the players (and sons) could suffer. All amid
revelations of domestic abuse by a few high-
profile NFL players, the most notorious being
New Rochelle grad Ray Rice, whose return to
his alma mater is handled with grace both by
his old coach and by the author. It’s obvious
Kennedy logged the hours chasing the story,
but he lets it unwind as it will, playing no fa-
vorites. He cites safety improvements, such as
a more-effective concussion protocol, while,
sadly, showing just how elusive the diagnos-
ing of brain trauma remains, both on and off
the field. —Alan Moores
A Life Well Played: My Stories.
By Arnold Palmer.
Oct. 2016. 224p. illus. St. Martin’s, $22.99
(9781250085948); e-book, $10.99 (9781250085955).
Palmer, who will be 87 on September
10, looks back on his legendary career as
a professional golfer as well as his various
entrepreneurial efforts over the decades, including his role in the founding of the Golf
Channel, the improbably successful cable
network devoted to 24-hour golf programming. Many of the golf stories here have
been told many times, especially in Palmer’s
earlier autobiography, written with James
Dodson, A Golfer’s Life (1999), but for golf
fans of a certain age, they bear retelling, both
the tales of triumphs (the incredible comeback in the 1960 U.S. Open, the win that
made Arnie’s Army a household term), or
those of equally stunning defeats (the blown
seven-stroke lead on the back nine of the
1966 Open). Like so many champion golfers, Palmer’s story is inextricably linked to a
mentoring father: in Arnie’s case, a greenskeeper and eventual club pro who first put
Arnie’s hands on a golf club and told him,
“Boy, don’t you ever change that.” Inevitably,
this volume strikes a (hopefully premature)
valedictory note, but that will make it all the
more popular with the King’s still-thriving
army. —Bill Ott
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A 150,000
first printing attests to the fact that, among
the right demographic, a book by Arnold
Palmer will always be news.
Lost Champions: Four Men, Two Teams,
and the Breaking of Pro Football’s Color
By Gretchen Atwood.
Sept. 2016. 288p. illus. Bloomsbury, $27 (9781620406007);
e-book, $18.99 (9781620406021). 796.332.
Sports journalist Atwood deals with a conundrum: despite baseball’s pre-eminence,
professional football achieved racial integration earlier (in 1946, a year before Jackie
Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn
Dodgers). And yet, she argues, the breakers
of football’s color barrier—Kenny Washington, Marion Motley, Woody Strode, and Bill
Willis—have received much less attention
than Robinson (who played football with
Washington and Strode at UCLA). Atwood
tells the stories of the four players and the
Continuing a trend begun last year, 6 of our top 10 sports nonfic- tion titles concern sports without balls. Clearly, the so-called
major sports no longer have an exclusive hold on our passions. Titles
below were reviewed between September 1, 2015, and August 2016.
Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League
Dreams. By Michael Tackett. 2016. HMH, $26 (9780544387645).
In chronicling the life of Merl Eberly, the coach of a semipro team in Clarinda, Iowa,
who possessed a rare ability to nurture young talent, Tackett reminds readers of just how
close baseball lies to the nation’s heart.
Blood Brothers. By Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith. 2016. Basic, $29.95
Two sports historians delve deeply into the close bond between Malcolm X and the
young boxer then called Cassius Clay. Told with anecdotal panache and analytical insight.
The Boy Who Runs: The Odyssey of Julius Achon. By John Brant. 2016. Ballantine, $27
Ugandan Julius Achon was impressed into the Lord’s Resistance Army at age 12 but
escaped to become an Olympic distance runner and, eventually, the founder of the
Achon Uganda Children’s Fund. A powerful account of this remarkable transformation of
soldier to humanitarian.
Find a Way: One Wild and Precious Life. By Diana Nyad. 2015. Knopf, $26.95 (9780385353618).
Nyad tells the amazing story of her remarkable feats in open-water swimming (Cuba
to Florida in 53 hours at age 64!) in the context of overcoming a harrowing childhood of
abuse and family dysfunction.
Hope: A School, a Team, a Dream. By Bill Reynolds. 2016. St. Martin’s, $26.99
In spending a season following the Hope High School basketball team in Providence,
Rhode Island, Reynolds not only digs deeply into the lives of the players and their coach
but also offers a candid look at the problems of inner-city schools.
Lift: Fitness Culture from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors. By
Daniel Kunitz. 2016. Harper Wave, $26.99 (9790062336187).
This accessible and remarkably insightful cultural history of fitness will appeal to anyone who has ever set foot in a gym or laced up running shoes while wondering, “Why
am I doing this?”
Pitch by Pitch. By Bob Gibson and Lonnie Wheeler. 2015. Flatiron, $26.99 (9781250061041).
Outspoken Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson recounts every pitch of the landmark first
game of the 1968 World Series, when he struck out a record 17 hitters. A wonderful slice
of baseball history.
Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey through Running Cultures around the Globe. By
Becky Wade. 2016. Morrow, $15.99 (9780062416438).
All-American distance runner Wade took a gap year like no other: running 3,500 miles
across nine countries. This engagingly written account is as much about multicultural richness as it is about running.
Swimming in the Sink. By Lynn Cox. 2016. Knopf, $25 (9781101947623).
When long-distance swimmer Cox was diagnosed with a heart condition, she was
forced to adapt to a very different kind of life. Whether she is describing swimming
between Argentina and Chile or trying to walk from her car to a restaurant, she writes
movingly about testing physical limits.
Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. By Diane Roberts. 2015. Harper,
Roberts, a professor at Florida State, writes perceptively about her love-hate relationship with college football, deploring the uglier aspects of the sport yet still drawn to her
TOP 10 SPORTS NONFICTION