The John Lardner Reader: A Press Box Legend's Classic Sportswriting

The John Lardner Reader: A Press Box Legend's Classic Sportswriting

The John Lardner Reader: A Press Box Legend's Classic Sportswriting

The John Lardner Reader: A Press Box Legend's Classic Sportswriting

Synopsis

This collection marks the return to print of John Lardner, one of America's press box giants, a classic stylist whose wry humor and tireless reporting helped elevate sportswriting to art. The brilliant W. C. Heinz called Lardner "the best of us." This book shows why. Lardner applied his singular touch not only to his era's icons- Joe Louis, Ted Williams, Satchel Paige- but to the scamps, eccentrics, hustlers, and con men in the shadow of sports. Whether in snappy columns or leisurely magazine pieces, Lardner held sport of every description up to the light, forever changing the way people wrote, read, and thought about their heroes, from superstars to scrappers. These forty-nine pieces represent sportswriting at the top of its game.

Excerpt

It’s my strenuous opinion that any newspaper or magazine sports scribe over the last fifty years who is worth his weight in typewriter ribbons — or delete keys nowadays, I should say — has studied the works of John Lardner, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived, although he was more of an essayist than a sportswriter. No, that’s not right either. Literary giant is more accurate.

Reading Lardner in the late forties and throughout the fifties in his weekly Newsweek column as well as in the other magazines for which he occasionally toiled — the New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, True — was the finest creative writing class in the world.

Who but John Lardner could have written this lead in 1954? “Stanley Ketchel was twenty-four years old when he was fatally shot in the back by the common-law husband of the lady who was cooking his breakfast.”

Slit my wrist was what this aspiring young typist wanted to do when I read that, thinking I could never come close to being that good — might as well look for a job in janitorial services.

Red Smith, another icon in our lodge and as nice a man as any of us ever knew, once called that lead on the Ketchel piece in True “the greatest novel ever written in one sentence.”

But there were hundreds of Lardner gems. We used to fondle them, memorize them, argue about the best of them, and steal from . . .

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