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The Top 100 Sports Books Of All Time

Dec. 16, 2002
Dec. 16, 2002

Table of Contents
Dec. 16, 2002

The Top 100 Sports Books Of All Time

By Pete McEntegart; L. Jon Wertheim; Gene Menez; Mark BechtelCompiled by the staff of Sports Illustrated

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.

This is an article from the Dec. 16, 2002 issue

KEY
Out of print
New York Times best-seller
Made into a movie
Authors with other list-worthy books

1
The Sweet Science
BY A.J. LIEBLING (1956)

Pound-for-pound the top boxing writer of all time, Liebling is at
his bare-knuckled best here, bobbing and weaving between superb
reporting and evocative prose. The fistic figures depicted in
this timeless collection of New Yorker essays range from champs
such as Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson to endearing
palookas and eccentric cornermen on the fringes of the squared
circle. Liebling's writing is efficient yet stylish, acerbic yet
soft and sympathetic. ("The sweet science, like an old rap or the
memory of love, follows its victims everywhere.") He leavens
these flourishes with an eye for detail worthy of Henry James.
The one-two combination allows him to convey how boxing can at
once be so repugnant and so alluring.

2
The Boys of Summer
BY ROGER KAHN (1971)

A baseball book the same way Moby Dick is a fishing book, this
account of the early-'50s Brooklyn Dodgers is, by turns, a
novelistic tale of conflict and change, a tribute, a civic
history, a piece of nostalgia and, finally, a tragedy, as the
franchise's 1958 move to Los Angeles takes the soul of Brooklyn
with it. Kahn writes eloquently about the memorable games and the
Dodgers' penchant for choking--"Wait Till Next Year" is their
motto--but the most poignant passages revisit the Boys in autumn.
An auto accident has rendered catcher Roy Campanella a
quadriplegic. Dignified trailblazer Jackie Robinson is mourning
the death of his son. Sure-handed third baseman Billy Cox is
tending bar. No book is better at showing how sports is not just
games. [New York Times best-seller]

3
Ball Four
BY JIM BOUTON (1970)

Though a declining knuckleballer, Bouton threw nothing but
fastballs in his diary of the 1969 season. Pulling back the
curtain on the seriocomic world of the big leagues, he writes
honestly and hilariously about baseball's vices and virtues. At a
time when the sport was still a secular religion, it was an act
of heresy to portray players "pounding the Ol' Budweiser,"
"chasin' skirts" or "poppin' greenies." (And that was during
games.) Bouton's most egregious act of sacrilege--his biting
observations about former teammate Mickey Mantle--led to his
banishment from the "Yankee family." But beyond the controversy,
Ball Four was, finally, a love story. Bouton writes, "You spend a
good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it
turns out that it was the other way around all the time."
[New York Times best-seller]

4
Friday Night Lights
BY H.G. BISSINGER (1990)

Schoolboy football knits together the West Texas town of Odessa
in the late 1980s. But as Permian High grows into a dynasty, the
locals' sense of proportion blows away like a tumbleweed. A
brilliant look at how Friday-night lights can lead a town into
darkness. [New York Times best-seller]

5
You Know Me Al
BY RING LARDNER (1914)

This collection of letters from a fictional (and grammatically
challenged) pitcher named Jack Keefe, originally published in
installments in The Saturday Evening Post, earned lardner a spot
in the pantheon of american humorists alongside mark twain and
Will Rogers.

6
A Season on the Brink
BY JOHN FEINSTEIN (1986)

Bob Knight still curses the day he granted the author unfettered
access to his program. Feinstein's year as an honorary Hoosier
yielded an unsparing portrait of Indiana's combustible coach and
spawned the best-selling sports book of all time.
[New York Times best-seller]
[Made into a movie]
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

7
Semi-Tough
BY DAN JENKINS (1972)

Running back Billy Clyde Puckett of TCU and the Giants calls
himself the "humminest sumbitch that ever carried a football."
Puckett is also the funniest, and the dialogue in this raunchy
novel still crackles. Also read Jenkins's golf novel, Dead Solid
Perfect.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]
[Made into a movie]
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

8
Paper Lion
BY GEORGE PLIMPTON (1965)

No one today does what the fearless Plimpton once did with
regularity. Here, in his first Walter Mitty--esque effort, the
author of the equally brilliant Shadow Box and The Bogey Man
infiltrates the Detroit training camp as a quarterback with no
arm, no legs and no shot.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]
[Made into a movie]
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

9
The Game
BY KEN DRYDEN (1983)

Hall of fame goalie Dryden was always different. A Cornell grad,
he led Montreal to six Stanley Cups, then at 26 sat out a year to
prepare for the bar exam. His book is different too: a
well-crafted account of his career combined with a meditation on
hockey's special place in Canadian culture.

