Just a short drumroll for this: Sports Biblio’s Winter 2018 Sports Books Preview, a selection of new releases from January through March of this year.

A Season in the Sun, Mickey MantleI’ll have more frequent updates on sports books, new and otherwise, on the blog, which I’m revamping for more frequent posting very shortly, including a midweek post on new and noteworthy titles, paperback and e-book releases and more.

I’ll also have weekly posts on sports journalism and media, sports history, sports art and culture (including photography, films, music and collectibles), as well as a weekend review. This post, which will run on Saturdays, will include book reviews and essays on the broader topics examined on Sports Biblio.

News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture

Also in This Issue: SEC Football Fatigue; Bear Bryant and Howard Schnellenberger; George Weah; Trouble in Patriots Paradise? Winter Baseball in Puerto Rico; Remembering Johnny Bower

Sports Biblio recently became an affiliate of IndieBound, a community of local bookstores. When you click a link to purchase a book on Sports Biblio, you’re supporting both this site and your local independent bookstore.

These changes have been in the works for a while, and I’m using the occasion of a new year to unveil them. A site redesign also is in development that I hope will be cleaner and easier to navigate.

After two-plus years since launching Sports Biblio, it’s time for some new energy and a new look, and I can’t wait to tackle 2018. Happy New Year, and Happy Reading!

These listings are in chronological order of book release dates:

The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide to Football Glory – The Story of Béla Guttmann, by David Bolchover (Biteback Publishing). One of the first globetrotting club soccer coaches and a Hungarian Jew who escaped from a slave labor camp and survived the Holocaust. Jan 9.

The Cricket War: The Story of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, by Gideon High (Wisden). The story of the noteworthy 1977 televised event that profoundly shook up Australian cricket. Jan 9.Norwich, Karen Crouse

All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, by James Patterson and Alex Abramovich (Little Brown & Co.). The tragic story of the New England Patriots tight end who went from Super Bowl champion to convicted murder before taking his own life. Jan. 22.

Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence, by Karen Crouse (Simon & Schuster) The New York Times reporter relocated to a place that has produced more U.S. Olympians per capita, and discovered so much more. Jan. 23.

Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox, by Bill Nowlin (University of Nebraska). A full-scale biography of the controversial owner, who was also a leading philanthropist. Feb. 1.

The Black Bruins: The Remarkable Lives of UCLA’s Jackie Robinson, Woody Strode, Tom Bradley, Kenny Washington, and Ray Bartlett, by James W. Johnson (University of Nebraska). Before they became known for professional athletic exploits, political success and civil rights activism, this quintet forged close bonds as college football teammates in the late 1930s. Feb. 1.

Court Justice, Ed O'BannonBerlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August, by Oliver Hilmes and Jefferson Chase (Other Press). The controversial Olympics through the eyes of a variety of witnesses, famous and otherwise. Feb. 6.

If God Invented Baseball: Poems, by E. Ethelbert Miller (City Point Press). New poems for a new season by a leading African-American poet. Feb. 13.

Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA, by Ed O’Bannon and Michael McCann (Discover Publishing). The former UCLA player who sparked a landmark lawsuit writes about his cause with Sports Illustrated’s sports law expert. Feb. 13.

Superfans: Into the Heart of Obsessive Sports Fandom, by George Dohrmann (Ballantine Books). From Minnesota to Portland and other stops in between, a look at what makes fans tick. Feb. 20.

Basketball: Great Writing About America’s Game, edited by Alexander Wolff (Library of America). The longtime Sports Illustrated writer collects work by John McPhee, Pete Axthelm, Pat Conroy, John Edgar Wideman, Rick Telander and many others. Feb. 27.

American Colossus: Big Bill Tilden and the Creation of Modern Tennis, by Allen M. Hornblum (University of Nebraska). A fresh biography of one of the “Golden Age” figures of American sports in the 1920s, and his private struggles that led to a fall from grace after his career. March 1.

Painting the Corners Again: Off-Center Baseball Fiction, by Bob Weintraub (Yucca Publishing). Another collection of baseball stories by a longtime contributor to Spitball, NINE and other publications. March 6.American Colossus, Bill Tilden

We Matter: Athletes and Activism, by Etan Thomas (Edge of Sports). The former NBA player and MSNBC commentator explains his advocacy for social justice issues that go far beyond the playing courts. March 6.

The Russian Five: A Story of Espionage, Defection, Bribery and Courage, by Keith Gave (Gold Star Publishing). How Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Igor Larionov left the clutches of the Soviet sports regime to play for the Detroit Red Wings. March 20.

The Goat Getters: Jack Johnson, the Fight of the Century, and How a Bunch of Raucous Cartoonists Reinvented Comics, by Eddie Campbell (IDW Publishing). An illustrated history of one of boxing’s iconic events, collected by a cartoonist who has worked with acclaimed novelist Neil Gaiman. March 20.

