Review by Richard Sumrall
American sports fans everywhere are
familiar with the refrain "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."
In his new book "Not Till the Fat Lady Sings," author Les Krantz
documents the most exciting, improbable finishes in sports history.
Going back as far as "Merkle's Blunder" in the Giants-Cubs baseball
game in 1908 (Fred Merkle's failure to touch second base on a
game-winning hit cost the Giants the pennant), Krantz has assembled
a collection of sporting events that genuinely represents the "agony
and the ecstasy" of competition in American sports.
The 10 greatest finishes in sports
history include games that have become ingrained in the American
consciousness. Among them are Doug Flutie's 1984 "Hail Mary" pass
against Miami, Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" in 1972 against
the Raiders, Bobby Thompson's 1951 "Shot Heard 'Round the World"
ninth-inning home run against the Dodgers, and the United States
1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic gold-medal victory over the USSR.
The inclusion of the "Munich Clock
Controversy" at the 1972 Olympic basketball competition is certain
to generate strong feelings among readers. In that game the United
States "lost" its first Olympic basketball game when the referees
gave the team from the Soviet Union three consecutive chances to
inbound the ball at the end of the game and win by a score of 51-50.
Those who watched this televised travesty will remember that
Illinois State guard Doug Collins hit two crucial free throws
seconds earlier to give the Americans a 50-49 lead with three
The second 10 greatest finishes are
almost as extraordinary as the first 10 games. Included in this
selection is John Havlicek's steal of an inbound pass in the 1965
playoff against the 76ers, Don Larsen's called third strike to pitch
the only perfect game in World Series history (1956), the 14-second
count during the 1927 heavyweight championship fight between Jack
Dempsey and Gene Tunney, and Christian Laettner's 1992 turnaround
buzzer-beater for the Duke Blue Devils against the Kentucky
Wildcats. Big Ten fans will enjoy reliving the 2003 Fiesta Bowl,
when Ohio State's goal-line stand preserved a double overtime
victory against Miami for college football's national championship.
[to top of second column in
As with the second team, several of the
third 10 greatest finishes could easily have been included in the
top 10. The most notable games here include Lorenzo Charles' dunk
off a desperation shot to win the 1983 national championship for Jim
Valvano's North Carolina State Wolfpack, Tom Watson's birdie chip on
the 17th green to defeat Jack Nicholas at the 1982 U.S. Open, and
the greatest drive in Super Bowl history: Joe Montana's 92-yard
drive against the Bengals in 1982.
Probably the most interesting inclusion
here is the "And The Band Played On." The 1982 football game between
Stanford and California finished with arguably the most exciting and
bizarre ending in college football history. Behind 20-19 with four
seconds remaining on the clock, California took the ensuing kickoff
and used five laterals plus the Stanford marching band (who had
drifted onto the field) to score the winning touchdown.
There are many of the 20 games in this
section that could easily have made the first three teams. Those
include Jean Van de Velde's collapse at the 1999 British Open, tiny
Milan's victory over mighty Muncie Central in the 1954 Indiana state
basketball championship, the Cale Yarborough-Donnie Allison duel
that opened the door for Richard Petty to win the 1979 Daytona 500,
and Brandi Chastain's penalty kick that gave the U.S. women's soccer
team its World Cup championship victory over China.
"Not Till the Fat Lady Sings" is one of
the best sports compilations to come onto the market in many years.
The book is beautifully illustrated and contains many photographs,
statistics and memorable quotes. As quarterback Doug Flutie writes,
"A spectacular, game-winning play in the clutch is what makes fans
return to the stadium. That's what makes … all of sports great:
hoping to see a miracle." This book is recommended to sports fans
book comes with a DVD version that includes actual footage of some
of the greatest finishes. The DVD is available for checkout in the
library's DVD collection.
Public Library District]