10
Fever Pitch
BY NICK HORNBY (1991)

How can the rest of the world summon such passion for soccer?
You'll understand after reading Hornby's deeply personal and
wonderfully witty account of an otherwise normal bloke who
develops a full-blown obsession with Arsenal, the English Premier
League team.
[Made into a movie]

11
A River Runs Through It
BY NORMAN MACLEAN (1976)

One publisher rejected this novella because "the stories have
trees in them"--thereby missing the forest. The tale of two
brothers headed in different directions also has fly-fishing and
family drama, presented in prose as crisp and clear as a Montana
mountain stream.
[New York Times best-seller]
[Made into a movie]

12
Seabiscuit
BY LAURA HILLENBRAND (2001)

People who've never been to the racetrack love this book, and
it's easy to see why. Hillenbrand has an irresistible story to
tell, about a homely hay burner who came to dominate the
Depression-era sports pages, taking a colorful crew of humans
along for the ride.
[New York Times best-seller]

13
Loose Balls
BY TERRY PLUTO (1990)

Flip to any page of this oral history of the wild-and-woolly ABA
and you can kiss the next few hours goodbye. Pluto tells almost
too-good-to-be-true stories about Marvin (Bad News) Barnes, Dr. J
and obscure figures such as John Brisker, the meanest man in the
league.
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

14
Bang the Drum Slowly
BY MARK HARRIS (1956)

Second of a quartet of baseball novels featuring star southpaw
Henry Wiggen of the New York Mammoths, and a book that is in
equal measures sober and silly. In this installment Wiggen's
roommate and catcher, Bruce Pearson, is dying of cancer.
[Made into a movie]

15
Heaven Is a Playground
BY RICK TELANDER (1976)

The author hung around pickup games in Brooklyn's
Bedford-Stuyvesant section one summer and returned with this
intriguing account of inner-city hoops, a trailblazer of its
kind. Telander depicts the hopes--real and false--that the game
offers its playground legends.
[Made into a movie]

16
Levels of the Game
BY JOHN MCPHEE (1969)

This gripping point-by-point breakdown of the 1968 U.S. Open
semifinal between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner is as much
sociology as sport, with each man explaining how his background
shaped his game. Also read A Sense of Where You Are, McPhee's
take on a young Bill Bradley.
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

17
The Breaks of the Game
BY DAVID HALBERSTAM (1981)

The pulitzer prize winner (for his Vietnam War coverage) focuses
on the 1979--80 Trail Blazers. Like A Season on the Brink, Breaks
proves that a down year can make for high drama. Halberstam's
baseball books, Summer of '49 and October 1964, are also
excellent.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

18
The Summer Game
BY ROGER ANGELL (1972)

This collection of 21 New Yorker pieces, with gems on the woeful
early Mets as well as the "flowering and deflowering of New
England" during the Red Sox' 1967 "Impossible Dream" season,
cemented Angell's place as the game's greatest essayist.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

19
The Long Season
BY JIM BROSNAN (1960)

In 1959 Brosnan, a burnt-out reliever for the Cardinals and the
Reds, kept a journal chronicling such things as the insecurity of
superstars and the behavior of stewardesses on team flights. The
result: a well-rendered inside glimpse that groomed the mound for
Ball Four.
[New York Times best-seller]

20
Instant Replay
BY JERRY KRAMER AND DICK SCHAAP (1968)

After a publishing exec implored him to find the "football
Brosnan" (see above), Schaap corralled Kramer, a literate lineman
for Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. The book climaxes with Bart
Starr's sneaking behind Kramer's block to win the Ice Bowl
against the Cowboys.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]

21
Everybody's All-American
BY FRANK DEFORD (1981)

In this novel Deford captures the romance and pageantry of 1950s
football at North Carolina, then shows how star halfback Gavin
Grey and his beauty-queen wife struggle after the cheering stops.
Deford's 1975 biography Big Bill Tilden is also highly
recommended.
[Out of print]
[Made into a movie]
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

22
Fat City
BY LEONARD GARDNER (1969)

Weighing in at a trim 189 pages, Gardner's tale meticulously
depicts the seedy, second-rate boxing scene in Stockton, Calif.,
and the desperate but hopeful men who inhabit it. Many consider
this and Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird to be the best two
novels by one-time-only novelists.
[Made into a movie]

23
The City Game
BY PETE AXTHELM (1970)

The master prose stylist portrays parallel basketball worlds in
New York City: Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks won the
1969--70 championship, and the playgrounds of Harlem, where stars
such as Earl (The Goat) Manigault burned brightly but too
briefly.

