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The 10 sports book you need to read

Pat Jordan: Don't fuck with him—just read his book.
Pat Jordan: Don’t fuck with him—just read his book.

When you write sports books, you read sports books.

Actually, scratch that.

When you write sports books, you likely grew up reading sports books. I certainly did. They were staples of my boyhood; so much so that the people at the Mahopac Library would call me and say, “We’ve got [X book] in. Come down and we’ll hold it for you.” Hell, I’m 44 and I still head immediately to the sports book section when I enter a Barnes & Noble.

Anyhow, enough babbling. Top of my head, here are 10 sports books you need to read:

“A False Spring” by Pat Jordan: Simply beautiful, haunting, funny look at Jordan’s time as a minor league ballplayer. Prose+sports=true love.

“The Last Hero” by Howard Bryant: Best Hank Aaron biography ever written—and there have been many. I’ve said for years that Howard is the business’ most underrated writer. This is the man at his best.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-8-07-30-am
Bryant

“Gunslinger” by Jeff Pe—Seriously, what kind of egomaniacal asshole would I have to be to include my own crap on the list. Just kidding—carry on …

“When Pride Still Mattered” by David Maraniss: His Vince Lombardi bio is the absolute gold standard for sports biography. A big, beautiful book from the king of the game.

“Namath,” by Mark Kriegel: I’ve never met a person who A. Doesn’t like Mark; B. Doesn’t like his books. Braodway Joe didn’t participate, but Kriegel made that matter nary an iota.

“Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life” by Richard Ben Cramer: In the aftermath of the release of “Sweetness,” when everyone in Chicago took a shit on my motives (“How dare you write about someone this way after he’s gone!”), I often found myself reading through Cramer’s master class. Honest, rough, harsh, brilliant.

“Loose Balls” by Terry Pluto: I’m usually not a big oral history guy, but Pluto nailed this. A fun, funny, insightful look at the ABA. Just gold.

“Luckiest Man” by Jonathan Eig: I started this Lou Gehrig bio because Eig and I share an agent (I didn’t know him well at the time), but was forever unable to put it down. The perfect marriage of reporting and writing.

Eig
Eig

“Heaven is a Playground” by Rick Telander: Rick is one of Chicago’s all-time fantastics, but for this one he came to New York and immersed himself in 1970s pickup hoops. As raw and gritty as sports journalism gets.

“The Bronx Zoo” by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock: I have nephews who tell me certain movies are funny. I see them, they’re painfully unfunny. That’s because tastes change from 10 to 40. Well, I first read this when I was 10. Still love it. Just the perfect inside-the-clubhouse baseball diary from a guy who sits naked on birthday cakes.

“Dream Team” by Jack McCallum: I’ve known Jack a long time, and he’s always had this thing. It’s like a twinkle in his eye, and people respond to it. This book is an ode to writing and reporting, sure. But really it’s an ode to a reporter (Jack) who built very real and human relations with members of the ’92 Dream Team.

McCallum
McCallum

5 replies on “The 10 sports book you need to read”

Surprised there is nothing by John Feinstein, I enjoy his work. Also, kinda surprised “The Miracle of St Anthony” by Wojnarowski or the Ted Williams biography by Monteville aren’t considered.

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Recently I read a book called “Being stripped naked” by Adam Peirs. Don’t think about the topic of the book, this book takes you though the expats life in Hong Kong during the time of 1997. Its really interesting.

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