Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Solid as a Rock
2007-12-27 05:57
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Why bother blogging when Rich Lederer is doing such a bang-up job? Rich has long championed Bert Blyleven's candidacy for the Hall of Fame (hey, Bill Conlin is actually voting for Blyleven this year). Now, he takes on a new case: Rock Raines. If you think I've beat this horse into the ground already, well, get used to it. I'm on the Raines bandwagon.

Okay, here's a random question for the day: If you could read a biography of any sports writer who would it be? And I'm not talking about a book that has already been written. Or maybe the better question is this: What major sports writer most deserves a serious biography? Jim Murray, Dick Young, W.C. Heinz? Who would you be interested in reading about?

2007-12-27 06:37:23
1.   JL25and3
I don't know if you count Ring Lardner as a sports writer, but he'd probably be my first choice.
2007-12-27 07:27:46
2.   Alex Belth
Isn't there a book on Ring? I know his son, John Lardner wrote a book about the old man. And, nah, I don't think I'd consider Ring a sports writer first and foremost, just like I wouldn't consider Runyon primarily a sports writer, or Halberstam, Talese etc.

Personally, I think Dick Young would be a good choice because he really pioneered modern baseball coverage in the fifties, and because he was a talented man of many contradictions. He got vicious, mean, and ignorant as he got older. He was a jerk but one that can't be ignored.

2007-12-27 07:51:19
3.   kylepetterson
"Alex Belth 2: Electric Boogaloo"
2007-12-27 07:52:31
4.   kylepetterson
Seriously, though, I don't have an answer. That's why I made a lame joke. Take notes, kids, this is why I am awesome.
2007-12-27 08:10:49
5.   debris
My least favorite sportswriter, one Dan Shaughnessy, the man who embodies all the worst traits in Boston mean spirited writing, current bearer of the Dave Egan torch, and one miserable son-of-a-bitch, posted his HOF ballot in the Globe this morning.

I don't know if he's a new vote for he of the knee-buckling yakker, but maybe, just maybe, this is Blyleven's year. Bert's been a favorite of mine since he pitched my Rotisserie team to the coveted Solly Hemus trophy back in '84.

2007-12-27 08:23:49
6.   Shaun P
5 It'd be nice to see Blyleven and Goose both get in, though I hope Rice doesn't join them - to me, he's not a Hall of Famer.

I'm not sure which sportswriter I'd like to read about . . . maybe Bob Ryan? . . . but if you ask, "Which sportswriter would you not want to read a biography of?", that's an easy list.

Then again, maybe some of those guys would make for more interesting biographies.

2007-12-27 09:23:05
7.   Alex Belth
Ever read Ira Berkow's book on Red Smith? I haven't but have it on the shelf. I am reading a book called "Paper Tiger" (not to be confused with Plimpton's "Paper Lion") by Stanley Woodward who was the sports editor at the New York Herald Tribune. He was the guy who brought Smith to New York. Outstanding read this "Paper Tiger," highly enjoyable, although only the last third is about Woodward's time with the Trib.
2007-12-27 09:23:38
8.   YankeeInMichigan
5 When it came to mean-spiritedness, Dick Young could compete with the best. I still cringe when recalling his tasteless column following Munson's plane crash: "I know we all feel bad about Thurman Munson's death, but we shouldn't be hypocritical about his character ...."

Wasn't Dick also responsible for running Tom Seaver out of town?

2007-12-27 09:50:28
9.   Alex Belth
Yes, Young was behind Seaver leaving town. He was also a rabid anti-union guy, reportedly never getting over the bitter newspaper strike in NYC in the early 60s. In a way he's the sportswriting version of Robert Moses--distasteful, but undeniable.
2007-12-27 10:05:22
10.   Suffering Bruin
I like Jim Murray and WC Heinz much more than Young but controversial people make for interesting reads so I'd probably pick up Young's biography first.
2007-12-27 10:05:39
11.   debris
9 Speaking of the miserable Mr. Moses, a man who reportedly never smiled, there was yet another documentary on the last years of the Brooklyn Dodgers on HBO a few months back, but unlike most of the other items chronicling that storied lost team, this one paid more than lip service to Moses' role in running the Brooklyns out of town. Not surprisingly, Robert Caro was featured prominently among the talking heads.