24
The Natural
BY BERNARD MALAMUD (1952)

The movie was a mawkish Rocky-in-flannels, but the novel is a
darker, more subtle tale of phenom Roy Hobbs, who loses his prime
years to a youthful indiscretion, then gets a second chance. TIME
called the novel (which ends differently from the film)
"preposterously readable."
[New York Times best-seller]
[Made into a movie]

25
North Dallas Forty
BY PETER GENT (1973)

Gent was a Cowboys receiver from 1964 to '68, so his darkly funny
novel about a league rife with drugs and depravity left fans
guessing. (Is Seth Maxwell really Dandy Don Meredith?) also
recommended: The Franchise, Gent's still-darker take on the NFL.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]
[Made into a movie]
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

26
When Pride Still Mattered
BY DAVID MARANISS (1999)

Pulitzer Prize winner Maraniss turns his attention to pro
football's most acclaimed coach, Vince Lombardi, and skillfully
reveals the complex man behind the legend. SI's review said it
"may be the best sports biography ever published."
[New York Times best-seller]

27
Babe: The Legend Comes to Life
BY ROBERT CREAMER (1974)

This biography, which broke new ground with its voluminous
research and unsentimental gaze at an american folk hero, is
still considered the final word when it comes to separating Ruth
fact from fiction, such as his alleged called shot in the 1932
World Series.

28
The Golf Omnibus
BY P.G. WODEHOUSE (1973)

Wodehouse's status as golf's shakespeare, its master comedian and
tragedian, is borne out by this collection of short stories in
which golf and love are the two constants. "I doubt if golfers
should fall in love," says one character. "i have known it to
cost men 10 shots per medal round."
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

29
About Three Bricks Shy of a Load
BY ROY BLOUNT JR. (1974)

Blount spent the '73 season following (and drinking with) the
predynasty Steelers. (As the subtitle says, they were "Super but
Missed the Bowl.") The stars are all here, but it's colorful
second-stringers such as Moon Mullins and Craig Hanneman that
make this an unforgettable romp.
[Out of print]

30
A Fan's Notes
BY FREDERICK EXLEY (1968)

The protagonist of this sad but stirring fictional memoir finds
refuge from his troubled life by focusing on his football hero,
Frank Gifford. A Newsday reviewer called the tale of demons and
Giants "the best novel written in the English language since The
Great Gatsby."

31
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life
BY RICHARD BEN CRAMER (2000)

Cramer takes DiMaggio from his boyhood in San Francisco to the
hospital room in Florida where, as he lies dying, a trusted
adviser slips the 1936 World Series ring from his finger.
Brilliant, stylish and a riveting study in the degrading effects
of adulation.
[New York Times best-seller]

32
The Game They Played
BY STANLEY COHEN (1977)

An engrossing morality tale about the 1949--50 City College
basketball team ("five street kids from the city of New
York--three Jews and two blacks") that won the NIT and NCAA
titles, and the point-shaving scandal that doomed its players to
infamy.

33
Veeck as in Wreck
BY BILL VEECK AND ED LINN (1962)

Baseball is a lot less fun without promo-meister Veeck, who
recounts the eureka moments behind the exploding scoreboard, the
pinch-hitting midget and the contortionist first base coach. He
always gave fans what they wanted, even if that was, in one case,
a fire-eating pelican.
[New York Times best-seller]

34
Ben Hogan's Five Lessons
BY BEN HOGAN AND HERBERT WARREN WIND (1957)

Originally serialized in SI in 1957, Hogan's lessons proved to be
an enduring hit. Tremendously detailed, down to how to waggle the
club properly, this is the definitive primer on the sport from
its hardest-working perfectionist.

35
The Worst Journey in the World
BY APSLEY CHERRY-GARRARD (1922)

"Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way
of having a bad time which has been devised," writes
Cherry-Garrard, who recounts his experiences on Robert Falcon
Scott's tragic 1910 Antarctic expedition with eloquence and
objectivity.

36
Beyond a Boundary
BY C.L.R. JAMES (1963)

The Trinidadian Marxist's cricket-drenched memoir is equal parts
sports, history and philosophy. American readers will need to
bone up on the game (the 1983 U.S. edition has a four-page
primer), but James's musings on culture and colonialism are worth
the effort.

37
A False Spring
BY PAT JORDAN (1975)

An honest and deeply affecting memoir by a now established
journalist describing his brief, bittersweet pitching career,
starting in 1959 as a $50,000 bonus baby with the Milwaukee
Braves and ending after four mostly dismal minor league seasons.

38
Life on the Run
BY BILL BRADLEY (1976)

What's the big deal about three weeks in the life of the New York
Knicks as chronicled by their star forward? Plenty, when the
author is a Princeton grad, a Rhodes scholar and a future U.S.
Senator who writes with uncommon candor and intelligence.

39
The Red Smith Reader
BY RED SMITH (1982)

These columns by the man The New York Times said "was to sports
what Homer was to war" offer Smith on Willie Mays, Vince Lombardi
and Leon Trotsky. On the Shot Heard Round the World: "Only the
utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be
plausible again."

40
An Outside Chance: Essays on Sport
BY THOMAS MCGUANE (1980)

The contemplative hunting essay "The Heart of the Game" is the
highlight of this collection of off-center pieces so packed with
vivid ironies as to choke you up when you're not laughing out
loud. A shrewd, eccentric book about hunting and fishing and
poaching golf balls from water hazards.

41
The Unforgettable Season
BY GORDON H. FLEMING (1981)

A literature professor recreates the scintillating 1908
Cubs-Giants-Pirates pennant race (of Merkle's boner fame)
entirely through excerpts of the era's florid
sportswriting--which means runners aren't merely thrown out at
the plate, they're "massacred at the fourth bag."
[Out of print]

42
The Celebrant
BY ERIC ROLFE GREENBERG (1983)

An oft-overlooked novel that blends fact and fiction to create a
charming turn-of-the-century tale about the intertwined lives of
New York Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson and the family of a
young Jewish immigrant who makes his world series rings.

43
Big Red of Meadow Stable
BY WILLIAM NACK (1975)

The breathtaking description of Secretariat's 31-length Belmont
victory is the highlight here, but Nack's book (reissued as
Secretariat: The Making Of A Champion) is also memorable for the
way it traces the great horse's bloodlines through racing
history.

44
The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
BY BILL JAMES (1985)

James, recently hired by the Red Sox as a senior adviser, weaves
together thoughtful essays and lists, often turning traditional
wisdom on its ear with analysis that goes far beyond the
numbers--and all without taking himself (or the game) too
seriously.
[New York Times best-seller]

45
End Zone
BY DON DELILLO (1972)

This shrewd and funny novel, set against a cold war backdrop,
explores the football-as-war metaphor through the life of a
college running back. "i reject the notion of football as
warfare," one angst-ridden character says. "We don't need
substitutes because we've got the real thing."

46
Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story
BY DAVID WOLF (1972)

Wolf's understated prose is equal to his fascinating subject: a
brooklyn playground legend expelled from the University Of Iowa
for allegedly conspiring with gamblers. The charges were
disproved, but the great Hawk didn't reach the NBA until he was
27 and hobbled by bad knees.
[Out of print]

47
Shoeless Joe
BY W.P. KINSELLA (1982)

The same richness as Field Of Dreams, the movie it inspired, but
on a wider canvas. The novel has plot twists and fascinating
characters not in the screenplay, most notably author J.D.
Salinger and Eddie (Kid) Scissons, who claims to be the oldest
living Cub.
[New York Times best-seller]
[Made into a movie]
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

48
Into Thin Air
BY JON KRAKAUER (1997)

An accomplished climber, the author was sent to Mount Everest by
Outside magazine to report on the growing commercialization of
the world's most famous peak. What he came back with was a
suspenseful account of a catastrophic season in which 12 climbers
were killed.
[New York Times best-seller]

49
Eight Men Out
BY ELIOT ASINOF (1963)

The final word on the controversial 1919 Black Sox scandal, a
critical event in sports history. Former minor leaguer Asinof
persuasively argues that the only participant worthy of
exoneration is not Shoeless Joe Jackson but third baseman Buck
Weaver.
[Made into a movie]

50
Baseball's Great Experiment
BY JULES TYGIEL (1983)

In what The New York Times called a "rich, intelligent cultural
history," Tygiel portrays not only Jackie Robinson's breakthrough
1947 season with the Dodgers but also the arduous 12-year march
toward integration by all teams in the major leagues.

51
Laughing in the Hills
BY BILL BARICH (1980)

Nearing 40 and faced with the death of his mother and a failing
marriage, Barich checks into a hotel near Golden Gate Fields
racetrack and stays for the season. As he gambles alongside a
flock of railbirds, he becomes, he says in this evocative memoir,
"restored if not renewed."

52
Dollar Sign on the Muscle
BY KEVIN KERRANE (1984)

The author spent a year with the Phillies' scouts when they were
arguably the best judges of raw talent in the major leagues. The
often hard lives of baseball's underpaid hunter-gatherers are
rendered in lively detail. (See the decoding of scout-speak in
chapter 5.)

53
The Bronx Zoo
BY SPARKY LYLE AND PETER GOLENBOCK (1979)

After this book Lyle was no longer known as just a Cy Young
Award--winning reliever; he was the guy who liked to sit
bare-assed on teammates' birthday cakes. His hilarious as-told-to
proves that a talented team can feud and ego-trip its way to the
World Series.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]

54
The Professional
BY W.C. HEINZ (1958)

Hemingway called this dialogue-driven portrayal of the monthlong
run-up to a championship middleweight bout "the only good novel
I've ever read about a fighter." Young Elmore Leonard was so
inspired by it that he sent his first (and last) fan letter to
Heinz.
[Authors with other list-worthy books]

55
The Baseball Encyclopedia
MACMILLAN (PUBLISHER) (1969)

Sure, you can find stats galore on the internet. But for those
who relish paging through career numbers and debating whether
Smokey Burgess was better than Ed Bailey, this tome, which is
revised every few years, is the final authority.

56
A Savage Business
BY RICHARD HOFFER (1998)

In what kind of world can Mike Tyson emerge from prison to
discover that "raping a teenager had turned out to be a great
career decision"? Only in the unseemly universe of heavyweight
boxing. SI's Hoffer relentlessly peppers the sport with body
blows.

