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THE TOP 100 SPORTS BOOKS OF ALL TIME
Pete McEntegart
December 16, 2002
In the early 1900s editor Maxwell Perkins told anyone who would listen that Chicago sports columnist Ring Lardner was the most talented writer he knew, high praise given that Perkins's stable included Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. It shouldn't have come as a shock, though. Many of the country's best writers have long been fascinated with sports, and that passion shows up in their prose. After all, when done right, sportswriting transcends bats and balls to display all the traits of great literature: incision, wit, force and vision, suffused with style and substance. Herewith the editors of SI's favorite sports books, compiled with love and reason, out of intense and sometimes unruly discussions.
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December 16, 2002

The Top 100 Sports Books Of All Time

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70 The Last Shot
BY DARCY FREY (1994)
If Coney Island means fun to you, then you don't know it like the students at Abraham Lincoln High School do. Frey follows the fortunes of the teenage Stephon Marbury and others who try to play their way out of the "ghetto school for the projects" with varying success.

71 Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder
BY ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER AND DOUGLAS KENT HALL (1977)
The summer that Schwarzenegger turned 15 in Austria, he discovered bodybuilding and told his father, "I want to be the best-built man in the world. Then I want to go to America and be in movies." Ahhnuld's brazenness and passion make this an inspiring read.[ New York Times best-seller]

72 Out of the Bunker and Into the Trees
BY REX LARDNER (1960)
Ring's nephew Rex was an accomplished tennis player and a two-time Big Ten wrestling champ, but this hilarious send-up of golf culture might have been his greatest achievement. It's a book that's hard to find but worth the effort.[Out of print]

73 The Fight
BY NORMAN MAILER (1975)
Mailer can come off as a self-important blowhard, but the Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle provided such inherent drama that his heated prose—lionizing both combatants, but especially Ali—seems perfectly appropriate.

74 Only the Ball Was White
BY ROBERT PETERSON (1970)
The Negro leagues, which had folded two decades earlier, were fading from memory when Peterson wrote this landmark history, sparking renewed interest in the leagues and restoring Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and other black stars to their rightful place in baseball's pantheon.

75 Harvey Penick's Little Red Book
BY HARVEY PENICK WITH BUD SHRAKE (1992)
Penick spent six decades jotting down his folksy wisdom in a red Scribbletex notebook, never intending to publish it. Golfers everywhere should be thankful that, at 87, he decided to share his tips, garnered from teaching hackers and famous pros alike.[ New York Times best-seller]

76 Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George?
BY JOE JARES (1974)
An affectionate depiction of pro wrestling in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, when the sport had a more benign, vaudevillian flavor. Jares does a terrific riff on the masked men, ersatz Indian chiefs, "leaping lords" and other baddies who routinely smuggled "foreign objects" in their trunks.[Out of print]

77 Annapurna
BY MAURICE HERZOG (1951)
Before Everest, there was Annapurna. Frenchman Herzog led the first summitting of an 8,000-meter peak, dictating his story because he had lost all his fingers to frostbite. National Geographic Adventure called this "the most influential mountaineering book of all time."[ New York Times best-seller]

78 The Great American Novel
BY PHILIP ROTH (1973)
Considering their players—a one-legged catcher, a one-armed centerfielder, a 14-year-old second baseman and a dwarf relief pitcher—perhaps it's not so surprising that the 1943 Patriot League team at the heart of this ribald satirical novel finishes 34-120.

79 Soccer in Sun and Shadow
BY EDUARDO GALEANO (1998)
The Uruguayan writer's meditation is part lyrical ode ("I've finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer"), part political screed. The 211 short chapters are so breezily written that even the Marxist medicine goes down smoothly.

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