Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Halberstam selects the fifty best pieces of sports writing of this century. The Best American Sports Writing of the Century showcases the best sports journalists of the twentieth century, from Jimmy Cannon, Red Smith, William Mack, Gary Smith, and Frank Deford to A. J. Liebling, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S. Thompson, and includes such classics as "What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?" by Richard Ben Cramer, "Louis Knocks Out Schmeling" by Bob Considine, and "The Rocky Road of Pistol Pete" by W. C. Heinz. This outstanding collection captures not only the century's greatest moments in baseball, boxing, horseracing, golf, and tennis, but some of the finest writing of our time. Guest editor David Halberstam is the author of The Reckoning, The Summer of Forty-Nine, The Breaks of the Game, and, most recently, The Children. Series editor Glenn Stout has written biographies of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Jackie Robinson.
Given the overall vigor and volume of sports writing in America throughout the 20th century, the idea of compiling a single collection dubbed the "best" requires a daring balancing act of boldness and delicacy. And that's just what it is. Sports fans--but why limit this sparkling, spirited, passionate prose to just sports fans?--will revel in the equilibrium of David Halberstam's and Glenn Stout's wide range of selections. Their tribute to the knights of the keyboards is Hall of Fame-level from cover to cover.
Halberstam and Stout don't waste any time. They lead off with one of the great tours de force of American nonfiction, Gay Talese's stunningly poignant, 1966 profile of a moody Joe DiMaggio, "The Silent Season of a Hero." Then, before you can finish digesting it, they loudly switch gears to Tom Wolfe's "The Last American Hero," a razzle-dazzle look at Junior Johnson and the world of stock-car racing. By the time Best takes the checkered flag nearly 800 pages later, it has covered a remarkably rich and varied course that runs through the pens of such remarkable talents as Grantland Rice, Red Smith, Frank Deford, W.C. Heinz, Jim Murray, Murray Kempton, Ring Lardner, John Lardner, Jimmy Breslin, Al Stump, John Updike, John McPhee, Hunter Thompson, Norman Mailer, Jon Krakauer, Tom Boswell, Roger Angell, and David Remnick. Whew!
Like the best sportswriting, of course, Best is much more than fun and games, though there's plenty of that in its pages. Best is history captured on the fly through the games we play and the memorable players--Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Mohammad Ali, Secretariat, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Red Grange--who play them. From selection to selection, writes Halberstam in his introduction, "we watch the country change." Certainly, sports--and sportswriting--have provided America a marvelous box seat for the contemplation of its own metamorphoses. --Jeff Silverman