57
The Glory of Their Times
BY LAWRENCE RITTER (1966)

Ritter spent six years tracking down professional baseball
players from the early 1900s, then stepped aside to let them tell
their remarkable stories in their own words. Virtually all of
these men are gone now, but thanks to Ritter they'll never be
forgotten.

58
The Complete Armchair Book of Baseball
EDITED BY JOHN THORN (1999)

This one-volume reissue of an esteemed two-volume collection
includes essays and fiction, profiles and columns by such
first-rank writers as Roger Angell, Stephen Jay Gould and John
Updike. Abbott and Costello's Who's On First? also cracks the
lineup of 114 entries.

59
Among the Thugs
BY BILL BUFORD (1991)

While he was editing the literary magazine Granta in London,
Buford, an American, spent his weekends with soccer hooligans,
whose violence both repulsed and mesmerized him. Newsweek called
this "one of the most unnerving books you will ever read."

60
Lords of the Realm
BY JOHN HELYAR (1994)

Helyar, A Wall Street Journal reporter and co-author of the
best-selling Barbarians at the Gate, turns a critical eye to the
businessmen who have run baseball for the past century. He
delivers a withering analysis of the owners' inability to manage
themselves or the game.

61
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.
BY ROBERT COOVER (1968)

The protagonist in this mind-bending novel, J. Henry Waugh,
invents a baseball board game, only to become so obsessed with
the tabletop world he creates that he begins to lose his grip on
reality--especially after one of his players dies from a
beanball.

62
Days of Grace
BY ARTHUR ASHE WITH ARNOLD RAMPERSAD (1993)

This autobiography, completed shortly before Ashe died of AIDS,
recounts the groundbreaking career of the Wimbledon champion
turned social activist. After reading Days in prison, Mike Tyson
had Ashe's face tattooed on his left biceps.
[New York Times best-seller]

63
Out of Their League
BY DAVE MEGGYESY (1970)

Readers were shocked by the brutality and rampant drug use in
Meggyesy's memoir of his days as an NFL linebacker. This was one
of the first books to focus on what the author calls the
"dehumanizing" experience of the modern professional athlete.
[Out of print]

64
Golf Dreams: Writings on Golf
BY JOHN UPDIKE (1996)

"I am curiously, disproportionately, undeservedly happy on a golf
course," the author writes. This collection of 30 fiction and
nonfiction pieces, highlighted by the fantastical short story
"Farrell's Caddie," elicits the same response in the reader.

65
In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle
BY MADELEINE BLAIS (1995)

Blais, a Pulitzer Prize winner, here follows the 1992-93 season
of the Amherst (Mass.) High School girls hoops team from tryouts
to the state championship. Her deftly drawn profiles provide
insights into how important sports and winning can be for young
women.

66
They Call Me Coach
BY JOHN WOODEN WITH JACK TOBIN (1972)

Wooden's story is refreshingly free of the tedious "coach as CEO"
lectures now so common in the genre. The book includes the Wooden
Pyramid of Success, a guide for life and basketball that has been
posted in many coaches' offices. Updated and reissued in 1988.

67
Cosell
BY HOWARD COSELL (1973)

"Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, persecuting,
distasteful, verbose, a show-off," Cosell writes. "I have been
called all of these. Of course, I am." In his first book Cosell
told it like it was and blew cigar smoke in the face of the
sports establishment.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]

68
Down the Fairway
BY BOBBY JONES AND O.B. KEELER (1927)

Jones begins by apologizing for publishing an autobiography at
age 25. But his book, which discusses excellence in golf (Jones
had already won the U.S. and British Opens) as part of a life
well lived, is an elegant, deeply personal document that is
surely something to celebrate.

69
Big Game, Small World
BY ALEXANDER WOLFF (2002)

Wolff embarks on a 17-country journey--getting in a pickup game
with two members of the royal family in Bhutan and visiting the
masters of the crossover dribble in Peoria--to test his
contention that basketball is an "intercultural epoxy."

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.

80
The Story of American Golf
BY HERBERT WARREN WIND (1948)

The longtime New Yorker writer chronicles the game (this "frappe
of pleasure and pain") from its first appearance in the U.S. in
1888 through the outbreak of World War II, colorfully recounting
each of the significant championships of that era.

81
Inside Edge
BY CHRISTINE BRENNAN (1996)

This insider's tour of Olympic-level figure skating serves up the
intrigue behind the Lutzes and Salchows, the pushy parents and
the skating officials who ham-handedly dealt with the effects of
AIDS on the sport's athletes, coaches and choreographers.

82
Farewell to Sport
BY PAUL GALLICO (1938)

Gallico left the New York Daily News after 13 years spent
covering a golden age of sports; this is his valedictory. His
tales of Ruth and Dempsey ring with you-are-there immediacy, and
his participatory journalism (golf with Bobby Jones) inspired
George Plimpton.
[Out of print]

83
Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times
BY THOMAS HAUSER (1991)

An oral history with more than 150 voices, some requisite (Angelo
Dundee, Ferdie Pacheco) and some not (Jimmy Carter, Cheryl
Tiegs). The interviews with Ali's father and with Joe Martin, the
cop who introduced Ali to boxing, are particularly illuminating.
[New York Times best-seller]

84
Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?
BY JIMMY BRESLIN (1963)

The hard-bitten newspaper man found himself charmed by the
lovable bumblers known as the '62 Mets--"three 20-game losers, an
Opening Day outfield that held the all-time major league record
for fathering children (19), a defensive catcher who couldn't
catch."

85
The Complete Book of Running
BY JAMES FIXX (1977)

When Fixx took up running, he weighed 214 pounds and smoked two
packs a day. When he wrote this cry to "change your life" (which
spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the best-seller list) in strong, clear
prose, he was 60 pounds lighter, smoke-free and an inspiration to
millions.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]

86
The Science of Hitting
BY TED WILLIAMS AND JOHN UNDERWOOD (1970)

The splendid splinter may not extol batters ("The ball isn't
dead, the hitters are, from the neck up") or hurlers (who "as a
breed are dumb and hardheaded"), but no one has more eloquently
explicated the act of squarely hitting a round ball with a round
bat.

87
Only a Game
BY ROBERT DALEY (1967)

Running back Duke Craig has turned 31, his body is aching, and
his love life's a mess. This dark novel by the author of Prince
of the City rings with authenticity, and no wonder: Daley spent
six seasons as publicity director for the glory-days New York
Giants.
[Out of print]

88
The Joy of Sports
BY MICHAEL NOVAK (1976)

The Catholic Theologian, author of Belief and Unbelief and a
Notre Dame football fan, muses on the religious underpinnings of
sports, praising the "holy trinity" of baseball, football and
basketball over "the illusory, misleading, false world" of work,
politics and history.
[Out of print]

89
The Lords of the Rings
BY VYV SIMSON AND ANDREW JENNINGS (1992)

An expose of rampant corruption in the Olympics that takes on
former IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch's Fascist past, the
temptations dangled by aspiring host cities, the extravagant
demands for "perks" by IOC members and the widespread cover-up of
athletes' drug use.
[Out of print]

90
Road Swing
BY STEVE RUSHIN (1998)

SI's Rushin logged 23,658 miles in a rented Nissan Pathfinder for
this hilarious travelogue of sports destinations high (the
Masters) and low (the Las Vegas restaurant that displays Andre
Agassi's ponytail). A ball-sy Kerouac-ian journey, minus the
mind-altering drugs.

91
Golf in the Kingdom
BY MICHAEL MURPHY (1972)

The enchanting first half of the book recounts Murphy's golf-
and life-altering round with Scottish "philosopher-poet" Shivas
Irons. The second half, in which Murphy floats his loopy
metaphysical insights, will have some readers begging for a
mulligan.

92
Game Misconduct
BY RUSS CONWAY (1995)

Dogged reporting by small-town sports editor Conway brought down
Alan Eagleson, once hockey's most powerful man. The author's
legwork uncovered how Eagleson, working as both an agent and as
head of the players' union, cheated players out of a small
fortune.

93
No Cheering in the Press Box
BY JEROME HOLTZMAN (1973)

This oral history of 18 golden-age sportswriters shows that
greats such as Cannon, Gallico and Smith could talk it as well as
they wrote it. Cannon sums up their philosophy: "Sportswriting
has survived because of the guys who don't cheer. They're the
truth-tellers. Lies die."

94
Beer and Circus
BY MURRAY SPERBER (2000)

The author is the IU professor and Bobby Knight critic who took a
leave due to threats from the General's loyalists, but this
indictment of "Big-time U's" is Sperber's rightful legacy. He
argues that large universities use sports to numb students to
increasingly shoddy academics.

95
The Harder They Fall
BY BUDD SCHULBERG (1947)

This hard-boiled novel is loosely based on the gangster-driven
rise and inevitable fall of the massive but glass-jawed
heavyweight Primo Carnera, with Toro Molina (Giant of the Andes)
in the title role. The shady promoter and press flack are the
real stars.
[New York Times best-seller]
[Made into a movie]

96
The Tumult and the Shouting
BY GRANTLAND RICE (1954)

The last of the estimated 67 million words written by Rice; he
completed this autobiography three weeks before his death. The
book is showing its age, but it also displays the poetry
("Outlined against the blue-gray October sky") that made Rice
king of his profession.
[Out of print]
[New York Times best-seller]

97
SportsWorld
BY ROBERT LIPSYTE (1975)

This angry screed is Lipsyte at his combative best as he rips the
lazy sportswriters, establishment nabobs, team owners and TV
executives who he says have hoodwinked the public into believing
that big-time sports are a "positive force on our national
psyche."
[Out of print]

98
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings
BY WILLIAM BRASHLER (1973)

Rather than accept a shoddy contract from the Louisville Ebony
Aces, star catcher Bingo Long forms his own team and hits the
barnstorming road. Brashler befriended former Negro leagues stars
while doing research, and he repays them with a warm portrayal of
their humor and heartbreak.
[Made into a movie]

99
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro
BY JOE MCGINNISS (1999)

The author of Fatal Vision spent a year in a tiny mountain hamlet
85 miles east of Rome covering the local soccer team, which had,
improbably, qualified for Italy's Serie B league. The season ends
with a twist that will shock readers as much as it did McGinniss.

