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.”
July 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.
News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture
In This Issue: Summer Night Hoops; Baseball Reliquary Honorees; Venus in Twilight; Late 1940s Pro Football; Remembering Don Benning
Another gem from Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer, about long-ago summer basketball games in the heat of his city, including a reference to a Wallace Stevens poem with the line: “The summer night is like the perfection of things.” It’s a great segue to this marvelous set-up sentence:
“ ‘Summer night’ is among the language’s most evocative phrases. It conjures images of pink sunsets fading into a star-lit sky, of chattering crickets and carefree spirits, honeysuckle and home.”
- At MEL Magazine (subtitled “How to be a guy”), ESPN baseball sabermetrician Keith Law, author of the recently released “Smart Baseball,” goes long in this Q and A about his methodology, his combativeness on social media and baseball’s future place in American sports culture;
- The 19th class of the fabulous Baseball Reliquary Hall of Fame has been announced, and at Hardball Times Don Malcolm has this drumroll post about the “media year” for this Pasadena-based alternate “Shrine.” A certain recently retired radio man headlines the list, and he was about as consensus a choice as Ken Griffey Jr. was last year in Cooperstown;
- From Virginia Quarterly Review, this lushly told and photographed story about how victims of Colombia’s long civil war have found refuge in sports. If you’re impressed by what Special Olympians go through just to get up and take part, you’ll be truly inspired by how these individuals find the energy and desire to put their past lives behind them. The pictures are the work of Portuguese documentary photographer Eduardo Leal, who is based out of Medellin;
- Before she got bageled in the final set of the Wimbledon finals Saturday by Garbine Muguruza, Venus Williams was basking in the splendor of a dominating run at a Grand Slam at the age of 37. Louisa Thomas’ story at The New Yorker is a neat, condensed appreciation of another iconic tennis star’s revival in the twilight of her career;
- Don Benning, 81, was the first black coach of any varsity sport at a majority-white college when he was tapped to lead the wrestling program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He stepped away from coaching in 1971, the year after guiding an NAIA national championship team, to teach and coach in high school while raising his family, and later taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The link comes via Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who knows the Benning family well and is one of the more encouraging figures in Washington during some rather trying political times.
Lend Me Your Ears
- On the very good Good Seats Still Available podcast, pro football historian Ken Crippen discusses his book “The All-America Football Conference,” about a circuit which posed a threat to the still-fledgling NFL in the late 1940s, a foreshadowing of AFL-NFL battles to come;
- From the In the Past Lane history podcast, myths and narratives about how baseball became America’s pastime.
10th Inning Footnote
A friend’s social media rant during the All-Star Home Run Derby made my otherwise forgettable Monday, and with all due respect to the Keith Laws of the world, some of this number-crunching can be overdone. A rather blunt reaction to such an example is below, and the insertion of asterisks is all mine:
“How did I make it 48 years without ever hearing ‘launch angle?’ Jesus. Take that sabermetric bullshit and stick it up your a**.”
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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. 88, published July 16, 2017. The Digest is a companion to the Sports Biblio website.
I’d love to hear what you think. Send feedback, suggestions, book recommendations, review copies, newsletter items and and requests for interviews to Wendy Parker, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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