Foul Balls: Five Years in the American League


204 pages
ISBN 0-7710-4325-3




Reviewed by Rick Boulton

Rick Boulton was a Contributing Editor, TV Guide.


Baseball fans will enjoy this one, an excellently researched and written compendium of memories of the author’s five years of covering the American League baseball beat for the Toronto Star (1979 to 1983). Allison Gordon is, of course, a woman, or as she puts it, “the token broad,” and Foul Balls interestingly and good-humoredly touches on this experience. The gospel according to Alison is something most baseball biographies aren’t — candid and eloquent (there is no question that she can write rings around most male sportswriters). Alison writes without much regard for the consequences, and the anecdotes especially make for precious reading, as do the personal appraisals of her fellow sportswriters (“ink-stained wretches”), “lazy” television reporters, radio “microclones,” and such individuals as Reggie Jackson, Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, and Dave Steib (“difficult…unpopular off the field...a prima donna”). She devotes most of her space to the then-upstart Toronto Blue Jays, whom she calls “my boys,” but she also profiles the greats, future-greats, and has-beens of other baseball teams. She takes us on a tour through the minors and on a 10-day swing to Venezuela, where the “winter game” is played in a different culture and the U.S. players must adjust to inefficiency and slowness all around them. She writes about her emotional feel for the game and adds lots of juicy inside stuff for baseball watchers of all persuasions.

Foul Balls exhibits feelings ranging from respect to anger and details the emotional seesaw of one of the first women to be admitted to a major-league locker room. Alison details the abusive letters (“Madam — I see where you don’t seem to mind male nudity in athletes shower rooms at sports arenas. Well, neither would any whore”) and rude gestures that marked her forays into the “male den,” but perhaps wisely devotes only one chapter to this subject. That is because, frankly, few male sports fans are interested in reading about the difficulties of battling prejudices in the dressing room. As it is, Foul Balls serves the general baseball fan and manages to cover all the bases, with humor and sensitivity.


Gordon, Alison, “Foul Balls: Five Years in the American League,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 16, 2024,