100
Little Girls in Pretty Boxes
BY JOAN RYAN (1995)

You'll never look at a pixie gymnast the same way again. This
powerful book by a San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter reveals
in excruciating detail the physical toll--including anorexia,
osteoporosis and delayed menstruation--on competitors in figure
skating and elite gymnastics.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITTB/W ILLUSTRATION: ICON ILLUSTRATIONS BY BOB ECKSTEINCOLOR PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER TOUGH CALLS One writer's leader board.COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER TACKLING THE SUBJECT A plethora of pigskin prose.COLOR PHOTO: STEVEN FREEMAN OLDIES BUT GOODIES The greats endure.COLOR PHOTO: JIM RUYMEN/REUTERS MATCH GAME Jackson's players get a read on him.B/W PHOTO: BETTMANN-CORBIS BATTY? Barra favors Mantle over Mays.

Picture-Perfect Photography Books

Rare Air, by Michael Jordan with Walter Iooss Jr. (1993)
One of the best-selling photo books of all time provides
strikingly intimate glimpses of Air Jordan at home, at work and
at play during the 1992--93 season.

Sports! by Neil Leifer (1978)
A collection of action images and portraits that's regarded by
many sports journalists as the best of its kind; text by George
Plimpton and a foreword by Red Smith.

Olympia, by Leni Riefenstahl (1937)
Granted exclusive access to the 1936 Olympics by Adolf Hitler
himself, Riefenstahl produced a propaganda film and this
collection of beautiful but chilling images.

The Pros, Robert Riger (1960)
The from-the-sidelines view of the NFL, with black-and-white
photos and pencil sketches.

The Spectacle of Sport, by Sports Illustrated (1957)
The best color photographs from the exciting first three years of
the magazine as well as essays by such writers as William
Faulkner, A.J. Liebling and Herbert Warren
Wind.

Deford's Delights

SI's Frank Deford, author of 14 books, offers his thoughts on the
genre:

Reading is so personal--much more so than movies or plays or even
TV--that I'm always reluctant to name the "best" sports books. I
only know what I like. These are my favorites.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Veeck as in Wreck, by Bill Veeck and Ed Linn

NOVEL: Semi-Tough, by Dan Jenkins (with oak-leaf clusters to Mark
Harris for Bang the Drum Slowly and to Peter Gent for North
Dallas Forty)

MEMOIR: Ball Four, by Jim Bouton

BIOGRAPHY: Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand (a nose ahead of a
dead heat for best human-being biography: Babe, by Robert
Creamer, and The Catcher Was a Spy, by Nicholas Dawidoff)

HISTORY: Champion: Joe Louis, by Chris Mead (runners-up: Shake
Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football, by Murray
Sperber, and The Nazi Olympics, by Richard
Mandell)

Belichick: In the Well-Read Zone

When the Patriots played the Bears on Nov. 10 in Champaign, Ill.,
New England coach Bill Belichick noticed that the field was named
for Robert Zuppke, the Illini coach from 1913 to '41. That meant
more to Belichick than to most. After all, he owns Coaching
Football, the 1930 book by Zuppke, whose innovations include the
screen pass, the flea-flicker and the huddle.

When Belichick got home, he headed to his library and grabbed
Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guide from 1925. There he brushed
up on the facts of the day the stadium was dedicated, Oct. 18,
1924: Illinois versus Michigan, when Red Grange scored four times
in the first quarter.

Belichick is unusually well equipped for such research: He has a
collection of more than 500 pre-1960 football books. That's not
counting the Spalding guides, which go back more than 100 years.
Or his several hundred college and pro media guides and programs.
Or his scores of more recent books, which he doesn't consider
part of his collection proper because they're too easily
obtainable. "I like the finding and the collecting," he says.
"But I really enjoy having a complete collection. Then if you
hear some guy played for so-and-so in 1932, you can look it up."

Belichick's favorites are his technical books--like Amos Alonzo
Stagg's A Scientific and Practical Treatise on American Football
for Schools and Colleges (1893) or Leroy Mills's Kicking the
American Football (1932), a study of punting. He doesn't follow
such advice as limiting his players to one shower a week to save
their strength, as one of his books recommends. But if he's
tinkering with unbalanced formations, say, he'll leaf through
Knute Rockne's Coaching (1925) for inspiration. His most prized
volume, though, Football Scouting Methods (1962), was written by
his father, Steve, a coach and scout at the Naval Academy for 34
years. Steve is a collector too, with more than 700 football
titles.

