
College World Series and its images of all that is best in college baseball,
having faded from our television screens, maybe it’s time to pick up a book
instead of watching reality shows and reruns. For all the coaches hitting the
recruiting trail, or heading out for a short vacation, I hope you find something
here you like.
The Cooney’s are packing up and heading for the farm in Tennessee
tomorrow. I doubt there will be time to read. Luke has tractors for me to ride
with him, and Maggie needs someone to lead her around, as she rides Mac the
horse. There are fireflies to catch, and hay to mow. The hills of Tennessee are
calling. I hope everyone has a great summer.
Fathers' Day (6/19/05)
Man at the Top (6/9/05)
Take me out to a Dancehall (6/3/05)
No Defense for This (5/28/05)
The Storey Remains the Same (5/27/05)
A Major League Weekend (5/19/05)
Georgia on my Mind (5/10/05)
We're Going to Disney World (5/4/05)
Halfway Home (4/12/05)
Lost in the Flood (4/8/05)
Good Things Come to Him Who Waits (4/6/05)
A Long Ride Home (4/3/05)
The Working Life (3/31/05)
A Good Friday (3/28/05)
St. Patrick's Day on Wheels (3/18/05)
Beware the Ides of March (3/16/05)
Conference Sweep (3/13/05)
Madness and Soaring Eagles (3/11/05)
Viva Las Vegas (3/8/05)
The Rocket, and a Black and Blue Big Ten Weekend (3/1/05)
So You Wanted to Coach (2/21/05)
Mickey was the Story (2/15/05)
The Rocket's Red Glare (2/11/05)
It's a Dog's Life (2/3/05)
'You've Got to Learn to Live with What You Can't Rise Above' (1/31/05)
25 Years of FAU Baseball (1/16/05)
So this is Christmas (12/24/04)
The Graduate (12/8/04)
Thanksgiving in Palm Beach County (11/25/04)
An Empty Seat (11/10/04)
Fall is in the Air (10/21/04)
Hurricane Carmen (9/24/04)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)