DECATUR — Chris Ballard was shocked. Lee Ann Fisher was astonished.
Ballard was at the Decatur Public Library on June 8 to talk about and sell his book “One Shot at Forever,” the tale of the 1971 Macon High School baseball team’s state championship run.
The J. Elizabeth Madden Auditorium’s 150 seats were filled and then some, including extra chairs, before the start of the program. People kept coming. They stood on the side, they stood in the back. They were still coming 20 minutes into the program.
Many people were turned away. Fisher, the city librarian, said the count was 330. “The only bigger crowd for a library event in my knowledge was 500 for saxophone player David ‘Fathead’ Newman in 2007 during a Ray Charles photo exhibit.”
Ballard, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated magazine, had a book signing in Wilmette the night before.
“Maybe 70 people were there,” he said. “This crowd was unbelievable.”
Coach Lynn Sweet and most of his 1971 players, including Steve Shartzer, sat in front. Shartzer has never quit blaming himself for being the losing pitcher in the 4-2 state championship game with Waukegan. “I waited 41 years to come back to Elwin and Macon,” he said. “Jack Burns (Macon football coach) told me losing is worse than dying,” Shartzer said. “I still have issues. It hurts.”
Shartzer received two standing ovations, reflecting the audience’s recognition of his outstanding hitting and pitching achievements. He got a roar of approval when he suggested, “I’d still like a rematch. We were lucky, blessed to have a man who was behind us (Lynn Sweet) and we surely believed in him.” Ballard describes Sweet as “charismatic, iconoclastic.” Sweet was unconventional in every way, and that is a focal point in the book.
Chris Collins, the man who is responsible for this team’s national recognition, said the book has been given to a Hollywood film producer who promised he would take a serious look at it.
Collins, who lives in Houston, Texas, has written a screenplay which he has been unable to sell. He suggested the story to Ballard, who did a Sports Illustrated article after he visited Macon. Published by Hyperion, the book followed May 15.
About The Book
TITLE: “One Shot at Forever”
AUTHOR: Chris Ballard
TYPE: hardcover, 272 pages
LIST PRICE: $24.99
AVAILABLE: Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobel