There are certain appellations that any man would be proud to have after his name—millionaire, All-America, bestselling author—but they are out of reach for most of us. Not so with one of our senior editors, who, if he chose to be immodest, could legitimately label himself "John Underwood, best seller." Underwood (whose three-part series on coaches' problems with the Now generation starts on page 66) wrote My Turn at Bat with Ted Williams. Recently he was surprised and delighted when it reached eighth place on The New York Times' best-seller list. We were delighted (not surprised), inasmuch as the book is an expansion of an SI series that helped make the issues in which it appeared best sellers, too.
This is not exactly a new pattern for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Ever since 1955, when John Marquand's Life at Happy Knoll appeared, SI material has been popping onto the book market. The list now exceeds 90, and other books are in work—among them another Williams-Underwood collaboration on the art of hitting (which appeared as Part V of the original SI series); Robert Boyle's natural and unnatural history of the polluted Hudson River; and Jack Olsen's Night of the Grizzlies, an amplification of the dramatic Grizzly Bear Murder Case published in SI last May. Olsen's five 1968 articles, The Black Athlete—a Shameful Story, created a sociological storm both as a magazine series and in hard cover. His earlier The Climb Up to Hell, a detailed account of a tragic accident in the Alps, has been called one of the great true adventure stories of all time.
Incidentally, the figure 90 does not include a considerable number of books written by SI editors and writers in their spare time. Tex Maule has published novels, juveniles and volumes on pro football. Robert Creamer has several baseball books to his credit. Other notable examples include Olsen's chilling account of Nazi SS savagery in Italy, Silence on Monte Sole, and two novels by Edwin Shrake, But Not for Love and Blessed McGill. The latter will soon become a movie.
George Plimpton has already seen his Paper Lion, published originally by SI as Zero of the Lions, turned into a film hit. Plimpton's The Bogey Man, an account of his misadventures in golf which made two series for SI, also is Hollywood-bound. Harold Peterson's story of Buckskin Bill, Last of the Mountain Men, expanded into a book from the original SI article, has proved a succ√®s d'estime this summer.
August 24, 1969
Some note should be made, too, of the many, many instructional books that have derived from our pages. More than 20 titles have been published by J.B. Lippincott as The Sports Illustrated Library. Golf books have ranged from Ben Hogan's The Modern Fundamentals of Golf to Dan Jenkins' The Best 18 Golf Holes in America.
In the future SI is going to be even more involved with books. We have just gone into a publishing venture with Little, Brown and plan to bring out a minimum of 10 sports titles in the first year. There will be expansions of SI articles and other works by both staff and outside writers. Meanwhile, as demonstrated by Underwood's well-researched and well-written series on the coaches' dilemma, we are not neglecting the magazine business.