Monday, November 16, 2009

Book #14

The Ticket Out by Michael Sokolove is the incredible true story of the most talented collection of high school basbeball players in history: this team featured two future major league all-stars including Darryl Strawberry. This collection of young men were incredible players and from Crenshaw, of the worst parts of South Central LA. This book functions on many levels - it shows how powerful sports can be in overcoming socio-economic status (and the lures of gang life) but also details the perils of stardom which can lead to the downfall of young men who grew up with nothing; Strawberry serving as the prime example.

The team was so good they stormed through the regular season and playoffs, virtually unchallenged. However, in the league championship they met a previously unknown foe: John Elway - yes, that John Elway. Ultimately, Crenshaw lost that game and the players went their seperate ways. While many have been moderately successful, others have been completely destroyed. Strawberry's story is a tragic and cautionary tale but pales in comparison to that of his teammate, catcher Carl Jones. After succumbing to the street, Jones was sentenced to an automatic 25 years in prison for violating California's three strikes laws.

The book serves as an examination of the laws which are in place to punish those who can least defend themselves. Sokolove examines the "three strikes" rule and argues passionately against it, detailing how even the man for whom it was enacted knows the difference between "the life of his daughter and someone stealing an air conditioner for the third time".

The examination of this talented but troubled team is a haunting account which weaves through time, lives and the power of sports to provide a ticket out.

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