They’ve hit the stores recently with a giant shelf presence, and they’re worth considering as holiday gifts:
== “The Official and Exclusive Illustrated History of USC Trojan Football”
Skybox Press, 314 pages, $75
The picture book-deluxe weights in at almost six pounds, but it’s not a lot of heavy reading. Most of the essays scattered inside by Pat Haden, Ronnie Lott, Dr. Art Bartner, Mike Garrett, Anthony Munoz, Troy Polamalu, Pete Carroll and J.K. McKay add context to the wealth of photos, many of which we’d never seen before. A team shot of USC’s first squad in 1888 — 11 players, one coach, and one not pictured. There’s a photo of Trojans tackle Marion Morrison (aka John Wayne) listening to instructions from coach Howard Jones at the top of page 53. It allows the reader to sit and gaze as the years go by as the vivid cardinal and gold jumps off the pages. If you enjoyed previous Skybox publications about the Dodgers, or what Insight publishing did for the Angels, then adding this to the collection is worth fighting to find.
== Note: The publishers are offering a holiday 60 percent off special: Just $29 per copy at their website with free shipping
== “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams”
By Ben Bradlee Jr.
Little Brown and Co., 864 pages, $35
Both the author and subject matter are heavy hitters, adding to the weight and thickness of this one. Imagine taking a decade and talking to more than 600 people about what they knew about Ted Williams. There are 14 pages listing people who were interviewed, including Tommy Lasorda, Curt Gowdy, Ernie Harwell, Bob Cousy, Bob Costas, Charlie Rose, Morley Safer and Bob Scherbarth (who caught one game for the Red Sox in 1950). There are 27 pages of notes. A four-page bibliography. And 24 pages of index. Most interesting to us is Chapter 5, devoted to Williams’ relationship with the media, “a subject I found rich and important in understanding the Kid,” writes Bradlee. The footnote we found on page 600 was all we needed to sum up our impressions of how Williams lived. “In the early ‘60s while shooting a film for Sears (the department store who Williams had a large endorsement deal with for its sporting goods equipment), Ted had expertly maneuvered a tarpon directly into his boat for the benefit of a photographer stationed in an adjacent boat, only to find that the photographer hadn’t been ready and had missed the shot. Enraged, Ted paid the man on the spot and sped off telling him to find his own way home.” We also found it interesting that of all the folks Bradlee interviewed, Peter Gammons was not included. But Gammons did write this jacket blurb: “I love this book. Ben Bradlee Jr’s epic study of Ted Williams, The Kid, is a fascinating exploration into the mind of a complicated artistic genius. Like so many artists and baseball giants, Williams had a raging insecurity that Bradlee captures. This is not a baseball biography, it is the portrait of an artist from an immigrant background to arguably the greatest moment in All Star Game history in 1999.”
= A New York Times review
= A story on NPR
== “Hoop: The American Dream”
By photographer Robin Layton
powerHouse books, 180 pages, $40
“If there was a chain on the hoop, it was a good day. If there wasn’t, it was a tougher day.” The quote is from Ann Meyers Drysdale, and it’s next to artistic photo of the basket that the former UCLA All-American shot on as a kid at Ladera Palma Elementary School in La Habra. There are more than 100 photos of hoops across this country taken by free-lancer Layton, capturing “that altars upon such they laid their dreams, honed their skills and made a first splash in the game,” according to the intro text.
The coffee table-sized compilation – about as big as a backboard in some cases – shows hoops from all walks of life, all kinds of city parks to private backyards, from the palm trees at Venice Beach to the court at the White House. The shots, too, are in all contexts, from reflections caught in pools or puddles, hoops attached to beautiful trees or San Francisco underpasses, at sunset, sunrise, in the rain and snow. Even the very closeup hoop net eyelet shot in Beverly Hills. One four-page spread that will cause for pause is when you meet the old backboard with no hoop left that Larry Bird used at his childhood home in French Lick, Indiana, on the corner of Jefferson and Washington. Jerry West provides the forward.
= The official “Hoop” website
= An interview with ESPN’s TrueHoop blog
== “The Rose Bowl 100th Celebration”
By Malcolm Moran
Whitman Publishing LLC and the Vault Series, 144 pages, $49.95
Keith Jackson writes a simple forward for this book put together by Moran, the director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University. But that’s just the start of the fun that comes once you pull this out of its slipcover. Those with smart phone can scan codes to see film clips from games and parades. More tangible history comes alive with all kinds of reproduced things such as ticket stubs, press releases, VIP passes, media credentials, rosters, post cards and shrunken-down program covers. For example, there’s a folded up pink scorecard from the 1923 USC-Penn State game (courtesy of B.H. Dyas Co. Sporting and Outing Goods) that shows the players, position, age and weight of both teams. Take a quick look at that 28-man Trojan roster, and you’ll see none is bigger than 184 pounds. The story of that game also includes an explanation of how the game got its name — it was from Pasadena Star News sportswriter Harland “Dusty” Hall.
= From the National Sports Journalism Center
== “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful”
304 pages, $50
Seems there should be some kind of cover charge to pick this up in the store and start flipping through. This one’s almost seven pounds of fun. Anything with Kathy Ireland has to be. Even the first cover model in 1964 — Babette March, complete with a yellow bathing cap.