Sports Biblio Reader's 2020 Fall Sports Books Preview
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Welcome to the Sports Biblio Reader, 9.13.20
The Imagination of Sports in Books, History, the Arts and Culture
In This Issue: Chasing the Bear; SABR 50 at 50; Kobe’s Lakers; Best American Sports Writing’s Farewell; Alice Marble; Boca Juniors; Gods at Play; Doc Emrick; Facing the Haka; The Spirit of Cricket; Boxing on Film; Vintage Skiing Photography; Roger Angell at 100; Remembering Tom Seaver, Lou Brock and John Thompson
Welcome to the new-look newsletter! As noted before last week’s Labor Day break, we’ve switched over to the Substack platform, there’s a slightly different name and soon we’ll be rolling out new features, including interviews with sports books authors, historians and others.
But otherwise, the focus of Sports Biblio Reader is similar to the Sports Biblio Digest, exploring what I like to call “the imagination of sports” in books, history and culture.
To start off this first issue of the Sports Biblio Reader, we’re presenting our fall sports books preview, as we have done in the past.
The publication dates range a bit wider than usual, as we’re catching up with books published over the summer, and through the end of the year.
Most of the links in the thumbnails below are from Bookshop, of which Sports Biblio is an affiliate member.
The selections listed below reflect American publishing dates, except where noted otherwise. If there’s a book missing here or that you think we should feature in Sports Biblio Reader, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
And please read all the way to the end, where we pay tribute to Roger Angell, as he’s set to turn 100 on Saturday, and in remembrance of Tom Seaver, Lou Brock and John Thompson.
Chasing the Bear: How Bear Bryant and Nick Saban Made Alabama the Greatest College Football Program of All Time, by Lars Anderson (Grand Central Publishing, Sept. 3)—Each coach has now won six national championships at the SEC powerhouse, and their stories are examined by a University of Alabama journalism professor, Sports Illustrated veteran and author of several other books about college football.
Coach of a Different Color: One Man's Story of Breaking Barriers in Football, by Ray Greene (University of Akron Press, Sept. 1)—The story of a black former high school football standout in Ohio who rose through the prep and college coaching ranks in the 1960s and helped devise the “Run and Shoot” offense.
The Dynasty, by Jeff Benedict (Avid Reader Press, Sept. 1)—A veteran sports author is the latest to go deep on the New England Patriots, as Tom Brady wrapped up his legendary career there before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for this season.
Elway: A Relentless Life, by Jason Cole (Hachette, Sept. 15)—The Denver Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback and current general manager is the subject of a full-length biography by a veteran sportswriter.
Flip the Script: Lessons Learned on the Road to a Championship, by Ed Orgeron (Thomas Nelson, Oct. 27)—Ed Orgeron has had a long, colorful and often controversial career as a college football coach before he led LSU to an undefeated BCS title in 2019.
Growing Up on the Gridiron: Football, Friendship and the Tragic Life of Owen Thomas, by Vicki Mayk (Beacon Press, Sept. 1)—A former Ivy League football player committed suicide at the age of 21, and the consequences for his school, family and community are the subject of a journalist’s book, which details more dangers of brain trauma.
The Home Team: My Bromance with Off-Brand Football, by Scott Adamson (Burnaby Books, Aug. 17)—A veteran sportswriter in Birmingham, Ala., takes a look at the variations of professional football that have come to his city—but none of them in the National Football League.
The Origins of Southern College Football: How an Ivy League Game Became a Dixie Tradition, by Andrew McIlwaine Bell (LSU Press, Aug. 12)—The first college football teams popped up on the campuses of Princeton and Yale, but it didn’t take long for Southern universities to adopt and start dominating the gridiron code.
Overtime: Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines at the Crossroads of College Football, by John U. Bacon (William Morrow, Sept. 3)—The fourth in the author’s recurring look at the big-time football program on his campus, which this fall is on hiatus due to the Big Ten’s suspension of the season until the spring.
How Baseball Happened: Outrageous Lies Exposed! the True Story Revealed, by Thomas Gilbert (David Godine, Sept. 15)—A fresh origin story of the birth of the pastime and especially of the little-known amateurs of the mid-1800s who took part in a game that was meant to be played, not watched, and “who don’t have plaques in Cooperstown.”
