Books by Phil Berger

Released: Dec. 1, 1999

An informative biography of the legendary basketball player who died suddenly in 1988 at the age of 40 because of a congenital heart defect. Maravich, named to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players List in 1997, will probably be remembered best for his showmanship and his pioneer role as superstar. Journalist and author Berger (Big Time, 1990, etc.) chronicles the ballplayer's life from pre- college through his Louisiana State University years to his pro career with the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Jazz, and Boston Celtics. He was dubbed "Pistol Pete" as a ninth-grader by a sportswriter who was impressed by the boy's off-the-hip, one-hand push shot, a style blending confidence and cockiness. Maravich, a product of his father's intense mentoring and coaching, became a prolific scorer—breaking the career college scoring record in 1970—and a master of dazzling plays, including dribbling between his legs. Even before his rookie year, he was clearly a superstar, netting an exorbitant salary and landing endorsement deals at a time when ballplayers weren't seen as commercial spokespeople. But as Berger's research reveals, Maravich's life was laced with sorrow. His mother sank into the alcoholism and depression that led to her suicide. Maravich himself was troubled by success, becoming an alcoholic, suffering bouts of paranoia, and enduring injuries and illnesses throughout his professional career, which ended in 1980. Berger uses citations from teammates, friends, contemporaries, press clippings, and Maravich's own words to show the complexity of his turbulent life as he bore the scrutiny and expectations of a superstar, becoming after retirement a born-again Christian. Old-time basketball fans will enjoy remembering Pistol Pete, and young fans will be introduced to the player who left such a mark on the sport at a time when showmanship on the hardwood was not the norm. (16 pages b&w photos) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 11, 1995

Some candid confessions of an incorrigible gambler, confidence man, bunco artist, and utterer of bogus negotiable instruments are presented here, providing a highly selective peek into the life. Less a twisted genius than a bent wiseass, the author, from his own evidence a rotten kid, started his wayward career as a high school bookie and inventor of one ingenious scam after another. Occasionally, the law caught up with him, but clever rascal that he is, Jacob, it seems, always contrived to do easy time in the slammer. He even pulled a profitable scam or two while inside. As he dabbled in legitimate and near-legitimate enterprises, credit- card rip-offs and forged checks were his concurrent MO's. Jacob even opened a law firm (as ``David Goldstein, Esq.''). Necessarily, the aliases proliferated. From ``Norman Goodman,'' ``Melvin Blitzstein,'' ``David Weinstein,'' et al., he extended his a.k.a. list to ``JosÇ Gomez,'' ``Willie Mays,'' and ``Donald Trump.'' During the hanky-panky and life on the lam, Jacob incidentally fathered two children. They are now the subject of a custody battle between Daddy and their grandparents. (Mommy, a junkie, is out of the picture.) There's scant introspection and less insight here. With all the nonchalant words there is not one of remorse; it seems that being Jacob means never having to say you're sorry. ``Guys like me,'' he decides, ``don't usually generate much sympathy. Folks prefer their antisocial sorts to . . . change.'' Right. There's an author tour, not by Jacob but by coauthor Berger (Blood Season: Tyson and the World of Boxing, 1989, etc.); Jacob is in the joint right now. Appended are some exhibits to bolster the notion that the text isn't just another scam. Rather than a full-length portrait of a lovable rogue, this is simply a mug shot of a nasty con. (12 pages photos, not seen). Read full book review >