When Pro Athletes Actually Had Something to Say

My generation not only bridged a transition of the craft of sportswrting, but also asked a deeper set of questions. And yet, we were still sharing with the old-timers the same athletes. Consider the stars of their time when I broke in: baseball’s Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays; basketball’s Will Chamberlain, Bob Cousy; football’s Jim Brown, Frank Gifford; boxing’s Floyd Patterson; hockey’s Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe; tennis’s Ken Rosewall, Billie Jean King; horse racing’s Eddie Arcaro, Ted Atkinson. Pantheon names—yet some newer types were coming along, sporting long hair, some even making fun of their older managers, or coaches. In fact, whole teams like this were on the horizon: the Mets, the Jets. The Yankee Clipper did not understand Simon and Garfunkel when when they sang, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”

“I haven’t gone anywhere,” he told friends. “I’ve been here all the time.”

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