Books In Brief // Sports

January 13, 2008|By The Sun, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Los Angeles Times

THE ENTITLED -- By Frank Deford Sourcebooks Landmark / 352 pages / $14.95

After a career spent knocking around in the minor leagues as a player and manager, Howie Traveler has finally made it to the majors as manager of the Cleveland Indians. The team, however, is struggling, and Howie's job is in jeopardy when the team's star player, Jay Alcazar, is accused of rape. Traveler's playing career stalled in Triple-A; now his management career depends on how well he can handle Alcazar, "the best player in the game." Alcazar insists he's innocent -- perhaps even believes it -- but Traveler suspects otherwise, having witnessed a troubling scene involving accused and accuser the night of the alleged rape. Now, Traveler has to choose between his conscience and his dream job. The resolution won't please everyone, but Deford tackles timely and provocative issues without flinching.

CLEMENTE: THE PASSION AND GRACE OF BASEBALL'S LAST HERO

By David Maraniss Simon &Schuster / 416 pages / $15

If ever a baseball player were deemed worthy of canonization, right fielder Roberto Clemente might be the one. Jackie Robinson may have suffered greater hardships during his career, but Clemente's nobility, charity and determination make him far more appropriate for a postage stamp than a Nike commercial. After 18 distinguished seasons, the Pirate star with the astonishing throwing arm died in a 1972 plane crash while en route to deliver relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. Clemente had a temper and was sometimes given to pouting, but his altruism appears to have been a genuine product of his impoverished Puerto Rican upbringing. Maraniss presents a nuanced picture of a ballplayer more complicated than the encomiums would suggest, while still wholly deserving them.

THE BLIND SIDE: EVOLUTION OF A GAME

By Michael Lewis W.W. Norton / 320 pages / $13.95

Lewis explores the rise of the left tackle -- the offensive lineman tasked with protecting the quarterback from the pass rusher -- whose presence is felt only through the game-deciding absence of said sacks. A rare creature combining 300 pounds of bulk with "the body control of a ballerina," the anonymous left tackle, Lewis notes, is now often a team's highest-paid player. Lewis fleshes this out with the colorful saga of left tackle prodigy Michael Oher. An intermittently homeless Memphis ghetto kid taken in by a rich white family and a Christian high school, Oher's preternatural size and agility soon have every college coach in the country courting him obsequiously. Combining a tour de force of sports analysis with a piquant ethnography of the South's pigskin mania, Lewis probes the fascinating question of whether football is a matter of brute force or of subtle intellect.

QUIET STRENGTH: THE PRINCIPLES, PRACTICES AND PRIORITIES OF A WINNING LIFE

By Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker

Tyndale / 301 pages / $26.99

Tony Dungy's words and example have intrigued millions of people, particularly following his victory in Super Bowl XLI, the first for an African-American coach. How is it possible for a coach -- especially a football coach -- to win the respect of his players and lead them to the Super Bowl without the screaming histrionics, the profanities, the demand that the sport come before anything else? How is it possible for anyone to be successful without compromising faith and family? In this inspiring and reflective memoir, Coach Dungy tells the story of a life lived for God and family -- and challenges us all to redefine our ideas of what it means to succeed.

KNOCKOUT: THE ART OF BOXING

By Ken Regan

Insight Editions / 260 pages / $47.25

Ken Regan was a young photographer in 1964 when he covered Muhammad Ali's first fight: his historic victory over Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. Afterward, the young photographer embarked on a lifelong love affair with the sport of boxing. For the next four decades, Regan would go on to chronicle some of the greatest fights and the greatest fighters of the age. His extraordinary photographs include many of the most enduring images created in the annals of boxing, as well as portraits of notable trainers, managers, promoters, writers, and the whole panoply of celebrities associated with the sport. Featuring some of the greatest ring action in boxing history, Knockout takes us from sparring sessions and press conferences to weigh-ins and post-fight sessions.

Sources: The Sun, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Los Angeles Times

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