One thing that's surprised me for years is that the move of the Dodgers and Giants received only one brief mention in Caro's massive book on Moses' life, The Power Broker. I was discussing this with friends a few years back at the national SABR convention and one of them told me that he'd been in touch with Caro about this. Apparently, there was an entire chapter devoted to the O'Malley-Moses brouhaha that was culled from the book before it went to press. My friend didn't know why the chapter was cut; certainly not the length, for what's another 20 pages in an already 1300 page volume. He asked Caro if he could get a look at that chapter, but was denied.

2007-12-27 10:11:52
12.   YankeeInMichigan
Changing topics here: Has anyone been following the emerging Community Prospects List on Pending Pinstripes (link in sidebar)? They put up ballots for one rank position at a time, covering one or two rank positions a day. The top 7 are
1. Ian Kennedy
2. José Tabata
3. Austin Jackson
4. Alan Horne
5. Jesus Montero
6. Dellin Betances
7. Humberto Sanchez

Balloting is now in progress for #8, and it's looking like a horse race between Miranda and Brackman, with Melancon and Marquez also making reasonable showings.

NOTE: They chose not to consider Joba a prospect.

2007-12-27 10:40:52
13.   dianagramr

That's who I'd read a book about ...

2007-12-27 10:49:28
14.   YankeeInMichigan
Yep, Koppett used to tinker with statistics before it became fashionable.

I remember when he presented a correlation between stock market performance and Super Bowl results (when the market is up the NFC wins) as an example of how statistics do not necessariliy teach us anything.

2007-12-27 10:54:20
15.   Alex Belth
Koppett! Great call. I love his stuff, pretty much everything I've ever read. He was also a newspaperman who was actually a good writer of books too. Young was a guy who was proud of being a newspaperman and not a writer.
2007-12-27 11:17:09
16.   JL25and3
To go in a completely different direction, I wonder if Grantland Rice was an interesting enough person to be worth a biography. His writing would be laughed out of any newspaper today - far, far too purple. It was hugely popular and influential in the 20s, though, in the time when American sports and sports writing really became big-time.
2007-12-27 11:53:20
17.   Raf
0 Instead of a biography, I would be more than willing to settle for a collection of Willard Mullins' work. I suppose you could throw his biography in there, but I would love to see more of his artwork.

8 ,9 I believe that Young mentioned something about Mrs. Seaver being jealous of Mrs. Nolan Ryan. I don't remember the exact details.

11 Don't think a chapter on O'Malley vs Moses would've been appropriate. Not that there was any lack of confrontations in the book (the bus terminal in the Bx comes to mind), but a chapter on O'Malley butting heads with Moses really doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the book.

Or it could be that it would've presented O'Malley in a positive light...

I've always wondered if Flushing Meadows was offered to Stoneham (or any other site for that matter), or if he was set on moving the Giants to MN. Haven't heard anything to the contrary. I just find it odd that it seems that the Jints were the "forgotten" team in NY at the time.

16 "Game Called" is one of my favorite pieces of work.

2007-12-27 12:01:18
18.   Alex Belth
There is a bio of Granland Rice...shoot, I'm forgetting who wrote it.
2007-12-27 12:48:47
19.   Schteeve
Ken Tremendous
2007-12-27 16:49:00
20.   Scallion
Berkow's book is a compilation (marred by horrid proofreading and low-end production) of Red's work, not a bio. It would be wonderful if someone would write one.
Jimmy Breslin did a bio of Damon Runyon. Runyon was a wonderful writer, but his baseball pieces don't read very well at this distance.
Dick Young was, to cop a line from West Wing, a feckless thug. Couldn't write worth a damn and was vicious.
I'd be willing to bet that Dan Jenkins had an interesting life, as did the greatest golf writer of all, Herbert Warren Wind.
Remember: the smaller the ball, the better the prose.

Happy New Year.

