This installment of “Conversations at the Newberry” explores the special affinity between baseball and the writers who cover it. For much of the twentieth century, baseball accounted for some of the most colorful and conscientious reporting among newspaper and magazine sports coverage. Baseball even ascended to the heights of great American literature, capturing the imaginations of such novelists as Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and John Updike. How does baseball inspire such representation in the media and other forms of cultural production? Has the quality of baseball writing changed? If so, how might changes within the sport itself account for it? In what ways does writing on baseball reflect larger trends in American society and culture? Two great sports writers, Lester Munson and John Schulian, will step up to the plate to discuss these and other questions as we anticipate another hopeful baseball season for our city.
Listen to the audio of the conversation between Lester Munson and John Schulian.
Lester Munson is a Senior Writer and Legal Analyst at ESPN and ESPN.com. For 25 years, he has reported on money, celebrity, violence, sex, drugs, race, gender, greed, court decisions, and government actions in the sports industry. His recent assignments include the domestic violence and child abuse scandals in the NFL, the assault prosecution of Hope Solo, the attempt by Northwestern University football players to form a union, the antitrust litigation attacking the NCAA, the termination of Donald Sterling’s ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, the murder prosecutions of Aaron Hernandez, the unsuccessful perjury prosecution of Roger Clemens, and the investigations of Lance Armstrong for use of performance enhancing drugs. From 1991 to 2004, he was on the staff of Sports Illustrated. He is an adjunct instructor at the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Chicago Law School and is a lawyer licensed to practice in Illinois. He is a trustee of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
John Schulian has ventured from newspapers and magazines to Hollywood and back again. He worked as a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News, was one of the creators of TV’s Xena: Warrior Princess, and remains a special contributor to Sports Illustrated. His prose has been included in The Best American Sports Writing and SI’s Fifty Years of Great Writing. He was a sports commentator for National Public Radio and has written about sports and popular culture for GQ, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Oxford American, and msnbc.com. Among his television writing and producing credits are Miami Vice, Wiseguy, The “Slap” Maxwell Story, The Midnight Caller, and JAG. In addition to writing short stories, Schulian is the editor of The John Lardner Reader, co-editor of two anthologies on boxing writing, and the author of Writers’ Fighters and Other Sweet Scientists, a collection of his boxing journalism. A general collection of Schulian’s sportswriting appeared as Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand: Portraits of Champions Who Walked Among Us in 2011, and he has most recently edited Football: Great Writing About the National Sport.
American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith, ed by Daniel Okrent (Library of America, 2013).
Roger Angell, Once More Around the Park: A Baseball Reader (Ivan R. Dee, 2001).
Frank Deford,The Best of Frank Deford (Triumph Books, 2000).
____________, The Old Ball Game: How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball (Grove Press, 2006).
William Nack, “Pure Heart: The Thrilling Life and Emotional Death of Secretariat,” Sports Illustrated, June 4, 1990.
“Conversations at the Newberry” is sponsored by Sue and Melvin Gray.
Free and open to the public; no registration required.