A Sportswriter's Life

Sports and American culture series

Book 1
University of Missouri Press
Free sample

In 1959, Gerald Eskenazi dropped out of City College, not for the first time, and made his way to the New York Times. That day the paper had two openings--one in news and one in sports. Eskenazi was offered either for thirty-eight dollars a week. He chose sports based on his image of the sports department as a cozier place than the news department. Forty-one years and more than eighty-four hundred stories later, New Yorkers know he made the right decision.When Eskenazi started reporting, sports journalism had a different look than it does today. There was a camaraderie between the reporters and the players due in part to the reporters' deference to these famous figures. Unlike today, journalists stayed out of the locker rooms, and didn't ask questions about the players' home lives or their feelings about matters other than the sports that they played. In A Sportswriter's Life, Eskenazi details how much sports and America have changed since then. His anecdotes regarding famous and infamous sports figures from baseball great Joe DiMaggio to boxer Mike Tyson illustrate the transformation that American culture and journalism have undergone in the past fifty years.Eskenazi gives a behind-the-scenes look into the journalistic techniques that go into crafting a story, as well as the pitfalls reporters fall into. There are cautionary tales of journalistic excess, as well as moments of triumph such as the time Eskenazi got Joe Namath to open up to him by admitting he was a sportswriter who knew nothing about football. Along the way, Eskenazi discusses interviewing other reluctant subjects and writing under the intense pressure of a deadline.A Sportswriter's Life is a revealing look at the people and events that were part of the history of sports from a perspective usually unavailable to the public. Eskenazi's inside stories of sports are not always flattering, but they are always amusing, touching, and revealing. This entertaining volume will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in reporting, sports, or just a good story.
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About the author

Gerald Eskenazi has written sports for the New York Times for almost half a century. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Gang Green: An Irreverent Look Behind the Scenes at Thirty-Eight (Well, Thirty-Seven) Seasons of New York Jets Football Futility and The Lip: A Biography of Leo Durocher.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Missouri Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 2003
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Pages
207
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ISBN
9780826262608
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Editors, Journalists, Publishers
Language Arts & Disciplines / Journalism
Sports & Recreation / General
Sports & Recreation / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Mark McGwire, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock. These famous Cardinals are known by baseball fans around the world. But who and what were the predecessors of these modern-day players and their team? In Before They Were Cardinals, Jon David Cash examines the infancy of major-league baseball in St. Louis during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. His in-depth analysis begins with an exploration of the factors that motivated civic leaders to form the city's first major-league ball club. Cash delves into the economic trade rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis and examines how St. Louis's attempt to compete with Chicago led to the formation of the St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1875. He then explains why, three years later, despite its initial success, St. Louis baseball quickly vanished from the big-league map.

St. Louis baseball was revived with the arrival of German immigrant saloon owner Chris Von der Ahe. Cash explains how Von der Ahe, originally only interested in concession rights, purchased a controlling interest in the Brown Stockings. His riveting account follows the team after Von der Ahe's purchase, from the formation of the American Association, to its merger in 1891 with the rival National League. He chronicles Von der Ahe's monetary downturn, and the club's decline as well, following the merger.

Before They Were Cardinals provides vivid portraits of the ball players and the participants involved in the baseball war between the National League and the American Association. Cash points out significant differences, such as Sunday games and beer sales, between the two Leagues. In addition, excerpts taken from Chicago and St. Louis newspapers make the on-field contests and off-field rivalries come alive. Cash concludes this lively historical narrative with an appendix that traces the issue of race in baseball during this period.

The excesses of modern-day baseball--players jumping contracts or holding out for more money, gambling on games, and drinking to excess; owners stealing players and breaking agreements--were all present in the nineteenth-century sport. Players were seen then, as they are now, as an embodiment of their community. This timely treatment of a fascinating period in St. Louis baseball history will appeal to both baseball aficionados and those who want to understand the history of baseball itself.

1942: Americans suddenly found themselves at war but were not about to be distracted from the National Pastime. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees were looking to continue their World Series rivalry from the 1941 season, and a youthful team from St. Louis was determined to stop them.

