By People Staff
Updated June 29, 1987 12:00 PM

by Frank Deford

The title refers to the author in particular and the sportswriting profession in general, which Deford, introducing this collection of his own pieces from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, seems t( feel needs defending. Deford, who is 6’4″ stands tall everyplace but on a basketball court, and his lively prose puts him head and shoulders above most writers—in sports out. The book’s 17 articles demonstrate the sport can be simply a point of departure of work that reads like brilliant short fiction, such as “The Boxer and the Blonde,” a piece about retired heavyweight Billy Conn and his wife. Deford, author of the affecting memoir Alex, the Life of a Child, is capable of hard reporting, telling details and psychological insights, as in “Raised by Women to Conquer Men,” the story of tennis star Jimmy Connors. The writer uses the too familiar occasion of baseball’s opening day to show off a collection of anecdotal memorabilia in “Rhythms, Baseball and Life.” But the piece does include an amusing existential meditation on the Abbott-and-Costello routine “Who’s on first?” Deford, who says he especially likes to write about jockeys, offers a “fairy tale” about Steve Cauthen, the amazing success story of 1977. There is pleasure in seeing an inventive writer’s mind at work, and Deford makes leaps that take his mundane material to another level of insight. He also manages to let his pleasure in these skills show, and that’s fun too. (Little, Brown, $17.95)