The Great American Sports Page: A Century of Classic Columns from Ring Lardner to Sally Jenkins

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The Great American Sports Page: A Century of Classic Columns from Ring Lardner to Sally Jenkins

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Spanning nearly a century, The Great American Sports Pagepresents essential columns from more than three dozen masters of the press-box craft, unforgettable dispatches from World Series, Super Bowls, and legendary title bouts written with passion, spontaneity, humor, and a gift for the memorable phrase. Read avidly day in and day out by a sports-mad public, these columnists became journalistic celebrities in their home cities, their coverage trusted and savored, their opinions hotly debated. Gathered here in this groundbreaking anthology, writers from Grantland Rice and Jim Murray to Bob Ryan and Sally Jenkins capture some of sports’ most enduring moments and many of its all-time greats—Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jordan among them—taking the measure of the human richness, complexity, and competitive spirit of sports.

Expertly selected by editor John Schulian, these columns trace the fascinating evolution of American sportswriting as a popular form. Early on, Ring Lardner and Damon Runyon were as apt to crack jokes as to tell their readers the final score. At midcentury the elegance of Red Smith, the “Shakespeare of the Press Box,” and the streetwise verbal jabs of Jimmy Cannon expressed complimentary ways of connecting with a wide readership. By the 1960s journalistic pioneers like Larry Merchant went behind the scenes and forged new, less deferential ways of writing about athletes, owners, and fans. Women, belatedly and often against persistent opposition, entered the press corps during an era when newspapers began to grant their star columnists more space and greater freedom to take on complicated, sometimes uncomfortable stories. The sports page became home not just to celebrations of achievement but also to startling candor about the grittier aspects of the games we love.

The editor of the volume, John Schulian, who was a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News, is a recipient of the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. He edited the Library of America anthologies Football: Great Writing about the National Sport and, with George Kimball, At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing; and is the author, most recently, of the novel A Better Goodbye.

Charles P. Pierce, who had provided a foreword to the collection, has been a working journalist since 1976. He is a regular contributor to Esquire and the author of four books, including Sports Guy.

This special publication features full-cloth binding, acid-free paper, and a unique design with specifications differing from those of Library of America series titles.

