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Publisher's Summary

From a Sports Illustrated senior writer, a moving epic of football and industrial America, telling the story of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, its now-shuttered steel mill, and its legendary high school football team

Aliquippa, Pennsylvania is famous for two things: the Jones and Laughlin Steel mill, an industrial behemoth that helped win World War II; and football, with a high school team that has produced numerous NFL stars, including Mike Ditka and Darrelle Revis. But the mill, once the fourth largest producer in America, closed for good in 2000. What happens to a town when a dream dies? Does it just disappear?

In Playing Through the Whistle, celebrated sports writer S. L. Price tells the story of this remarkable place, its people, and its players and, through it, a wider story of American history from the turn of the 20th century.

Aliquippa has been many things - a rigidly controlled company town, a booming racial and ethnic melting pot, and, for a brief time, a workers' paradise. Price expertly traces this history while also recounting the birth and development of high school sports, from a minor pastime to a source of civic pride to today, when it sometimes seems like the only way out of a life of poverty, drug abuse, and crime. Playing Through the Whistle is a masterpiece of narrative journalism that will make you cry and cheer in equal measure.

©2016 S. L. Price (P)2016 Blackstone Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

This is not a football book

Do not be fooled, this is not a book about football. It is a touching history of the USA Steel mill towns. What it meant to live football. So many famous, and interesting people came from Aliquippa. It's a history of America, the unions, the gangs, and the breakdown of the American family...no this is one of the best surprises I have found! Thanks to my husband who recommended it, and to John his friend who have it to him as s gift.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

From an expat

I grew up in Hopewell. Graduated from Hopewell High . (As did Tony Dorsett who figures prominently in this book). Worked on the A&S railroad and J&L coke ovens in the 70s. I had moved away by 1980, but my parents, grandmother and brother remained until recently. There was a lot of good about the Aliquippa of my childhood/adolescence and this book does a decent job describing times before the mill shut down. To me, the most compelling question to come out of the Aliquippa experience is why did the closing of J&L have such a devastating impact on a once proud community long grounded on honest, hard work. This book doesn't really address that profound issue. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone. It does contain a lot of factual information about Quip football and the nature of the violence that prevailed after J&L closed. Therefore, I would recommend it for those, including me, with a special interest in Quip football and in the town itself. For those seeking a broader understanding of the collapse of the American steel industry and why devastation (as opposed to resilience/adaptation) ensued, this book provides very little insight. The narration is less than stellar. There are a number of mispronunciations which locals will likely find distracting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

This book is not about football.

I only listened to the first 4 hours. I got sick and tired of listening to 'racial injustice'. This topic is getting old. It it nothing like Friday Night Lights. Don't bother with this one. Narrator is not good either.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A bit of Western Pennsylvania History

Is there anything you would change about this book?

It was interesting.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

How interwoven the families were, but at times lost track of the family connections.

Do you think Playing Through the Whistle needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Not really, unless you would add the most recent years.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

My family is from Aliquippa

Monaca is not pronounced Monica. It’s pronounced Mo-na-ca. This is the story of my roots. Great- Grandfather worked the blast furnace at J&L. Raised his family on Baker Street in Logstown. My Grandparents lived in Plan 12. My Mom and Grandma left in 1973. I first visited at 5 months old in 1980 and have felt the pull my entire life. I also watched this town slowly die and the Quips won despite the economic depression. I pray someone will come in and buy the land from Chuck Betters and develop Aliquippa again. My Mom said she’d never go Becks because she would only live in Aliquippa and she can’t live there knowing what it used to be.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Bill
  • Berkeley Heights, NJ, United States
  • 04-02-17

Aliquippa: The story of industrial America in the 20th century

Price is ambitious, and largely effective in realizing his ambitions, in telling the poignant story of Aliquippa and 20th century industry's rise and fall in America.
Reliance on many personal experiences ,told in the voices of the principals, makes the story more immediate.
The role of football in defining the town is essential to its character.
Barrett's narration is, as usual, excellent.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Richard
  • Newmarket, NH, USA
  • 11-09-16

Should be abridged

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No, since the story just wasn't strong enough to warrant a whole book. Probably would have been better as a magazine article. Interesting yes, but way too long and full of facts that really aren't all that compelling.

Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

He's not one of my favorite readers.

Do you think Playing Through the Whistle needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No way.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful