A best of the ‘best of’ category: Pat Jordan

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Picture a gray bearded man with an Hawaiian shirt, flip flops, chomping on a cigar, enjoying life in Florida.

That’s Pat Jordan, a failed minor-league pitcher who became one of the most insightful sports journalists of this era.

“The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan” (edited by Alex Belth, $27.95, Persea Brooks, 450 pages) (linked here) has finally found its way into book stores, thanks to Belth, an SI.com writer and blogger at Bronx Banter on the Baseball Toaster network who interviewed Jordan to find out what makes him tick, and ended up pulling together some 26 stories (from more than 100 submissions) into this hardbound treasure.

What do we know about Jordan? He’s been called a “New Journalist” who uses that “novelistic technique” like Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese (the later of which Jordan admits to admiring the most in his career, calling him his greatest influence).

In a previous book, “A False Spring” (linked here and linked here), released in 1975 and again in paperback in 2005, Jordan painfully recounts his failed attempt to pitch in the big-leagues, while “A Nice Tuesday” memoir picks up three decades later, trying to pitch again at age 56.

Jordan probably didn’t come into many L.A. radars until a 1980 story for Inside Sports called “Trouble in Paradise,” which started with this paragraph:

“This is a story about Southern California and baseball, and sex, and fame, and wealth, and beauty, and the American Dream.”

It was about Steve and Cyndi Garvey, and how the Dodgers all-everything first baseman may not have been the all-everything husband to his wife as they lived in Calabasas and tried to put up this facade of everything’s all good. Cyndi, the unsatisfied spouse who was co-hosting a local L.A. talk show with Regis Philbin at the time, was the one who really let it all out, which was all on tape, which helped when the Garveys sued Jordan, Inside Sports and parent company Newsweek for $11.2 million in a libel claim that never went to trial.

Garvey, Jordan notes in a Q-and-A at the end of this book, spent $450,000 in legal fees, but all of that was for the public relations spin as they went on talk shows to give “their side” of the story.

The entire story is included in this book, as are profiles of Greg Louganis, Roger Clemens, Venus and Serena Williams, Pete Rose Jr., Wilt Chamberlain , Tom Seaver and O.J. Simpson, done for various publications over the years. They are divided into “Fame” and “Obscurity” — the later of which Jordan probably connects to best, based on his experiences as a failed athlete. Another story on the Duquesne, Pa., high school football team in 1980 for Geo Magazine, by the way, eventually was the inspiration for the Tom Cruise movie, “All The Right Moves,” and that’s included here.

So are all the right stories.

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