By Ed Odeven

TOKYO (Aug. 27, 2014) — I thoroughly enjoyed Greg Connnors’ Tuesday column in the Buffalo News (http://www.buffalonews.com/columns/mixed-media/sports-books-that-made-their-impact-on-readers-20140826) about favorite sports books. He polled sportswriters and broadcasters, and they provided a nice mix of top selections for Connors’ piece.

Having read the article, I thought it’d be fun to come up with a list of some of my favorite sports books. I’m just listing them, jotting them down as they come to mind and not ranking them.

OK, here goes:

The Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba, and the Search for the American Dream” — Steve Fainaru and Ray Sanchez. (A compelling biography of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez.)

The Breaks of the Game” — David Halberstam. (Chronicling the 1979-80 Portland Trail Blazers season, Halberstam’s eye for detail and extraordinary reporting give an inside look at the Jack Ramsay-coached NBA team.)

Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball’s Minor Leagues” — David Lamb. (In 1990-91, Lamb, a longtime news journalist in conflict zones, set out across the U.S. and wrote about the towns and games and characters that comprise the minors.)

The Soul of Baseball – A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America” — Joe Posnanski. (The Negro League icon shares timeless wisdom and stories of his decades-long life in baseball throughout 2005 with the award-winning columnist)

Everything They Had – Sports Writing From David Halberstam” – edited by Glenn Stout. (This anthology features essays, columns, longform reporting spanning six decades; an excellent mix of the late journalist’s legendary work.)

Heaven Is A Playground” – Rick Telander. (A compelling look at New York City summer basketball, circa 1974.)

Pistol – The Life of Pete Maravich” — Mark Kriegel. (Comprehensive autobiography of the basketball legend with remarkable research spilling out on each page. It’s one of the best biographies ever written.)

You Gotta Have Wa” – Robert Whiting. (Rich in anecdotes, funny and with great observations sprinkled throughout … the book sheds light on differences in Japanese and Western culture, using baseball as a prism to tell these tales. A terrific primer for anyone interested in trying to understand Japanese society.)

Branch Rickey: A Life” – Jimmy Breslin. (Less than 150 pages, Breslin’s bio packs a big punch, detailing Rickey’s life mission to end segregation in Major League Baseball and the step-by-step process of bringing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers.)

Quiet Strength – The Principles, Practices, & Priorities Of A Winning Life” — Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker. (The Super Bowl-winning coach’s commitment to excellence on and off the field and his never-wavering Christian faith shine throughout this inspiring book.)

Babe: The Legend Comes to Life” – Robert W. Creamer. (In my mind’s eye, the first sports book I ever read. Babe Ruth’s larger-than-life exploits on the baseball diamond mesmerized me … and they still do.)

The Red Smith Reader” – Red Smith. (A must-read collection of the wordsmith’s work.)

The Fight” — Norman Mailer. (In-depth coverage of the 1974 Muhammad Ali-George Foreman heavyweight boxing bout in Zaire, aka “The Rumble in the Jungle.”

Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times” – Thomas Hauser. (A stellar portrait of the boxing icon.)

Ball Four” – Jim Bouton (edited by Leonard Schechter). (With brutal honesty and humor, this tell-all book of the MLB pitcher, using diary notes from the 1969 season and his life in the game, shocked the sports world upon its release in 1970 and made Bouton an outcast within the New York Yankees organization — he didn’t paint a portrait of Mickey Mantle as a god-like figure, but as a human with lousy habits, including playing with the aftereffects of extensive drinking the night before, for instance — and throughout baseball. It was a revolutionary literary project at the time that influenced how sports are viewed and reported on. One book publishing editor, Jeff Neuman, told ESPN.com in 1999, “”‘Ball Four’ is, if not the most famous baseball book, certainly the most important, and in good ways and bad. It changed the expectations of what not only sports books, but sports journalism could be. It created a very different appetite among the fans for inside stories, and especially for inside dirt. It was the first book to pierce the veil of the locker room — and once Bouton started telling these stories, how could the press ignore them any longer? This, in turn, radically changed the atmosphere in locker rooms.”)

Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game” — John Feinstein and Red Auerbach. (Auerbach, the Boston Celtics bench boss through their dynasty years and architect of the team’s winning ways for decades, tells his life story and the NBA’s as the tireless Feinstein, a keen observer, reports it. Fascinating material.)

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber” – Julian Rubinstein. (OK, it’s more than “just” a sports book. It’s an epic story in many ways. Here’s how the author’s website describes the book: “Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is the award-winning saga of Attila Ambrus, a Transylvanian refugee who came to define an era. Born under Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania in 1967, Attila escaped into Hungary underneath a train in 1988, just before the fall of communism. He worked as a gravedigger, an animal pelt smuggler, a zamboni driver, and a (terrible) professional hockey goalie before taking up robbery to make ends meet.”

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization” – Franklin Foer. (Exploring soccer’s ties to political parties, nationalistic rivalries, hooliganism and violence, it provides fascinating details on how the game is represented around the globe.)

Gretzky’s Tears: Hockey, Canada and the Day Everything Changed” – Stephen Brunt. (Wayne Gretzky’s life before and after The Trade that shocked a nation and changed the sport’s landscape, and a ton of details on the decision to send the Great One to the Los Angeles Kings. In a way, it reads like a Shakespearean drama.)

One Knee Equals Two Feet: And Everything Else You Need to Know About Football” – John Madden. (There’s never been a better spokesman/promoter of the game than the former Oakland Raiders coach and TV analyst. This book breaks down how Madden saw the game and explains how and why players excel on the gridiron. With Madden narrating the game, it’s, well, fun, very fun.)

What’s Wrong With Sports” – Howard Cosell. (The broadcasting giant delivers a scathing critique of sports’ biggest problems at the time of this book’s publication in 1991. Drug use, big-time college sports corruption, wealthy owners holding cities hostage to get taxpayer-supported new stadium … these are some of the topics Cosell addresses with the proper moral outrage.)

Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association” – Terry Pluto. (Everything you could possibly want to know about the ABA – and much, much more. The oral history of the league is often stranger than fiction. What a cast of characters!)