Invisible Men: Life in Baseball’s Negro Leagues, by Donn Rogosin (University of Nebraska Press, Oct. 1)—The director of “There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace,” a celebrated film of the Negro Leagues, puts that history down on paper for the centenary year of the founding of the first all-black professional baseball circuit
SABR 50 at 50: The Society for American Baseball Research’s Fifty Most Essential Contributions to the Game, edited by Bill Nowlin (University of Nebraska Press, September)—The upcoming 50th anniversary of the Society for American Baseball Research is the occasion for this anthology of works by its members and other writers, covering the wide variety of the game and its history. More about what SABR’s putting together to mark its golden anniversary can be found here.
Before March Madness: The Wars for the Soul of College Basketball, by Kurt Edward Kemper (University of Illinois, Aug. 10)—The author of a previous book on the mid-century college football scene stays in the same era to show the growth of college basketball as it addressed segregated competition and became a big-time money sport.
From Hang Time to Prime Time: Business, Entertainment and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA, by Pete Croatto (Atria Books, Dec. 1)—The story of pro basketball’s rise to sports and pop culture sensation, stemming from the ABA-NBA merger in 1976 and bridging the talents of Julius Erving with the likes of Magic Johnson.
Larry Miller Time: The Story of the Lost Legend Who Sparked the Tar Heel Dynasty, by Stephen Demorest (Bookbaby, Sept. 7)—The only two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament MVP was the first big star to play for Dean Smith at North Carolina, but his life and career have existed in the shadows for decades.
The Speed Game: My Fast Times in Basketball, by Paul Westhead (University of Nebraska Press, Dec. 1)—The former college and pro coach—who’s won both NBA and WNBA titles—pens a memoir around his favored breakneck style of offensive play that he innovated at all levels of the game.
Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty, by Jeff Pearlman (Houghton Mifflin, Sept. 22)—The second book about the Lakers from the high-profile sports author, this one focusing on the often dysfunctional teams led by Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson that won multiple NBA titles.
Bundini: Don’t Believe the Hype, by Todd Snyder (Hamilcar, Aug. 25)—A biography of Drew “Bundini” Brown, legendary boxing cornerman and mouthpiece of Muhammad Ali who coined “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and helped turn the heavyweight champion into a global cultural phenomenon.
This Boxing Game: A Journey in Beautiful Brutality, by John Wight (Pitch Publishing, Nov. 1)—A former Hollywood screenwriter examines what he regards as the compelling and often noble barbarity of the sport, weaving in observations about masculinity and spiritual power that boxing still holds for many.
The Fastest Game in the World: Hockey and the Globalization of Sports, by Bruce Berglund (University of California Press, Dec. 1)—A history professor and former host of the New Books in Sports podcast traveled the world to find out how the game on ice translates into many cultures and places not necessarily regarded as hockey hotbeds.
Off Mike: How a Kid from Basketball-Crazy Indiana Became America’s NHL Voice, by Mike “Doc” Emrick (Triumph Books, October)—The beloved play-by-play announcer for NBC’s coverage of pro hockey explains how he got hooked on hockey.
One Game at a Time: My Journey From Small-Town Alberta to Hockey’s Biggest Stage, by Harnarayan Singh (McClelland & Stewart, Sept. 22)—Having grown up in an immigrant family in western Canada, the author traces their story to his career calling games for “Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi.”
One to Remember: Stories from 39 Members of the NHL’s One-Goal Club, by Ken Reid (ECW Press, Sept. 22)—Players who tallied just one goal in their NHL careers explain what that feat means to them.
Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other, by Ken Dryden (McClelland & Stewart, Oct. 27)—The former NHL goaltending great’s biography of the winningest coach in NHL history and his former mentor with the Montreal Canadiens is coming out in paperback.
Willie O’Ree: The Game-Changing Story of the NHL’s First Black Player, by Willie O’Ree (Viking, Oct. 20)—A new memoir by the game’s biggest ambassador to communities of color.
