of the title aside, there is plenty here of interest
for sports fans and followers of urban politics.
Giants among Men: Y. A., L. T., the
Big Tuna, and Other New York
By Ira Berkow.
Sept. 2015. 304p. illus. Triumph, paper, $14.95
Berkow, veteran author, Pulitzer winner, and
longtime columnist and features reporter for
the New York Times, here collects his columns about the
New York Giants football
team. They may be about
great Giant players or coaches; they may also be portraits
of a Giant opponent. Like the
very best sports columnists,
Berkow moves past the game
to reveal the human beings behind the face
masks and clipboards. Bill Parcells, who won
two Super Bowls as the Giants’ head coach and
is a legendary curmudgeon, is shown to have a
sly, playful sense of humor. Hall of Fame quarterback Y. A. Tittle says he looked old, ugly, and
58 when he was 28. Berkow’s columns have a
way of starting with a seemingly straightfor ward
subject—a profile of placekicker Nick Lowery,
for example—and then seguing effortlessly into
something entirely other but somehow perfectly appropriate, as when the Lowery profile
leads to an insightful digression on Supreme
Court justice and former football star Byron
“Whizzer” White. Berkow is a stylish and often
lyrical writer, and he’s an even better observer.
This is an outstanding book—and not just for
New Yorkers. — Wes Lukowsky
The Golden Era of Major League Baseball:
A Time of Transition and Integration.
By Bryan Soderholm-Difatte.
Nov. 2015. 256p. Rowman & Littlefield, $38
(9781442252219); e-book, $37.99 (9781442252226).
It should come as no surprise that Soderholm-Difatte, a former CIA analyst and a member
of the Society for American Baseball Research
(SABR), takes an almost exclusively statistical approach to baseball in the 1950s, often
considered the game’s Golden Age. For those
who followed baseball through the decade
and observed the iconic figures who played
or managed then—Robinson, Mays, Mantle,
Durocher, Stengel—or even readers who
know the era through Roger Kahn’s The Boys
of Summer and other anecdote-rich narrative
nonfiction, this emphasis on numbers is likely to seem, well, stultifyingly analytical. And
yet, the author makes numerous valuable
points, if, sometimes, between the numbers.
He convincingly demonstrates, for example,
that the fifties were a transitional time in
such important aspects of play as relief pitching and platooning. He also makes a strong
case that while integration fundamentally
changed the game in the decade, the less-than-elite African American players did not
This year’s sports top 10 turns a blind eye on major sports, focusing instead on less-heralded athletic and recreational endeavors, from
bowling to the circus to Monopoly. (Well, there is one basketball book,
but it’s about a really bad team.) The titles selected were reviewed in
Booklist from September 1, 2014, through August 2015. —Bill Ott
Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of
Title IX. By Ginny Gilder. 2015. Beacon, $26.95 (9780807074770).
Gilder’s compelling memoir not only describes her success as a collegiate and Olympic
rower but also movingly chronicles her struggle to come to terms with her sexuality.
The Fall Line: How American Ski Racers Conquered a Sport on the Edge. By Nathaniel
Vinton. 2015. Norton, $26.95 (9780393244779).
Set against the backdrop of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, sports reporter Vinton’s account combines history, biography, corporate politics, and environmental issues in
this eye-opening narrative detailing the past and present of Alpine ski racing.
Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible Tour of Italy. By Tim Moore. 2015. Pegasus, $27.95
Moore’s patented combination of humor and travelogue is thoroughly engaging as he
challenges himself to ride the route of the 1914 Giro d’ Italia, a grueling 3,000-kilometer
race that many consider the most harrowing contest in cycling history.
Love in the Elephant Tent: How Running Away with the Circus Brought Me Home. By
Kathleen Cremonesi. 2015. ECW, $25.95 (9781770412521).
Cremonesi’s memoir will captivate readers as she embarks on this unexpected adventure. But there is also much here to think about as she reveals the sobering reality of
circus life: the mistreatment of animals and workers.
The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal behind America’s Favorite Board
Game. By Mary Pilon. 2015. Bloomsbury, $27 (9781608199631).
The strange and complicated history of one of America’s favorite board games gets a
serious yet engaging treatment in a book that is part parable on the perils facing inventors, part legal odyssey, and part detective story. You’ll never look at spry Mr. Monopoly in
the same way again.
Motorcycles I’ve Loved. By Lily Brooks-Dalton. 2015. Riverhead, $27.95 (9781594633218).
Alternating glimpses of her personal evolution with meditations on physics, Brooks-Dalton movingly describes her self-discovery through motorcycles and the independence
and courage they awaken in her.
The Naked Mountaineer. By Steve Sieberson. 2014. Univ. of Nebraska, paper, $19.95
In this absorbing, often humorous memoir, Sieberson, a lawyer and academic by vocation, climber by avocation, conveys the sense of wonder, enthusiasm, and just plain love
he has for his sport.
Perfectly Awful: The Philadelphia 76ers’ Horrendous and Hilarious 1972–1973 Season. By
Charley Rosen. 2014. Univ. of Nebraska, $24.95 (9780803248625).
In the pantheon of bad sports teams the ’ 72–’ 73 Philadelphia 76ers are right up there
with the 1962 New York Mets. In this tale of laughable woe, Rosen nails the fractured
team dynamic and reminds readers that for every winner, there’s a loser.
Pin Action: Small-Time Gangsters, High-Stakes Gambling, and the Teenage Hustler
Who Became a Bowling Champion. By Gianmarc Manzione. 2014. Pegasus, $27.95
Manzione takes readers back to NYC from the 1950s through the 1970s, when action
bowling (think pool hustling, with pins) reigned, and a talented teen with an eye for his
marks could catch the eye of the Mob.
The Road Headed West. By Leon McCarron. 2015. illus. Skyhorse, $24.99 (9781632206442).
McCarron, a recent college grad trying to stave off the respectable life, comes from
Ireland to bike ride across the U.S. in search of the average American. This genially told
tale recounts life on a bicycle, taking a journey on the open road with an open heart.
TOP 10 SPORTS BOOKS