Sports Biblio

The Imagination Of Sports In Books, History And Culture

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Some Great, Late Summer Sports Reads: Sports Biblio Digest, 8.27.17

It’s very deep into August, with the Labor Day weekend and the kickoff to a new American football season approaching. The stretch run of the baseball season is about to begin, and I find that a hell of a lot more intriguing than just about anything else in sports these days.

Electric October, Kevin CookThe Los Angeles Dodgers are nearing the 100-win mark and Aaron Judge, a big, rangy rookie for the New York Yankees, has a real shot to win the American League MVP.

It was 70 years ago that the Dodgers, then playing in Brooklyn, met the Yankees in a sizzling World Series that’s been recaptured by Kevin Cook in “Electric October,” published Aug. 15. Continue reading

The glory and the tragedy of high school football

In examining high school football in the wake of concerns about concussions and brain trauma in the NFL, sportswriter Kostya Kennedy noted in his 2016 book “Lasting Impact” that while the level of violence on the prep gridiron isn’t the same as it is in the pros—”not by a long shot”—the object of the game is the same:

Lasting Impact, Kostya Kennedy, high school football“Hit and be hit.”

More than a million boys hit, and are hit, in any given season in the United States, still the highest participation rate for any high school sport.

Other sports have concussion rates that rival football—girls soccer is noteworthy among them, given its popularity and perception of being relatively safe to play—and have injury concerns of their own. Continue reading

Boston’s Disquieting History of Baseball and Race: Sports Biblio Digest 8.20.17

Boston’s checkered history involving baseball and race cropped up again this week, just as the Red Sox were poised to pull away in their American League divisional race in a home series against the New York Yankees.

Shut Out, Howard Bryant, Boston, Race and Baseball In the wake of last week’s racially-charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., current Red Sox owner John Henry publicly stated he wanted to change the name of Yawkey Way, a short street adjoining Fenway Park, and named after the man whose stewardship of the franchise was known as much for his racist attitudes as its futility on the field.

The issue of race is never far from the surface in Boston. Earlier this year, an ugly fan incident at Fenway Park involving Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, prompted familiar calls that Boston is “a racist city.”

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Softball and the Cause of Women’s Baseball: Sports Biblio Digest 8.13.17

The push to create more opportunities for girls and young women in baseball has come with a curious, and troubling corollary: The dismissal of a sport that in the United States has been at the forefront of women’s sports for decades.

fastpitch, erica westly, softballIf a ludicrous story published this week in The Washington Post is to be taken seriously (and it should not be), it is now considered an act of proud defiance for young girls to eschew softball for baseball, seemingly as part of a more strident effort to crack the glass diamond.

In an otherwise understandable campaign to champion “Baseball for All,” softball has been relegated to something approaching separate but equal status.


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The Eloquent Silence of Steve Bartman: Sports Biblio Digest 8.6.17

Steve Bartman had something public to say this week, for the first time since being unfairly maligned as the villain in a foul-ball incident at Wrigley Field during the 2003 National League Championship Series.

Catching Hell, Steve BartmanHis deflection of a ball that landed near the first row of left field line seating might properly have been ruled interference (and the third out for the Florida Marlins in the top of the eighth inning of Game 6). Instead, it foreshadowed how the Chicago Cubs lost their grasp of what would have been their first World Series appearance since 1945.

Bartman’s life quickly became a living hell, as he received threats, dodged stalking reporters and worked assiduously to stay out of the spotlight, and restore what was left of his privacy. Continue reading

Reimagining The Baseball Hall of Fame: Sports Biblio Digest 7.30.17

When Tim Raines, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell are inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame today, it will mark the start of a new era of voting by writers that could signal some profound, if gradual, changes to the process.

Cooperstown Casebook, Jay Jaffe, Baseball Hall of FameThe infusion of advanced statistics has created many new conversations about who’s worthy of inclusion, and who’s not. The issue of performance-enhancing drugs has ratcheted up emotions enormously, especially among an aging group of baby-boom voters not always enamored with sabermetrics.

Jay Jaffe, author of the newly released “The Cooperstown Casebook,” has made an innovative case for a numbers-based selection criteria and also  welcomes the steroids-tainted likes of Bobby Bonds and Roger Clemens.

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Reviving The Big City Sports Page: Sports Biblio Digest 7.23.17

It didn’t take long for my bullishness about the future of media and online sports journalism, even during the truly dark days of the recession a few years ago, to get roundly skewered on a sportswriters’ message board.

I had left the newspaper world in late 2008, after several years as an online editor. I knew it was going to be lean for me and for many others for a while, if not life-altering, and this has certainly come to be the case.

Stringing along as a freelancer and contractor, in between a few brief full-time jobs, has become the norm for too many of us of a certain age (hint: not young) who still cannot imagine doing anything but the news. Continue reading

Scorching Hot Dog Day Summer Sports Reads: Sports Biblio Digest 7.16.17

In my corner of North America, the wilting heat of the summer (compounded by a broken home air conditioner) had me reaching for some weather-related things to read, and ironically enough, actually cooled me off a little. So has a deep immersion in Roger Angell’s wondrous “The Summer Game.”

roger angell, the summer gameJuly is actually my favorite month of the baseball season, aside from October. I enjoy the historical backdrops of the All-Star Game and Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, and it’s also when I dig into some substantial baseball reading outside the winter.

I’m including in this week’s abbreviated newsletter a few stories (and a couple of fine podcasts) that I hope you’ll find worth your time, and I’ll return next week with a more robust Digest. Continue reading

Remembering The ‘Sultan Of Swat Stats:’ Sports Biblio Digest 7.9.17

The day after the Society for American Baseball Research wrapped up its annual conference in New York, one of the organization’s most beloved members passed away.

SABR Home Run EncyclopediaDavid Vincent, 67, was dubbed “The Sultan of Swat Stats” by former ESPN baseball writer Jayson Stark for his prodigious research into the game’s most prodigious statistical category—that of the home run.

In the many tributes that followed Vincent’s July 3 death due to stomach cancer, his impact on baseball numbers and history beyond that one category is immeasurable.

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Women’s Sports, Past and Present: Sports Biblio Digest 6.25.17

Summertime has become the biggest window of the year for women’s sports to emerge as spectator entities. This year is no different, with the cricket and rugby World Cups being staged, as well as the women’s Euro 2017 soccer tournament.

Game Changers, Molly Schiot, women's sportsIn the United States, women’s pro basketball and soccer are also in-season, and for the first time in a decade and a half the Solheim Cup will be shown on network television in America.

For a non-Olympic year, this summer calendar is a richly generous one for female athletes, and they’re being presented more robustly than ever. Sadly, for too many influential women’s sports observers, it’s not enough. Continue reading

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