GAMES WE USED TO PLAY: Four Decades of Sports Writing by Roger Kahn

GAMES WE USED TO PLAY: Four Decades of Sports Writing

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Even his fans may be surprised at the very high quality of the work Kahn (The Boys of Summer, Joe & Marilyn, etc.) has done over the years. In the anthology at hand, the author collects more than two dozen of the sports pieces he wrote from the early 1950's through 1990--and virtually all stand the taxing test of time. Among other impressive inclusions, there are standout profiles of boxing's George Foreman (then an ex-heavyweight champ in pursuit of a rematch with his conqueror, Muhammad Ali), hockey's Glenn Hall, football's Frank Ryan (a world-class mathematician as well as a winning quarterback), baseball's Stan Musial (in the twilight of a Hall-of-Fame career), and basketball's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (at the start of two-decade reign in the NBA). Covered as well are Carl Furillo, Ingemar Johansson, Don King, Tommy Lasorda (""Sinatra's Friend""), Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, the young Willie Mays, Merlin Olsen, Walter O'Malley, and Sugar Ray Robinson. About the only weak links in the lineup are a few self-consciously weighty essays--e.g., a mannered meditation on professional athletes who, though chronologically young, are old by the standards of their demanding trades; an inane attempt to establish enduring linkages between intellectuals and the national pastime; and a churlish put-down of Joe Namath on the occasion of his run-in with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle over the ownership of a Manhattan bar. Kahn does not neglect his colleagues, paying graceful tributes to, among others, Jerome Holtzman, John Lardner, and Red Smith. Equally welcome is the author's parting shot on his literary collaboration with Pete Rose after the superstar had been banned from baseball for gambling and sentenced to a federal penitentiary on tax charges. A decidedly agreeable trip down memory lane with one of the more perceptive tour guides still in the game.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin