Sports books for holiday giving

Ed Sherman
Chicago Tribune
Books to gift to your favorite sports fans

The big stars always rule in sports. That holds true for books as well. Several of this year's notable sports books focused on athletes and individuals who captured our attention like few others.

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leehrsen, Simon & Schuster, 449 pages, $27.50

Ty Cobb is known for being one of baseball's best players and all-time worst characters. His amazing athletic skills were rivaled by his dirty play on the field and a reputation as an excessively mean and racist man off the field. Leehrsen, though, offers a different perspective in attempting to recast Cobb's reputation after all these years. He attributed some of his behavior to the scrappy nature of the game back then and writes that he favored integration in baseball. Maybe Cobb wasn't such a bad guy after all?

Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius by Bill Pennington, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 530 pages, $30

Bill Pennington has no shortage of material with Billy Martin, one of baseball's most intriguing and controversial characters. Martin's career cut a huge swath in baseball history as a player for the great Yankees teams in the '50s, followed by his tumultuous runs as the team's manager under owner George Steinbrenner. He had a brilliant baseball mind, but as the title suggests, he couldn't overcome his many alcohol-fueled demons, which likely cost him a spot in the Hall of Fame. One thing is certain: Martin's rocky road never was dull.

Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott and Larry Platt, Blue Rider, 298 pages, $26.95

As one of ESPN's signature voices, Stuart Scott reshaped the genre by introducing a hip-hop vernacular to sports broadcasting. Scott, though, also left another indelible mark with his courageous seven-year battle against cancer, which eventually took his life in January at 49. Released posthumously, the book details how Scott literally decided to fight cancer by adhering to a rigorous training regime that included kick-boxing. Despite the odds mounting against him, Scott is so relentlessly upbeat one reviewer said this is "the happiest sad book I can recall."

Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk by Doug Wilson, Thomas Dunne Books, 358 pages, $26.95

Carlton Fisk had the defining moment of his career in Boston with his epic homer in the 1975 World Series, but he actually cemented his Hall of Fame credentials during his 13 years with the White Sox. Wilson writes that a strong New England work ethic was the common thread in allowing the catcher to defy age during a 24-year career. The book documents how Fisk refused to give up when many felt his best days were behind him, and how he never backed down in repeated battles with Red Sox and White Sox management.

Men in Green by Michael Bamberger, Simon & Schuster, 288 pages, $27

Bamberger writes the golf version of "The Boys of Summer" by seeking out players and characters who inspired his initial love of game during the 1970s. He has a terrific chapter on Arnold Palmer, revealing a more bawdy side of the aging legend. He also connects with the stately Jack Nicklaus. Yet some of Bamberger's best work comes in locating Dolphus "Golf Ball" Hull, an immensely colorful caddie for Raymond Floyd and others. The book does a good job in portraying a much grittier side of professional golf before big money changed everything.

Chicago Bears: A Decade-by-Decade History by Chicago Tribune staff, Agate Midway, 309 pages, $35

George Halas was a regular visitor to the Tribune sports department in an effort to solicit coverage during the early of the Bears. Given that tie to the franchise's roots, the Tribune had plenty of material to create a history book on the Bears. The book features classic Bears photos and vintage stories from the paper's vast archives. It also gives the opportunity to reprise the great work of Don Pierson, the Tribune's longtime football writer who covered the Bears from Dick Butkus through Brian Urlacher. Nobody captured the essence of the Bears better than Pierson, who wrote the introduction to the book.

Ed Sherman writes about sports media as a Tribune contributor. His latest book is, "Babe Ruth's Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery Behind Baseball's Greatest Home Run."

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