Cooke, retired host of Masterpiece Theater, has compiled 49 of his short pieces, mostly written for the Manchester Guardian between 1940 and 1994, that cover the gamut from cricket to baseball. Boxing is given prime space, with two profiles of Sugar Ray Robinson, in his prime (``An Epic of Courage'') and in his decline (``Sugar Ray's Downfall''); and two of Muhammad Ali, in victory (``A Mountain Comes to Muhammad'') and defeat (``Come-Uppance for the `Onliest Champion'""). There are essays on tennis (``The Money Game'' and ``My Life with Gabriela Sabatini'') and the Kentucky Derby (``The Road to Churchill Downs''). Nineteen selections are reserved for golf, its heroes, tribulations and vicissitudes. Best, however, are the portraits that have hardly anything to do with sport. There are wonderful profiles-of Frenchman Eric Tabarly, who in 1964 sailed solo across the Atlantic in 27 days, one hour and 56 minutes to break Chichester's 1962 record; and of nightclub owner Max Cohen (``Oasis in Baltimore,'' 1940). Cooke's obituaries for Gary Cooper, Duke Ellington and Charlie Chaplin are touching and informative. A mixed bag. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995 Release date: 04/01/1995 Genre: Nonfiction
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