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Larry Crane
Up from Adams Street
Larry Crane, author
Up From Adams Street recounts a boy's coming of age in a whistle-stop town in Illinois. He is the favorite, of whom much is expected, naïve to a fault, decked out in high school football gear, dreaming of glory, all 120 pounds of him, perched on the roof of a freight car hurtling toward a bridge over the Mississippi, and into jail for a night. He falls for a girl, become the inevitable star-crossed lover, and discovers that the life he wants to live is the life he's living, isn't it?
Crane’s warm, vivid memoir of an extraordinarily ordinary coming of age in the twentieth century ranges from the ball fields and basketball courts of small-town Illinois to West Point, just north of New York City, where the author, a cadet, pitched relief in a 1961 exhibition game against the Mantle-Maris-Berra Yankees. Crane, a working-class kid, learned to view sports as his ticket to success in the world, especially as he often found himself struggling to speak his feelings aloud—a trait not uncommon in the mid-century Midwest that the adult Crane here movingly describes. In amusing dialogue scenes, his Illinoisans speak in short, vague statements that continually demand follow-up questions and clarifications.

The path to adulthood charted here is frank, circuitous, and touched with regret, especially in scenes of strained romance, as Crane the author sometimes laments the feelings that Crane the young man let languish unspoken. Still, Crane’s rendering of those long-gone days is often high-spirited, charged with a young person’s sense of promise when seizing a place in the world. Readers will be treated to insights about baseball, basketball, and golf (“Golf is for men whose hands don’t get dirty when they work, a game that meshes with the rest of their life, an extension of who they are”), plus memories of hitchhiking, freight hopping, and touring Europe guided by a copy of The Sun Also Rises.

The most moving passages often come in the form of letters written by Crane, his parents, and his sometime girlfriend, Ann, who in 1961 declared, “I want to just swallow up the world, take all its punches and abuse, eat up its beauty.” What this memoir might lack in a strong narrative throughline, it more than makes up for in endless delightful vignettes as Crane struggles through the hard times and finds his own joy.

Takeaway: This richly realized memoir of sports as a path to success will hit a homer with readers interested in baseball and mid-20th-century coming-of-age stories.

Great for fans of Harvey Frommer’s Growing Up Baseball: An Oral History, David Lipsky’s Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-