Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Best Sports Writing of '95 Puts the Reader Ringside

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Best Sports Writing of '95 Puts the Reader Ringside

Article excerpt

THE BEST AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING 1995

Edited and with an introduction by Dan Jenkins; Glenn Stout, series editor

Houghton Mifflin,

265 pp.,

$24.95

'The Best American Sports Writing 1995," the fifth in an annual series, honors some of the best sports writing in a contemporary, hot-off-the-press context.

Comprising 25 essays ranging from a short, pithy three-pager on this year's baseball strike to 50 pages of ambitious erudition on the history of American sports from the mid-1950s to the present, the series spotlights the best journalists writing for the pages of Sports Illustrated, Gentlemen's Quarterly, The Washington Post, and other periodicals.

Topics run the gamut, from golf in Sweden to the O.J. Simpson saga and from profiles of long-distance runner Herb Elliot to one of professional hockey's most controversial coach, Mike Keenan, who brought the New York Rangers their first Stanley Cup in more than 50 years in 1994.

The beauty of this volume is that it offers more than just the hollow pages of "first down and 10" scenarios; its essays often enlighten the reader about humanity. For example, editor Glenn Stout's forward profiles not a courageous athlete but a brave and ingenious writer, Doc Kountze, whose copy helped pry the lid off baseball's longstanding color barrier.

"Doc" was one of the first black writers to cover baseball. His beat did not include Ted Williams or Joe Di Maggio, but instead featured the cast comprising "The Negro League," including Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and another fireballing pitcher named Will Jackman. Doc was the first black reporter granted access to Boston's Fenway Park and Braves Field. His prodigious coverage provides an invaluable dimension to the multi-faceted heritage of "America's Favorite Pastime."

It is appropriate that one of the lead-off pieces in the book is Dave Kindred's portrayal of Ted Williams "A Hitter First, A Hitter Always. …

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