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Synopsis

From Duke Ellington to Churchill Downs, championship golf to Greta Garbo, Alistair Cooke reports on the popular sports and entertainments he loved the most

This delightful anthology, drawn from Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America BBC broadcasts as well as his reporting for the Guardian, showcases the legendary journalist’s wide range of sporting pleasures, which include golf, tennis, baseball, and horse racing, and records memorable fun he had with favorite movies, theater productions, and jazz performances.

Included here are perceptive portraits of sports personalities such as Gabriela Sabatini, Arnold Palmer, and Sugar Ray Robinson, whom Cooke regarded as the best fighter in the history of boxing. “A Mountain Comes to Muhammad” captures Muhammad Ali in victory; “Come-Uppance for the ‘Onliest Champion’ ” portrays him in defeat. A “Revised (Soviet) History of Baseball” humorously details Russian misconceptions about America’s pastime, a.k.a. beizbol. In “The Road to Churchill Downs,” Cooke captures the sights and sounds of Kentucky’s crown jewel and delights in the joy that his young daughter, Susan, who appears with her father on the cover of this edition, takes in the sport of kings.

Sharing the spotlight are celebrities of the Hollywood variety, including Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Groucho Marx, and Charlie Chaplin. Filled with Cooke’s infectious enthusiasm for fun and games of wide variety, the lighter side of the legendary journalist’s output will be enjoyed by devotees of popular culture.

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