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
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"...there is much to surprise and delight the sports reader among the 59 pieces here." Boston Globe
"Making the choices for the annual edition of this series is daunting enough; picking the century's best seems impossible. However, what's here is universally excellent. There's late Chicagoan Mike Royko's jingoistic review of a book by a reviled New York Met; Al Stump's now-infamous, still disturbing account of baseball legend Ty Cobb's last days; Gay Talese's revealing mid-sixties profile of recently deceased icon Joe DiMaggio; and a 1975 remembrance of Casey Stengel by Wells Twombly that reveals more about the baseball manager than a half-dozen biographies. Other highlights include Hunter S. Thompson's predictably outrageous take on the Kentucky Derby; an insightful portrait of boxer Billy Conn by Frank Deford; and Jimmy Breslin's 1960 profile of jockey Billy Hartack. In addition, a section on Muhammad Ali offers some great writing by Dick Schaap, Murray Kempton, Norman Mailer, Jim Murray, and Davis Miller. Biographical sketches of each contributor as well as a list of the century's other notable sportswriters are included. This wonderful, delightfully eclectic volume is a must for every library." Booklist, ALA
"People who love sports...will have more fun with The Best American Sports Writing of the Century than anyone is supposed to have with a book." -- Bill Littlefield, host of NPR's "Only a Game" The Los Angeles Times
"...a strong collection that will send readers on a captivating trip through the diversity of styles and subjects that developed as sports became big business and big news." Publishers Weekly
"This book...gives a lot of pleasure." Library Journal
"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..." Amazon.com
"For those who love sports, and care about good writing, this is your collection." The Seattle Times
"Superb Sportswriting." The Arizona Daily Star
"[The Best American Sports Writing of the Century] demonstrates in a single, very large volume that sports writing is often much more than a trade for arrested adolescents. It has room, too, for poets and wits, for sharp-eyed reporters and world-weary wise men, for gifted stylists with a keen sense of the way we lived then and the way we live now. A lot of this stuff is as good as nonfiction writing ever gets." Fortune
"At last, the predictable millennial/centennial summing-up--our understandable urge to quantify human experience into silly best-of listings now that the end is near--has produced something of value. I speak, naturally, of The Best American Sports Writing of the Century." The Las Vegas Sun
"...[a] dazzling collection of writings." The Houston Chronicle
"David Halberstam has done yeoman work in collecting The Best American Sports Writing of the Century, and anyone who loves the American idiom should clear space on his bookshelf for this anthology...The book, in short, is a winner." American Way
"All the entries in this oversize volume are choice." Boston Magazine
"...an anthology that can be savored like a hole in one." Playboy
"Make room on your bookshelf for this anthology. It isn't necessary to be a sports enthusiast. Anyone interested in the popular culture of America since the turn of the century is likely to treasure it." Buffalo News