New book highlights best work of incomparable W.C. Heinz; Interview with editor Bill Littlefield

An excerpt of my latest column for Poynter:


The passage of time doesn’t do justice to the greats of sports journalism. Their vast works tend to get forgotten in the new media world, where today and tomorrow seem paramount. Who needs yesterday?

So many thanks to The Library of America and Bill Littlefield for reviving the brilliance of W.C. Heinz in a new book, “The Top of His Game.” Littlefield, the host of NPR’s “Only A Game,” selected the best  columns and stories from one of the best sportswriters of all time.

A noted columnist in New York during the ‘40s, Heinz became a freelance writer in the ’50s, pioneering long-form sports articles for magazines. When David Halberstam served as guest editor in 1999 for “The Best American Sports Writing of the Century,” he included three of Heinz’s stories. Nobody else had more than two.

To learn more about Heinz, who initially made a name for himself as a correspondent during World War II, check out the New York Times obituary when he passed away at the age of 93 in 2008. Buried is this passage:

“Mr. Heinz collaborated with a physician from Maine, H. Richard Hornberger, who had been struggling to write of his experiences in the Korean War. Their novel, written under the pseudonym Richard Hooker, was “M*A*S*H” (1968).”

Indeed, Heinz was a tremendous talent. For Littlefield, the new book shows how his sports stories stand the test of time.

“The main reason to put out a book like this is for people to become acquainted for the first time with writing that is as strong and evocative now as it was in 1949,” Littlefield said. “Bill had an unbelievable ear and a magnificent ability of bringing people to life. That never fades.”


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