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NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 12.2 (2004) 62-72

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The Golden Age We Have
Who's Knocking It and Why?
Keynote Address to the Seventh Annual NINE Spring Training Conference, March 18, 2000

Leonard Koppett

Introduction by Larry Gerlach

Leonard was born in Moscow, Russia, not Idaho, in 1923 and came to the United States to New York City with his family in 1928. New York, as you know, was then, much more than now, a center of America's sport and culture, and Leonard was certainly drawn to it. In 1948, two years after receiving a B.A. from Columbia University, he joined the sports staff at the New York Herald Tribune . In 1954 he moved to the New York Post , and in 1963, to the New York Times . In 1979 he heeded Horace Greeley's advice, moving to Palo Alto, California, as a sports editor and columnist for the Peninsula Times Tribune . He assumed emeritus status in 1984 but continued to write for the Times Tribune and, since 1993, for the Oakland Tribune . Leonard Koppett has long been my favorite sports journalist for the very reasons that he enjoys preeminence in his profession. From 1964 to 1984 I devoured his weekly columns in The Sporting News . In a profession dominated by personal opinion and anecdotal evidence, he approaches his craft as a teacher and an educator. I have read most of his twelve books, four of which have been revised and reissued, and they share the same characteristics.

Many people know a lot about sports; Leonard Koppett understands sports. He has an uncanny knack for offering in new ways commonsense insights that prompt readers to say, "Of course, that's obvious. Why didn't I think of that?" For example, A Thinking Man's Guide to Baseball , which came out in 1967, remains, I think, the best explanation of the game on the field and behind the scenes. If you haven't read that book and you think you understand baseball, pick it up and you will learn a lot. The Essence of the Game Is Deception explores the essentials of a fundamentally flawed sport, basketball, and The Man in the Dugout offers a revealing examination of the personalities and styles of baseball's most famous skippers by tracing their lineage to the managerial Stengel, Mack, McGraw, and Rickey. For anyone desiring to comprehend America's obsession with sports and journalism's role in stating it, [End Page 62] Sport's Illusion, Sport's Reality , recently issued by the University of Illinois Press, remains one of those rare must-reads. And, of course, his Concise History of Major League Baseball I think is the most comprehensive and serviceable history of the subject.

I'm not the only one impressed with Leonard Koppett. His peer selected him chairman of the New York Chapter of the Baseball's Writers' Association of America, of the New York Football Writers' Association, and of the Metropolitan New York Basketball Writers' Association. Hereceived the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in 1992 and the Hank Gowdy Award in 1994, there by becoming the only journal ist to become enshrined in both the baseball and the basketball Hallsof Fame.I am delighted that Leonard agreed to speak to us tonight, and so will you be, so please welcome the thinking fan's sports journalist and baseball historian, Leonard Koppett.


I am a journalist, not an academic, so as a journalist I have certain degrees of freedom that academics do not. I found out very early in the game that the way you make a logical argument is to ignore everything that doesn't fit, and the same goes for research. I wanted to take a little different tack with you tonight and discuss what all of us have been reading and hearing and talking ourselves about baseball for the last ten or twelve years—what terrible things have gone wrong and...


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