2016 sports books for the holiday season: Best sellers may catch your eye first

Adding to what we’ve posted for the Sunday media: If you’re going strictly by what ranks highest for the moment on the New York Times or Amazon.com lists, these are worth considering but just be careful and don’t judge the book by … you know the rest:

51wedo-9xul== “Shaken: Discovering our True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms,” by Tim Tebow with A.J. Gregory, WaterBrook publishing, 224 pages, $25 (released: Oct. 25). The blurb: Your circumstances do not define you,
your identity does. If he could make red caps and hand them out with that phrase, he probably would as he pursues his latest athletic dream of playing pro baseball. It’s a top seller in the “Christian Personal Growth” category.

== “Courage to Soar: A Body In Motion, A Life in Balance,” by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford, Zondervan, 256 pages, $24.99 (released Nov. 15). The blurb: It’s No. 1 in Amazon’s “Teen and Young Adult Sports Biographies” for her inspirational message of succeeding after a life that started with her on the Foster care system to a spot on the 2016 Olympic gymnastics team, and more gold medals.

== “Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre,” by Jeff Pearlman, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 448 pages, $28 (released Oct. 25). The blurb: “Grand, gritty, and revelatory, Gunslinger is a big sports biography of the highest order, a fascinating portrait of the man with the rocket arm whose life has been one of triumph, of fame, of tragedy, of embarrassment, and — ultimately — of redemption.” From the author of the 2014 hit “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” comes this predictably well research bio on the former Green Bay Packers QB one would have expected to come in a book jacket made of recycled Wranglers jeans.

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2016 sports books for the holiday season: Ones we already earmarked during ’16

We would not have mentioned them (some more in depth than others) if we didn’t enjoy them to start with and expand it into something more:

51flabt1ejl== “The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers,” by Michael Leahy, Harper Books, 496 pages, $26.99 (released May 10): From our review in March: “A lengthy read, but hardly a heavy one, with plenty of foundation and prose and content to carry it from chapter to chapter without any sense of getting dragged down by what might have kept some of these Dodgers less than happy at the time. The enlightenment is appreciated. If Roger Kahn can hang much of his literary success on the writing of “The Boys of Summer” about the 1950s Dodgers, then Leahy seems to take this to the next time period, letting the participants who were Los Angeles entertainers/residents/World Champions reflect in brutal truths about their connection to the O’Malley tradition.” We also had this Q&A with Leahy.

== “Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers,” by Michael Fallon, University of Nebraska Press, 472 pages, $34.95 (released May 1): From our review in March: “So, if you’re looking at these Dodgers as if they were an artistic expression, you might say Los Angeles was going through its Blue Period. Within Fallon’s framework, you might be able to revisit it with a more critical eye and really see it for what it was – far more interesting than maybe we gave it credit for when we lived through it.”

51hdtuf1x7l== “Making Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program,” by Shirley Babashoff with Chris Epting, Santa Monica Press, 272 pages, $24.95 (released July 12): Her story also was told in the documentary, “The Last Gold,” which we reviewed. We talked more to her about the book at an event at the LA84 Library when she revealed this story about the time she met Bruce Jenner as part Team USA competing at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal: “He was sitting in this van with a couple of officials when I got in and I was kinda like, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ and he didn’t really say anything to me. So I thought maybe he was just concentrating on something. I tried to talk to him again and he just wouldn’t give me the time of day. I was just like, ‘I don’t know why this guy’s mad at me.’ And now I realize … he just wanted to be me.”
(Also in this neighborhood: “Find A Way: The Inspiring Story of One Woman’s Pursuit of a Lifelong Dream,” by Diana Nyad, Vintage Books, 320 pages, $16.95, released in paperback June 28) Continue reading

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2016 sports books for the holiday season: In general, they may be a bit under the radar, but don’t sleep on it

General interest, major value:

91ok8v791ml== “On The Origins of Sports: The Early History and Original Rules of Everybody’s Favorite Games,” by Gary Belsky and Neil Fine, Artisan Press, 256 pages, $19.95 (released April 19).
41dpu6nfcilThe blurb: For $20, there may be no better investment in a book that encompasses not only all the nuances and ready-known parts of what goes into a sport, but a visual display that is really unmatched by Sarah Rutherford. We know there are rules for everything. But did you know: The first rule of the Naismith “Basketball Ball” game in 1891 called for “The ball to be an ordinary Association foot ball.” Meaning, a soccer ball. Kick that around. The first UFC rules in 1993 included Rule 2: “Fight to be held in a circular pit, 20 feet in diameter (to be designed by John Milius).” Milius was a Hollywood screenwriter, and the “pit” was replaced by the octagon with a fence around it. Here, there’s also a timeline of how fantasy sports goes back to 1951 with the creation of the American Professional Baseball Association game that used dice to determine outcomes (10 years before Strat-O-Matic), and the 1963 introduction of “GOPPPL” (The Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prediction League), which started with eight people in the Oakland Raiders’ front office, including team broadcaster Bob Blum. It’s worth going back to find their 2007 project, “23 Ways To Get To First Base: The ESPN Uncyclopedia,” which is in need up dating (especially the list of every athlete who has guest-starred on “The Simpsons.”)