The younger Belichick dabbles on eBay, but he prefers to stumble
onto his finds and says he has never spent more than $30 on a
book (that for Stagg's Treatise). His holy grail? Simply finding
a bargain. "The best," he says, "is when you walk into a used
bookstore and see a book for a buck."

Kid Stuff

The Bronc Burnett series, by Wilfred McCormick (1948--67). Each
of the 27 volumes follows the exploits of Burnett, a
hard-throwing pitcher from Sonora, N.Mex.

The Chip Hilton series, by Clair Bee (1948--64). Self-reliance,
sportsmanship, perseverance and teamwork are among the values
stressed in these 24 books.

The Mel Martin series, by John R. Cooper (1947--53). This
six-volume collection combines baseball and mystery.

The Hockey Sweater, by Roch Carrier (1979). A charming tale of a
small-town Quebec boy who asks for a jersey of beloved Montreal
Canadiens star Maurice Richard but mistakenly receives one of the
despised Toronto Maple Leafs instead.

The Kid from Tomkinsville, by John R. Tunis (1940). The value of
determination is the lesson of this story about country boy Roy
Tucker, whose quest to pitch for the Dodgers is
derailed.

Dr. Phil Speaks

Lakers coach Phil Jackson distributes almost as many books as
Amazon.com. Among his best literary assists: dishing off a copy
of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha to Shaquille O'Neal. "He liked it,"
Jackson says. "He said, 'I know why you got it for me, because
it's about a wealthy man with a lot of women in his life, and he
had to make a decision about what's important.'" Jackson
recommends these books for SI's readers.

Underworld, by Don DeLillo (1997). "It opens with Bobby Thomson's
home run in 1951, but it's about sociological change in America."

Summer of '49, by David Halberstam (1989). "A great look at a
rivalry, Boston and the Yankees, and at Joe DiMaggio and Ted
Williams, two of the strongest personalities of their time."

The Brothers K., by David James Duncan (1992). "The story of a
family of boys and their father, a pitcher. It's about his love,
the kids' attachment to him and his special talent."

The Rabbit series, by John Updike (1960--90). "Rabbit Angstrom's
successes and failures connect to his high school basketball
team."

The House of Moses All-Stars, by Charley Rosen (1996). "It gives
a look at what barnstorming basketball was like in the '30s and
'40s. The House of Moses is a [fictional] group of Jewish guys
who wore yarmulkes and beards and toured the country, living by
the seat of their pants."

The Best of 2002

Clearing the Bases, by Allen Barra. Mays or Mantle? Williams or
DiMaggio? Barra attempts to settle these and many other oft-asked
baseball questions with reams of research and statistics.

My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy. This memoir of The Citadel's
trying eight-win season of 1966--67 is also a poignant account of
the painful maturation of Conroy, the team's point guard.

Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, by Jane Leavy. An exhaustively
researched study that paints an intriguing portrait of the
famously reclusive Dodgers pitcher.

The Gloves, by Robert Anasi. The author, an amateur boxer,
chronicles his efforts to qualify for New York City's Golden
Gloves tournament.

The Greatest Game Ever Played, by Mark Frost. The ultimate
David-beats-Goliath story: 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet's
victory over English great Harry Vardon in the 1913 U.S. Open.
This match was the birth of modern golf.

PERSONAL FAVORITES
"The sports book that had the most impact on me was probably Bill
Bradley's Life on the Run. It was as honest and revealing as
any."
PAT RILEY, MIAMI HEAT COACH
PERSONAL FAVORITES
"I liked Muhammad Ali by Thomas Hauser. A great story about a
great man who was bigger than sports."
OTIS SMITH, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS CORNERBACK
PERSONAL FAVORITES
"I'm reading Tony Stewart's book, True Speed (2002). I can see
that he's very much like me. The things we have most in common
are our bluntness, our need to keep it real and our need for
speed, for competition."
PICABO STREET, OLYMPIC SKIER
PERSONAL FAVORITES
"Ball Four. As a kid, reading that pro players picked their noses
and put it on other people made me feel like anything was
possible."
MARK CUBAN, DALLAS MAVERICKS OWNER
PERSONAL FAVORITES
"Lloyd Percival's The Hockey Handbook (1950) is my favorite. It
was an approach to building a game, and it was probably the first
book that started to lay it out. The Russians made a bible out of
it."
PAT QUINN, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS COACH--GENERAL MANAGER
PERSONAL FAVORITES
"North Dallas Forty by Pete Gent was hilarious and well-written.
It gave you a little bit of an idea of what a football player
goes through with his body."
STEVE KERR, SAN ANTONIO SPURS GUARD