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Red Smith on Baseball: The Game's Greatest Writer on the Game's Greatest Years Paperback – December 17, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (December 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566634156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566634151
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #889,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It was Smith who once deemed 90 feet between bases the most perfect measurement in the universe. Those who feasted on his columns in, most notably, The New York Herald-Tribune and The New York Times until his death in 1982 would have no trouble ascribing the same measurement of perfection to his prose. Smith was the Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter other writers--not just sportswriters--went to school on, and baseball was the classroom that coaxed the best from his wizardry with the language. He was also the guy who insisted writing is easy; you just open a vein and bleed.

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

The Trojan War had Homer. Baseball had Red Smith. Through his unmatched diction, allusions and irony, through his penetrating observations and well-considered opinions, through a style verging on poetic--Smith turned the everyday drama that is the game into beautiful, enduring art. This magnificent collection of selected columns showcases some of baseball's mythic figures, revealing that it was Red Smith who helped give them their legendary status. Standouts include pieces on Joe DiMaggio, Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel (whom Smith clearly enjoyed listening to) and Bill Veeck Jr., baseball's greatest promoter. Smith's essays on Bobby Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world," Mickey Mantle's first game and Don Larsen's no-hit pitching in the 1956 World Series are all worthy of memorization, and his trenchant views on the reserve clause and the night World Series games are strikes down the middle. As a bonus, the collection offers readers a fascinating look at how baseball writing has changed over the years, as have American attitudes. By the end, for example, women are no longer referred to as "tomatoes," and "coloreds" have become "blacks." A majority of the essays deal with the three great New York teams and the St. Louis Cardinals, but this should in no way prevent any baseball fan from enjoying this book. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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If you are a fan of baseball and of good writing, then you already have this book.
Henry Sturcke
This is great for Yankee fans as brings back memories of the teams of the 50s and the way they were managed.
Michael R. Chernick
This is a collection of columns by Red Smith, one of the greatest sports reporters who ever lived.
T. Bratz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Chernick on February 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
Red Smith was one of New York's premier baseball writers. His career spanned the period from 1941 to 1981. He was in his prime in the 1950s and 1960s when I was a avid baseball (Yankee) fan and I read all the sports columns particularly those in the New York Times or the Herald Tribune. The very first column about Mickey Owen's dropping Heinrich's third strike is a gem and a great choice to start out with. The articles are in a chronological order by decades. While there is some coverage of the 1970s and 1980s over half the book covers articles from the 40s and 50s and well over two thirds of it covers through the 60s. He likes to quote Casey Stengel who had many gems to include.
This is great for Yankee fans as brings back memories of the teams of the 50s and the way they were managed.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The subtitle indicates for whom this book will have the greatest appeal: "The Game's Greatest Writer on the Game's Greatest Years." Included are 167 of Smith's best columns (written during the years 1941-1981) which were syndicated in almost 300 newspapers throughout the United States. How good was Smith? In the Foreword, Ira Berkow notes that a "blue-ribbon panel" was commissioned to select the 25 most influential newspaper people of the Twentieth Century. The final list included numerous publishers (eg Pulitzer, Ochs, and Graham) and writers (eg Mencken, Lippmann, and Pyle) but only one sportswriter: Red Smith. I thoroughly reading every single column and especially appreciated Smith's comments on Hall of Famers, of course, but also on dozens of others who had but one brief moment of glory. For example, Floyd ("Bill") Bevens, Al Gionfriddo, and Cookie Lavagetto. For those who share my passion for what was once the "national pastime", Smith was more than a great baseball writer or (as the blue-ribbon panel concluded) a great writer, period. He was also an anthropologist who examined a unique culture with style and grace as well as precision. Also with delicious wit. I would love to share Smith's thoughts about Major League Baseball today. Alas, that is a book he cannot write...and a book no one else could write better than he. Period.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. Bratz on June 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a collection of columns by Red Smith, one of the greatest sports reporters who ever lived. He wrote in an unusual style, telling a story in his colorful way, rather than reporting the highlights of the game and throwing in some quotes from the players. You need to pay closer attention to his columns than to the average sports story you'll see in a newspaper today, but you'll not only find out what happened the previous day, you'll also be entertained by his writing.
I've been a huge fan of Red Smith's ever since I heard his classic line about the horrible Packers team that finished a season with one win, ten losses and a tie. He wrote that they overwhelmed one team, underwhelmed 10 and whelmed one. If you got a kick out of that line, you'll enjoy this collection of baseball columns.
It also gives you a good glimpse of New York baseball in the 40's and 50's.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Paul Bohannon on July 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Except for Ken Smith's National Baseball Hall of Fame (1947), this work rates at the top of the baseball list. It is so good that I have given copies to the various Frick & Spink awardees with whom I have corresponded.
Best described as shorties: selected daily writings by the dean of baseball writers. Get to know the players as they really existed, not as today's fables want you to believe.
You can't go wrong here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on April 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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.
-Last Chapter (October 4, 1951)
That is perhaps the most famous opening of any column in the history of journalism, and deservedly so. In fact, as you read this extraordinarily fine
collection of Red Smith's baseball writings, it is remarkable to realize just how many of his lines and phrases you recognize. Of course, when Smith
was a sportswriter, the sports page often contained the best writing in the paper. Today our image of journalists is absurdly inflated by Watergate and
the generation it inspired, but watch a movie from the '30s or 40s (say The Front Page) and you'll see just how low was the esteem they were held in.
But the sports guys had plum jobs so the position attracted truly talented men, from Damon Runyan to Ring Lardner to Paul Gallico to Smith himself.
Through some happy confluence of the stars Smith wrote for The New York Herald Tribune during the period when New York City not only had
three baseball teams but three very good baseball Writing on deadline teams : the 1940s and 50s versions of the Yankees; Dodgers; and Giants. This
book, though it covers other decades too, draws heavily from this period, which has not suffered from inattention over the years, but it is Smith's
descriptions of what happened (as with the opening line above) that remain in our minds.
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