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SI's 25 Summer Essentials
Peter King
July 11, 2005
The ultimate sports summer? How much time, gas and courage have you got? SI's writers make their personal recommendations here for things they feel you absolutely must do, watch, read or eat before Labor Day. Getting married in the mouth of that very large fish (page 111) is, of course, optional
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July 11, 2005

Si's 25 Summer Essentials

The ultimate sports summer? How much time, gas and courage have you got? SI's writers make their personal recommendations here for things they feel you absolutely must do, watch, read or eat before Labor Day. Getting married in the mouth of that very large fish (page 111) is, of course, optional

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Trainers save their prime stock to race from late July to early September at Saratoga (the jewel on the lip of the Adirondacks, in upstate New York) and at Del Mar, 20 miles north of San Diego--"where the turf meets the surf," as Bing Crosby, a cofounder of the track, once crooned. Both venues welcome their share of celebrities: Among the Saratoga regulars is Louisville hoops coach (and horse owner) Rick Pitino, while at Del Mar you might spot Chargers quarterback Drew Brees and running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Saratoga (top and above) peaks with the Travers (Aug. 27), the showcase for 3-year-olds that routinely lures more than 50,000; Del Mar's centerpiece is the Pacific Classic (Aug. 21), for 3-year-olds and up. Look for long shots at Saratoga; they don't call it the Graveyard of Favorites for nothing. (Man o' War and Secretariat lost here.) At Del Mar stay away from come-from-behind horses, who won't like the short homestretch. Above all, bask in the ambience: at 142-year-old Saratoga, fresh melons for breakfast trackside and an evening stroll past the shops on Broadway; at Del Mar, morning in the foamy surf and, much later, dinner and, as the sun falls into the Pacific, the first flickering thoughts of tomorrow's daily double. -- Tim Layden

HACK IT

Like Louie DePalma on Taxi or Otis the Drunk on The Andy Griffith Show, I find comfort in a cage: a batting cage, in which captivity really is captivating. My cage is at Connecticut Golf Land in Vernon (visible from I-84). It's hard to channel Barry Bonds when a sign warns that hitters must be at least 10 years old and four feet tall. The other day I hit the cage with my friend Jeremy. We each took 150 cuts on the Fast machine, which fires balls at 75 mph and at wildly unpredictable intervals. Our helmets were too small and our bats too short, forcing us to lean over the plate like Craig Biggio. My at bats resembled Chuck Knoblauch's: a dozen balls fouled off the fists, followed by the occasional single to center. "I feel middle-aged," said 29-year-old Jeremy after an hour, when our hands resembled raw steaks. I am middle-aged and felt elderly. But I also felt 10 years old. And at least four feet tall. -- Steve Rushin

CAST IT

The Ranch is the most famous stretch of water on the Henry's Fork, a smooth, wadable, nine-mile stream that meanders through Harriman State Park in Island Park, Idaho. Open from June 15 through Sept. 30, the Ranch isn't for beginners. The rainbow trout feeding there are wary and wise, having seen thousands of imitation flies drift by every summer. But when dusk falls over the Bitterroot Mountains, the black-cherry surface of the river, blanketed by dead and squirming insects, becomes dappled with the noses of sipping fish; the adrenaline rush lasts until the feasting ends at dark. The trout--there are thousands--are voracious yet maddeningly selective. Hook one of these beautiful, powerful natives before the light fails, and it will be an evening you'll never forget. -- E.M. Swift

BOMB IT

In summer, ski resorts transform their slopes into mountain-biking playgrounds--and the most daring descents for fat-tire junkies are at Whistler (B.C.) Mountain Bike Park (above). Just ask freeriding phenom Kyle Strait. "Nowhere," declares the 2004 Junior Worlds Downhill bronze medalist, "is as good as Whistler." The resort offers a plethora of ways for you to eat dirt (plus a gentler Magic Bike Park for novices and families). The terrain park has five main veins that cover 125 miles of obstacle-strewn trails and an express lift that lets vertical thrill seekers off at 3,400 feet to begin their downward jaunts. The ultra-audacious can hop on Freight Train, a new expert-only trail that drops 2,200 feet in five miles with all sorts of bumps designed to get you airborne: monster table tops, wide berms and 15-foot jumps. One thing's for sure: You'll go downhill fast. -- Yi-Wyn Yen

For Eastern bikers in search of summer slopes, head for Snowshoe (W.Va.) Mountain (www.ride.snowshoemtn.com).

CATCH IT

If you're lucky enough, you still might get to witness 80-year-old Eddie (the King) Feigner on a night he feels up to tossing some classic heat. Blindfolded. From second base. For 60 years the King--perhaps the greatest fast-pitch softball pitcher ever--and his three-player Court have taken their act across America. This summer Feigner (below) will make his rounds for the next-to-last time, hitting 20 or more ballparks. (On the slate: Baltimore on July 10, Omaha on Aug. 27 and Portland on Sept. 3.) These days Feigner, who's thrown 930 no-hitters, uses his pitching arm mostly for autographs while serving as emcee. "I'm an entertainer!" the King barks. "I got a little bit of me from George Burns and Jackie Gleason. My show's as fun as my game! Come see it!" -- Adam Duerson

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