My Home Town: A Sportswriter’s Life and the Redemptive Power of Small-Town Girls Basketball by Dave Kindred 2023
Dave Kindred, an 82 year old Illinoisan, has written a fine book. Part memoir, part homage to small town rural Illinois, part a love letter to his wife, and part a tribute to the role of a girls’ high school basketball team in a town of 17.000 souls outside Peoria. He was born near there, in the even smaller town of Atlanta, IL, population 1600 and went off after high school to Illinois Wesleyan on a scholarship where he was an average second baseman with a ‘good glove, no hit’ profile. After college, he , he moved from the field to the press box and launched a very successful career.
Marrying his high school sweetheart and moving from the local paper to the Louisville Courier, the Washington Post, and the Atlanta Constitution, he learned from the best (Red Smith, Jerry Holzman, Shirley Povitch) until he joined that fraternity of the best sportswriters in America at a time when newspapers still counted. (As an aside, last month the NYT dropped their entire sports section. What is the world coming to???). Garnering almost every award available to a sportswriter, he decided to retire and move back to his home town in rural Illinois in 2003 after a coronary artery stent for him and a small stroke for his wife.
Returning to Morton, he found himself one night at a girls basketball game. The Lady Potters of Morton High School were playing, and he found himself taking notes and yearning to write. With the OK of the coach and one of the girl’s fathers who managed the team’s web site, he signed on to write a column on the Lady Potters—the pay, one box of Milk Duds. Through the next 12 years, Kindred kept going to games and kept writing. The Lady Potters had a phenomenal three-peat, winning the State championship in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and missing by only one game in the fourth year. During that time, there was sadness as well. His only grandson died of a drug overdose, and his beloved Sheryl succumbed to a stroke. But, Kindred wrote on and on and on.
I enjoyed this book, though I’d have to admit that Act One which dealt with his career as a major sports writer was much more engaging than Act 2, about the Lady Potters. The first section brought me back to Muhammed Ali who Kindred befriended and accompanied over his 40 year boxing career, Carlton Fisk’s 1975 home run in the World Series, the terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Michael Jordan and Martina Navratilova, Hoyt Wilhelm’s knuckleball and Secretariat’s Triple Crown, Tiger Woods’ first and last Master’s victories, and Pete Rose’s lies. All wonderful memories from my childhood and young adult years.
On the other hand, I just couldn’t get into the details of the Lady Potter’s incredible run of 135-9. The names all ran together, and I couldn’t keep the towns straight. Two exceptions, were the description of their victories over the Cheesemakers of Monroe, WI and the girls at Normal High School. Those had greater interest because I had visited a college friend in Normal and one of my college friends lives in Monroe. Small world.
Kindred can write and if you love sports, hover in the 70-80 year old range, and/or have a daughter or granddaughter who plays basketball, run out and buy this book.