By Budd Bailey
If you’re anything like me, you probably have had time to do some reading in the past several months. Funny how a pandemic frees up time for such activities.
I often do a recap of the top sports books I’ve covered in the past 12 months, some of which were published (look, I can’t read everything). Most of them have been reviewed on this website; more will be coming here on the weeks ahead. In the meantime, here’s my top 10 of 2020:
The Back Roads to March, by John Feinstein – It’s a year in the basketball life of one of America’s best sportswriters, as he chronicles his visits with some of the game’s less-than-traditional powers. So glad he took us along.
The Best American Sports Writing 2020, edited by Jackie MacMullen – The 30-year series come to an end, sadly, but there’s no drop in quality in the finale. The one catch with this version is that some of the stories are dark and have a small connection with traditional sports.
The Blueprint, by Jason Lloyd – I was three years later in reading this 2017 book about the Cleveland Cavaliers, but I am glad to get around to it. It’s hard to imagine a better job at telling how a championship team came together.
The Bona Fide Legend of Cool Papa Bell, by Lonnie Wheeler – It’s hard not to fall in love with the Negro Leagues, and Cool Papa definitely qualified as a legend in that circuit. Wheeler brings his story to life so many years later – not an easy task.
Bouton, by Mitchell Nathanson – For those who loved Jim Bouton’s diary of the 1969 season, “Ball Four,” this biography of the major league pitcher will be embraced.
Chuck Noll, by Michael MacCambridge – It was great to catch up with this 2016 book on the legendary Steelers coach. It really filled in the gaps of what he was like.
The Game, by George Howe Colt – This 2018 book took a look back at the legendary Harvard-Yale game of 1968. You don’t have to be an Ivy Leaguer to love it.
Gods at Play , by Tom Callahan – A veteran sportswriter gets the stories of his life on paper. You might have to be in the business to love this book. On the other hand, you might not, because it’s a wonderful page-turner.
I Came as a Shadow, by John Thompson with Jesse Washington – We always knew that the Georgetown basketball coach had a lot going on inside his head. This book released after his death proves it. It’s a must in these particular times.
Tom Yawkey, by Bill Nowlin – The longtime owner of the Boston Red Sox was a rather secretive person in some ways. Nowlin goes through available information to put together a worthwhile biography (especially for Red Sox fans).
Honorable Mention: “The Last Good Year” by Damien Cox; “Toe Blake,” by Paul Logothetis; “Losers,” edited by Mary Pilon and Louisa Thomas; “The New Baseball Bible” by Dan Schlossberg; “The Q Factor” by Brian Billick and James Dale; “Madness” by Mark Mehler and Charles Paikert; “The Wizard of Foz” by Bob Welch with Dick Fosbury; “Smokin’ Joe” by Mark Kram Jr.; “The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino,” by Michael Sokolove; “24,” by Willie Mays and John Shea; “Remembrances of Swings Past,” by Scott Pitoniak; “Willie,” by Willie O’Ree and Michael McKinley; “Commander in Cheat” by Rick Reilly; “Macho Time,” by Christian Giudice.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)