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    Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly
    impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.
        -Last Chapter (October 4, 1951)

That is perhaps the most famous opening of any column in the history of journalism, and deservedly so.  In fact, as you read this extraordinarily fine collection of Red Smith's baseball writings, it is remarkable to realize just how many of his lines and phrases you recognize.  Of course, when Smith was a sportswriter, the sports page often contained the best writing in the paper.  Today our image of journalists is absurdly inflated by Watergate and the generation it inspired, but watch a movie from the '30s or 40s (say The Front Page) and you'll see just how low was the esteem they were held in.  But the sports guys had plum jobs so the position attracted truly talented men, from Damon Runyan to Ring Lardner to Paul Gallico to Smith himself.

Through some happy confluence of the stars Smith wrote for The New York Herald Tribune during the period when New York City not only had three baseball teams but three very good baseball Writing on deadline teams : the 1940s and 50s versions of the Yankees; Dodgers; and Giants.  This book, though it covers other decades too, draws heavily from this period, which has not suffered from inattention over the years, but it is Smith's descriptions of what happened (as with the opening line above) that remain in our minds.  Here's another of my favorites, written on October 4, 1947, after Cookie Lavagetto and the Dodgers had broken up a Floyd Bevens no-hitter to beat the Yankees and win the World Series :

    The unhappiest man in Brooklyn is sitting up here in the far end of the press box.  The 'V' on his typewriter is broken.  He can't write either
    Lavagetto or Bevens.

Even writing on a daily deadline, Smith managed to toss off great lines like that in nearly every column.  There are links to a fair sampling of his pieces below and the book is most highly recommended.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

See also:

Sports (Baseball)
Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "red smith"
    -The Red Smith Award (AP Sports Editors)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : Smith, Red
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of Red Smith on Baseball
    -ESSAY : Winning by Striking Out (Red Smith, October 1941)
    -ESSAY : They Can't Lose For Winning (Red Smith, August 1, 1946)
    -ESSAY : Social and Slightly Revolting (Red Smith, July 31, 1946)
    -ESSAY : Model Ball Player (Red Smith, August 4, 1946)
    -ESSAY : A Man Who Knew the Crowds : What Tony Lazzeri meant to the Yankees (Red Smith, August 9, 1946)
    -ESSAY : Hating to See Hank Go (Red Smith, August 27, 1946)
    -ESSAY : IT'S ALL GENUINE, EXCEPT SYNTHETIC (Red Smith, August 28, 1946)
    -ESSAY : OPENING DAY, YANKEE STADIUM (Red Smith, April 18, 1951)
    -ESSAY : Last Chapter (Red Smith, October 4, 1951)
    -ESSAY : THE WILLIAMS DEAL (Red Smith, January 11, 1952)
    -ESSAY : A CHAPTER CLOSES (Red Smith, May 29, 1952)
    -ESSAY : MONSTROUS INFANT (Red Smith, August 2, 1952)
    -ESSAY : FARM KID FROM IOWA (Red Smith, September 24, 1956)
    -ESSAY : SPIT AND POLISH (Red Smith, March 29, 1957)
    -ESSAY : PEPPER MARTIN (Red Smith, February 7, 1965)
    -ESSAY : BIG POISON (Red Smith, August 1965)
    -ESSAY : CURT'S 13th AMENDMENT (Red Smith, January 1, 1970)
    -ESSAY : MR. CUB (Red Smith, May 25, 1971)
    -ESSAY : SLUGGING MANAGER (Red Smith, August 16, 1972)
    -ESSAY : One of a Kind (Red Smith, 1973)
    -ESSAY : THE MOVING FINGER WRITES, ETC. (Red Smith, October 19, 1977)
    -FIND A GRAVE : Red Smith
    -ESSAY : Little Red Lie : When David Halberstam claims Red Smith was a supporter of Muhammad Ali, he has to know he's lying.  (Dennis Perrin, Iron Minds)
    -ARCHIVES : "red smith" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball The Game's Greatest Writer on the Game's Greatest Years. Foreword by Ira Berkow (David Halberstam , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball (Gary Kaufman , Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball (Maurice Timothy Reidy, Commonweal)
    -REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball: The Game's Greatest Writer on the Game's Greatest Years.(Wayne M. Barrett,  USA Today)
    -REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball (Judie Kleinmaier, Capital Times)
    -REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball (HARVEY FROMMER, Today Sports)
    -REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball (Dave Chamberlain, New City Chicago)
    -REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball (Robert Holland, Richmond Times-Dispatch)
    -REVIEW : of THE RED SMITH READER Edited by Dave Anderson. Foreword by Terence Smith (1982) (John Leonard, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE RED SMITH READER Edited by Dave Anderson. Foreword by Terence Smith (1982) (Donald Hall, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of RED A Biography of Red Smith. By Ira Berkow (1986) (Wilfrid Sheed, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of RED A Biography of Red Smith. By Ira Berkow (1986) (Peter Golenbock, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : Wilfrid Sheed, Reds (NY Review of Books)
        The Red Smith Reader edited by Dave Anderson
        Late Innings: A Baseball Companion by Roger Angell
        To Absent Friends from Red Smith by Red Smith
        1947├│When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball by Red Barber

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