Book publishers, who were reminded what a rich lode the sports Held can be when Instant Replay and Ball Four broke through to the bestseller lists, have been mining it with uncommon vigor this year. As a result, the Christmas-gift book buyer has a wide selection of titles from which to choose. None of these will be bestsellers, rout here are some noteworthy selections.
Few participant sports pack the esthetic punch of soaring. In Richard A. Wolters' illustrated The Art and Technique of Soar-inn (McGraw-Hill, $14.95), the beginning or prospective soarer is given an A-to-Z primer in the sport, including such facts as initial costs (a few hundred dollars to several thousand), history and most of the do's and don'ts. The text is presented in a concise Q-and-A fashion in the opening section, then in neat subheadings that make browsing easy and fruitful.
The Old Ball Game—Baseball in Folklore and Fiction (Herder and Herder, $6.50) by Professor Tristram P. Coffin of the University of Pennsylvania is a scholars joy, but its precision, which sometimes verges on pedantry, may put off the hard-edge jock. A chapter on Ring Lardner is alone worth the price of admission.
Bob Broeg has assembled quite another species in Super Stars of Baseball (The Sporting News, St. Louis, $8.95), which covers the field, from Alexander, Grover C, to Young, Cy, in more down-to-earth terms. It is rich with color, anecdote and fact enough for the most knowledgeable fan. Broeg, the sports editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has a keen eye for the trivial but illuminating incident (e.g., Bob Feller's schoolboy composition, in which he imagines himself a tree that is cut down and made into a home plate).
John Fulton, the native Philadelphian who became the first American matador de toros in Spain in 1963, brings a rare knowledge and a nice appreciation of the sport's nuances to Bull fighting (Dial Press, $12.50). In addition, the author has contributed more than 20 of his own line drawings, which are accompanied by more than 200 photographs by Robert Vavra.
When the first Whole Earth Catalog came out in 1968, it immediately became the bible of the counterculture. Three years and live editions have followed, but the publishers assure us that The Last Whole Earth Catalog (Random House, Portola Institute, $5) really is the last whole earth catalog. Its 447 pages contain a multitude of the mundane as well as the esoteric—who builds the best canoes, how to buy a used airplane, which mushrooms are edible. A concise, well-thought-out digest of how and where even lo a section on how to do your own whole earth catalog.
For the approximately 150 million people who attend some kind of basketball game every year, Joe Jares' Basketball—The American Game (Follett, $12.95) is a many-faceted treat, a salute to Mr. Naismith's invention. Jares has pointed his fact-tilled book toward historians, theorists, aficionados, armchair coaches, trivia lovers, gossips—in short, everybody. It is all held together by an impressive gallery of photographs.
José Torres, the Puerto Rican boxer who once held the light-heavyweight championship of the world, is probably the most accomplished writer who ever won a title. That, of course, ranks him first in a very limited field. His biography of Muhammad Ali,...Sting Like a Bee (Abelard-Schuman, $6.95), reveals the limitations. Nevertheless, Torres is well equipped to analyze Ali's unorthodox Style, and when he is dealing with the technical skills of the former heavy weight champion, he speaks with authority.
Anyone interested in the sea will find Jack Rudloe's I he Erotic Ocean (World, $15) a fascinating book and one that will be consulted often. A professional collector of marine animals, Rudloe has written a stunning beachcomber's handbook that is unique in the field. Whether dealing with the sandy-shore habitat or the ways of the shrimp, he knows his subjects first hand.
Home Book of Smoke-Cooking Meat, Fish & Game (Stackpole, Harrisburg, Pa., $7.95) by Jack Sleight and Raymond Hull tells everything you've always wanted to know about smoke cookery, and then some. It is strictly utilitarian-no pretty pictures of beef Wellington on a bed of radish roses here. Instead, the authors include diagrams of smoke ovens, including one made from an old refrigerator. Recipes and cures and tidbits like smoked pumpkin seeds, eggs, frogs' legs and blueberries—yes, blueberries.
Joe Paterno, the immensely successful coach at Penn State, is a perceptive and innovative man. What he says is worth listening to, both as to college football and life in general. In Joe Paterno: "Football My Hay" (Macmillan, $6.95), authors Mervin D. Hyman and Gordon S. White Jr. have distilled a well-organized and readable essence of the Paterno philosophy on such subjects as the faults of college football, the case for the black athlete and the evils of recruiting. A remarkable statement.
Joiner, by James Whitehead (Knopf, $7.95), is an erudite, pretentious, lubricious and convoluted first novel about a former football player with a game plan for violence. Some of the writing is vivid, but too much of it is tasteless and purposely far out. Whitehead is on the side of the angels, writes like the devil and has a gift for characterization and wit.