Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand


Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand

Portraits of Champions Who Walked Among Us

John Schulian
Foreword by William Nack

336 pages


October 2011


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2011


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

John Schulian, a much-honored sportswriter for nearly forty years, takes us back to a time when our greatest athletes stood before us as human beings, not remote gods. In this compelling collection, Schulian paints prose portraits to remind fans of what today’s cloistered stars won’t share with them.
Here, Willie Mays remembers how to smile in dreaded retirement; Muhammad Ali muses about a world that was once his. For every moment of triumph—Joe Montana in the Super Bowl, Marvelous Marvin Hagler over Thomas Hearns—there is another filled with the heartache that Pete Maravich felt when he hung up his basketball shoes.
The result is a book guaranteed to stir memories for the generation that was—and to leave subsequent generations wishing they had it so good.

Author Bio

John Schulian’s work has been included in Best American Sports Writing and Sports Illustrated’s Fifty Years of Great Writing. His many books include The John Lardner Reader and Twilight of the Long-Ball Gods: Dispatches from the Disappearing Heart of Baseball, both available in Bison Books editions. William Nack is the author of Secretariat: The Making of a Champion and Ruffian: A Racetrack Romance.


"These pieces, and Schulian's longer profiles written for other publications around that time—such as a fine portrait of the cerebral but hard-hitting Bears safety Gary Fencik, for GQ—have traveled well and together capture an era ever worth remembering."—Alan Moores, Booklist

"If today's center fielders and point guards seem like lesser figures than men like Maravich and Charleston, that's primarily because they are so much more heavily covered but also because so much of that coverage is needlessly cruel. Without falsely inflating them or hiding their weaknesses, Mr. Schulian made one generation of athletes worthy subjects of wonder. Had Hollywood not called, you suspect, he'd have done the same for another."—Tim Marchman, Wall Street Journal

"Whether discoursing on boxing, horse racing, tennis players or Olympic swimmers, John Schulian delivers tales replete with the elements that make fiction come alive. Readers of a certain age will experience a walk down memory lane and others will have the pleasure of meeting some of the greatest, most interesting and human sports figures they have never heard of."—Phyllis Hanlon, New York Journal of Books

"Like a pinch hitter who steps to the plate at a crucial point in the game, John Schulian rises magnificently to the occasion. . . . These essays are pungent and heartfelt and knowing. They come at you straight and strong."—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

"Whichever way you take the title, the book is full of fine writing. Schulian deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as some of his heroes, including the aforementioned Smith and Heinz. Thanks to University of Nebraska Press for collecting this work."—NPR's Only a Game

"Looking back through the years in sports reveals much about the culture and society in which we live. It's hard to imagine Babe Ruth getting away with his trysts in a TMZ society. Or Wilt Chamberlain saying whatever comes into his head on Twitter. This is why John Schulian's recent book, Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand, is an intriguing look back at a time when athletes behaved a lot differently with their fan base."—Krystina Lucido, PressBox

Table of Contents

Foreword by William Nack     




Part 1. Hundred-Yard Warriors

Chuck Bednarik: Concrete Charlie   

Walter Payton: The Poetry of Silence     

Terry Bradshaw: A Country Boy Can Survive

Bear Bryant: A Win, and a Coach, for All Time  

Dan Hampton: A World of Hurt 

John Matuszak: Me and the Tooz     

John Matuszak: The Other Side of the Story     

John Riggins: Runaway  

Dan Marino: A Kid Among Legends    

Joe Montana: Easy to Underestimate, Hard to Beat     

Gary Fencik: Boola! Boola!   


Part 2. Legends of the Box Score

Willie Mays: Out of the Past 

Stan Musial: The Man, Forever

Reggie Jackson: The Ego Is a Lonely Hunter     

Pete Rose: Pete Belongs in Cooperstown   

Nolan Ryan: On Second Thought

Johnny Bench: Old Too Young  

Earl Weaver: The Earl of Baltimore 

Gene Mauch: The Toughest Loss of All     

Dick Allen: More a Ghost Than a Legend   

Frank Robinson: Hard Game, Hard Man

Brooks Robinson: Honored To Be a Hero    

Ernie Banks: Mr. Cub Remembers     

Bill Veeck: "Bionic Man I'm Not"   

Carl Yastrzemski: Family Tradition 

Bill Lee: Spaceman     

Mark Fidrych: Bird with a Broken Wing    

Steve Bilko: The Slugging Seraph   

George Brett: Lipstick on a .407 Batting Average     

Willie Stargell: The Pirates' Patriarch  

Fernando Valenzuela: And a Rookie Shall Lead Them    

Jim Palmer: Good-bye Doesn't Come Easy   

Oscar Charleston: A One-Way Ticket to Obscurity


Part 3. Hoops and Horses and Everything in Between

Pete Maravich: The Pistol's Parting Shot 

Julius Erving: Sky King

Larry Bird: The Ultimate Celtic    

Big House Gaines: No Way to Treat a Legend     

Al McGuire: Sunday's Jester  

Ben Wilson: Only the Good Die Young

Wayne Gretzky: Borderline Case     

Jimmy Connors: Blue Collar at a Tea Dance

John Carlos: The Olympic Ideal     

Johnny Kelley: The Elder     

Ron Turcotte: Rider Down     

Buddy Delp: The Happy Anarchist    

Bill Shoemaker: A Million for the Shoe   


Part 4. Arts and Letters

Red Smith: The Write Stuff   

W. C. Heinz: The Professional

A. J. Liebling: Joe    

Mark Kram: Poet and Provocateur    

F. X. Toole: One Tough Baby  


Part 5. Sweet Scientists

Marvelous Marvin Hagler: The Proud Warrior     

Sugar Ray Robinson: He Gave Style a Name 

Joe Louis: Larger Than Life or Death     

Tony Zale: Raise Your Glass to a Teetotaler    

Paddy Flood: One of a Kind   

Sugar Ray Leonard: The One-Eyed Man

Ray Arcel: A Touch of Class  

Roberto Duran: A Man of Stone

Roberto Duran: He Cramped His Own Style  

Larry Holmes: His Time and No One Else's 

Muhammad Ali: No Garden Party

Muhammad Ali: Marching Off to Slaughter  

Muhammad Ali: Ali! Ali! Ali! 


Source Acknowledgments 



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