Spanning nearly a century, The Great American Sports Page presents essential columns from more than three dozen masters of the press-box craft, unforgettable dispatches from World Series, Super Bowls, and legendary title bouts written with passion, spontaneity, humor, and a gift for the memorable phrase. Read avidly day in and day out by a sports-mad public, these columnists became journalistic celebrities in their home cities, their coverage trusted and savored, their opinions hotly debated. Gathered here in this groundbreaking anthology, writers from Grantland Rice and Jim Murray to Bob Ryan and Sally Jenkins capture some of sports’ most enduring moments and many of its all-time greats—Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jordan among them—taking the measure of the human richness, complexity, and competitive spirit of sports.
Expertly selected by editor John Schulian, these columns trace the fascinating evolution of American sportswriting as a popular form. Early on, Ring Lardner and Damon Runyon were as apt to crack jokes as to tell their readers the final score. At midcentury the elegance of Red Smith, the “Shakespeare of the Press Box,” and the streetwise verbal jabs of Jimmy Cannon expressed complimentary ways of connecting with a wide readership. By the 1960s journalistic pioneers like Larry Merchant went behind the scenes and forged new, less deferential ways of writing about athletes, owners, and fans. Women, belatedly and often against persistent opposition, entered the press corps during an era when newspapers began to grant their star columnists more space and greater freedom to take on complicated, sometimes uncomfortable stories. The sports page became home not just to celebrations of achievement but also to startling candor about the grittier aspects of the games we love.
The editor of the volume, John Schulian, who was a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News, is a recipient of the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. He edited the Library of America anthologies Football: Great Writing about the National Sport and, with George Kimball, At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing; and is the author, most recently, of the novel A Better Goodbye.
Charles P. Pierce, who had provided a foreword to the collection, has been a working journalist since 1976. He is a regular contributor to Esquire and the author of four books, including Sports Guy.
This special publication features full-cloth binding, acid-free paper, and a unique design with specifications differing from those of Library of America series titles.