With only one player older than thirty, the St. Louis Cardinals were the youngest team to win the National League pennant and World Series. Built on good pitching and tremendous speed on the base paths and in the field, the team featured rookie Stan Musial, future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter, and ace pitcher Mort Cooper, the National League's Most Valuable Player of 1942. With their winningest season ever, posting 106 victories, the 1942 Redbirds have been called the greatest Cardinal team of all time.

Jerome Mileur was just a kid from downstate Illinois, but he well remembers his view of one game from the left-field grandstand—and the thrill of attending the second game of the World Series. In this book, he brings a sure and loving grasp of his subject to reconstructing one of the most remarkable pennant drives in modern baseball history, with the Cards winning forty-three of their last fifty-one games and clinching first place on the last day of the season.

Mileur provides a game-by-game account of the season with play-by-play action, not only capturing all the thrills on the Cards' way to the top but also conveying the physical and mental demands that the players endured. Counted out by nearly everyone but themselves in August, the Redbirds caught fire in the season's final weeks to pass the seemingly unbeatable Dodgers. And by winning four games out of five to defeat the New York Yankees for the championship, they handed Joe DiMaggio his only World Series defeat.

More than a recapitulation of a thrilling season, Mileur's book is a reminder of how major-league baseball in 1942 differed in so many ways from today's game—one startling example is Mileur's account of how the absence of outfield warning tracks contributed to a devastating injury to Brooklyn's star outfielder, Pete Reiser. The tenor of the times is reflected as well in the juxtaposition of the baseball season with the United States' first year in the Second World War.

The 1942 Cardinals were not only a remarkable team unto themselves but also the beginning of a new baseball dynasty—1942's pennant was the first of three in a row for the Cards, as well as the first of three World Series victories in a space of five seasons. This account of that tremendous season is a page-turner for anyone who loves the game and a must-read for Cardinals fans.
Mark McGwire, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock. These famous Cardinals are known by baseball fans around the world. But who and what were the predecessors of these modern-day players and their team? In Before They Were Cardinals, Jon David Cash examines the infancy of major-league baseball in St. Louis during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. His in-depth analysis begins with an exploration of the factors that motivated civic leaders to form the city's first major-league ball club. Cash delves into the economic trade rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis and examines how St. Louis's attempt to compete with Chicago led to the formation of the St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1875. He then explains why, three years later, despite its initial success, St. Louis baseball quickly vanished from the big-league map.

St. Louis baseball was revived with the arrival of German immigrant saloon owner Chris Von der Ahe. Cash explains how Von der Ahe, originally only interested in concession rights, purchased a controlling interest in the Brown Stockings. His riveting account follows the team after Von der Ahe's purchase, from the formation of the American Association, to its merger in 1891 with the rival National League. He chronicles Von der Ahe's monetary downturn, and the club's decline as well, following the merger.

Before They Were Cardinals provides vivid portraits of the ball players and the participants involved in the baseball war between the National League and the American Association. Cash points out significant differences, such as Sunday games and beer sales, between the two Leagues. In addition, excerpts taken from Chicago and St. Louis newspapers make the on-field contests and off-field rivalries come alive. Cash concludes this lively historical narrative with an appendix that traces the issue of race in baseball during this period.

The excesses of modern-day baseball--players jumping contracts or holding out for more money, gambling on games, and drinking to excess; owners stealing players and breaking agreements--were all present in the nineteenth-century sport. Players were seen then, as they are now, as an embodiment of their community. This timely treatment of a fascinating period in St. Louis baseball history will appeal to both baseball aficionados and those who want to understand the history of baseball itself.

Question: What is the only team dating back to the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that has yet to win a division title?

Question: What is the only team in the four major pro sports that has existed since the early 1960s and never had a coach leave with a winning career record for the team?

Question: What is the only team in sports that plays its home games in a stadium named for another team?

If you bleed green and white, you know the answer to these questions as well as you know the color of Joe Willie Namath's shoes. The New York Jets have a record for futility and self-sabotage that is unmatched in the history of professional sports. And nonetheless, they have been rewarded with a loyal following that has made Jets tickets as hard to come by as Jets winning seasons.

