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Sports Books emphasize Century's End


With the countdown to 2000 well underway in all quarters, publishers have also gotten into the act with all kinds of products. And sports books focused on highlights of the 20th century are in vogue.

Two of the best come from Total/Sports Illustrated publishers - "20th Century Sports - Images of Greatness" by Mike Meserole ($26.95, 256pp) and "Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century" by Tim Crothers and John Garrity ($19.95, 176pp). Both books are trade paperbacks, and both books provide a feast for the eyes of any and all sports fans.

"Twentieth Century Sports - Images of Greatness" is short on words but long on visual images as we are taken through the decades and given up close and striking looks at groundbreaking times in sports history.

Utilizing rare and evocative photographs from photo archives including "Sports Illustrated," the book in Mike Meserole's phrase "is a family album of the twentieth century, the great extended family of sports."

We are there in the 1900s with some of baseball's top stars like Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb, and then taken through the 1930s with Babe Ruth, Bobby Jones, Bill Tilden and "The Galloping Ghost" Red Grange.

The book then takes the reader through the 1950s with words and images about college basketball, the developing NBA and the times of Mantle, Mays and Aaron. The 1960s, a time of Mets, Packers and Celtics, gives way to the 1970s "ugly uniforms and cookie-cutter stadiums," while the 1980sgives us its peerless quarterbacks like Elway, Marino and Montana.

And finally we go through the 1990s with Jordan, McGwire, Sosa, Duncan, Jeter, etc. This is a book to keep and to savor. Carefully organized and beautifully illustrated - it touches all the bases.

"Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century" is a book that could spark some arguments, as the authors admit in the intro: "Yes, we're smug, self righteous, wrongheaded dolts. We've made a list of the 20th century's top athletes and left off Mark Spitz . . . we've got five basketball players on the list and couldn't find room for Oscar Robertson . . .."

Yes, there is a lot to argue about in terms of selection. But for pure reading and looking, this is a book worth having. It is nostalgic, incisive and celebratory.

The 180 photographs - most in full color - and the profiles of the 25 greatest athletes blend together for a terrific reading experience. There are what the authors call the "Transcendent Three" - Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth and the rest.

One of the special features of the book that makes for nice nostalgia and also excellent reading are the flashback quotes from "Sports Illustrated."

Example: "Don Hutson was one of the legends we of a certain era grew up with. Greatest team: Chicago bears. Greatest runner: Bronko Nagurski. Greatest receiver: Don Hutson. You didn't question it.... ---Paul Zimmerman, July 7, 1997

BOOKENDS: For hot stove reading if you missed it - "Long Balls, No Strikes" by Joe Morgan with Richard Lally (Crown, $25.00, 304pp) is an outspoken and thoughtful look at where baseball is and where it has to go.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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