What happens to a town when a dream dies? Does it just disappear?

  • One of the best football teams in southwestern Pennsylvania over the past century is living no storybook tale, and neither is Aliquippa itself, a steel town that rose into Industrial Age prosperity and has declined into postindustrial despair. S.L. Price’s ‘Playing Through the Whistle’ is an evocative and enterprising look at the team and the town. It is a big book, at more than 400 pages, but in other terms a miniature, capturing major cultural shifts (and tensions) in a regional microcosm.
    — David Shribman, Wall Street Journal
  • Price thoroughly explores the football saga . . . but this is no mere sports story . . . An artful mix of history, economics, sociology, and athletics . . . Price’s especially touching engravings of ‘promise squandered,’ those chewed up and spit out by Aliquippa’s tough environment, contrast powerfully with the tales of football triumph . . . Price’s football story is really that of America’s Rust Belt in poignant miniature.
    — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • “People who see sports as an escape from the real world might be surprised at just how often the two overlap.. . . football is not [t]his book’s main subject; the decline and fall of a specific kind of American life is. With thickets of facts, Price unfurls social history in tandem with the successes and failures of the Aliquippa High Quips. . . . If baseball is the national past time, perhaps football is the national reality.”
    — The New York Times
  • “A lot of threads get woven together in ‘Playing Through the Whistle,’ a journalistic narrative that examines the challenges of a small Pennsylvania steel town through the lens of its high school football team. The town is Aliquippa, which sits 26 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, while the master storyteller is S.L. Price.”
    — The Christian Science Monitor
  • “An unvarnished decade-by-decade look at the town, the team and the synergy between them....A fitting memorial to a remarkable story of urban struggle and athletic prowess. Mr. Price leaves readers believing that the young men who suit up on Friday nights have earned their ‘dunt-dunt-dunt.’ For his richly detailed storytelling, S.L. Price deserves one, too.”
    — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Playing Through the Whistle
Steel, Football, and an American Town


A remarkable place, told through its people, its players, and the wider story of American history from the turn of the twentieth 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.



More Praise for Playing Through the Whistle

“S.L. Price’s Playing Through the Whistle is a big book on a tough town. It reminded me of The Wire, which is high praise.”

—Roy Blount Jr.,
author of About Three Bricks Shy of a Load and Save Room for Pie


Playing Through the Whistle is a gut-wrenching portrait of a high school football team that has to embody the American dream for one small town, in large part because everything else that was supposed to do it has fallen apart. I would say this is some of the best sports writing I’ve read this year, except that it’s some of the best writing I’ve read this year.” 

—David Epstein,
author of The Sports Gone

“Year after year, some of the best books about the human condition come from sportswriters, and S.L. Price has added another illuminating work to that list. Playing Through the Whistle is about football in the legendary western Pennsylvania still town of Aliquippa, but so much more. It is an evocative, wistful journey through decades of American struggle and achievement and loss.” 

—David Maraniss,
author of When Pride Still Mattered: A life of Vine Lombardi and Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story

“S.L. Price is hands down the best writer about sports and the meaning of sports in America today, and this is his most ambitious and finest work yet. Playing Through the Whistle is an exhaustively reported and expertly written narrative about the rise and fall of industrial America—and football’s central place in that story.” 

—Stefan Fatsis,
author of A Few Seconds of Panic and Word Freak


“A great new book....And like the best sports books Playing Through the Whistle is more than sports. It’s about history, it’s about geography, and most of all it’s about a place where the American Dream checked out a long time ago, and the only thing left behind is the echo of yesterday’s cheers. A book that should be read by anyone trying to understand what is happening in today’s America.”

bill reynolds, Providence Journal


“Football may still be king, but little else is certain. S.L. Price gives Aliquippa a chance to tell its own story in these pages. And an important story it is.” 

Kristofer Collins, Pittsburgh Magazine



“Unprecedented . . .

cuba test.jpg
“Offers a rare and provocative tour of the world’s most remarkable sports culture. It’s an unforgettable story of supremely gifted athletes, the utter madness of politics, and the scent of big money across the sea.”
— Carl Hiaasen

Pitching Around Fidel
A Journey Into the Heart of Cuban Sports

At the core of Cuban sports is an enigma captured in two sentences. The first part of it “holds that the great Cuban sports machine—instrument of totalitarian control and propaganda—is rightfully cracking apart. The second holds that Castro’s regime not only has produced an unparalleled athletic system, but has also fostered a sports purist’s delight, an American ideal, no less, for Cuba is one of the last places where athletes play for little more than love of the game.” How is that possible? Pitching Around Fidel smartly aligns the contradictions. It’s a provocative and penetrating look at the most fascinating and rabid sports culture on the planet, why sports in Cuba works, why it doesn’t, and how its marvelous and gifted athletes are torn between the loyalties of home and the whiff of money 90 miles across the sea.


“A Friday Night Lights for Baseball Fans.”

“Genuine and raw…a heartfelt work of despair, triumph, and redemption.”
— Boston Globe

Heart of the Game
Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America

The critically acclaimed Heart of the Game explores the pure roots of a sport that is stained by scandal at its highest level. S.L. Price gives a tragic but ultimately uplifting account of the death of minor league baseball coach Mike Coolbaugh, and in doing so, illustrates the many reasons and myriad ways in which baseball still has a hold on America. A Friday Night Lights for baseball fans, Heart of the Game reveals the classic heart of small-town America.


“A masterpiece.”

“The seasoned reporter behind this memoir is a master of the new journalism developed by Hunter Thompson, Gay Talese and Price’s personal paragon, Pete Hamill. Whenever he writes about sports—or about the craft of writing—he hits it over the fence.”
— The New York Times

Far Afield
A Sportswriting Odyssey

Some people would consider writing for Sports Illustrated a dream job. Others fantasize about living idyllically in the South of France. S.L. Price got to do both. Assigned by Sports Illustrated to cover sports in Europe, Price relocated his family to a small hamlet in Provence, and then set out to uncover the soul of world athletic competition. 

In an attempt to comprehend the planet’s most intense and bloody sports, he immersed himself in the cricket rivalry between India and Pakistan. He spent time with Lance Armstrong as the cyclist fended off rumors of performance-enhancing drugs. He argued politics with Olympic athletes in Athens, covered Austria’s beer-drenched version of the Super Bowl, and caught basketball fever in Belgrade—as he, his wife, and children tried to adjust to life in a Europe convulsed by terrorism, anti-Americanism, and George Bush’s war in Iraq. 

Far Afield is an extraordinary memoir of growth, family, and games people play worldwide.