Thompson's 'Ain't the Beer Cold' clearly the best of this top-10 list


It's the weekend before Christmas and you're tapped out of ideas for what to get the sports fan who has virtually everything.

Never fear, the third annual "Media Watch Holiday Book Giving Guide" is here, to point you in the direction of worthwhile tomes and away from some of the dreck that litters bookshelves this time of year.

Right at the top of the "must give" list is "Ain't the Beer Cold,"

(Diamond, $21.95) a delightfully nostalgic traipse through the life and times of one of the area's most beloved announcers, Chuck Thompson, the longtime voice of the Orioles and Colts.

Thompson, who co-wrote the book with former Associated Press writer Gordon Beard, chronicles his life from his Massachusetts boyhood to his early career in Reading and Philadelphia to his glorious Baltimore days. "Ain't the Beer Cold" is refreshingly clear of any of the ego that Thompson is entitled to as a Hall of Fame baseball announcer and should-be football hall entrant.

Also available is last year's "It's a Very Simple Game," (Borderlands, $21.95) the autobiography of the late Charley Eckman, a former NBA referee and local broadcasting personality. The book, co-written by Fred Neil, who produced Colts radio broadcasts, is full of Eckman's color and candor.

"In the Year of the Bull: Zen, Air, and the Pursuit of Sacred and Profane Hoops," (Simon & Schuster, $23) is a wry account of the Chicago Bulls' march to last year's championship, written by former Sports Illustrated senior writer Rick Telander. Telander, who is a columnist in Chicago, stays away from fawning over the Bulls and paints a fairly spicy portrait of their run to glory.

Telander's former SI colleague, Rick Reilly, has written an amusing golf novel, "Missing Links" (Doubleday, $21.95), about three public course rats who bet each other to see who will play an adjacent and exclusive private course. Done the right way, this could make a hysterical movie, but the book is satisfying enough.

Not nearly so satisfying is the self-serving, "Mad as Hell: How Sports Got Away From the Fans and How We Get It Back," (Putnam, $22,95) from New York columnist Mike Lupica. Lupica's writing takes on a smug, superior tone, and the reader is left to ask just where this guy gets off presuming to speak for fans, a club he hasn't belonged to in years.

One of last winter's biggest trends in sports publication, the coffee-table book that doubles as autobiography, continues this year as two of the biggest figures in the NFL try to cash in.

"Rice" (Opus, $25), the story of San Francisco receiver Jerry Rice, is a peculiarity in that while Rice is listed as a co-author with SI writer Michael Silver, the book is written as a biography. Miami quarterback Dan Marino's "Marino: On The Record" (HarperCollins, $25) is a more conventional autobiography, but both ultimately fall short because the books are little more than banalities about their respective lives wrapped around pretty pictures.

Of greater substance is "Washington Redskins: The Authorized History," (Taylor, $39.95), an interesting study of the hated football franchise located down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Written by former Sun writer Thom Loverro, now a columnist for the Washington Times, the book is a mostly flattering chronicle that will appeal mostly to Redskins fans, but is worth a read for anyone who likes football.

Sports fans and non-fans alike will love "Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait," (Abrams, $29,95), co-written by Robinson's widow, Rachel, and Lee Daniels. The book is a powerful telling of the life of the man who broke baseball's color barrier 50 years ago.

Equally beautiful is "NBA at 50," (Park Lane Press, $50), a spectacular book of photographs of the first half-century of the league with stories told by the participants.

Pub Date: 12/20/96

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