The Language of the Game, Laurent DuboisGator: My Life in Pinstripes, by Ron Guidry and Andrew Beaton (Crown Archetype). The former New York Yankees pitcher, nicknamed “Louisiana Lightning,” writes about his years playing for Billy Martin and in the Bronx Zoo atmosphere of the late 1970s and 1980s. March 20.

The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer, by Laurent Dubois (Basic Books). Soccer history, tactics and culture are presented, along with the global appeal of the game as another World Cup beckons. March 27.

A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle, by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith. The co-authors of a book about Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X team up to examine Mantle’s groundbreaking 1956 season. March 27.

Creating the Big Ten: Courage, Corruption, and Commercialization, by Winton U Solberg (University of Illinois). A history of the first major conference in college athletics, which started out humbly in 1895 and now is one of the richest leagues, with its own television network and reaches in the New York media market. March 30.


  • Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports! anticipated the angst over an all-SEC national championship college football game almost immediately after Georgia and Alabama turned in respective Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl wins on New Year’s Day, and writes that it’s just time to deal with it;
  • Monday’s game in Atlanta is the third in a row in the College Football Playoff to feature the Crimson Tide, who under Nick Saban have dominated much more than the SEC. Choosing Alabama for the four-team playoff over Ohio State still bothers a lot of pundits, including Tim Brando, who thinks the final matchup illustrates a problem that needs fixing;My Conference Can Beat Your Conference, Paul Finebaum
  • On the other hand, ESPN color commentator Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback, says the two best teams are the ones who have survived;
  • This may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but do we really need a guide on “how to cope” with an all-SEC show? I’ll keep this in mind if the NBA finals comes down to the Warriors and Cavaliers for the third year in a row, but that will likely be touted as a wonderful thing by many of those suffering from Alabama fatigue;
  • Chuck Culpepper elaborates at The Washington Post about the familiarity of Alabama, mostly, and argues that while “the game does benefit from its kingdoms, whether fans deem them gods or villains,” more regional variety might be a good thing at some point soon;
  • Ivan Maisel of ESPN declares Atlanta, the site of Monday’s game, to be the capital of college football, and it’s hard to argue against that;
  • Bear Bryant’s last season at Alabama was in 1983, and he died not long after that. At The Athletic Ink, Erik Spanberg assesses his legacy, 35 years later, especially in the wake of Saban’s continuing dynasty.

A Few Good Reads

  • Howard Schnellenberger built lasting national-caliber college football programs at Miami and Louisville, and later jump-started a new program at Florida Atlantic, but doesn’t the credit he deserves for his many contributions to the game;
  • The New England Patriots’ Holy Trinity of owner Bob Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady has been together 18 years, an eternity in the NFL. Is their association about up? Belichick’s heard this before, and his response a couple of months ago is that this is fake news;Belichick and Brady, Michael Holley
  • John Biever was 16 years old and working with his father at the NFL Championship game on New Year’s Eve in 1967 when he took one of the most famous photographs in sports history. The “Ice Bowl” led to a long association for Biever with Sports Illustrated;
  • Official MLB historian John Thorn on the game’s long history at Princeton, going all the way back to the 1870s;
  • Puerto Rico has been suffering for months since a hurricane hit the island this summer, but Clemson Smith Muňiz at La Vida Baseball writes about the joys of the return of the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, whose shortened 2018 season began on Friday;
  • George Weah, the former world soccer player of the year recently elected president of Liberia, wants Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at his inauguration. Wenger compares Weah’s life to a film script, and as S.L. Price wrote in an excellent profile in 2001, Weah has meant so much more to his country and Africa than for his soccer prowess alone.

Now Hear This

  • Only a Game continues its series on the forward pass with a segment about Benny Friedman, a 1930s NFL quarterback who finally made it into the Pro Hall of Fame with Steve Young and Dan Marino in 2005.


Johnny Bower, 93, was “The China Wall,” a Hockey Hall of Fame goalie and one of the legendary figures of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was part of four Stanley Cup title teams in the 1960s, and was a scout and goalie coach for a franchise that hasn’t been a league champion since 1967.The China Wall, Johnny Bower

It was Bower’s persistence and humility that were remembered most at various tributes in the past week. Rising from small-town Alberta to the NHL after 12 years in the minors, the player born John William Kiszkan to a Ukrainian immigrant family was a 14-year-old lied who about his age to enlist in the Canadian military during World War II. The “soul” of the Maple Leafs first lifted the Stanley Cup at age 37, and leaves a great void in team history, as columnist Steve Simmons noted in the Toronto Sun:

“When will the Leafs have reason to do this kind of personal, sad and poignant celebration again? Who knows if they ever will? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for a once-in-a-lifetime figure. And there was only one Bower.”

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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. 109, published Jan. 7, 2018. The Digest is a companion to the Sports Biblio website.

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