In putting together the names that made up our list of the Top 40 women who raised the bar in sports media over the last 40 years, we went to the bookshelf to re-read many books we’ve collected over the years to help refresh our memory, put things into perspective, and take new looks at the words.
We’ve made references to Ann Meyers Drysdale’s new autobiography, “You Let Some Girl Beat You,” Christine Brennan’s “The Best Seat in the House,” and ran a photo of the book ESPN’s Linda Cohn did a couple of years ago, “Cohn-Head: A No-Holds-Barred Account of Breaking into the Boys’ Club.”
If you get a chance, also try to track down:
== “A Kind of Grace: A Treasury of Sportswriting by Women,” edited by former Daily News columnist Ron Rapoport (Zenobia Press, $14.95, 384 pages). The title of the book, published in 1994, comes from a quote by track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee: “I don’t think being an athlete is unfeminine. I think of it as a kind of grace.” Same with the writing of such newspaper columists at the time such as Jane Gross of the New York times, J.E. Vader of The Oregonian, Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald, Joan Ryan of the San Francisco Examiner, Karen Crouse, then of the Orange County Register, formerly with the Daily News and now with the New York Times, Tracy Dodds, Helene Elliott, Julie Cart, Robyn Norwood, Diane Pucin and Maryann Hudson of the L.A. Times, Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News, Jane Leavy of the Washington Post, Claire Smith of the New York Times, Michelle Kaufman of the Detroit Free Press, Rachel Blount of the Des Moines Register, Jill Lieber of Sports Illustrated, Melissa Isaacson of the Orlando Sentinel, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register, Kelly Carter of the Dallas Morning News, Ailene Voisin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former Daily News writer Elizabeth Cosin, Cindy Martinez Rhodes of the RIverside Press-Enterprise, Laura Vecsey of the Albany Times Union, Miki Turner of the Oakland Tribune, Michele Himmelberg of the Fort Myers News-Press, Melissa Isaacson of the Orlando Sentinel, Sonja Steptoe of Sports Illustrated, Shelley Smith, now of ESPN but then of the San Francisco Examiner, Diane K. Shaw of the L.A. Herald-Examiner, Susan Fornoff of the Sacramento Bee and Lynn Zinser, then of the Memhis Commercial-Appeal.
The book closes with an afterword by Mary Garber, a sportswriter at the Winston-Salem Journal-Sentinel called “Women and Childen Are Not Admitted To the Press Box,” which goes back to what Lesley Visser wrote about in her first-person account having her first NFL press box pass in 1976 and seeing those exact words written on it.
Garber writes: “In 1946, I was barred from the press box at Duke even though I had credentials. While I was arguing with the sports information director, a little boy was hopping up and down the press box steps. He could sit there, but i could nto. i was put in the wives’ box, where I tried to cover the game as the coaches’ wives gissiped and kids beat on the table and cheered.”
She told more about her struggles just gaining access to organizations, locker rooms, coaches’ offices. She concluded: “I am concerned about the numbers of women who come into sportswriting enthusiastic, ambitious and anxious to do a good job. But after a few years, the battle gets to be too much for them. The grind of travel wears them down. All too many of them drop out of sports. Yes this happens to men, too. But we truly need to kee our good women writers in sports.”
== “Playing Ball with the Boys: The Rise of Women in the World of Men’s Sports,” by former ESPN anchor Betsy Ross, with a foreward by Phyllis George (Clerisy Press, $15.95, 192 pages). It came out in 2011, as Ross includes chapters about how “a girl from Indiana” ended up as a “SportsCenter” anchor, writes about Ann Liguori and Lesley Visser changing sportscasting, about Gayle Sierens and Pam Ward (a former “SportsCenter” colleague) starting in play-by-play, and Christine Brennan and Selena Roberts as sports reporters. Ross set up a website for the book (linked here).