Best of Gary Smith: SI staffers pick their favorite stories from one of all time greats

Put this post aside for when you have some time to do some reading. This is more than worth your time.

With Gary Smith announcing his retirement, Sports Illustrated did a terrific post asking staffers and others to select their favorite stories from him. Smith even participated in the exercise.

From the post:

Picking a favorite Gary Smith story is a near impossible task; there are so many great ones to choose from. When asked to pick his favorite or most memorable SI story, Smith identified two: a 1996 piece about an 18-year old mentally impaired South Carolina boy affectionately called Radio, which was made into a movie in 2003; and Damned Yankee, a 1997 story about a tormented Yankees catcher named John Malangone. “Out of all my stories, something just sticks out with those two,” Smith said.

I would put the Radio story high on my list. I also agree with SI editor Paul Fichtenbaum’s selection.

Paul Fichtenbaum, Editor, Time Inc. Sports Group
Frank Hall, American Hero, June 24, 2013

Trying to pick your favorite Gary Smith story is like trying to choose which of your children you love the most — it’s an impossible task. But if I have to pick I’ll point to one of his most recent longforms, the story of Frank Hall, who faced down a deadly school shooter in Chardon, Ohio. Why? First, it’s remarkable that somebody can sustain a level of unmatched excellence in any craft, especially after 30 years, and Gary has done just that in telling the tale of Hall. Second, it’s a helluva story, rich with details only a superior reporter can unearth, it is meticulously told with passion and emotion, and it is about a true American hero. What more can you ask?

From Richard Deitsch:

Richard Deitsch, senior editor
Shadow Of A Nation, Feb. 18, 1991

Commas. In the hands of an amateur, they can murder a reader. In the hands of a master, they create poetry. I’ve never seen a writer use the punctuation staple as elegantly as Gary Smith did, and no piece of sports writing has witnessed commas travel with more elegance than the tale of Jonathan Takes-Enemy, Crow Nation basketball legend. Here is but one graph: Through the sage and the buffalo grass they swept, over buttes and boulder-filled gullies, as in the long-ago days when their scouts had spotted buffalo and their village had packed up its lodge poles and tepee skins, lashed them to the dogs and migrated in pursuit of the herd. Damn, that’s perfect.

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