The Best American Sports Writing 2020, edited by Jackie MacMullan (Mariner, Nov. 3)—A bittersweet anniversary for the 30th collection of newspaper, magazine and online writing, which is not being renewed by the publisher. Sports book author Glenn Stout, BASW’s series editor since its inception in 1991, is looking for alternatives to continue the project.
The Boxing Film: A Cultural and Transmedia History, by Travis Vogan (Rutgers University Press, Oct. 16)—How boxing has translated to the big screen is examined by a communications professor who’s written books about NFL Films and ESPN.
Gods At Play: An Eyewitness Account of Great Moments in American Sports, by Tom Callahan (W.W. Norton, Sept. 22)—The longtime Time magazine sports columnist recalls watching the likes of Roberto Clemente, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali and other leading sports figures of the last four decades.
How Life Imitates Sports: A Sportswriter Recounts, Relives and Reckons with 50 Years on the Sports Beat, by Ira Berkow (Sports Publishing, Aug. 4)—The retired sports columnist for The New York Times looks back a half-decade after starting at The Grey Lady, as leading athletes, coaches and other sports figures shaped American culture along the way.
Nights in White Castle: A Memoir, by Steve Rushin (Little Brown, Aug. 30)—The former Sports Illustrated writer and humorist doesn’t stick just to sports in his latest offbeat memoir. His acclaimed “Road Swing” from 1999 was a romp of sports fandom.
A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team, by Ashlay Cooper (Flatiron Books, June 30)—How young men growing up on the tough west side of Chicago escaped gang life, and for the author, earned a ticket to an Ivy League education. The basis for a documentary produced by ex-NBA standouts Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade.
Football’s Fearless Activists: How Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Kenny Stills and Fellow Athletes Stood Up to the NFL and President Trump, by Mike Freeman (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 15)—The longtime NFL writer examines how taking a knee on football sidelines has morphed into a major wave of athlete activism across many sports.
The Grand National: A Celebration of the World’s Most Famous Horse Race, by Anne Holland (Weidenfield & Nicholson, Aug. 11)—A history of the sport’s best-known steeplechase event, which dates back to 1839.
Lofted: Remarkable and far-flung adventures for the modern golfer, by William Watt (Hardie Grant Books, Aug. 18)—A fresh look at playing some of golf’s most revered and interesting courses.
Riding in the Zone Rouge: The Tour of the Battlefields 1919, Cycling’s Toughest-Ever Stage Race, by Tom Isitt (Weidenfield & Nicholson, June 2)—The inaugural Circuit des Champs de Bataille was staged in rough battlefield areas of the Western Front six months after the conclusion of the Great War, and was never held again.
This Sporting Life: Sport and Liberty in England, 1760-1960, by Robert Colls (Oxford University Press, Oct. 27)—A George Orwell scholar argues that endeavors ranging from fox hunting to rugby are essential components of English cultural, and not just sporting, life.
Wheels of Courage: How World War II Veterans Invented Wheelchair Sports, Fought for Disability Rights and Inspired a Nation, by David Davis (Center Street, Aug. 25)—The first wheelchair basketball games gave rise to a global movement to get disabled people not only into games of play, but the larger societies in which they lived.
Vintage Skiing: Nostalgic Images from the Golden Age of Skiing, by Rick Schafer and Ray Atkeson (Familius, Nov. 10)—Featuring more than 75 samples of the work of Atkeson, a notable skiing and Pacific Northwest landscape photographer, whose career spanned from the 1920s to the 1980s.
Cricketing Caesar: A Biography of Mike Brearley, by Mark Beal (Pitch Publishing, Aug. 1)—One of England’s top captains, who later became a psychotherapist and part-time cricket journalist and author (see below) is profiled.
Facing the Haka: The challenge, the emotion, the inspiration, by Andy Burt and Jamie Wall (Allen & Unwin, August)—What’s it like to take the field against New Zealand’s All-Blacks rugby team? This collection of stories and photographs paints a stirring picture of one of the most daunting sports entities in the world.
