Norton Book Of Sports


Plimpton's incredible compilation of the best sports writing ever.
When it comes to popularity, American enthusiasm for sports is right up there with mom and apple pie. From this long love affair with the games of men and boys—and, increasingly, women—has sprung a vast literature that moves across fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

When it comes to popularity, American enthusiasm for sports is ...

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Plimpton's incredible compilation of the best sports writing ever.
When it comes to popularity, American enthusiasm for sports is right up there with mom and apple pie. From this long love affair with the games of men and boys—and, increasingly, women—has sprung a vast literature that moves across fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

When it comes to popularity, American enthusiasm for sports is right up there with mom and apple pie. From this long love affair with the games of men and boys--and, increasingly, women--has sprung a vast literature that moves across fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Now Plimpton has compiled an incredible collection of the best sports writing ever.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Collections of diverse sports stories are relatively uncommon, perhaps because the average fan is interested only in one or two major sports. The average sports fan would be the loser in this case, because editor Plimpton has assembled a ``cracker jack'' lineup of tales that will appeal not only to the sports enthusiast, but to the general reader. The classic modern sports writers (Roger Angell, W.P. Kinsella, Roger Kahn) are included, but one is pleased that writings of Robert Bly, Thomas Wolfe, James Joyce, and James Thurber are also included. The arrangement is unique, with four sections representing the four seasons of the year, the stories of which typify the sports of those seasons. Some readers may quibble with a few selections, but most are quite representative, and many sports are covered. This compilation is highly recommended for all collections, particularly those of public and school libraries.-- William O. Scheeren, Hempfield Area H.S. Lib., Greensburg, Pa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393030402
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1992
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 492
  • Sales rank: 1,112,472
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

George Plimpton was an American journalist, actor, editor, and writer. Well-known for helping to found The Paris Review and for his sports writing, Plimpton died from natural causes in 2003.


The scion of New England bluebloods who traced their ancestry back to the Mayflower, affable WASP George Plimpton was one of the 20th century's most beloved literary figures. Raised in Manhattan and educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard University, and King's College, Cambridge, Plimpton co-founded The Paris Review in 1953 and served as its editor and guiding light for the next half century. Under his stewardship, the journal became a showcase for serious fiction and poetry by new and emerging writers. It also introduced a new style of author interview emphasizing the creative process and the writer's craft. Called by Salman Rushdie "the finest available inquiry into the 'how' of literature," the Paris Review interview remains an integral part of the magazine.

In addition to these highbrow pursuits, Plimpton is also responsible for originating a popular literary genre. Gregarious and adventurous by nature, he followed his intellectual curiosity into Walter Mitty-like arenas, then chronicled his exploits—most of them noble failures—in works that came to be categorized as "participatory journalism." He sparred with heavyweight champ Archie Moore, pitched in an all-star exhibition baseball game, played percussion for the New York Philharmonic, and tried out for the circus. And although he was famous for lighthearted reportage (most notably Paper Lion, his sidesplitting 1966 account of training with the Detroit Lions football team), he proved his literary chops with well-received oral biographies of Edie Sedgwick and Truman Capote.

Instantly recognizable for his tall, lanky frame and upper-crust Brahmin accent, Plimpton was a popular fixture of the Manhattan literary and social scene. Upon his death in September, 2003, The New York Times recalled his "boundless energy and perpetual bonhomie." Five years later, Random House published George, Being George, an affectionate oral biography composed of anecdotes from more than 200 people who knew Plimpton in his many capacities. Editor and longtime Paris Review colleague Nelson Aldrich described the book as a "kind of literary party, George's last."

Good To Know

Like his grandfather and father before him, Plimpton enrolled in the prestigious New Hampshire prep school, Phillips Exeter Academy. He spent most of his time either in detention or on probation, and was finally expelled several months shy of graduation. The family was chagrinned, and Plimpton spent many years trying to atone for his failure. By the way, he graduated right on schedule from Daytona Beach High School!

Plimpton loved athletics, and much of the "participatory journalism" for which he's famous revolves around sports. He wrote books about his less-than-successful exploits in professional baseball (Out of My League), football (Paper Lion; Mad Ducks and Bears), golf (The Bogey Man), and hockey (Open Net).

He also loved fireworks and spent a lot of time with the Grucci family, whose Long Island-based company produced spectacular displays. He chronicled his longtime passion in the 1984 book Fireworks, and Mayor John Lindsay appointed him Fireworks Commissioner of New York, an unofficial title totally unrelated to government.

Plimpton made occasional forays into film, usually as an extra or in cameo appearances as himself.

