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The List

Sorry I disappeared again. I was busy working on my golf game, reading and going to the movies. I saw "Sex and the City" with my girlfriend Sunday. We discussed it on the radio this morning. Dennis Williams said no man should go to that movie. I liked the movie, though it was too long. I know it's a "chick flick", but what guy wouldn't want insight into the way women's minds work? Maybe it's the men who have an aversion to certain movies -- because it threatens their so-called manhood -- who have the problem. What do you think? Is there anything wrong with a guy going to see Carrie and the girls?

OK, the book list. I loved the responses. They reaffirmed my faith in the blog readership. Some of the suggestions blew me away. Clearly, the list should be longer than 10. I'll have to leave off a lot of books that deserve high consideration. Lori, I was glad to see you mention W.C. Heinz, one of the legends who is largely forgotten. His writing style influenced a lot of people, David Halberstam among them. Somewhere, I have a copy of Press Box: Red Smith's Favorite Sports Stories. Heinz was in there, among other stunning works. It has to go on my list. Thanks for reminding me.

Here's the top 10. Boys of Summer is my favorite, but otherwise they're in no particular order:

1. The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn -- This is the book that made me want to be a sports writer (now you know who to blame). A great look at the old Dodgers and the upbringing of a young baseball fan in a literate household in New York City.

2. The Fight, by Norman Mailer -- Mailer in his prime, writing about the Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire. I read it in college and have meant to do so again for years. A great book about boxing and culture.

3. The Breaks of the Game, by David Halberstam -- It was almost impossible to find a book about the NBA in the early 1980s. This book was a godsend. An inside look at the 1979 Trail Blazers, with an injured Bill Walton. Halberstam can be long-winded, but it's a fascinating look at the league just before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird arrived. 

4. Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand -- Just a wonderful book. Amazing to find how big a national figure the horse was at the time. Not just a sports book, but an historical timepiece.

5. You Gotta Play Hurt, by Dan Jenkins -- It's about a magazine sports writer, based on Jenkins' time at Sports Illustrated. Laugh out loud funny. You'll recite passages to friends. If you've never read Jenkins, shame on you. One of the best humorists out there, regardless of subject.

6. Namath, by Mark Kriegel -- One of the best sports biographies of all time. Some people prefer Pistol, his bio on Pete Maravich. Kriegel does an impeccable job of researching an athlete's life and humanizing him. He also shows how Namath was a product of his time, and a major pivotal figure in American sports and media culture.

7. Hoopla, by Harry Stein -- Little-known but brilliant, as one of my bloggers pointed out. Well-conceived fictional look at the Black Sox Scandal. I seem to be harping on this theme, but it's also a fascinating look at the culture of that time.

8. About Three Bricks Shy of a Load, by Roy Blount Jr. -- Blount gets inside the Steelers just before they start winning Super Bowls. No one could get this sort of access today.

9. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis -- Might be the best book ever written about baseball, because it shatters a lot of preconceived notions and takes us inside the head of a revolutionary GM, Billy Beane of the A's.

10. The Universal Baseball Association, by Robert Coover -- A weird novel about a reclusive man who lives through his dice baseball game. It's about obsession. If you ever played Strat-o-Matic baseball, or similar board games, and you love to read fiction, this book is for you.

Later, I'll list some of the great books that missed the cut. Sorry, Lori. The collection of Red Smith's favorite stories is on the top of the also-rans.

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