Pop was a sportswriter, veteran N.Y. columnist and author Frank Graham (1893-1965), so his heroes and haunts were Frank, Jr.'s--""that land of boxing gossip and bittersweet dreams called Jacobs Beach,"" Lou Gehrig radiating ""a mild, almost scholarly confidence"" on the Yankee bench. But these are not just memories of a red-letter childhood and pungent, long-gone scenes. Frank, Sr. is the co-author--through selections from his columns--of what is as much his story as Frank, Jr.'s. . . and ultimately a chronicle of New York's romance with sports from John McGraw to Jackie Robinson. Frank, Sr.'s first big assignment was to accompany McGraw's cocky, practical-joking Giants to their Texas training camp. Soon he was following the Giants throughout the season, covering college football in the fall, switching to hockey come winter, and reporting on ""his first love,"" boxing, when he was in New York. In 1934, he took over the Sun's sports column--""the banter was the message""--and traveled less, covered boxing more. Primo Camera was about to lose the heavyweight title to Max Baer (""Thus,"" wrote Graham, Sr., ""there came into being the maddest of champions in the maddest of championship fights""); James J. Braddock--washed up and working on the Weehawken docks--would take the title from Baer the next year (""It just goes to show how far a stout heart will take a fellow, provided he has a good left hand to go with it""). Coming up were Two-Ton Tony Galento, Joe Louis, Tony Canzoneri--and Graham, Jr.'s first intimations of ""the tragedy and sordidness that was always just below the surface."" (Grown up, he'd see a boxer-friend inadvertently kill an opponent--while he cried out, to his later horror, ""Kill him, Roger!"") There are recollections, too, of college-football fever in New York (!), of Pearl Harbor day at the Polo Grounds, of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the glory postwar years--when Graham, Jr., was publicity director and an ""unrepentant turncoat"" fan and his father was admiring but detached. The real throb comes, however, in their joint devotion to the Yankees' Lou Gehrig. And nothing here better captures the spirit of a father-and-son outing than the reprinting of Graham, Sr.'s account of Gehrig's death (from his 1942 biography for young fans). Readers needn't have been around to be drawn in--but those who were will find the ringside seats still warm.
Pub Date: Oct. 20, 1981
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981
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