Star Scribe


The 20th Century in Sports from Famed

Washington Post Columnist Shirley Povich

Eds. Lynn, Maury, and David Povich and George Solomon

PublicAffairs; 404pp; $27.50

The return of baseball to the nation's capital coincides sweetly with the publication of All Those Mornings...At the Post -- a collection of columns by the best crack-of-the-bat-loving Washington sportswriter to ever peck a typewriter. For more than 70 years the pages of The Washington Post were graced with the columns of Shirley Povich, some 17,000 of them. Like dabs of color in a pointillist painting, the 120 in this anthology deliver a rich vision of sports in a century of turmoil.

Ruth, Dempsey, Jesse Owens, Ted Williams, Palmer and Nicklaus, Muhammad Ali -- they and so many others are all here. And whether it was railing against color barriers in sports, watching Seabiscuit beat War Admiral, or getting within 40 yards of the terrorists who slaughtered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Povich, who died in 1998, was there.

The man you meet in these columns and in the loving tributes -- especially those of children Lynn and Maury -- is as much an American original as any of the storied figures he so subtly dissects. (Fair disclosure: Lynn Povich, former Editor-in-Chief of Working Woman, is the wife of former BusinessWeek Editor-in-Chief Steve Shepard.)

Growing up in Bar Harbor, Me., young Shirley absorbs a scrappy-immigrant love of America from his Russian Jewish mother and father, inhales the salty individualism of New England, and inherits from both parents and place an innate sense of justice. If he has something to say, he says it, but his outrage is never strident. When Mike Tyson bites off pieces of Evander Holyfield's ears during a 1997 heavyweight bout, Povich writes: "It was on the record that Mike Tyson was a boyhood thief, a purse-snatcher and reform-school inmate; a street brawler, an abuser of women and convicted rapist and grown-up inmate of an Indiana prison for three years. But until last Saturday night it was unknown that he was also a cannibal."

Baseball, though, is the sport closest to Povich's heart. His first byline was on a story about the Washington Senators, and until 1972, when they left town, Povich was at every opening day -- watching Presidents from Coolidge to Nixon throw out the first ball. Odds are he wasn't far away when George W. Bush tossed the ceremonial pitch for the Washington Nationals, welcoming baseball back to Povich's town.

By Ciro Scotti

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.