A SPORTSWRITER'S LIFE: From the Desk of a New York Times Reporter

Gerald Eskenazi, Author . Univ. of Missouri $29.95 (207p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1510-9

After a number of journalism recollections have hit it big, along comes this wistful barbershop memoir from one of the country's longest-running sportswriters. Eskenazi, a retired New York Times reporter whose name readers of the paper will associate with hockey, soccer, boxing and the New York Jets, takes readers through his 40-year career at the newspaper, beginning with his days as a college-dropout copyboy (long before the Times even had a stand-alone sports section) to his retirement in 2000. Two-parts reminiscence, one-part journalism manual, the book is filled with colorful anecdotes that he often uses to illustrate a larger point. He talks revealingly, for instance, about how an interviewing technique yielded Muhammad Ali's IQ and how he buttered up ego-driven stars like Reggie Jackson. At times, reading Eskenazi can feel like listening to a stubbornly backward-looking grandfather; he is fond of reminding you of a time before computers ("These lucky stiffs [now in the press box] have an electric outlet at their desks") and openly questions tenets of New Journalism that have long been commonplace in sports sections, with statements like "there was a certain solidity to what we in the business call the inverted pyramid." But he balances that with an insider's view and a knack for storytelling. He will also occasionally offer an argument (his riff on how today's sportswriters get hysterically caught up in the controversy of the moment only to forget it the next day is particularly dead-on), making this not only an evocation of a time gone by but a document of how reporting in this country has changed. Aided by Eskenazi's low-key sense of humor, the book feels like a day in a bar next to a garrulous and unexpectedly absorbing companion—warm, informative and likable. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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