THE BOOK OF BOXING
Edited by W.C. Heinz and Nathan Ward
Total Sports Illustrated, $24.95
If it's true, and I say it is, that the best writing on sports has been about boxing, then fans of the "sweet science" and literati alike should rejoice at the reprinting, with some additions, of this superb anthology first published in 1961. If you are of a classical bent, you'll find such fight writers of the old school as Plato, Homer, Virgil, Lucilius and Theocritus. If your taste runs to 19th-century masters, you'll come across Thackeray and Hugo. In a somewhat more modern vein, the book also includes Jack London, Arnold Bennett, Edgar Lee Masters, Ring Lardner, Ernest Hemingway, Nelson Algren, Irvin S. Cobb, Damon Runyon, James T. Farrell and J.B. Priestley. Or maybe you'd prefer A.J. Liebling, Red Smith, Grantland Rice, Bob Considine, Joe Williams, Dan Parker, Westbrook Pegler, John Lardner, Leonard Gardner, George Plimpton, Mark Kram or Pat Putnam. It doesn't matter. They're all here.
Just read and enjoy.
AND THE CROWD GOES WILD
By Joe Garner
Sourcebooks, Inc., $49.95
This attractive tome not only recalls 47 great moments in sports history but also includes a pair of compact discs of the original radio and television broadcasts of those moments. Garner writes the text, and Bob Costas narrates the broadcast portion of this doubleheader. The events covered date from Babe Ruth's supposed "called shot" in the 1932 World Series to Mark McGwire's shattering of the home run record in 1998 and the U.S. women's soccer team's triumph at the 1999 World Cup. Some of the broadcasting moments, heard in retrospect, seem surprisingly tepid, though there are such gems as Al Michaels's "Do you believe in miracles?" call of the U.S. hockey team's upset of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics and Russ Hodges's "The Giants win the pennant!" cheerleading after Bobby Thomson's 1951 Shot Heard 'Round the World. But none is equal in hysteria to Joe Starkey's description of the five-lateral last-second kickoff return in the 1982 Cal-Stanford Big Game.
99: MY LIFE IN PICTURES
By Wayne Gretzky with John Davidson
Total Sports Publishing, $29.95
With literary assistance from broadcaster and former NHL player John Davidson, the Great One reflects on his celebrated career, stealing a march on what promises to be, on the occasion of his retirement earlier this year, a multitude of biographies. The list of the 61 NHL records Gretzky holds fills almost three full pages in this large-format volume.
BASEBALL'S 25 GREATEST MOMENTS
By Ron Smith
The Sporting News, $29.95
Many of these moments made their way into the Garner book, and there are few surprises here, but The Sporting News senior editor Ron Smith makes the most of his material. The main trouble is that he doesn't take us back far enough into the departing century: Lou Gehrig's farewell speech in 1939 is the earliest of these moments. Overlooking Fred Merkle's boner and Grover Alexander's strikeout of Tony Lazzeri are forgivable in a book on broadcasting, but relegating them to afterthoughts in a written history seems irresponsible.
MUHAMMAD ALI: The Birth of a Legend, Miami, 1961-1964
By Flip Schulke with Matt Schudel
St. Martin's Press, $27.95
Ali is adequately represented in the Heinz-Ward collection, though not at this germinal stage of his well-documented career. Photographer Schulke captures the youthful exuberance of the boxer then known as Cassius Clay in some unusual black-and-white pictures. Schudel's prose is predictably reverent.
LAND OF LITTLE RIVERS
By Austin McK. Francis
The Beaverkill Press, $100
This is a beautifully illustrated and exhaustively researched tribute to flyfishing in the Catskill Mountains of New York by a renowned authority on the subject. In addition to stunning color photographs of the region by Enrico Ferorelli, the book is chock full of old black-and-white images that evoke a bygone era, all of which may well make this hefty volume worth the price. If that's your cup of tea.