Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager

ISBN: 0618710531
ISBN 13: 9780618710539
By: H.G. Bissinger

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About this book

Three Nights in August captures the strategic and emotional complexities of baseball's quintessential form, the three-game series. As the St. Louis Cardinals battle their archrival Chicago Cubs, we watch from the dugout through the eyes of legendary manager Tony La Russa, considered by many to be the shrewdest mind in the game today. In his twenty-seven years of managing, La Russa has been named Manager of the Year a record-making five times and now stands as the third-winningest baseball manager of all time. A great leader, he's built his success on the conviction that ball games are won not only by the numbers but also by the hearts and minds of those who play.Drawing on unprecedented access to a major league manager and his team, Buzz Bissinger brings a revelatory intimacy to baseball and offers some surprising observations. Bissinger also furthers the debate on major league managerial style and strategy in his provocative new afterword.

Reader's Thoughts


This book is not really so much about "the mind of a manager" - in fact, the biggest disappointment for me was that it didn't really get into interesting social/cultural or personal backgrounds like his other two books that I've read, Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City. It is sort of like a very long radio play-by-play of a three-game series (Cardinals vs. Cubs), with asides and backtracks in between that are mostly about individual players and nuances of the game (e.g., hit-and-run).The book definitely requires a fairly good working knowledge of baseball entering in. There are box scores listed in the middle of chapters. I learned a ton, though: I got a much better understanding of the nuances of the game - what kind of hits you want when batters are on different bases or there are different numbers of outs, what goes into decisions to take out pitchers, pinch hit, steal, etc. It just was not what I expected - I thought it was going to be about a person, and really it was about the game. The writing was sometimes fairly cheesy/bad too though (poor transitions, cheesy statements, etc.).The cultural pieces of baseball that he did touch on that I found interesting were how the mentality of some players has changed w/the onset/increase of huge salaries (they can phone it in), and, actually in the afterword, the "theological" debate between using emotion, heart, motivation, etc. w/your players (LaRussa's style) vs. the Moneyball theory of basing it all on stats. The book had a little suspense in terms of which team was going to win each game and the overall 3-game series, and looking above at my comments I guess I did take a lot from it. It's still pretty dense w/facts though, so I read it over a long period of time. All in all, an interesting book. Just don't expect a page-turner.


This was a true behind the scenes book, Bissinger had great access to Tony LaRussa and did an excellent job of telling the story of the 3 game series against the Cubs by interweaving a back story for the key situations that happened in the actual game. It was neat to hear the story of a reliever coming in from the bullpen in a close game when you knew the context in which he was coming in (his previous struggles in his career, the season, at home and against particular opponents). The most interesting part to me was the narrative that Bissinger creates in his forward and afterword about his book being in opposition to Michael Lewis' Moneyball. He claims that others have said this but he seems to spend an inordinate amount of time in those two sections explaining his position that stats are given over importance (he is more eloquent than that but that is his position simplified). It is interesting to me because I love the advanced analytics in baseball but first fell in love with baseball because of the beauty and rhythm of the game. I don't see any obvious contradictions in the approaches; the only issues are when one side tries to completely dismiss the other side. In reading the book, I didn't get the feeling that LaRussa and even Bissinger was making some grand stand against advanced analytics. I enjoyed it because LaRussa clearly loved the human, strategic and statistical details of the game. He did wax on about the subtle's of dealing with human beings which as a trained sports sociologist was fascinating but he still measured the outcomes of performance because he had to. Ironically, similar to how Michael Lewis really was taken by Billy Beane in moneyball, Bissinger was equally fascinated by Tony LaRussa. I think when you understand someones deep motivations for doing what they do, you can't help but feel connected to that person and want to defend them. Maybe Bussinger and Lewis should talk, they might have more in common than they think.So all that to say, a well written book (though it started a bit slowly as Bissinger set the stage) with great detail of how baseball works with a unnecessary afterward on this contrast with Moneyball. Maybe that was just used to try to sell the book? If you want to know how baseball works, read this book.


For my goodreads report I read the book “Three Nights in August”. This book is about the rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. Specifically the series that would determine who would make it into the playoff. The book focuses on the brilliant mind of the manager Tony Larussa, and how he managed the St. Louis baseball team. I believe the author wrote this book to show the brilliant mind of the manager Tony Larussa, and to show how complex the game of baseball is. The theme of this book is perseverance. This is the the theme because the book mentions the hardships of the Cardinal organization and the mental battles of Larussa. The struggles in the mind of Larussa are great and numerous. This proves that the game of baseball is a game using the mind. The style of this book is definitely descriptive. It describes the game of baseball and it also describes the things that go on in the minds of the players. For my review of the book I would have to say it is good but it is boring. I liked the baseball aspect of the book but i didn't like that it wasn't just about baseball. If I could change anything I would make the book more exciting for younger people. This book was truly unique and I've never read anything like it.


Jeffrey Huser 7th Hour December 16th, 2013 Do you ever wonder what it takes to be the best at what you do? Tony LaRussa knows exactly what it takes! Hard work and dedication through thick and thin times. Even when he is feeling ill, he gets the job done. From early mornings and late nights, he never gives up on not only his team but himself. Not only do you need determination, but you need heart and that is exactly what Tony possesses. My book, “Three Nights In August”, written by Buzz Bissinger was a book all about the 2003 postseason against the Chicago Cubs. Tony talks about how much preparation goes into each game, from taking notes on opposing pitchers to making mental notes about your own teams flaws. The Cardinals open up game one of a three game series with a loss of 4 to 7 to the Cubs. This is not a good way to start considering if you lose another game your teams season is over. All the hard work you put into it just goes down the drain on just one game. The Cardinals jump to a good lead in game two with a homerun by Albert Pujols to the Birds up by 3. The Cubs tack on to runs with a two-run homerun by Sammy Sosa. The Cardinals end up taking game 2 by a score of four to two. Its all down to the last game. The deciding fate of both teams depend on their starting pitchers to give the team a good game. Too see if the Cardinals go farther into the Postseason read, “Three Nights In August.” I really did enjoy reading this book because I am a baseball player and fan. Its crazy too see how much preparation goes into each and every game. It really shows how dedicated these managers are too there job. It was a slow paced book, but it would grab your attention on important parts of the game. I would recommend this book to any baseball player, because you can really respect the determination and dedication that these players and managers put into the game that they love. If you're not somewhat of a baseball fan then this book might not be right for you, just because there is alot of baseball talk and analogies. I personally did love this book though.

Jason Phillips

You should buy this book for what it is, and not for what many of these reviews say it is. It is not anti-Moneyball, it is an insiders look at a baseball game in the context of the baseball world and the career of one man, Tony LaRussa. Sabermaniacs have brought a deeper understanding of baseball to the layperson, and have challenged conventional thinking about our great game. This book does not set out to refute ther tenets of sabermetrics, in fact, Moneyball is mentioned only three times in 279 (paperback) pages. Any anti-sabermetric review is probably motivated by an almost zealous subscription to the central teachings of Moneyball.Take the book for what it is: an intelligent, thought-provoking, entertaining, insiders look at the baseball world broken down into three games. There is a great deal of context given here for what is happening on the field and in the mind of the manager. As Mr. LaRussa points out in his Foreward, the book is not about three games, and that most of what you will read "should really be about baseball in general."As far as recent books, the excellent Moneyball's contribution to the avid baseball fan is thinking differently about the assumptions you make about the game, and that different business models can be adopted that offer advantages that can be observed as teams take the field. The contribution of this book is an insiders look at how the game is tactically executed and how the eyes, ears, and experiences of a quarter century affect the minute decisions that affect the whole.Entertainingly written, any baseball fan will enjoy this book.


This book does two things very well:First, it gives you a manager's level, from-the-fox-hole level understanding of the complexities that go into every at-bat and every inning in a regular series game. I don't think I'll ever scream "What the hell was he thinking!" after watching a manager leave a struggling pitcher in only to have them give up a home-run. This book really shows you the nearly infinate variables a manager is juggling: statistical, personal, interpersonal, strategical and tactical. Bissinger disects the game from the dugout, the pitcher's mound, the locker-room, the manager and general-manager's office and every other possible angle that can go into a game. As a recent convert to the game (thanks to my Detroit raised partner, for whom last year was like the second coming), this book really opened my eyes to how much is going on at every second of the game.Second, it's a gripping page-turner. At times Bissinger stretched a single at-bat over three pages -- a single at-bat in the middle of a regular season game from four years ago between two teams I don't follow and who don't even play in the same league as the Tigers -- and I was biting my nails, almost missing my stop on the subway, forcing myself not to skim ahead to see if the batter struck out or made it to first. That Bissinger could do either of these things is impressive, that he could make an in-depth sports wonk book AND still make it a tense, roller-coaster ride is astounding. Add his poetic prose brings a lump to your throat when talking about LaRussa's love of the game and the romantic magic of baseball.


