Thursday, June 10, 2010

Can't Touch This: The Greatest Moments in Sports by Len Berman

Of all the athletes in this book, which one is the most magnificent? Before you say Muhammad Ali or Jesse Owens, here are some hints. The athlete I've chosen had a career that lasted only two years, and he never granted a single interview. He weighed 1,200 pounds. Here's another hint. He had 655 kids. And if you're still stumped, he stood 16.2 hands. Well, hands is how you measure the height of horses. So, my vote for the most magnificent athlete in this book is the Great Secretariat.

What kid fan wouldn't love to share a pizza with a sports maven who was an eyewitness to the greatest moments in sport? Someone who was there when Wilt Chamberlain, guarded by practically every man on the Knicks' team, sank his 100th shot, there when Michael Phelps cinched that eighth Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics? Someone who knows just how it was when the 37-year-old Babe Ruth called his own 400-foot homerun in the 1932 World's Series, or the moment that same year when Jesse Owens disproved Hitler's boast of Aryan superiority right under Der Fuehrer's nose to defeat German's best in Olympic track and field, or the bitter-sweet moment when Hank Aaron walloped his 715th homerun to top the Babe's lifetime total?

But what about Roger Bannister, who ran the world's first under-four-minute mile, or 14-year-old Nadia Comanici's "perfect ten" in the 1972 Olympics? Then there are those greatest quirky sports moments, Billy Jean King's defeat of Bobby Riggs in the tennis "Battle of the Sexes," or the "Stanford Band Play" when, with four seconds on the clock and the score tied 20-19 in Stanford's favor, California's Golden Bears lateraled four times in a broken-field run which had the Bears' backs dodging the Stanford band who, thinking the game over, were marching in formation out of their own end zone, and finally tackling one trombonist, whose instrument is forever enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame, to win the game. Strange, but how about Franco Harris' "immaculate reception" or the almost unknown David Tyree's "helmet catch" of Eli Manning's pass which helped win Super Bowl XLII?

These and many other high points in American sports history receive Ken Berman's vote in his The Greatest Moments in Sports (Jabberwocky, 2009). And yes, even animal athletes have their representative--Secretariat's record-shattering and never equalled under-2-minute run in the 1973 Kentucky Derby--followed by his taking the Triple Crown that year. Veteran sportscaster Berman puts the reader right into the middle of these exciting play-by-play moments with his lively conversational tone, backed up with essential bit of sports history along the way. Terms are defined in the text and eye-catching text boxes fill the reader in on athlete's bios and stats--not to mention bits of irresistible sports trivia such as the history of the football helmet, the Bambino's personal "mascot," and a "typical" Michael Phelps breakfast. Lots and lots of photographs, vintage black-and-whites and multiple color photos, augment the text and capture these great moments to keep the reader's interest high and bring the excitement of the moment home. The Greatest Moments in Sports is the perfect gift for any young sports fan, offering inspiration for young would-be stars and fodder for those others who glory in the statistics of sport. As an added fillip, a CD of broadcast play-by-play of these historic moments and interviews of the "greatest" athletes also comes along with this book.

And for those whose favorite moments are NOT in this book? A second volume is planned, and readers are urged to vote for their favorite "greatest moments" by logging on to to suggest more big moments for this sequel.



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