Sports Illustrated writer discusses narratives

Chris Ballard, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and author of four books, visited Linfield’s Nicholson Library on Oct. 10 to give a lecture about his book “One Shot At Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach and a Magical Baseball Season” and discuss his writing career.

To begin the lecture, Ballard discussed the difference between writing a piece for a magazine and writing a book.

“Writing a magazine, you have a one-month love affair,” Ballard said.  “With my book, it took two years of research.”

Ballard’s book, “One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach and a Magical Baseball Season,” tells the story of the 1971 Macon Ironmen Baseball team.

Macon is a small rural town in Illinois. The book depicts the lives of the coach, the players and the community during their run to the state championship game.

The book dives into the lives of the coach, Lynn Swan, the players and the way the season affected and still affects the community today.

“I learned a lot about the sports writing analysis field,” sophomore Joe Stevick said.

Ballard’s book has received great reviews and was called “a beautiful and unforgettable book,” by Buzz Bissinger, author of “Friday Night Lights.”

As the lecture drew on, one could tell that the season had an enormous effect because of placement of the town and the characters that lived there.

“To see the power [of sports] in small towns is something we really forget today,” Ballard said.

Ballard, who has primarily covered baseball and basketball, while working for Sports Illustrated, has spent time writing about big-name athletes like Barry Bonds and Lebron James. Although these are superb athletes, Ballard believes the best stories come from the lesser-known athletes.

“Better stories in sports are at the fringes, where it matters, where people actually care about it,” Ballard said.

Ballard’s book brings this idea to light through a story that only the people of this little farm community remember.

“He gave a great summary about his book and expressed a lot of insightful things about writing non-fictional sports stories,” Stevick said.

Chris Ballard has written for Sports Illustrated for the last 12 years.

Ballard also has work published in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Men’s’ Health.

Nicholson Library and the Political Science department sponsored the lecture.


Chris Haddeland/ Culture editor

Chris Haddeland can be reached at

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