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.
David 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.
News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture
In This Issue: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Baseball; New George Best Doc; Sports Meets Philosophy; Cal Ripken’s Streak; Jim Bouton’s Long Decline; RIP Gene Conley and Darrall Imhoff
He had been the official scorer for the Washington Nationals, and the team’s Washington Post beat writer, Chelsea Janes, served up this moving remembrance of a man who more than went out of his way to help out scribes and baseball obsessives of all kinds.
The author of several baseball books, including SABR’s 1,300-plus-page “The Home Run Encyclopedia,” Vincent was a prolific contributor to the organization’s many publications and Retrosheet, a baseball data treasure trove. His contributions and accolades are summarized here by SABR.
His funeral will take place Monday in Fairfax, Va., the day before the Major League All-Star Game that also was the subject of one of his books.
As a prelude to its live coverage of Manchester United-Manchester City from Houston on July 20, ESPN is showing is latest “30 for 30” film, “George Best: All By Himself.” The director is Daniel Gordon, raised in Manchester and maestro of the splendid 2014 “30 for 30” feature “Hillsborough.” At Empire of Soccer, Jack Bell references Best’s years in the North American Soccer League and admits he was his favorite player, and for American viewers this look at Best ought to be a real treat (trailer).
Released in Britain last fall during the London Film Festival, the film didn’t get completely rave views; The Guardian says it’s full of “recycled pub anecdotes” and other matters that don’t shed much new light, including Best’s long-term, tragic alcohol addiction that finally led to his death in 2005.
- British philosopher David Papineau’s “Knowing the Score,” a look at how the fields of sports and philosophy inform one another, was inspired by the 2012 London Olympics after the author resisted making such an inquiry for years. Luckily, Papineau’s book is “more bar-room than high table,” a welcome and eclectic set of essays about human curiosities in a time in which deep-dives into sports are predominantly data-driven. More reviews from NPR and Washington Independent Review of Books;
- Plenty of soccer (football) book reviews can be found at Of Pitch and Page, from the U.K., which goes back to 2014 and includes author interviews and a summary of the first London Festival of Football Writing, which took place in May;
- Longtime Baltimore sportswriter John Eisenberg’s “The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball’s Most Historic Record” was published on the 4th of July by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; author radio interview here. This is the ninth sports book for Eisenberg, a former columnist at the Baltimore Sun and who now writes for the Baltimore Ravens official website;
- Essayist, memoirist and nature writer David Gessner has been an ultimate frisbee obsessive for years, and it’s the topic of his latest book “Ultimate Glory,” which is partially a tale of his youth, and especially upon his graduation from Harvard (Wash Post review). In the years before he tackled a joint study of American Western writers Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner, Gessner admitted that the pursuit to become a top amateur in ultimate frisbee “can require a greater stalling of real life;”
- For those who like hiking, the paperback version of Robert Moor’s acclaimed Appalachian adventure travelogue, “On Trails: An Exploration,” has just been released by Simon & Schuster (late 2016 hardback review by the Globe & Mail).
A Few Good Reads
- At the National Pastime Museum blog, Dave Kaplan revisits Leonard Koppett’s “The Thinking Man’s Guide to Baseball” on the 50th anniversary of its publication. While using statistics in a novel way for the time, Koppett also forewarned that their overuse could become “a fatal malady;”
- Five years after suffering a stroke, Jim Bouton, now 78, is now dealing with a brain disease linked to dementia and struggles to communicate as much as he does to remember what he can beyond rote recognitions;
- At Sports Illustrated, Jack McCallum on how the Golden State Warriors’ NBA title rekindled franchise icon Tom Meschery’s love for the game.
- Gene Conley, 86, is the only athlete to win a World Series championship (Milwaukee Braves, 1957) and an NBA title (Boston Celtics, 1959-61) and also pitched in the College World Series for Washington State in one of the most versatile sports careers in modern-day America. Later in his life, he said he found basketball a more instinctive sport, and baseball more of a thinking game. His wife Katheryn offered more details in her 2004 book, “One of a Kind,” including their life after his playing days were over;
- Darrall Imhoff, 78, won an NCAA basketball championship at Cal-Berkeley in 1959 and Olympic gold in 1960. He also spent 12 years and earned All-Star honors in the NBA, once drawing the thankless task of guarding Wilt Chamberlain on the latter’s 100-point scoring night in 1962. Imhoff, who later did color commentary for the Portland TrailBlazers, was careful to note that he played only 20 minutes total on that historic night in Hershey, Pa., before fouling out: “Somebody else was responsible for the other 28 minutes.”
The Sports Biblio Digest is an e-mail newsletter delivered each Sunday. It contains commentary and links about sports books and history. You can subscribe here and search the archives. This is Digest issue No. 87, published July 9, 2017. The Digest is a companion to the Sports Biblio website.
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