GEORGE PLIMPTON ON SPORTS
The Lyons Press, 327 pages, $24.95
THE BOGEY MAN;
OUT OF MY LEAGUE;
MAD DUCKS AND BEARS;
The Lyons Press, $12.95 per book
This year was the 40th anniversary of Paper Lion, and The Lyons Press seized on the occasion—several months before George Plimpton's sudden death in September at age 76—to reissue, in elegant paperbacks, his six enduring sports books. (On Sept. 21, just five days before he died, Plimpton and his account of playing QB for the Detroit Lions were honored by the team.) All of them, originally published between 1961 and '87, take readers deep inside the world of the big leagues as Plimpton exquisitely narrates his misadventures as quarterback, boxer, pitcher, golfer and hockey goalie. The constants in the books are Plimpton's keen insight and rich, often hilarious voice.
On Sports, a smattering of some of Plimpton's best stuff excerpted primarily from magazines—including SI, Esquire and Harper's—was edited by Plimpton himself and includes a brief introduction by the author. The pieces cover nearly 20 different sports (all the ones you might expect plus rowing, stickball and grape-catching) and render vivid Plimptonian portraits of Vince Lombardi, Muhammad Ali and John McEnroe. You'll spend a day with poet Marianne Moore at Yankee Stadium in 1963, and you'll rediscover the immortal Sidd Finch not once but twice in these pages. Plimpton's work inspired a generation of journalists, and anyone else who stood to profit from this lesson: If the front door is closed, there is always another way inside. That's still worth learning, and Plimpton is still a marvelous coach.
Selections from Our Authors
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: FIFTY YEARS OF GREAT WRITING
Sports Illustrated Books, 560 pages, $29-95
A half century of the magazine's best pieces (there are 52 in all), including works by Dan Jenkins, who saw three eras of golf legends come together at the 1960 U.S. Open; William Faulkner, who watched Nashua get upset by Swaps in the 1955 Kentucky Derby; Steve Rushin, who traveled to Germany for a crash course in high-speed driving; Gary Smith, who wrote about the aftermath of a boating accident that claimed the lives of two Cleveland Indians pitchers; Garrison Keillor, who told about the time when Babe Ruth came to Lake Wobegon; and John Steinbeck, who wrote a lengthy story about why he couldn't write a story about sports.
WHO'S YOUR CADDY?
by Rick Reilly
Doubleday, 261 pages, $24.95
Columnist Reilly turns looper, carrying bags for the likes of Jack Nicklaus ("Of all the friends a guy might like to have, Nicklaus would be 1 through 10"), Donald Trump ("You do not interview Trump. You just try to be in the Doppler radar when his tornado blows by and sucks you in") and Reilly's comedic hero, Bob Newhart ("Me drawing Bob Newhart was like Amarillo Slim drawing aces and jacks"). In doing so, he makes love to the sport of golf, whether golf likes it or not.
by William Nack
Da Capo Press, 376 pages, $26
Nack is often at his best telling the intimate tales of the men, women and other creatures who inhabit the unique universe of horse racing. But this collection of stories he wrote for SI goes well beyond the track, touching on issues of race (with a piece on boxer Sonny Liston), war ( Bob Kalsu, the only U.S. professional athlete to die in Vietnam) and celebrity ( Nack's search for reclusive chess-master Bobby Fischer).