One of America's most acclaimed writers and journalists, Gay Talese has been fascinated by sports throughout his life. At age fifteen he became a sports reporter for his Ocean City High School newspaper; four years later, as sports editor of the University of Alabama's Crimson-White, he began to employ devices more common in fiction, such as establishing a "scene" with minute details—a technique that would later make him famous.
As a sports reporter for the New York Times, Talese was drawn to individuals at poignant and vulnerable moments rather than to the spectacle of sports. Boxing held special appeal, and his Esquire pieces on Joe Louis and Floyd Patterson in decline won praise, as would his later essay "Ali in Havana," chronicling Muhammad Ali's visit to Fidel Castro. His profile of Joe DiMaggio, "The Silent Season of a Hero," perfectly captured the great player in his remote retirement, and displayed Talese's journalistic brilliance, for it grew out of his on-the-ground observation of the Yankee Clipper rather than from any interview. More recently, Talese traveled to China to track down and chronicle the female soccer player who missed a penalty kick that would have won China the World Cup.
Chronicling Talese's writing over more than six decades, from high school and college columns to his signature adult journalism—and including several never-before-published pieces (such as one on sports anthropology), a new introduction by the author, and notes on the background of each piece—The Silent Season of a Hero is a unique and indispensable collection for sports fans and those who enjoy the heights of journalism.
" . . . Talese does not so much convince you that he got a person right—whatever that would mean—as make you feel as if you were actually hanging out with him as he practices what he has always humbly termed 'the art of hanging out.' Though the athletes he first shadowed and then captured predated even ESPN by a generation or two, Talese's work remains riveting . . . As this marvel of an anthology makes manifest, Talese transformed sports writing into literature that is both serious and delightful."—Gordon Marino, The New York Times
"Going through this collection of nearly 40 sports pieces, dating from 1948 to 2006 and reprinted mostly from the New York Times, readers should be forgiven if they forgot, or never knew, just how daring and original Talese's sports-writing efforts were in their day, his prose distinctive for its precision, its silkiness, its attention to important details that lesser journalists routinely overlooked, and its empathy for losers. Innovations aside, what's most impressive is how well these pieces still hold together, whether it's a group of vignettes on former boxing champ Floyd Patterson, an offbeat profile of referee Ruby Goldstein, a prophetic 1951 piece on one of the nation's earliest sports agents, and a look at a rare Yankees season (1979) on the road to nowhere. Good stuff from a guy who once described his style as 'the art of hanging out.'"—Booklist
"Talese has covered a number of topics, but his career's most constant thread is sports, and this collection show what makes his writing so strong: Talese finds the poignant in the everyday . . . Even a simple piece about college ball has the kind of descriptive prose hardly seen in this genre today. Whether recounting a workaday game or taking on the monolithic topic of Muhammad Ali—which he did so well in his 1996 Esquire piece, "Ali in Havana," (included here)—Talese's writing possesses so much color and clear description of the world beyond the stadium that even non-sports fans will cheer."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)