THE BEST AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING OF THE CENTURY by David Halberstam

THE BEST AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING OF THE CENTURY

edited by

KIRKUS REVIEW

This fine collection of sportswriting honors the genre’s ability to create word pictures not only of athletes and their achievements but also of their individual era. Pulitzer Prize—winning author Halberstam (Playing for Keeps, 1999, etc.) and series editor Glenn Stout take a slight detour from the annual edition to cull what they believe to be the century’s best sportswriting from newspapers and magazines. Because all the prominent sports figures are not covered—and, unfortunately, none of the 59 articles has a female athlete as its main subject—this anthology fails as a definitive study of sports in the 20th century. Nevertheless, the chosen articles are examples of excellent storytelling and feature more than 40 of the best sports journalists, among them Red Smith, Frank Deford, Murray Kempton, and Grantland Rice, as well as writers such as Gay Talese (on Joe DiMaggio), Tom Wolfe (on racer Junior Johnson), John Updike (on Ted Williams), and Norman Mailer (on Muhammad Ali). Baseball and boxing are the sports most widely covered; also included are football, hockey, tennis, golf, racing (stock-car and horse), fly-fishing, mountain climbing, bodybuilding, and chess. Some articles touch on issues such as racism, steroid abuse, and being gay in the sports world. The most enlightening pieces humanize the athlete, showing “the man out there is no longer just another great athlete, an idealized hero, but only a man—only ourself” (a line from Roger Angell’s 1975 article about the pitcher Steve Blass). Everyone, not just sports fans, will admire Sal Maglie’s grace after his difficult loss, be fascinated by Bobby Fischer’s extraordinary fears, and be moved by the fates of athletes such as Ali, Tony Conigliaro, Steve Michalik, and even Secretariat. An enjoyable volume of quality sportswriting. Readers who want to read more will be aided by the participating writers’ biographical notes and the list of additional selected notable works and sportswriters.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-94513-5
Page count: 816pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999




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