The 167 columns that make up Red Smith on Baseball are uncannily fresh with the drops of Smith's vitality, elegance, heart, intelligence, perspective, and wit. Spanning four decades from 1941-1981, it's a dazzling collection of literature written on deadline, and an important step toward righting the injustice of Smith's work being out of print for so long. Rolled through his typewriter, the history he witnessed on and off the field--Jackie Robinson breaking the color line, the '69 Mets, Curt Flood's challenge of the reserve clause, Enos Slaughter's mad dash from first, Don Larsen's perfecto, the departure of the Dodgers and Giants, the introduction of the D.H.--seems less like dispatches from the past than postcards wishing you were here in a forever present.
Like all those who are best at what they do, Smith knew how to get himself up for the game. He came equipped with an added gear to shift into when the stakes were raised. And while that talent is on display throughout Red Smith on Baseball, nowhere is it more awe-inspiring than in his epic recounting of Bobby Thompson's 1951 "shot heard 'round the world." An abrupt and improbable end to an unbearably improbable pennant race, Thompson's home run brought histrionic screams of "The Giants win the pennant!" pounding through the radio; in the pages of the Herald-Tribune the next morning, readers were chilled by the proportion and scope in Smith's poetry: "Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again." Smith could see more than the event, he could see the big picture and the small, often overlooked moment that lived within it; his ending to the Thompson story wasn't about the Giant triumph but its flip-side--the despair of the hurler who'd served up the pitch. "Ralph Branca turned and started for the clubhouse," Smith wrote. "The number on his uniform looked huge. Thirteen."
Red Smith on Baseball is as essential to a good sports library as any single book can be. But to compartmentalize it as just a sports book would be to somehow miss the larger accomplishments of a modern master of the English language. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.