The Men Who Raised the Bar: The evolution of the highest individual score in Test cricket, by Chris Waters (Bloomsbury, Oct. 29)—Only 10 men have surpassed the sport’s top solo feat, starting with the first Test in 1877.
Miracle Men: How Rassie's Springboks won the World Cup, by Lloyd Burnard (Jonathan Ball Publishers, Sept. 1)—An inside account of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, as the Springboks bounced back from some lean years to tie New Zealand with their third title.
Roughy: The Autobiography, by Jarryd Roughead (Penguin, Aug. 4)—The longtime Hawthorn star in the Australian Football League recounts his career and battle with cancer before his retirement last year at the age of 33.
Rugby League: A People’s History, by Tony Collins (Scratched Shed Publishing, August)—The noted rugby historian’s latest book is timed for the 125th anniversary of the start of Rugby League, and ventures far beyond the game’s top flight.
Spirit of Cricket: Reflections on Play and Life, by Mike Brearley (Constable, Aug. 27)—Broader issues in cricket—sports and societal—are explored by the former England captain, who ruminates on its appeal to participants and spectators.
This Is Cricket: In the Spirit of the Game, by Daniel Malamud (Rizzoli International, Oct. 13)—An elegiac look at the people, places and memorable events in cricket history, and why it remains timeless in an ever-faster world.
Because It's Saturday: A Journey Into Football's Heartland, by Gavin Bell (Pitch Publishing, Nov. 1)—A grassroots look at soccer in England’s lower leagues, where fiercely loyal, hard-bitten fans withstand lousy weather, atrocious grounds and quite often sub-par play sustain the game.
Boca Juniors: A History and Appreciation of Buenos Aires’ Most Successful Futbol Team, by Stephen Brandt (Mascot Books, Oct. 6)—A new history of the Argentina club powerhouse that embodies a working-class spirit, especially in how it nurtured the talents of Diego Maradona.
Champagne Football: John Delaney and the Betrayal of Irish Football, by Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan (Penguin, Sept. 17)—The powerful reign of the former head of the Football Association of Ireland was brought down in 2019 with newspaper stories critical of his management and the organization’s financial troubles.
One Life, by Megan Rapinoe (Penguin Press, Nov. 10)—The captain of the U.S. women’s World Cup-winning soccer team recounts her life in the game and as an activist for women’s sports and social justice causes.
Wenger: My Life and Lessons in Red and White, by Arsene Wenger (Chronicle Prism, Nov. 10)—The retired Arsenal manager writes a memoir about his long tenure in the English Premier League as it became a globalized entity, featuring stylish play and adopting modern psychological, training, dietary and technological advances.
Who Ate All the Squid? Football Adventures in South Korea, by Devon Rowcliffe (Pitch Publishing, Dec. 1)—The story of a former English manager’s foray in one of Asia’s soccer hotbeds, albeit with one of its struggling club teams.
Bustin’ Balls: World Team Tennis, 1974-1978, Pro Sports, Pop Culture and Progressive Politics, by Steven Blush (Feral House, Nov. 17)—A rare book-length look at the circuit founded by Billie Jean King during a time of transformative political and social change and that showcased star players of both sexes who transcended their sport.
The Divine Miss Marble: A Life of Tennis, Fame and Mystery, by Robert Weintraub (Dutton Books, July 14)—The author of books about the building of Yankee Stadium and the 1946 baseball season explores the life the 1930s tennis icon and celebrity Alice Marble, who led a complicated life off the court.
Little Wonder: The Fabulous Story of Lottie Dod, the World’s First Female Sports Superstar, by Sasha Abramsky (Edge of Sports, Aug. 4)—Before Bade Didrikson Zaharias, Lottie Dod dazzled the sports world with five Wimbledon titles in the late 1800s, then mastered other sports when she became bored with tennis.
Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisited, by Steve Flink (New Chapter Press, Sept. 1)—For men’s tennis fans of the generation before Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras was the dominant figure in the game, winning 14 Grand Slam titles, including one last U.S. Open in 2002.
Racquet: The Book, edited by David Shaftel and Caitlin Thompson (Repeater, Aug. 11)—The creators of a stylish magazine capitalizing on the 21st century tennis boom have put together essays and art from the publication’s first four years.
