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

Andrew

Bissinger's book, "3 Nights in August," about the Cubs-Cardinals series in 2003 give some clues to his mindset after being hit in the head, using Sammy Sosa as an example:Quote: ________________________________________"When the Cards faced him in May, it was pretty clear to Duncan and Mason, watching the DVD on him, that he was going through something. He was flinching on curve balls as if he were afraid he might get hit, and he began to develop a sizable hole in his swing on pitches down and away.To (Tony) La Russa, the explanation was embedded in human nature. In May, Sosa had gotten beaned by a pitch, his batting helmet splintering like a dropped glass of water. It was clear that he had gotten tentative after that, with good reason. Few things in sports are more terrifying than a pitch hurtling at a hitter's head with no time for reflexes, the incident only reinforcing to La Russa the urgency of the commissioner's office to stop ignoring the problem and do something about it, such as an automatic three-week suspension for the pitcher involved.Sosa had become intimidated, as every hitter in the history of the game has become intimidated, after such a frightening moment."________________________________________Pitchers start throwing Sosa pitches away -- and Sosa didn't start to hit again in 2003 until he went back to a stance crowding the plate -- and that took from May until July.

John

Really interesting study of a manager's mind during a baseball game (or rather, a three game series). Bissinger takes us slowly through three games, every batter, every pinch hit opportunity, pitching change, hit and run, and any other minor decision that must be made by Tony La Russa as he tries to get the Cards past the Cubs late in the 2003 season. Lots of these moments lead to chapter long digressions as Bissinger tries to explain what is going on in La Russa's mind by taking us back into the last few seasons of a particular player's performance so we can understand exactly why La Russa does what he does. Lots of this is fascinating, and I have to admit, I was surprised at how open La Russa was willing to be about how he felt about the players. It's one thing for a relief pitcher to write a book about all the baseball details the fans might want to know; it's another thing entirely for a manager to do the same. I would have thought a book like this could really poison relationships. Some of this stuff you would think would be just between a player and a coach, and I would expect players to get mad when it is all exposed in print. But hey, what do I know, the Cards won the pennant the following year and the World Series a few years later, so clearly this book didn't do any harm. This book has a little bonus for Red Sox fans, as it goes into loving detail about what a pain J.D. Drew is. An entire chapter is devoted to La Russa bemoaning Drew's lack of energy and passion, and Drew's willingness to always give a little less than 100%. I wish Theo Epstein had had a talk with Buzz Bissinger before the Sox decided to spend all kinds of money on that guy.

Reid Mccormick

“Beautiful. Just beautiful baseball.”Tony La Russa is one of the most successful managers in baseball history. Every game is a lengthy epic with countless stories and numerous subplots. La Russa is meticulous, always scheming for an edge. He and his army of coaches keep detailed notes on every player and every pitcher in the league including their own. Though the season may seem long and tedious, each game counts. A whole season can change in one game. La Russa knows this and he works tirelessly to win each day. Bissinger’s 3 Nights in August is exhaustive look into the mind of Tony La Russa. Though the game has changed significantly over the years with home runs, deep bullpens, sabermetrics, and so on; nothing can replace experience. La Russa managed with an unmatched intensity though he remained stoic and poker-faced. With his retirement at the end of the 2011 season after the Cardinals magical comeback against the Texas Rangers, baseball lost one of its most respected managers. Anyone who loves baseball, who loves the nuances of the game, the joys and the heartbreaks, will love this book.

Rick

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!

Robert James

Maybe the best baseball book I've ever read for many reasons. First, I am a lifelong Cardinal fan and can remember my first game I saw at old Busch Stadium in 1969. I am part of Cardinal Nation that lives and dies with our Cardinals every summer. Second, I am a huge fan of baseball. I follow the game every summer and have read a lot of baseball books. It's kind of appropriate that I finished this book the very day Tony La Russa goes into baseball's Hall of Fame. He was never fully accepted here in St. Louis. He was an outsider and we had just come out of the Whitey Herzog era a few years earlier and Whitey is still hugely popular. However, after 16 years of managing our Cardinal team and winning two World Series, he is one of us. I loved this book because of its passion for baseball, its look at the small details in each game and the strategy on each and every pitch.

Drew

Part of my "Spring Training" book series, I picked this up on a lazy weekend, thinking I'd get right into it. What a disappointment.Here's a few lines from the book -Like Torre and Cox andPiniella, his history in the game makes himpowerfully influenced by the verypersuasions the thirtysomethings find sopointless: heart, desire, passion,reactions to pressure. After all, these areemotions, and what point is thereplaying baseball, or any game, if you don'tcelebrate them?I thought only Bob Costas was able to spout off such useless hyperbole on the matter of sports. I could only get 10 pages in before I threw this book down in disgust. Sure, you may be the type of person who thinks the sound of a bat against a ball is the sound of heaven. I'd guess most men like the sound of a dress zipper loosening more. Or the sound of a roaring V6 engine.Look, I agree, baseball is fun, it promotes nostalgia, and gives fathers and sons a way to bond. However, this isn't war. This isn't even politics. It's just a game. Like a dice match in the alley, or marbles at recess, although the stakes are higher. There is nothing that separates baseball from these games. And Buzz Bissinger knows this, I'm sure, but he's smart... he knows there are plenty of simpletons out there who wax nostalgic about this shlock.

Jared

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.

Joe

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.

Heather

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.

Dan

Before the glossing over of Tony La Russa's reputation inevitably takes place when he is enshrined in Cooperstown, it is important to note that he was perhaps the most polarizing manager in baseball during his career (with Dusty Baker also being a strong candidate in my mind).3 Nights in August chronicles a 2003 Cardinals-Cubs series near the end of the season. However, the book does not solely focus on those three games, as it also chronicles La Russa's career with the Carlton Fisk and Tom Seaver White Sox and the Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire (along with Rickey Henderson) Oakland A's. The book also focuses on La Russa's previous seasons with the Cardinals, most notably the 2002 season that was marred by the death of star pitcher, and popular teammate, Darryl Kile mid-season. It chronicles the unexpected rise of Albert Pujols and the fearsome trio he formed with Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen in the mid-2000s.While this book will be most appreciated by Cardinals fans, any fans who enjoy baseball, or even Bissinger's previous works such as Friday Night Lights, would probably find some merit in this book. If there are any downsides Three Nights in August, it is that Bissinger sometimes paints La Russa in too much of a saintly light, when the real truth is that La Russa is more similar to Bill Belichick in his demeanor, with probably more negatives that are more apt to get exposed over a 162-game season.Also, it forces Cardinals fans to live the disappointing 2003 season over again, where mediocre pitching befell the team to 85 wins and a third-place finish (Esteban Yan and Pedro Borbon Jr. are still epynomous with the word "suck" when it comes to relievers). On the positive side, there is an epilogue devoted to the 105-win 2004 season, where the Cardinals advanced all the way to the World Series (it is a shame that they cancelled it that year).

Wieberg Christopher

3 Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and the Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager was a really good book. Tony LaRussa first talks about his younger day when he was a player and Manger. But the book is mainly about a 3 game series hints the name of the book 3 Nights in August, with the Chicago Cubs. This was back when one of my favorite cardinals teams of my time. It was when the Cardinals had Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria, Bo Hart, Mike Matheny, Woody Williams, and Matt Morris. This was a time when the Cubs were relevant. The Cubs would Start Mark Prior, Kerry Woods, and Carlos Zambrano. And the Cardinals would start Woody Williams, and Garrett Stevenson, and Matt Morris. Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan knew this was going to be a big series against the Cubs so they have planed it out so that these three starters would be pitching. Do they win? Read 3 Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and the Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager to find out.

Paul

Tony LaRussa is one of the greatest managers in the history of Major League Baseball. This book offers a unique glimpse into the mind of a baseball genius. "Buzz" Bissinger, the author of the football classic turned box office hit "Friday Night Lights", follows TLR and my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, around during a series against the much-maligned Chicago Cubs towards the end of the Cardinals extremely disappointing 2003 season.I admit that I am totally biased in giving this book five stars. Saying I am a fan of the Cardinals is quite an understatement (as I type this, I am staring at an Albert Pujols bobblehead on my desk, and sitting next to a Cardinals' trash can I've had since my eighth birthday). However, I believe anyone who loves the game of baseball will enjoy the view of the game presented by an exceptional author, Mr. Bissinger, and, possibly baseball's biggest fan, Mr. LaRussa.

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.

Dalton

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.

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.

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