For Jets fans, the bright beacon of promise has always turned into an onrushing train. They reveled in the joy of the Jets' epic victory in Super Bowl III, when their team beat the 18 1/2-point odds to defeat the Baltimore Colts, just as their cocky young quarterback had guaranteed; they then watched as contract squabbles broke up the core of the team, which would reach just one playoff game in the next twelve years. They cheered as their sleek, explosive team roared into the AFC Championship Game in January 1983; the team was held scoreless after overnight rains pelted the uncovered Orange Bowl field, turning the gridiron into a quagmire that favored the defense-oriented Dolphins. They dared to hope when the Jets went on an unprecedented spending spree in 1996, signing a Super Bowl quarterback and adding a host of fleet receivers and experienced linemen; they saw that team go 1-15, as Rich Kotite's Jets career coaching record sank to a jaw-dropping 4-28.

In Gang Green, New York Times sportswriter Gerald Eskenazi details the bizarre history of this remarkable team. From the poor decisions (drafting Ken O'Brien instead of Dan Marino) and bad luck (Joe Namath's knees, Dennis Byrd's near-tragic neck injury) to the horrendous leadership (see Kotite, above) and outright strangeness (team practices held in an open area alongside the Belt Parkway, leRoy Neiman's presence as team artist-in-residence, the Richard Todd/Matt Robinson quarterback duel that wasn't) that have typified the Jets' mystifying approach to football, Gang Green captures the history of this most unusual franchise in a funny, rollicking, nostalgic tale. If you can name the Jet who is the only man in NFL history to run more than 90 yards on a play from scrimmage without scoring; if you remember the glory days of the New York Sack Exchange, when practice was often disrupted by the distracting presence of Mark Gastineau's inamorata, Brigitte Nielsen; if you can still hum the fight song coach Lou Holtz made the team sing after victories -- not that there were enough for them to memorize the lyrics; or if you know which Jets coach told which Jets punter that his flatulence traveled farther than the punter's kicks -- then Gang Green is the book for you.
National Bestseller 

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.

By writing Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons and lay to rest some of the painful questions that still surround the event. He takes great pains to provide a balanced picture of the people and events he witnessed and gives due credit to the tireless and dedicated Sherpas. He also avoids blasting easy targets such as Sandy Pittman, the wealthy socialite who brought an espresso maker along on the expedition. Krakauer's highly personal inquiry into the catastrophe provides a great deal of insight into what went wrong. But for Krakauer himself, further interviews and investigations only lead him to the conclusion that his perceived failures were directly responsible for a fellow climber's death. Clearly, Krakauer remains haunted by the disaster, and although he relates a number of incidents in which he acted selflessly and even heroically, he seems unable to view those instances objectively. In the end, despite his evenhanded and even generous assessment of others' actions, he reserves a full measure of vitriol for himself.

This updated edition of Into Thin Air includes an extensive new postscript that sheds fascinating light on the acrimonious debate that flared between Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev in the wake of the tragedy.  "I have no doubt that Boukreev's intentions were good on summit day," writes Krakauer in the postscript, dated August 1999. "What disturbs me, though, was Boukreev's refusal to acknowledge the possibility that he made even a single poor decision. Never did he indicate that perhaps it wasn't the best choice to climb without gas or go down ahead of his clients." As usual, Krakauer supports his points with dogged research and a good dose of humility. But rather than continue the heated discourse that has raged since Into Thin Air's denouncement of guide Boukreev, Krakauer's tone is conciliatory; he points most of his criticism at G. Weston De Walt, who coauthored The Climb, Boukreev's version of events. And in a touching conclusion, Krakauer recounts his last conversation with the late Boukreev, in which the two weathered climbers agreed to disagree about certain points. Krakauer had great hopes to patch things up with Boukreev, but the Russian later died in an avalanche on another Himalayan peak, Annapurna I.

In 1999, Krakauer received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters--a prestigious prize intended "to honor writers of exceptional accomplishment."  According to the Academy's citation, "Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer.  His account of an ascent of Mount Everest has led to a general reevaluation of climbing and of the commercialization of what was once a romantic, solitary sport; while his account of the life and death of Christopher McCandless, who died of starvation after challenging the Alaskan wilderness, delves even more deeply and disturbingly into the fascination of nature and the devastating effects of its lure on a young and curious mind."
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