A longtime friend of the Kennedy clan, Plimpton was with Bobby Kennedy in 1968 when the presidential candidate was assassinated. He also was in Norman Mailer's apartment the night the writer stabbed his wife.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      March 18, 1927
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Death:
      September 25, 2003
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, NY
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English Literature, Harvard University, 1950; Master's degree, Cambridge University, 1952

Table of Contents

Introduction 13
Spring 23
"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" 25
"Morning Workout" 30
"The Longest Silence" 32
"Old Timers' Day" 40
"The Feel" 41
From Faster 50
"Boxing with the Naked Eye" 55
"A Fan's Notes on Earl Monroe " 64
"Sports Talk with a Non-Fan" 72
From An Exaltation of Larks 74
"Adventure's End" 76
"The Heart of a Goof" 87
"Why Pitchers Can't Hit" 105
"The Old Man and the Tee " 110
"A Very Solid Book" 114
Summer 117
"On the Ball" 119
"What Shakespeare Knew about Baseball" 120
From Of Time and the River 121
"The Thrill of the Grass" 121
"A Snorkeler's Tale" 129
"Centre Court" 131
"The Pro" 157
"Alibi Ike" 161
"Nineteen Big Ones" 178
"Up at the Hall " 181
"Casey Stengel's Secret" 200
"A Snapshot for Miss Bricka Who Lost in the Semi-Final Round of the Pennsylvania Lawn Tennis Tournament at Haverford, July, 1960" 204
"Art Larsen" 205
"Prothalamion" 209
"Vince Lombardi" 210
"Hits and Runs" 224
"The Best-Known Figure in England" 224
"Game Old Merrimynn" 228
"Why Professor Waddems Never Broke a Hundred" 230
"You Could Look It Up" 237
"Son of Interesting Losers" 250
"Attitude" 252
Autumn 257
"Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" 259
"Casey at the Bat" 259
"Casey Has Struck Out" 262
"The Hector Quesadilla Story" 264
"Mother" 274
"The Last American Hero" 275
"Pele" 308
"Sky Diving" 309
"Fred Snodgrass" 309
"The Crucial Role Fear Plays in Sports" 329
"The Loser" 336
"Polo Match" 353
"Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" 355
"1951: New York Giants 5, Brooklyn Dodgers 4" 367
"Kaleidoscope: Personality of the Babe" 370
"The Babe " 385
From End Zone 389
Winter 397
"The Hockey Poem" 399
"A Large Number of Persons" 401
"The Fight" 405
"Sports" 409
"Death [of Paret]" 416
"Patrick Ewing Takes a Foul Shot" 421
"The Hockey Sweater" 422
"Guy Lafleur" 424
"Skiers" 430
"Stymie--Common Folks" 431
From Open Net 434
"Scoring" 443
"They Also Serve Who Only Sit and Sit and Sit" 444
"Skier" 448
"99 Reasons Why Baseball Is Better than Football" 448
"Classics"; "Semi-Classics" 453
Notes on Contributors 475
Acknowledgments 483
Index 487
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  • Posted February 10, 2009

    Plimptom produces an overall well vetted overview of important sports writing, but overlooks important fictional and poetic gems.

    George Plimpton certainly takes advantage of being George Plimpton in this anthology. In a genre that is not really a genre for lack of good material, this inventive author, who has resources and knowledge, spends too much time charmingly,self-effacingly using his own material when important sports writing in the truest sense is omitted. <BR/> Such pieces as F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Swimmer", a gem of a short story that appeals to anyone who simply finds an outlet in physical activity would be a great addition especially with the sly wit of the rare Fitzgerald hero who outsmarts his grasping rich wife. Plimpton could well have cut the famous "Jumping Frog" by Twain, which is in most American Lit books, and instead used "The Bowl" by Fitzgerald, a short story about football (these are hard to find) especially ones, even though dated in the 1920's, that deal with choices athletes have to make: his sport or his girl? Or is it his integrity?<BR/> Although Plimpton includes poetry, because he uses a template of the four seasons to present his choices, important poems such as "To An Athlete Dying Young" do not appear. This poem must appear in a sports book. Every athlete ponders this question--and comes to different conclusions: thus it is a cornerstone of sports literature. With Plimpton's insight, he could have included Emily Dickinson's "Victory is Sweetest"; this poem refers to the defeated in a battle truly understanding the sweetness of winning--far more so than the victors, yet athletes resonate with this theme. These two poems work well with the essay "The Place Fear Plays in Sports"<BR/> The main problem with the book beyond not using actual literature, lies is its use of baseball (as much as I love it), golf, and boxing as its meat . True, there are a few football references, some tennis, but soccer, basketball, track and field, softball, hockey, even bowling, for heaven's sake, are either skimmed over or ignored.<BR/> The main pupose of a sports book should be to give a balanced view of as many sports as possible. Admittedly, when I bought the book, I was on a mission. I needed a textbook for a sports literature class I was going to teach college sophmores. I wanted something to accompany novels such as "The Natural", "The Legend of Bagger Vance", "Bleachers", "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", "Million Dollar Baby". Every anthology I examined was aimed at high schoolers, or had a social agenda. I simply wanted a decent text of short stories, poetry and some good sports writing. Instead I got George Plimpton noodling around with some excellent pieces, some pieces that might have worked in a book devoted to sports essays, and a few classics, thank goodness.<BR/> I suppose it would be too harsh to say this book is a waste--and it would be untrue. After all, the title doesn't lie; this is indeed "Norton's Book of Sports" edited by George Plimpton. However, when one sees "Norton" on a collection, there is an expectation of excellence: that is NOT true of this book. The best part of the book lies in the prefaces Plimpton writes before each piece--but even those can be frustrating because he often leaves the reader hanging, and the expectation the reader's curiousity will be satisfied doesn't happen in the following piece. That's teasing--just as the title is.

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