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Best Sports Books for 2016

Tis the season to take a look back at what was good to read in sports books in the past year. It was a pretty good year, all things considered, with some really terrific efforts.

Here's my top 10 (at least that I read), with links to my reviews on my own blog or to a News review:

Playing Through the Whistle - S.L. Price: It's probably my favorite sports book of the year, even though sports are only part of the story. Price takes a long look at a steel town outside of Pittsburgh that no longer makes steel and how football has been a big part of the community over the years.

Olympic Collision - Kyle Keiderling: The unique story involving Mary Decker and Zola Budd is fully explored here. They were the runners who tangled at the 1984 Olympic Games, changing both of their lives forever. It's interesting to catch up with them.

Bad News - Mike Carey: Do you think any fan of the Buffalo Braves could resist this biography of Marvin Barnes? I couldn't. Marvin was a one-of-a-kind personality, and the Braves were a small part of the story.

My Marathon - Frank Shorter: This is one of the most thoughtful people in sports, and he's had all sorts of unexpected twists to his life - especially in his youth. Not just for runners.

The Only Rule Is That It Has to Work - Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller: A couple of stat analysts get the chance to run their own pro baseball team. This book gets much of its charm from the way the independent league is run, as the guys who take part are the longest of long shots.

I'd Know That Voice Anywhere - Frank Deford: One of the all-time greats in sports journalism checks in with some of his lighter work. Man, he's good.

The Arm - Jeff Passen: A former News intern has done pretty well for himself, as he's a national baseball columnist. This is the definitive look at arm injuries. That's a little specialized, but it will answer all your questions and then some.

The Selling of the Babe - Glenn Stout: How did Babe Ruth wind up with the Yankees after being a star with the Red Sox? Stout takes a fascinating look at the season that led to the deal that changed baseball history.

Game 7, 1986 - Ron Darling: This is a very unusual angle for a book. What happens when you do poorly in the biggest game of your life but still win a championship? Darling's introspective look is as unexpected as it is great to read.

Players - Matthew Futterman: It's tough to make the story of money in sports very interesting, at least for some, but this covers some interesting historical episodes nicely.

Footnote: Two books from 2016 are on my wishlist - one has been purchased, while I'll get to the other soon. The Best American Sports Writing 2016 is part of an annual series; I haven't missed one yet in 26 years. Lasting Impact by Kostya Kennedy also promises to be good. His books on Pete Rose and Joe DiMaggio were both excellent.

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