While most non-New Yorkers will vehemently argue this, New York is indeed the sports capital of the country. Boasting six professional franchises – the Mets, Yankees, Giants, Jets, Rangers, and the Knicks - the single most famous sports arena in the world in Madison Square Garden, and the site of the U.S. Open tennis championship, natives of this city may very well believe that nothing of sporting importance happens elsewhere. Stuart Miller’s book certainly supports that notion as he describes the city’s seminal sporting events, a dizzying array of wins, incandescent individual performances, and heartbreaking losses.
Coming up with a list of this kind is certain to prove controversial, and Miller gleefully agrees that the list is a very personal one. Using newspaper accounts and tapes of sporting events, Miller covers the gamut from baseball to boxing. He recounts each event in vivid detail, often adding personal touches, and gives the reader a wonderful sense of the impact of the sporting contest.
In Miller’s list, Jackie Robinson’s debut game on April 15, 1947 stands at number one, principally because by walking out on the field as a Brooklyn Dodger, Robinson broke the racial divide that had hitherto kept African American players from the major leagues. As Miller describes, “…his one small step was a giant leap, shattering the long-standing color barrier in a moment so inherently dramatic it transcended sports. It was a turning point in history, a moment crucial to the civil rights movement, and thus one of the most important events of the 20th century.”
In Miller’s glorious romp through the city’s sporting zeniths, Joe Louis gets even with Max Schmeling to recapture the boxing heavyweight crown, Lou Gehrig emotionally proclaims himself the “luckiest man” alive at his farewell in Yankee Stadium, the Rangers finally win the Stanley Cup after more than a half century of futility, and Notre Dame wins a critical game for their Gipper. The book is sure to bring a heavy dose of nostalgia to residents of the city as they read Miller’s descriptions of games won and lost, and of heroes and goats that played in the city.