Sports book roundup

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Arts - By Ed Sher­man Chicago Tri­bune Ed Sher­man is a free­lance writer.

“Belichick” by Ian O’Con­nor, Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 512 pages, $28

Bill Belichick hardly is a warm and fuzzy guy, and many fans suf­fer from the over­dose of watch­ing the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots in the spot­light. So some might be tempted to take a pass on read­ing 450-plus pages on the Pa­tri­ots coach. That would be a mis­take. Ian O’Con­nor’s bi­og­ra­phy ranks among the best in re­gards to the NFL. Not sur­pris­ingly, Belichick didn’t grant any ac­cess to O’Con­nor. That didn’t stop the au­thor, as he con­ducted more than 350 in­ter­views. The end re­sult is a com­pre­hen­sive pro­file that man­ages to dig deep un­der Belichick’s fa­mous hoodie. O’Con­nor doc­u­ments how he rose through the ranks as a young coach who got peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. There is a fas­ci­nat­ing sec­tion about Belichick’s com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with Bill Par­cells; Belichick served as an as­sis­tant coach for him with the Giants and Jets. O’Con­nor then de­tails the mech­a­nisms be­hind Belichick’s run of suc­cess with the Pa­tri­ots and the con­tro­ver­sies that have di­min­ished some of its lus­ter. O’Con­nor shows how his part­ner­ship with quar­ter­back Tom Brady also is com­plex. Be­yond that, the many inside sto­ries from for­mer play­ers and as­so­ciates seek to hu­man­ize a man who gives up so lit­tle of him­self to the pub­lic.

“The League” by John Eisen­berg, Ba­sic, 416 pages, $30

The multi­bil­lion-dol­lar NFL had a hum­ble be­gin­ning. John Eisen­berg tells the fas­ci­nat­ing ac­count of how five own­ers, in­clud­ing the Bears’ Ge­orge Halas, cut through their dif­fer­ences to work to­gether to form the foun­da­tions of the league. They faced long odds in build­ing the sport dur­ing the 1920s and ’30s when col­lege, not pro, foot­ball reigned supreme. Pro teams ini­tially played to small crowds and had trou­ble pay­ing their bills. The Great De­pres­sion made the chal­lenge even tougher. Yet Eisen­berg shows how Halas, along with Art Rooney (Pitts­burgh Steel­ers), Bert Bell (Philadel­phia Ea­gles), Tim Mara (New York Giants) and Ge­orge Pre­ston Mar­shall (Wash­ing­ton Red­skins) had the vi­sion to push the new NFL firmly into Amer­ica’s sports land­scape. They did it with un­prece­dented co­op­er­a­tion that of­ten wasn’t in an in­di­vid­ual team’s best in­ter­ests. A trans­for­ma­tive move oc­curred when they in­sti­tuted the first NFL draft of col­lege play­ers in 1936. Vir­ginia McCaskey, Halas’ daugh­ter, re­mem­bers her mother ask­ing Halas why de­ci­sions were be­ing made that could hurt the Bears. “His re­sponse was what hap­pens on the field was dif­fer­ent from the busi­ness of the league,” McCaskey said, ac­cord­ing to “The League.”

“The Story of Base­ball in 100 Pho­to­graphs,” in­tro­duc­tion by Kostya Kennedy, Sports Il­lus­trated, 224 pages, $30

Sports Il­lus­trated set the stan­dard for sports photo jour­nal­ism. The mag­a­zine’s lat­est vol­ume of base­ball pho­tos is no ex­cep­tion. This book fea­tures sev­eral iconic pho­tos of game ac­tion, such as Wil­lie Mays’over-the-shoul­der catch in the 1954 World Se­ries. More can­did and in­ti­mate por­traits of the game’s greats are mixed in. One cap­tures Ted Wil­liams at age 67 dis­cussing hit­ting dur­ing a din­ner with Wade Boggs and Don Mat­tingly, the young stars of the 1980s. Seated at a ta­ble with a nap­kin stuffed in his shirt, an in­tense Wil­liams dis­plays his left-handed swing as if he still was play­ing. For Chicago fans, there is a 1955 shot of a 24-year old Ernie Banks tak­ing bat­ting prac­tice.

The pic­ture cap­tures the strength of Banks’ wrists, which ul­ti­mately gen­er­ated 512 homers. There also is a shot of Steve Bart­man reach­ing for a foul ball in the last in­stant when he was just an anony­mous fan, and a panoramic per­spec­tive of the fi­nal out of the Cubs win­ning the 2016 World Se­ries. Take time to study each photo; they re­veal so much about the play­ers and the game. This is a ter­rific hol­i­day book for a base­ball fan.

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