In memoriam: nearly 50 years of Red Smith's columns on sports--and politics and life. Did Sonny Listen take a dive in his two fights with Cassius Clay? Should the US boycott the 1980 Olympics? What is a Finnish sauna really like? Editor Dave Anderson has divided the material into ten sections--such as Olympics, Baseball, Politics, and Fishing; but, appropriately, he doesn't present the articles in chronological order. Despite some dated references to Japs, the Third Avenue El, and women as ""dolls,"" the descriptions of Leon Trotsky (a ""not very successful delicatessen keeper in the Bronx"") are as fresh as those of Reggie Jackson (""Hamlet in double-knits'). As he aged, moreover, Smith seems to have grown more critical of the existing order. Though he blasts the behavior of John McEnroe and baseball's adoption of the designated hitter, he rails like a young radical against baseball's reserve system (and commissioner), the Amateur Athletic Union, the International Olympic Committee, and the NFL. But for all his concern with sports, he maintains a sense of proportion: after the Kennedy assassinations, he reflects on the absurdity of letting the games continue; following the ring death of Benny Paret, he sympathizes with ""those who sincerely regard [boxing] as a vicious business that should have no place in a civilized society."" Red Smith's world stretches from Coogan's Bluff (""The art of fiction is dead. Reality has overtaken invention"") to the Dead Sea Downs to the Thrilla in Manila. He exults over Willie Mays, tolerates basketball, yawns at yachting, and lovingly takes his grandson fishing. As a writer, Smith understands how fans pleasure in re-living a sporting event in the newspaper. For those who want a flavor of sports' last-half century, these 130 columns are essential. For old hands, re-reading is a delight.