Head on over to the Columbia Journalism Review for this appreciation of Red Smith by his son, Terence Smith:
The columns, including those so ably collected in American Pastimes, were his métier, although he would have sneered at that word. The form suited him. He was good at capturing an event or a thought or a story in 800 words or so, often with an elegant phrase or a snatch of dialogue or the perfect anecdote. He demurred repeatedly when people urged him to write a full-length book about sports or anything else. “I’d rather go to the dentist,” he’d say.
Later in life, the suggestion of a biography or, worse yet, an autobiography, was dismissed out of hand. “To be written about is to be written off,” he told me more than once. That’s not true, of course, but it revealed his lifelong anxiety about being passed over or forgotten.
Even when he had become the most widely read sports columnist in the country and collected his share of awards, he worried aloud, at least to me, about whether his contract would be renewed, whether the paper would want someone else, someone younger and fresher, to take his place. He always described himself as “a working stiff.” That was one reason he always took the side of baseball players in their salary and contract disputes with owners. He saw himself as a performer, never an owner.
The column was his contract with life. As long as he was writing it, he felt he was in the center of things, that he still mattered. That’s why he kept at it until the week he died. As long as he was writing, he was part of the world he had lived and loved. Newspapermen were not just his colleagues, they were the best of his friends, the people he chose to spend time with, on and off the beat.
This piece also serves as the afterword to the Library of America's new compilation—American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith. A better Father's Day gift you won't find.