For those of us who were on this planet before the Internet made instantaneous searching and the finding of all things important, trivial and everything in between a function of your fingertips, this NY Times article is a sweet, sentimental read.
Photo credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times
It’s about Xander Hollander, 90, who compiled the sports yearbooks, The Complete Handbooks for 26 years, from 1971-97. Hollander preceded stats outfits like the Elias Sports Bureau, pretty much birthing numerous sports writers and stat geeks that currently populate what’s left of traditional sports publishing, the Net and cable, not to mention the fantasy industry and stats data companies.
His DNA is all up in the Godzilla of All Things Sports.
“As the president and founder of Associated Features, Hollander operated like a Hollywood producer: curating writers and photographers, coming up with an idea and selling it to a publisher or a corporate client. All told, he edited or wrote some 300 books over 45 years.
The Complete Handbooks were not the only influential title Hollander, whom Sports Illustrated once called “the unofficial king of sports paperbacks,” had a hand in. Mark Simon, who helps oversee ESPN’s Stats & Info blog, gravitated toward Hollander’s The Book of Sports Lists and The Home Run Book.”
As a kid I remember these books, vividly. Though I wasn’t a big fan or collector that a lot of kids and eventual sports writers and execs were – there’s a litany of them in this piece – I do remember seeing them, even picking a few of them up. I was a Street & Smith’s fan (I spent many afternoons poring over the NBA & NCAA pages of the annual editions at newsstands – “Pop, what’s a ‘newsstand?’ – in NYC, Cambridge & DC), the very kind of magazine that encroached on Hollander’s book publishing business model before giving way to the new tech pitiful publishing platform we are currently suffering through.
Hollander’s 90, suffering from the after effects of a stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. But he did the brick & mortar, typewriter thing (he never used a computer. Ever.) before tech reconstructed the world and made any ninny with a computer, a modem and an opinion a a writer.
The writers quoted in in this piece, a lot of them Hollander’s disciples, all revere him, and rightfully so: if a guy came along and gave you the ability to see the game you loved as a child from behind the scenes, pulled the curtain and revealed the sports world from an insider’s perspective and eventually you make a living at it, why wouldn’t you love him?
I can’t think of a reason not to.