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Notes on reading W.C. Heinz

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Sneed, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    After seeing the "required reading thread" about W.C. Heinz's "Death of a Racehorse," I was compelled to buy the book from Amazon. Got it yesterday, pretty much read through all of it by today.

    Just a couple of random thoughts from my reading....

    1) Where was this guy when I was growing up? I've grown up on Rick Reilly as a role model for the most part, and am of late doing what I can to retrain my brain not to try to write like him. He's not the Reilly he once was, and yet I still make sure to read his weekly columns. Need better reading, and Heinz has given me some of that with this book.

    2) I love collections like this.

    3) Even Heinz makes typos. Spell Bart Starr's name "Stsrr" in his Vince Lombardi column. And in the same column had "the" split up like "th e."

    Guess the typewriters didn't have spell checkers on 'em.

    But good, good stuff, that Heinz guy. I'm glad I found him before I turned 22 and graduated and entered the working world not having read him.
  2. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Are you really blaming Heinz for typos in a book that reprints his columns from god-knows how many sources? Christ.

    Where was this guy when you were growing up? Umm, he was writing. A LOT. [/joe] :D

    Yeah, maybe you should get cracking on that reading. After Heinz, check out Red Smith. Then Jim Murray. Shirley Povich. Ryan and Gammons. Halberstam and Updike.

    Read all of them. Then, read some more.
  3. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    As my friend jgmacg would probably point out were he still here, Heinz suffered for never having a permanent home base for much of his work. All the places where he did most of his greatest pieces folded, and so he never quite built up the legion of fans that Smith did. But other writers knew. His contemporaries were often in awe.

    I was lucky enough to attend his wake, and it remains one of the best nights of my young life.

    I've posted this before, but other than DOARH, this is one of my favorite sections, from the Rocky Road of Pistol Pete.

    So at 5 o'clock I took a cab from the hotel in Kokomo to the ball park on the edge of town. It seats about 2,200, 1,500 of them in the white-painted fairgrounds grandstand along the first base line, and the rest in chairs behind the screen and in bleechers along the other line.

    I watched them take batting practice; trim, strong young kids with their dreams, I knew, of someday getting up there where Pete once was, and I listened to their kidding. I watched the groundskeeper open the concession booth and clean out the electric popcorn machine. I read the signs on the outfield walls, advertising the Mid-West Towel and Linen Service, Basil's Nite Club, the Hoosier Iron Works, UAW Local 292 and the Around the Clock Pizza Cafe'. I watched the Dubuque kids climbing out of their bus, carrying their uniforms on wire coat hangers.

    "Here comes Pete now," I heard the old guy setting up the ticket box at the gate say.

    When Pete came through the gate he was walking like an old man. In 1941 the Dodgers trained in Havana, and one day they clocked him, in his baseball uniform and regular spikes, at 9.8 for 100 yards. Five years later the Cleveland Indians were bragging about George Case and the Washington Senators had Gil Coan. The Dodgers offered to bet $1,000 that Reiser was the fastest man in baseball, and now it was taking him forever to walk to me, his shoulders stooped, his whole body heavier now, and Pete just slowly moving one foot ahead of the other.

    "Hello," he said, shaking hands but his face solemn. "How are you?"

    "Fine," I said, "but what's the matter with you?"

    "I guess it's my heart," he said.

    Lot of good links in this thread too...

  4. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    That's the ketchup guy, right?
  5. Heinz was the first sportswriter to truly inspire me. (I'm 23.) I'd vaguely heard of him, decided I wanted to do a project for my literary journalism class on him, read Death of a Racehorse and then gobbled up What a Time It Was. Knew I'd always have something to aspire to.

    Speaking of which, it might be time to crack open my copy again and reread... (thanks, Jonesy. :D)

    DD, the Pistol Pete story is one of my favorites (besides DOARH, naturally - nothing will ever match that in my estimation). Also love the one on the Galloping Ghost.

    Smith and Deford are aces too. (The Boxer and the Blond is a must, Sneed. Read it. Read it now)

    One of the things I'll miss most about my former college town was the semesterly local book sale. I mean, this thing was massive. The sports section was always HUGE - and a freaking gold mine. Last year I came away with a couple of Smith tomes for less than a buck. Nowhere and nothing like that around here (she said with a sigh).
  6. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    So my question is....who today can compare to guys like Heinz, Smith, Deford, etc? Is there anyone? If not, why not?
  7. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    Oh and yeah, read The Boxer and The Blond once. I think it was in SI's collection of great writing. Good stuff. Good stuff.
  8. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    No one. Because newspapers and newspaper readers do not appreciate great writing anymore. And because too many columnists are nothing but screamrers instead of wordsmiths ijn the mold of Heinz or Red Smith.

    Go back to Amazon and get any of the Red Smith books ... the one on baseball is particularly fantastic (OK, I'm a huge Red Smith fan and a huge baseball fan).
  9. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    Yeah, if I could pick a single sport to write about it'd be baseball. I'll be sure to check out Smith's stuff.

    This isn't bragging, so don't take it like that....but I'm trying to take the wordsmith approach over the over-caffeinated opinion-yeller approach in my writing. Except some of my blogs, but when Manny turned down $25mil for a single year, I couldn't help myself.

    Is it worthwhile to emulate a Heinz or Smith? I'd much rather write like them than like most of the guys out there today.

    How did this whole opinionated writing thing get so big, anyway? Whatever happened to just telling stories the right way?
  10. Attention spans eroded faster than ...

    Wait, what was the question again?
  11. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    It's an interesting, but somewhat unanswerable, question. At least in my opinion. The media universe is so much different now than it was then. I mean, when Heinz was working for the New York Sun, he was writing a column every single day. Not all of them were Death of A Race Horse, but they were all little windows into the world. Even though there were more newspapers, there weren't 10,000 blogs and a major television network with a gigantic website devoted to sucking up all the sports news and offering an opinion on everything.

    I think part of the problem is that because opinions are so easy -- much harder than actual reporting or writing features -- everyone can offer one. And the way to get noticed in that crowded room is to shout the loudest, or take the contrarian POV. Heinz was writing features meant to resonate even more if you read them a second time. Who can stand to read Jay Mariotti once, much less twice?

    I think Posnanski is a wordsmith. He has gained some level of traction by simply telling stories on a daily basis, on his blog and with his column. I think S.L. Price is as good as subtle writing and rhythm (meter and verse) as anyone doing regular magazine work. I think Jeff MacGregor, Chris Jones and Charlie Pierce, when they choose to write about sports, are as good as any that we have.

    I think there are still a number of writers stiving to honor the craft of writing. But our expectations are different now.
  12. What happened to him?!
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