Saturday, August 21, 2010

Part 1 of 3: Great Sports Books

This is the first entry in a three part series recommending great sports books. These reviews are authored by Ken Bungay, a lawyer who lives in Whitby, Ontario. He is also a big sports fan, knows everything about junior hockey, and loves reading sports books. So there was no person better to ask to write these entries than Ken.  In all, Ken will recommend 6 sports books.

Here, he starts with 2 books.

Thanks for this Ken. Tell Dale Hunter I say hi.


I am a regular follower of the Team 1200 on the Internet and a friend of the Team 1200's resident sports law contributor Eric Macramalla. (Yes, I know Eric is a lawyer, but I try not to hold that against him. Plus he knows a ton of stuff about sports and the law.) So when Eric asked if I would contribute a Guest Blog on the topic of favourite sports books, I was happy to oblige.

I started following the Team 1200 hockey broadcasts on XM radio during the Senators great 2007 season, including the ultimate loss in the Stanley Cup final to the Anaheim Ducks. Now I Listen Live whenever I can and I have applied for citizenship to the TGOR Nation.

There are a lot of great books on sport, and summer is a good time to read them. For me there are really only 2 great sports icons - the Montreal Expos and Muhammad Ali, and since neither of them are active these days, sadly I have had to expand my horizons. Here is just one listener's opinion on sport books you may want to read:

1. The Best American Sports Writing series - 1991 - 2009

An annual publication edited by Glenn Stout with a different guest editor every year - Dick Schaap, Bud Collins, Tom Boswell, George Plimpton, etc. Published every October, it is a collection of the best Canadian and American sports writing from all sources. You can buy it on line or pick up a copy at Chapters for about $15. I own the entire series. You can pick up back issues on line or at used book stores. Pick a volume. Any year. It doesn't matter.

They are all great stories. And these are not your everyday stories. Pittsburgh Steelers' Hall of Famer Mike Webster destitute, brain damaged and living in his car. The story of the ultra-long distance Badwater Marathon - 135 miles that takes place every year in mid-July in California's Death Valley (medics crazy glue the runner's blistered feet so they can keep going - are you kidding me?).

The story of world class platform divers - who knew diving was so dangerous? The story of Saskatchewan hockey player Duncan MacPherson, whose body was found 14 years after he was last seen in 1989 - frozen in ice at an Austrian ski resort - Man in Ice. The pain-filled lives led by retired NFL'ers like Earl Campbell who are crippled in their 40's because of injuries sustained during their careers.

And my favourite - the story of the tragic attempt by Australian ultra-deep diver David Shaw in 2005 to recover the body of missing fellow diver Deon Dreyer who had gone missing 11 years earlier. Chilling. Pick up the 2010 edition this October.

3. The Curse of Rocky Colavito - 1994, Terry Pluto
A Loving Look at a Thirty-Year Slump. Pluto is a long-time Cleveland sportswriter. This book documents the 30 plus years of the Cleveland Indians following the trade of fan favourite Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers in 1960.
Growing up in Southern Ontario I used to watch Indians baseball with my buddy and his dad, who was born in Cleveland. Little did I realize as a youngster that Indians' baseball wasn't how the game was supposed to be played. The Tribe's home field, Cleveland Municipal Stadium could hold 60,000 fans and was built on an old landfill site. Stuff would bubble up, and it wasn't good stuff. 3,000 fans for a home game wasn't uncommon. "Ten Cent Beer Night" - a very bad idea.
Anyone who followed the Indians in the 1960's and 1970's knows why the 1989 baseball movie Major League is so funny. 1983 Cleveland manager Mike Ferraro was quoted as follows: "I never saw so many bad things happen to one team". He said this after Indians' pitcher Bert Blyleven fell off his roof. Welcome to the Tribe Mike. There was the tragic 1993 spring training boating accident that killed pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews. It goes on.
Things improved when Dave and Dick Jacobs bought the team in 1986. (Editorial note: My wife still insists the weekend we spent in Cleveland in 1979 to catch a Cleveland - Tigers series wasn't a real Honeymoon.)
See you next weekend when I recommend 3 more great sports books.

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