51vwxtgoyql== “Hound of the Sea: Wild Man, Wild Waves and Wild Wisdon,” by Garrett McNamara with Karen Karbo, Harper Wave books, 304 pages, $26.99 (released Nov. 15) The blurb: The vibe is very much like the recent Pulitzer Prize winning “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life,” by William Finnegan, which came out in paperback last April. It’s about insecurities, fears and challenges for McNamara, once credited with surfing a record-height 100-foot wave in Portugal in 2013, which broke his own record of 78 feet two years earlier. McNamara is a touchy, feely guy and explains how he got to this crest in his life. His description as well about what a wave can feel like is enough to knock you off your moorings: “As I fall, my board shoots out from under me. The lip of the wave explodes square on my shoulders and head. The muffled sound of the surf roars. Underwater, I feel something hit me on the back of the head. At first I think I’ve hit a rock but below me is nothing but sandy bottom. The realization that I’ve kicked myself in the head with my own heels brings with it a surge of nausea.” Barrel up to that.

819utresgjl== “Freedom Found: My Life Story,” by Warren Miller, Warren Miller Company publishing, 512 pages, $29.95 (released Sept. 1). The blurb: Those who grew up watching his ski films know his legacy in that business, and when he left it behind, the monotone home-movie reel feel really wasn’t the same. Now they get to relish in his telling his own life story.

== “Baseball America’s Ultimate Draft Book: The Most Comprehensive Book Ever Published on the Baseball Draft: 1965-2016,” by Allan Simpson, Baseball America books, 768 pages, $44.95 (released Oct. 11). The blurb: Yes, it’s an expensive proposition, but also the size of a phone book (as your grandparents about that) as Simpson, the founding editor of Baseball America, goes back to a time when no one except his company covered the MLB draft (the first overall No. 1 choice is … of course, Rick Monday, out of Arizona State). It’s 50 years later and who better than to chronicle its history — hits, misses and other surprises. Continue reading

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2016 sports books for the holiday season: Larger than life (almost)

They are the eye-pleasing, coffee-table sized books. Some can even be used as a coffee table:

517dwgvxltl== “Game Worn: Baseball Treasures from the Game’s Greatest Heroes and Moments,” by Stephen Wong and Dave Grob, photography by Franceso Sapienza, Smithsonian Books, 320 pages, $34.95 (Released Oct. 25). The blurb: Already said to be in the running for the Casey Award (given by the literary baseball website, Spitball), this one separates itself from previous “cool photo” books by getting deeper into the making of the classic uniforms over the years (as one can see just from the cover). It even has a compendium section that gets into the inner-workings of memorabilia collecting, how uniforms were specifically stitched or embroidered, what materials were used over the years, even down to the specifics of concave and convex buttons. L.A.-based Gary Cypres and his Sports Museum of Los Angeles is noted in the credits for allowing photographs on some of his valuable pieces. One of the most poignant displays is page 50: A St. Louis Cardinals 1919 road jersey once worn by Branch Rickey, along with an autographed 1926 ball by the World Champion Cardinals and a copy of Rickey’s 1920s Holy Bible. Continue reading

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2016 sports books for the holiday season: Football, soccer, kickball … it’s not all the same game

Kick these suggestions around:

FOOTBALL:

51dyhwbzql== “Hollywood’s Team: Grit, Glamour and the 1950s Los Angeles Rams,” by Jim Hock with Michael Downs, Rare Bird Books, 384 pages, $24.95 (will be released Dec. 6). The blurb: Hock, the youngest of seven by the late Rams offensive lineman John Hock, takes us back to when Norm Van Brocklin, “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Bob Waterfield, Dick “Night Train” Lane and a PR man named Pete Rozelle figured out how to make pro sports work in L.A. before the Dodgers’ arrival. Hock’s contention is they were the first modern sports franchise — which leads, of course, to moving to another city, then coming back, then finding you aren’t the big fish any longer. At least we have these memories.

== “The Yucks: Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History,” by Jason Vuic, Simon & Schuster, 256 pages, $26 (released Aug. 30). The blurb: Vuic once wrote a book, “The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History,” but his lifelong love of the Bucs since their expansion birth is more of an accident waiting to happen. It starts with the franchise hiring USC’s John McKay to be its head man, and bringing along star running back Ricky Bell. What could go wrong when suited up as orange Push-ups? The team lost 26 in a row, from the launch in 1976 through the next-to-last game in ’77 — a road win over Archie Manning and the New Orleans Saints, who immediately fired their head coach, Hank Stram. McKay’s dry humor was the only reason to bother following the team at that point — no matter that in 1979, they were playing the Rams in the NFC title game.

81gtj0sy1tl== “Snake: The Legendary Life of Ken Stabler,” by Michael Freeman, Dey Street Books, 272 pages, $27.99, (Released Nov. 15). The blurb: We found our dog-eared paperback copy of “Snake,” which listed Stabler as the author (with Berry Stainback) and came out in the late ’80s with the subtitle “The On- and Off-the-Field Exploits of Football’s Wildest Renegade,” and included an illustration of a Raiders helmet filled with beer cans and a pair of female legs hanging out of it. Who wouldn’t want to be Stabler back then? Freeman, whose previous books have included a look at the life of Jim Brown, an expose called “Bloody Sunday,” and an “uncensored history” of ESPN, lands it again with the caveat that Stabler, who died in July, 2015 of colon cancer, was also very affected by CTE brain disease. The book comes out now, with his current wife’s blessing, as well as Stabler’s recent Pro Football Hall induction, all after his life ended. Continue reading

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