As a writer, Shirley Povich was polished, direct and forceful. He spent an astounding 75 years at the Washington Post, writing mostly about sports. This is the first collection of his work.
This book gathers a mere fraction of his writing — 120 columns or so — but it does so admirably well. Its selections span eight decades and the terms of 14 presidents, including Warren G. Harding, to whom the teenage Povich was introduced on the day he arrived in Washington. His last column was printed June 5, 1998, in the same edition as his obituary.
The collection has been weighted to emphasize certain topics and themes, and one of them is Povich’s Jewishness — it hovers in and around columns about the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, the murder of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and on a more cheerful note the careers of Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax. The essays that start and end the book call attention to Povich’s life, which began as that of an immigrant’s son in Bar Harbor, Maine, where a minyan might depend on who arrived on the next boat.
David Cohen is a senior editor at Politico. He has been in the journalism business since 1985 and wrote the book Rugged and Enduring: The Eagles, The Browns and 5 Years of Football. He resides in Rockville, MD.; his wife, Deborah Bodin Cohen, writes Jewish children’s books.