Know this about playing tennis on a grass court: You'll skid on the surface like a hydroplaning car. You'll look silly trying to maneuver a ball that doesn't take kindly to the notion of bouncing. You'll see that cloud of chalk dust and stifle any urge to call your opponent's ball out. And you'll have more fun than you've ever had on a tennis court. But don't take it on faith. The 13 grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. (above), are open to the public for $30 per person per hour. Play a few sets on these lush lawns, and you'll wonder what fool decided that courts ought to be paved. -- L. Jon Wertheim
To have the summer's most roaring time, head to a little Appalachian valley off Highway 11 in northeastern Tennessee. There, rising out of a grass field, is NASCAR's most spectacular short track, Bristol Motor Speedway, site of the Sharpie 500 on Aug. 27. The .533-mile oval is sunk into a bowl, and the towering grandstands, which hold 160,000, are right on top of the track. There isn't a bad seat, and you're so close to the action you can smell the burned rubber, the exhaust, the gas. (And bring earplugs. Imagine sitting on the runway at O'Hare--that's Bristol.) You'll witness plenty of paint-trading. Over the years, Bristol has yielded more than its share of dustups as the 3,400-pound speed machines bang like bumper cars while jousting for position; last year, sparks flew between Ricky Rudd (below, 21) and Mike Wallace. The Sharpie 500 is held under the lights, and the start produces one of the season's most arresting sights: When the green flag drops, thousands of cameras flash, and you feel like you're in horsepower heaven. -- Lars Anderson
Throwing political correctness to the wind, The Bad News Bears brilliantly skewered the sometimes self-important world of Little League. Now, 29 years after Walter Matthau cracked the mentoring mold as the foul-mouthed, beer-swilling coach Morris Buttermaker, Billy Bob Thornton channels his baseball Bad Santa in the remake, opening on July 22. "We didn't wimp out; we very closely followed the original script," says coscreenwriter John Requa, who adds, perhaps as a caution, "Like the original, it ultimately has a really great message for the kids about competitiveness." Matthau's Buttermaker was a pool cleaner, Thornton's is an exterminator--and a former big leaguer to boot. "Where Matthau [was] a lovable schlump, Billy Bob is more of a keen, sexually charged kind of guy," says Requa. Matthau took the kids out for hot dogs and soda; Thornton (above left, with Bears) shepherds his charges to Hooters. (Don't worry: The new version is rated PG-13.) Is Billy Bob a born Buttermaker? Well, the actor-musician once tried out as a pitcher for the Royals, and his first band was called the McCoveys, in honor of the Hall of Famer. Both good signs. --R.D.
Cinderella Man by Jeremy Schaap ( Houghton Mifflin, $24). This gripping, balanced look at 1930s rags-to-riches heavyweight champ James J. Braddock (SI, May 9) depicts a darker figure than the current film does. Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life by Michael Lewis ( W.W. Norton, $12.95). The author of Moneyball insightfully recalls the often harsh lessons taught by his high school baseball coach. Inside the Cage: A Season at West 4th Street's Legendary Tournament by Wight Martindale Jr. (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $22.95). A summer at one of basketball's celebrated blacktops, where the characters are as captivating as the games. Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger ( Houghton Mifflin, $25). The author of Friday Night Lights mines the psyche of Cardinals manager Tony La Russa for an addictive narrative of a series with the Cubs (SI, March 21). Wilt, 1962 by Gary M. Pomerantz (Crown, $24.95). A crafty, we-were-there reconstruction of Wilt Chamberlain's epic 100-point game. --A.D.
This summer 50,000 visitors will trek to the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in out-of-the-way Hayward, Wis. (61 miles south of Duluth). The draw, of course, is the museum's collection of all things angling: the hundreds of antique rods, reels and accessories; the myriad outboard motors, among them a 1909 Evinrude; the 400 mounts of nearly 200 species of fish; the 5,000 lures, several of them notable for having been plucked, by a local doctor, out of human beings; and the hall of fame, which includes among its 160 inductees the aptly named Gil Hamm and Louie Spray. The centerpiece is the 4 1/2-story-tall fiberglass muskie that leaps, ferocious mouth agape, above a pond stocked (for budding catch-and-release enthusiasts) with bluegill and perch. Visitors can walk up through the muskie's innards and step out onto an observation platform in its toothy maw. Some couples are so enchanted by the view (which includes greater Hayward, the muskie capital of the world) that they get married there. --K.A.