Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith was the most widely read sportswriter of the last century and the first to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. From the 1940s to the 1980s, his nationally syndicated columns for the New York Herald Tribune and later for TheNew York Times traversed the world of sports with literary panache and wry humor. “I’ve always had the notion,” Smith once said, “that people go to spectator sports to have fun and then they grab the paper to read about it and have fun again.” Now, writer and editor Daniel Okrent presents the best of Smith’s inimitable columns—miniature masterpieces that set the gold standard for sportswriting.
Spanning nearly fifty years and gathering many hard-to-find pieces, American Pastimes includes indelible profiles of sports luminaries, which show Smith’s gift for distilling a career’s essence into a few hundred words. Unforgettable accounts of historic occasions—Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ’Round the World, Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the first Ali-Frazier fight, the death of Seabiscuit—are joined by more offbeat stories that display Smith’s unmistakable wit, intelligence, and breadth of feeling. Here, too, are more personal glimpses into Smith’s life and work, revealed in pieces on his lifelong passion for fishing and in “My Press-Box Memoirs,” a 1975 reminiscence for Esquire collected here for the first time.