Foreword by Charles P. Pierce
Introduction by John Schulian

W. O. McGEEHAN (1879–1933)
Gertrude Ederle vs. the Channel (1926)
News of a Champion (1927)
DAMON RUNYON (1880–1946)
Stengel’s Homer Wins It for Giants, 5–4 (1923)
All Horse Players Die Broke (1944)
GRANTLAND RICE (1880–1954)
Senators Win Title, 4–3 (1924)
RING LARDNER (1885–1933)
Mordecai Brown: The Reporter’s Friend (1916)
Kid’s Strategy Goes Amuck as Jake Doesn’t Die (1919)
The Perils of Being a Football Writer (1921)
HEYWOOD BROUN (1888–1939)
This Side of Paradise? (1920)
The Orthodox Champion (1922)
FRANK GRAHAM (1893–1965)
A Show They Will Never Forget (1938)
Ex-Champion (1945)
WESTBROOK PEGLER (1894–1969)
The Called Shot Heard Round the World (1932)
The Olympic Army (1936)
JOE PALMER (1904–1952)
Stymie—Common Folks (1949)
Samuel Doyle Riddle (1951)
SHIRLEY POVICH (1905–1998)
Iron Horse “Breaks” as Athletic Greats Meet in His Honor (1939)
Larsen Pitches 1st Perfect Game in Series History (1956)
RED SMITH (1905–1982)
A Horse You Had to Like (1947)
Next to Godliness (1947)
Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff (1951)
JIMMY CANNON (1909–1973)
DiMaggio (1948)
You’re Billy Graham (1955)
Doc Kearns (1963)
WENDELL SMITH (1914–1972)
It Was a Great Day in Jersey (1946)
W. C. HEINZ (1915–2008)
Down Memory Lane with the Babe (1948)
Death of a Racehorse (1949)
DICK YOUNG (1917–1987)
Beloved Enemy (1946)
Obit on the Dodgers (1957)
Hutch (1964) 
EMMETT WATSON (1918–2001)
Goal-Line Stand in France Brings Freddy Back (1946)
End of the Line for Leo (1953)
BLACKIE SHERROD (1919–2016)
Old Buster in Ivyland (1960)
Changing Tastes (1978)
Zero Is Hero (1980)
JIM MURRAY (1919–1998)
As White as the Ku Klux Klan (1969)
If You’re Expecting One-Liners (1979)
All-Time Greatest Name (1980)
SANDY GRADY (1927–2015)
Cool World of Basketball’s Wilt (1960)
A Visit to Managers’ Terrace (1964)
The Mob Hit .000 (1966)
PETER FINNEY (1927–2016)
“Bounced Right into My Arms”: Cannon Planned to Let It Roll (1959)
Just Call Me Gorgeous (1960) 
It Could Have Been Worse . . . (1977)
JIM KLOBUCHAR (b. 1928)
The Dragon vs. a Scrambling St. George (1966)
Joe Namath Slays the Knights (1969)
DAVE ANDERSON (1929–2018)
The Sound of 715 (1974)
BUD COLLINS (1929–2016)
Evert Smashing, Wins Battle of Wimbledon (1976)
Boxing Grieves Loss of 5th Street Gym (1994)
JERRY IZENBERG (b. 1930)
The Promoter (1964)
Courage Is Riding Out a 1,600-Pound Tornado (1985)
Just Color Doug’s Day Beautiful (1988)
LARRY MERCHANT (b. 1931)
Ali Baby (1967)
Poetry in Motion (1968)
Hustler Outhustled (1973)
WELLS TWOMBLY (1935–1977)
Gallery of Goats (1972)
Super Hero (1973)
There Was Only One Casey (1975)
ROBERT LIPSYTE (b. 1938)
Clay Wins Title in Seventh-Round Upset as Liston Is Halted by Shoulder Injury (1964)
The Medal (1969)
BILL NACK (1941–2018)
First a Hush, Then Awe (1973)
DAVE KINDRED (b. 1941)
Willie Pastrano (1980)
Ben Crenshaw (1984)
Walter Payton (1988)
LEIGH MONTVILLE (b. 1943)
The Tube That Won’t Let You Up (1981)
It Ain’t Over till It’s Over (1986)
JOHN SCHULIAN (b. 1945)
Pistol Pete: Parting Shot Full of Sorrow (1980)
The Proud Warrior (1985)
DIANE K. SHAH (b. 1945)
At 7-Foot-2, Is Abdul-Jabbar Above It All? (1981)
Oh, No! Not Another Boring Interview with Steve Carlton (1983)
BOB RYAN (b. 1946)
Celtics Steal It: Bulls Fall in 2 OTs, 135–131 (1986)
Celtics Crowning Glory: Bird Buries Rockets (1986)
THOMAS BOSWELL (b. 1947)
Something to Shout About (1982)
Nicklaus a Master Again (1986)
The Rocket’s Descent (2007)
TONY KORNHEISER (b. 1948)
Jackson’s Lonely World (1978)
RICK TELANDER (b. 1948)
Making Their Points (2001)
Atkins a Study in Pride and Pain (2007)
RICHARD HOFFER (b. 1949)
Chacon Lives with a Dream and Relives a Nightmare (1982)
Retton Vaults Past Szabo to Win Gold Medal (1984)
DAVID ISRAEL (b. 1951)
Joe Pepitone: What Is He Doing for the Rest of His Life? (1975)
Butterfly . . . Tiger . . . Lion . . . Al McGuire Retires a Champ (1977)
MIKE DOWNEY (b. 1951)
When One Teardrop Is a Torrent of Hope (1994)
He May Be Playing in Year 2131 (1995)
JANE LEAVY (b. 1951)
The Man Baseball Forgot Plays the Hand He’s Dealt (1983)
RALPH WILEY (1952–2004)
Why Did Duran Do It? (1980)
The Undertaker Was Buried (1981)
MIKE LUPICA (b. 1952)
The Day the Music Died in Boston (1978)
Connors Slams Death’s Door Shut (1987)
Recalling Brother’s Bravest Hour (2001)
MARK KRAM, JR. (b. 1956)
“I Want to Kill Him” (2002)
BILL PLASCHKE (b. 1958)
Her Blue Haven (2001)
MICHAEL WILBON (b. 1958)
Entitled to Everything He Got (1992)
Winning Isn’t Color-Coded (1994)
SALLY JENKINS (b. 1960)
Driving Home an Eternal Philosophy of Life (2001)
Only Medal for Bode Is Fool’s Gold (2006)
George Huguely, Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Taylor: Male Athletes Encouraged to Do the Wrong Thing (2010)
JOE POSNANSKI (b. 1967)
RIP Buck O’Neil (2014)

Sources and Acknowledgments
Index

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