In a post below John notes the contemporary deficiencies of the New York Times’s sports coverage. John’s post reminded me of Gerald Eskenazi, the venerable Times reporter who covered sports for almost 50 years. Along the way he wrote biographies of Bill Veeck and Leo Durocher as well as as-told-to autobiographies of Carl Yastrzemski and Willie Mays. From his perch at the Times Eskenazi covered just about every noteworthy sports story of the past 50 years.
Last week the Forward published Eskenazi’s review of a boxing anthology edited by Budd Schulberg. In early 2004, I noted Eskenazi’s superb profile of St. Paul’s own Herb Brooks that had been published in the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only). I wrote that Eskenazi was an old-school big-city sportswriter whose cynicism had surrendered to Herbie’s all-American authenticity.
Shortly thereafter I received a message from Eskenazi thanking me for noting the Brooks profile. I was surprised to receive his message; we had added perhaps a few thousand readers to the Journal’s million or so. Before long he also offered to have his publisher send me his very own (!) autobiography, A Sportswriter’s Life: From the Desk of a New York Times Reporter.
The book tells the great, all-American story of a second generation American who lived out his wildest adolescent professional dreams. Eskenazi’s book reminded me of the criterion Holden Caulfield applied to measure the quality of books in The Catcher in the Rye — does the book make you want to call the author and talk to him? In my view, the book scored a ten out of ten on the Caulfield Index. I finished reading the book sick in bed, simultaneously laughing, crying and coughing.
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