2007-12-27 17:34:03
21.   overkill94
I'd love to read Bill Plaschke's autobiography. The thing would have to be 800 pages long.
2007-12-27 18:20:46
22.   Chyll Will
21 Lucky for you that neither Gore Vidal nor Doris Kearns Goodwin are big sports fans...
2007-12-27 20:08:17
23.   Matt B
20 Berkow's book, "Red: A Biography of Red Smith," is indeed a biography. Perhaps you're thinking of the Red Smith Reader.
2007-12-27 20:38:18
24.   OldYanksFan
There is so much BS with the Mitchell Report, and so few are calling out Selig, I'm glad not everyone is missing hte ball.

From ESPN: Rep. Christopher Shays, a member of a congressional panel probing the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, said Thursday there is little to be gained by calling players to testify at hearings scheduled for next month.

Shays, instead, wants to focus on finding the best way to rid baseball of the taint of performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball's leadership, he said, deserves the brunt of the blame for ignoring the problem.

"Part of it is that major league baseball has been incredibly passive on this issue to the point of condoning it," he said. "And so, who do I think is mostly at fault? The commissioner, frankly, for tolerating it and for not having the guts to step up and say we need changes and if you don't agree with me, then find someone else to run this corrupt process."

2007-12-27 20:41:48
25.   OldYanksFan
GREAT NEWS: BP Help is official.
The New York Yankees announced today they have signed right-handed pitcher LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year contract.

He has a 56-76 career record with 75 saves and a 4.68 ERA in 631 Major League games (98 starts) over 13 seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants,
Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies.

We couldn't get this from the farm?

2007-12-27 21:42:49
26.   Chyll Will
24 Of course he should be held accountable, and that's why no one will be punished (except whomever he wants to scapegoat next season). He closed his eyes to this for years because that's what his brethren (the owners) wanted, as long as everyone was banking on the "cheaters" pounding or bending the ball or the mitt exponentially, the exponential profits were a welcome side effect.

If Shays wanted to make a difference, he'd realize that baseball is a business more than anything else now, and the revocation of its anti-trust exemption would be incentive to clean the game up quick. But that's just, yunnow, one of my unsupported crackpot suggestions usually best ignored (cough).

25 nam-myo-renge-kyo (repeat)... >;)

2007-12-28 03:15:24
27.   Scallion
Sorry about that. Red Smith Reader it is.
2007-12-28 06:12:34
28.   3rd gen yankee fan
26 Will that chanting turn him into a lefty?
2007-12-28 09:13:23
29.   Chyll Will
28 You're thinking of either prayer, propaganda or lots of alcohol. This will diminish the worldly sense of need. (cough!)
2007-12-28 13:15:45
30.   OldYanksFan
Cashman is making for a very dull Hot Stove.
Lohud and Co. is about 75% AGAINST a Santana trade.
Do we BB'ers stand at about the same position?
What does Cashman have up his sleeve?
Might we get a 1Bman who can do 2 of the following? Hit, Field, Throw. Run.
Is there a RP who is AT LEAST league average to be had?
Do we see AJax in the 2008 show?
Is Cashman gonna do a 'Damon' on a IPK/Horne deal for Santana?

You guys are actually making me miss William and Mattpatt.

(and can somebody please translate for me what the hell Chyll is saying?)

2007-12-29 05:36:09
31.   The Mick 536
You obviously know where I come down on this--WC Heinz. The fact that no one mentioned him is the best evidence of why writing a bio on him is so important. It could send people back to reading his works. He covered the war, the civil rights movement, sports, and even a pulmonary surgeon. His book on boxing writing sits on top of the pile of such tomes. Halbestam credited him with creating new journalism in sports writng (you disagree, I know). And don't forget the MASH credit.

WC and Red were best friends. Lived near one another in New Canaan, CT.

I have read Berkow's book. He struggled with leads. Like fishing. Never wrote a good baseball book. In fact, he may have passed on the Lombardi book for reasons other than he was too busy. This led to him recommending WC for the job and the rest is history. Revolutionized sports books and took football out of the closet. Beat Bouton by a few years.

2007-12-30 13:36:48
32.   Scallion
One more. He only wrote about one sport, boxing, but A. J. Liebling was one of the best journalists in an age of great journalists. And when you get tired of reading about "the sweet science" check out his food writing.

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