Although I have trouble with the use of words like “best” and “greatest” in titles, when it comes to anthologies, I’m a bit more flexible.
The editors of such collections do a fine job assembling excellent works from magazines, newspapers, etc., saving a pack-rat like me from collecting even more material.
Two new books celebrate exceptional sportswriting: Rules of the Game: The Best Sports Writing from Haper’s Magazine and The Only Game in Town: Sportswriting from The New Yorker.
(So which is it: “sportswriting” or “sports writing”? I’m sure an English major could explain the nuanced difference. You say “tomato,” I say, “shut up .”)
Rules of the Game has a lot more history behind it—Harper’s was founded in 1850—and features pieces on baseball from such scribes as Rich Cohen, Matthew Stevenson, Robert H. Zieger, Lewis H. Lapham and many other prominent writers.
The Only Game in Town has fewer baseball-related stories, but, as Spencer Tracy said about Katherine Hepburn in the classic film Pat and Mike , “What’s there is cherce.”
The collection leads off with Roger Angell’s famous story about the college pitching duel between St. John’s Frank Viola and Yale’s Ron Darling, which you can read here .
Also included is John Updike’s 50-year-old “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu”(released as a book by the Library of America) as well as essays and stories from Ring Lardner, Charles McGrath, and John Cheever.
These books can be grouped around a particular publication, an individual writer, a very specific topic, or any combination thereof. A few more collections for your consideration:
- Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend: Women Writers on Baseball , edited by Elinor Nauen (Faber and Faber, 1995)
- Baseball: The Writer’s Game , edited by Mike Shannon (Diamond Communications, 1992)
- Scoring From Second: Writers on Baseball , edited by Philip Deaver (Bison, 2007)
- Sports Illustrated: Great Baseball Writing, 1954-2004 , edited by Rob Fleder (2007)
- Sports Classics: American Writers Choose Their Best , edited by Howard Siner (Coward McCann, 1983)
- All Those Mornings…At the Post, by Shirley Povich (Public Affairs, 2005)
- The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan (Persea, 2008)
- Everything They Had: Sports Writing from David Halberstam (Hyperion, 2008)
- Farewell to Sport , by Paul Galico (1938, rereleased 2008, Bison)