One of the more imaginative projects in the checkered history of sports publishing has been undertaken by Jerome Holtzman, the respected baseball writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and the author of a fine book on sports writing entitled No Cheering in the Press Box. Holtzman has turned himself into a publishing house, Holtzman Press, Inc., and has issued a 10-volume set of "Sports Classics."
The books are handsomely bound in blue, with red spines and gold lettering. Eight of the volumes are by living authors who have autographed their books—these are real signatures, not rubber-stamp facsimiles. (The two by deceased writers bear reproductions of their autographs.) And the selections, listed alphabetically by title, are first-rate: Babe, by Robert Creamer; The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn; Eight Men Out, by Eliot Asinof; Farewell to Sport, by Paul Gallico; The Glory of Their Times, by Lawrence Ritter; Instant Replay, by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap; The Long Season, by Jim Brosnan; Paper Lion, by George Plimpton; The Sweet Science, by A.J. Liebling; and Veeck—as in Wreck, by Bill Veeck and Ed Linn.
Obviously there's plenty of room for argument with Holtzman's choices—Where's Roger Angell? Where's Jimmy Cannon? Where's Ring Lardner?—but when you make choices, you ask for arguments. What's for sure is that all 10 of these books belong in the library of any literate sports fan and that Holtzman has made them available in a most attractive form.
He's done so on his own; no publishing conglomerate has underwritten his first printing of 5,000 copies of the full set. He's a self-described "binding freak" who admires a well-made book and who has decided that there's a market for good sports writing in good bindings. He has taken a considerable financial risk to prove the point.
Six of Holtzman's classics are about baseball, though he says he "took the best books regardless of the sports." Which only serves to reinforce what I've always contended: that baseball has attracted more good writing than any other American sport. The omission of fiction is rather glaring, but once again, Holtzman is entitled to his choices, and readers are entitled to accept or reject them.
For more information, contact Holtzman Press, 1225 Forest Ave., Evanston, Ill. 60202. The price of the set is $139.50, plus $5.50 for shipping, and the books cannot be purchased individually.