Roger Angell at 100
Roger Angell will turn 100 years old on Saturday, and tributes to the longtime baseball writer for The New Yorker and J.G. Spink Award winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame have been building up for months.
In August, the community of Brooklin, Maine, where Angell has lived for many years since his semi-retirement, honored him with a socially distanced celebration at a public library that included the governor.
A decade before that, Brooklin held a Roger Angell Day and parade for his 90th birthday. He wrote about that event in his 2016 memoir, “This Old Man,” evoking many memories of a place that has been a family haunt since his teenage years in the 1930s. His mother, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, preceded her son as fiction editor at the magazine, and purchased a saltwater farm in Brooklin with Roger’s stepfather, E.B. White, another luminary of The New Yorker.
Last week, Mark Singer of The New Yorker compiled this retrospective of Angell, who was typically modest about all the attention.
It’s been more than two years since Angell’s last baseball story was published in the magazine, and a year since his byline last appeared there at all (archives here).
But his prose treasures will endure forever. As Joe Bonomo noted in his 2019 biography, Angell found his writer’s voice in part while watching Whitey Ford and Warren Spahn in a 1962 spring training game:
“Struck by the paradox of aloneness while surrounded by a community of like-spirits, Angell’s joy blends with bitter sweetness, without a drop of treacle.”
Tom Seaver, 75, brought the New York Mets out of baseball’s doghouse and into the world of sports sensation with his pitching performance in the Amazins’ stirring 1969 World Series triumph. His good looks and easy charm made him a media magnet in New York during the years the Yankees were in decline, but as is often the case in Gotham, the romance was broken up in heartbreaking fashion.
Seaver’s long-running salary dispute with Mets board chairman Donald Grant resulted in a trade to Cincinnati that had some writers howling with disgust at Grant, and the irascible Dick Young trashing Seaver.
By the time Seaver won his 300th game at Yankee Stadium as member of the Chicago White Sox, the legend of Tom Terrific was firmly cemented. New York Post sports columnist Mike Vaccaro writes about growing up a huge Seaver fan.
In later years, Seaver retired to vineyard life in California, where former pitching prospect and author Pat Jordan made visits and chronicled the Hall of Famer’s battle with dementia. Earlier this year, Jordan published “Tom Seaver and Me,” about their 40-year friendship.
From Mike Lupica’s obituary column:
"You do not measure Tom Seaver in the titles he won. It was not who he was and what he was in a Mets uniform. No Met will ever matter more."
Bill Madden’s biography, “Tom Seaver: A Terrific Life,” which was to have been published next spring by Simon & Schuster, has been moved up to a late November publication date.
Lou Brock, 81, was sent to the Cardinals in a mid-season trade in 1964 for starting pitcher Ernie Broglio in a deal that initially rankled St. Louis fans and players. The Redbirds won the World Series that year, but the speedy leadoff hitter and centerfielder did more than fill short-term needs. He became a Hall of Famer as one of the greatest base-stealers of all time, for a time holding the all-time career mark that Ty Cobb owned for decades before. “I have only one thing in mind — to steal off him. The very business of disconcerting him is marvelously complex,” Brock wrote in his 1976 memoir, explaining the art of the steal.
John Thompson, 78, was a gargantuan figure on the sidelines at Georgetown University, where he coached a national championship basketball team with All-American center Patrick Ewing, feuded with fellow Big East coaches, and fought for respect for black coaches and athletes after battling racism in his professional and personal life. Critics took a dim view of Georgetown’s physical, combative style that was a by-product of Thompson’s us-against-the-world ethos. But Thompson, the architect of “Hoya Paranoia,” didn’t care in the least. Three of his former players, including Ewing, currently the Georgetown coach, are with him in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Thompson’s forthcoming memoir, “I Came As a Shadow,” also has been moved up to a December publishing date from early 2021.
The Sports Biblio Reader is an e-mail newsletter delivered on Sunday. You can subscribe here and search recent archives. The full archives for Sports Biblio Digest can be found here. This is issue No. 217, published Sept. 13, 2020.
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