The Ticket Out
Darryl Strawberry and The Boys of Crenshaw
Read an excerpt
The year was 1979 and the fifteen teenagers on the Crenshaw High Cougars
were the most talented team in the history of high school baseball. They were
pure ballplayers, sluggers and sweet fielders who played with unbridled joy and
The national press converged on Crenshaw. So many scouts gravitated to their
games that they took up most of the seats in the bleachers. Even the Crenshaw
ballfield was a sight to behold -- groomed by the players themselves, picked
clean of every pebble, it was the finest diamond in all of inner-city Los
Angeles. On the outfield fences, the gates to the outside stayed locked against
the danger and distraction of the streets. Baseball, for these boys, was hope
itself. They had grown up with the notion that it could somehow set things right
-- a vague, unexpressed, but persistent hope that even if life was rigged,
baseball might be fair.
And for a while it seemed they were right. Incredibly, most of of this team
-- even several of the boys who sat on the bench -- were drafted into
professional baseball. Two of them, Darryl Strawberry and Chris Brown, would
reunite as teammates on a National League All-Star roster. But Michael
Sokolove's The Ticket Out is more a story of promise denied than of
dreams fulfilled. Because in Sokolove's brilliantly reported poignant and
powerful tale, the lives of these gifted athletes intersect with the realities
of being poor, urban, and black in America. What happened to these young men is
a harsh reminder of the ways inspiration turns to frustration when the bats and
balls are stowed and the crowd's applause dies down.
Just as Friday Night Lights portrayed the impact of high school sports
on the life of a Texas community, and There Are No Children Here examined
the viselike grip of poverty on minority youngsters, The Ticket Out
presents an unforgettable tale of families grasping for opportunities, of
athletes praying for one chance to make it big, of all of us hoping that the
will to succeed can triumph over the demons haunting our city streets.
"A terrific read, made to work by Sokolove's insightful reporting and deft
writing . . . a sad, powerful, thoughtful, totally engrossing work."
"A single bad choice could destroy their dream
. . . The Ticket Out raises some serious questions about the meaning of
"It's been more than a decade since the
publication of Friday Night Lights, a profound work of journalism
examining a high school football team and the town that created the team. . . .
The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw elevates that
genre to a new peak . . . In many ways, this book is classic new journalism as
defined by Tom Wolfe -- i.e., lots of 'status details' written in a novel-like
format. It's simply journalism at its best . . ."
--Rocky Mountain News
"Michael Sokolove knows a good story when he
sees one, and the tale he tells in The Ticket Out about the often
sorrowful lives of Darryl Strawberry and his high school baseball teammates is
--The Washington Post
"Even if it had nothing to do with the game,
even if Sokolove had just followed the varied trajectories of nine random
friends from the Crenshaw yearbook, The Ticket Out would still make a
fine survey of poverty and race in America. But by clinging to a long-shot
dream, the Boys Of Crenshaw encountered a humbling reality that's all the more
"Sokolove has managed the extraordinary feat of
writing an inspirational sports book that is neither sentimental nor didactic."
"Superb investigative interviewing . . . a
--The Los Angeles Daily News
"The best baseball books transcend baseball.
Last year's Moneyball by Michael Lewis, for example . . . The Ticket Out is such
a book. It's as heartbreaking as the game . . ."
--The Montreal Gazette
". . . A story of promise wasted and dreams
deferred . . . is the focus of a narrative defined by its compassionate,
"[The Ticket Out] is a joy, if such a
word can be attached to a bleak story of so much disappointment and squandered
--San Jose Mercury News
"(Sokolove's) protagonists provide rich
material for informed speculation about race in America, the role of amateur and
professional sports and whether high school roles carry over into the remainder
of a person's life."
--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Sokolove is top-notch reporter, as evidenced
by his last book that detailed the lies and myths of Pete Rose long before Pete
himself finally confirmed them in his own tome."
--New York Daily News
"Sokolove crafts these stories with a casual
but insightful grace that will send shivers up the shine of any baseball fan but
still touch a read who's never heard of Ted Williams. The Ticket Out is
one of the saddest books you'll never want to put down."
"Sokolove's book is an absorbing look at the
1979 Crenshaw High School team that he calls the greatest collection of
high-school talent ever assembled."
--The Portland Oregonian
"[Sokolove] has written a passionate,
heartbreaking yet sympathetic look at what happens when schoolyard dreams meet
the 'cold business' of professional baseball."
"More than the sad saga of Darryl Strawberry, The Ticket Out examines
and explodes an American myth: that athletic skill offers a magic shortcut to
happiness and success. Mike Sokolove is a journalist who finds in sports a
window to deeper, more important things. His affectionate but clear-eyed story
reaffirms that character (not talent) is destiny, and that even the most
amazingly gifted athlete remains a product of his community, his family, and
most important, himself."
--Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down
"The Ticket Out is an emotional detective story about baseball, moving
and thought-provoking. It is a first-rate book for anyone who seeks to
understand the serious human narrative we mistakenly call a game."
--Sally Jenkins, coauthor with Lance Armstrong of It's Not About the Bike
and Every Second Counts
Simon & Schuster