Buzz Bissinger (author of Friday Night Lights) gives plenty of insight in the mind of then-St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. The books is focused on a critical three-game series for the Cards in August of 2003 against the rival Chicago Cubs and the adversity the team had to go through to limp through the finish thanks to key injuries and ineffectiveness of starters. The book is an enjoyable read, however, it's full of superlatives and almost a worship piece on La Russa. The disdain Bissinger had for sabermetrics (i.e. Moneyball) is alluded to several times throughout and we have to keep in mind it was in 2003, before the more widespread acceptance of stats such as OPS, WAR and FIP. La Russa comes off as a sage and you do have to respect his love and knowledge of the game and his players. I personally enjoyed the anecdotes of the Cardinals roster from Rick Ankiel to Cal Eldred to Albert Pujols. The various attitudes and backgrounds of the 25-man players is what comprises a team and that was much more enjoyable than the series.Looking back though, the foreshadowing of what happened to Mark Prior is noted even though he would start his tailspin two years later. Same goes with Kerry Wood to a lesser extent and Dusty Baker's handling of them. Kudos to Bissinger for the focus on the pitch counts. This book is recommended for either baseball fans or fringe fans who think the sport is too simple and not exciting enough. This book will give plenty of information on all the ongoings of a simple game of baseball.

Bob Schmitz

I like sports but have never been a follower of baseball. It has seemed boring to me. In my one year as a 9 year old little leaguer I would sit down in the outfield because nothing was happening. Baseball lovers have contradicted me on this opinion and this book settles the question once and for all not in my favor. I had no idea how complex, complicated, subtle the game was. 3 Nights in August chronicles a 3 game series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs sometimes pitch by pitch from the view point of the Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. The amount of knowledge, thinking, planning, foretelling, analysis of accumulated data of previous performances and tendencies, consideration of current emotional states, etc., etc., etc. was eye opening to me. I learned what a hit and run is, who Albert Pujos is, that La Russa is fluent in Spanish, has a law degree, is vegetarian ("I don't eat anything that had a face")and funds animal rescue efforts. I learned that what pitch is thrown is determined by the inning, the count, the score, the outs and even who might be coming to bat two batters later; that the batters know all of this too and try to predict what is coming their way(I had thought they just got up there and tried to hit whatever showed up); and that even when the managers tell the pitchers or batters to do something specific they just don't follow instructions. I learned that many well paid players don't give it their all because it's just too much trouble and the extra $2M they would earn is unneeded after the $5M base pay. One star player even complained of why his team always "had to play in the playoffs" when he would rather have the season finished.So now I will have to read "Money Ball" and go to a baseball game with my friend Jon Klein and have him explain the intricacies of what is going on. So much to do, so little time.


I've always been a Cardinals fan, dating back to when my dad took me to games when I was still in my single digits. I lost interest in college and only started wearing a Cardinals hat because I had moved to Chicago after college. I figured that I'd have to know my stuff if I was going to parade around in THE rivals' cap. This book not only got me back into baseball, it taught me about the intricacies of the game, the countless decisions that need to be made in a game, and the unique, computer-like mind of Tony LaRussa. It's a must-read for baseball fans, but for Cardinals fans especially.

Matt Fitz

I've grown up a Cardinals fan since the 70s and my fondest memories of the sport all center around the Cardinals, through the Whitey Herzog era, the Torre Era and the LaRussa years. All great eras in baseball for different reasons.That's my bias on this book. If you are not a Cards fan, you'll have wished it was another team. If you want to learn some of the "inside baseball" aspects of actual inside baseball, this is a great look into the mind of one of it's greatest...a true baseball man who revived baseball as it ought to be in the great STL Cards tradition.

Zach Herman

Buzz Bissinger is a tremendously unlikable author, and Tony La Russa is an equally unlikable baseball manager. But somehow, Bissinger's book about La Russa is likable -- or, at least, entertaining enough to fill the afternoons of a chilly offseason.The buzz upon its release pegged "Three Nights" as a fawning tribute to La Russa's tactical and philosophical genius, but this is not a hagiography. Bissinger clearly admires La Russa and agrees with most of his old-school baseball principles, but he also devotes space to La Russa's troubled family life. The manager's borderline-obsessive behavior during the season is not glorified, but reported dispassionately.The book aims to deconstruct a crucial three-game series between the Cubs and Cardinals in 2003, but Bissinger seems caught in the middle a little bit. He offers some good insight into the unorthodox strategy and in-game maneuvering that made La Russa famous, but he also works hard to explain the game to readers who may be unfamiliar with it. As such, "Three Nights" may be more compelling for the novice than for the studied fan, despite its clear ambition to be an in-depth look at the game.Unfortunately, the narrative grinds to a halt whenever Bissinger chooses to interject the sanctimonious twaddle for which his writing is best known. He is an able reporter, but reading his analysis of what ails the game (You guessed it: greed!) is like listening to a child discuss "Othello." Bissinger doesn't waste a lot of space railing against high salaries and selfish players, but it is noticeable when he does. He's simply out of his depth.


I'm from St. Louis so I had heard about this book a while ago and just assumed it was sort of a standard puff piece for the Cardinals. Then recently a friend told me, "No really, it's more than that and you should read it." So I did and I was quite impressed with the entire scope of the book, which pretty much examines the minutiae of baseball through the lens of a single three-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs in August of 2003. You don't necessarily have to be a Cardinal fan to enjoy this book. Cubs fans should also apply, as well as anyone who appreciates some of the finer strategy in baseball. I consider myself well-versed for a casual baseball fan, perhaps somewhere on the border between a casual and an obsessive fan. Thus it was quite a treat to gain insight into pretty much every facet of the game -- if Bissinger missed one I'm not aware of it -- from an individual at-bat to hit-and-run, from pitcher preparation to intentionally hitting a batsman, and all through the eyes of one of the most relentlessly intelligent managers in the history of the game.Bissinger weaves an impressive, labyrinth-like narrative that tells the story of the three-game series while frequently pausing to follow individual threads to their point of origin, then zooming back out to the overall narrative. These threads often consisted of the background of an individual player, or a specific type of player, and these were the parts where it was most rewarding to be a Cardinals fan, to learn some of the inside dirt on my favorite players from a decade ago. My main complaint with the book is Bissinger's writing style, which is almost always ostentatious and frequently pretentious. Admittedly this reaction could be colored by knowledge of his real-world personality; he's an unapologetic conservative in the bombastic style of Sean Hannity. But still, I think most objective readers can agree that some of his word choices, analogies and dated pop culture references are oftentimes distracting, which should never be the effect of good prose. Here are some examples so you can judge for yourself: Alou goes for it in his unbridled aggressiveness. He gets a swing on it, a pretty good swing -- a damn good one, actually. He fouls it straight back, meaning that he missed driving it by a matter of only inches. Stephenson throws another fastball, this one better located on the inside. Alou gets a swing on it, a pretty good swing -- a damn good one, actually. 61 Was it really necessary to repeat the same sentence? Dramatic effect is lost in the annoyance of reading it over again. He has the swagger that is the hubris of youth, taking his invincibility for granted when nobody ever should, receiving too much early attention and slathering in it. 75Now I could be wrong, but this just seems like the wrong word choice. You can't "slather in" something, you slather something onto something else. As far as I can tell he was looking for a word like "wallowing." But this indicates that Bissinger's grasp on the English language is not as strong as he's representing, which makes some of his other word/phrase choices all the more pretentious. The pitch is more difficult to handle than the first one, that lethal combination of high-heat velocity and location you see sometimes on the Autobahn. 122 Tortured metaphor. What kind of location do you see on the Autobahn? What does that even mean? Bissinger also employed a strange and somewhat arbitary use of italics:Wood comes with a curve that bites low, and Taguchi has no choice but to protect himself because of the count, and he fouls that off too, his fifth in six pitches. 173Then there were just a couple of plain 'ol WTF moments:In addition, the relief game, of which La Russa may well be the key cultural anthropologist, had yet to evolve. 177So this means that La Russa studies the relief game and compares it to other sorts of games? That he studies relievers and analyzes their society and value systems? The analogy makes no sense, especially when he appears to be looking for a word as simple as "inventor" or "inspiration." Another case of Bissinger trying to sound smarter than he really is. Then:(Lofton) is Kline's eternal nemesis, the psychotic ex-girlfriend who sends you creepy notes through the mail to remind you she's still around. 246First of all, the analogy of a psycho-ex does not really encapsulate what it means to be an "eternal nemesis," so he starts off with a badly mixed metaphor. Secondly, are there really enough of these types of ex-girlfriends to make this a good universal example? Thirdly, it's just not an apt comparison at all to the relationship of Kline and Lofton, the latter of whom continually takes advantage of the mistakes of the former. It's just bad writing. I grant that I'm probably being extra hard on him just because I disagree with his politics and find him to be kind of a d-bag anyway, so take my criticism for what its worth. On the other hand, a decent writer can spot these sorts of mistakes a mile away, and the compound effect is to really do a disservice to the content of the book, content which is pretty near impeccable. The only other thing I would have changed stylistically is to not try and needlessly manufacture drama -- whether in one particular at-bat, or one particular game or series -- when the narrative is already plenty compelling. So overall, regardless of my writing quibbles I would recommend this book to Cardinals fans, Cubs fans and/or borderline obsessive general baseball fans who are interested in acquiring a finer grasp on the minute strategy behind even the most mundane baseball decisions. It is an invaluable artifact for its in-depth discussion of pretty much every aspect of the game. And it's much better than the other TLR book, One Last Strike (see my review).Cross-posted at Not Bad Movie and Book Reviews.

Rob Kirbach

** spoiler alert ** I skimmed this book several years ago, but just finished actually reading it. The caveat: I'm a life-long Cardinals fan and admirer of Tony LaRussa. However, I love the game of baseball more than any one team or manager.I was pleasantly surprised that this book was not just about LaRussa, although he certainly is the highlight of the text. The focus really is on the intricacies and subtleties that compose a unique and largely unknown (especially to the naivete of ordinary/casual baseball fans) etiquette that is the game of baseball. Someone looking for unconditional praise of the Cardinals won't find that here. One won't find this to be merely a biography of Tony LaRussa. This is also not a book generically about the game of baseball. It is what it is: The story of the game told through the perspective of one particular manager while he happened to be managing one particular team. However, the author's use of flashbacks was a remarkable integration of general baseball knowledge and history and emotion sprinkled in throughout the setting of this book.

Sam Perlin

Nights in August, by Buzz Bissinger, is a fantastic book based on a very tough series between the St Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. I’m a huge Cardinals fan, which is the main reason I loved this book, but one of the other reasons I loved this book is because it connects with me. I’m a pitcher, every pitcher wants to know how fast they’re currently throwing. Its just a common thing throughout all pitchers. Bissinger quoted, “La Russa once ordered the speed section of the scoreboard juiced up a few miles per hour because he could tell that his pitcher was paying as much attention to it as the fans were”(Bissinger 46). This quote really caught my attention because after I pitch I always try to see how fast i'm throwing also. Because of this, I really got caught into this book and really started to read this book in depth. Another thing that connected to me is a video coordinator that helps players work with their swing. In this book, there is also a video coordinator named, Blair. Bissinger stated, “Blair is the Cardinals video coordinator”(Bissinger 36). This quote shows us that Blair is a video coordinator. A video coordinator is someone who simply watches video of players and tries to improve what is wrong. This really caught my eyes because I once had a video coordinator who helped me change my swing. To sum it up, 3 Nights in August is a fantastic book because it connects with its readers.


Buzz Bissinger does a great job of delving into the modern baseball world focusing on the expertise of Tony Larussa. He focuses on uses Larussa as a bridge between those who were successful back in the old school baseball days as well as in the modern "Moneyball" era. The story focuses on the 3 game season within a season and does a great job of balancing the strategic and tactical aspects of the game with the personal aspects which makes us interested in the subjects as human beings. I really liked how it did not labor over statistics and focused on the game itself. It does meander at times but nothing that bad.This is a good read for baseball fans!

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