Pounding the Rock by Marc Skelton
The Fannie Lou Hamer Panthers were one of the Bronx’s worst high-school basketball teams—until coach Marc Skelton stepped in. His memoir about the team’s remarkable 2016-2017 season, though inspiring, isn’t always rosy. Players quit, have run-ins with cops, and struggle after the 2016 election, while a standardized curriculum does them no favors in the classroom. What emerges is a complicated, compelling mosaic about sports, education, and America.
[$26; amazon.com]Get it
The Cost of These Dreams by Wright Thompson
Mississippi native Wright Thompson is not only the best active sportswriter in America but also one of the best writers, period. This collection compiles his greatest pieces, including an illuminating, and already legendary, portrait of Michael Jordan at 50; the tale of the 1962 Ole Miss football team amid integration; and a sprawling examination of New Orleans a decade after Katrina, along with profiles of Urban Meyer, Tiger Woods, and NBA legend Pat Riley.
[$18; amazon.com]Get it
They Said It Couldn’t Be Done by Wayne Coffey
Fifty years ago, the New York Mets pulled off a miracle. The laughingstock of baseball for much of the 1960s, the team showed promise coming into the ’69 season, but by August trailed the first-place Cubs by nearly 10 games. Yet the team rallied, winning 38 of its final 49 games, and wen on to upset the Orioles in the Wold Series. Coffey’s account focuses on manager Gil Hodges, the former Brooklyn Dodger who engineered the unlikely streak.
[$28; amazon.com]Get it
The Great American Sports Page, edited by John Schulian
The sports page has always been in flux. This collection tracks the evolution of the rich tradition, from its gee-whiz, Jazz Age origins to its emergence as the home for smart, snarky analysis. The old-timers are all here—Grantland Rice, Red Smith, Dick Young—along with modern masters, including Sally Jenkins and Joe Posnanski, proving that, though newspapers are struggling, the sports column remains strong.
[$30; amazon.com]Get it
This story appears in the March 2019 issue, with the headline “The Best Games in Town.”