Before he became famous a broadcaster, Myron Cope was a terrific writer. Do yourself a favor and track down his compilation Broken Cigars. The title was taken from a conversation Cope once had over beers with Alex Hawkins, a journeyman football player who complained that baseball was losing its popularity because, in Hawkins’ words, “nowadays you don’t ever see a fella sliding into second base and breaking his cigar.”
From the introduction:
His complaint about baseball, assuming I read him correctly, was that the laughs were disappearing from teh sport because baseball players had become predictable men–that while they surely varied in a thousand respects, the great majority of them strove publicly to be what was expected of them rather than follow their impulses. They guarded their jobs cautiously and came to think of their work as a base from which they could build alternatives for the day when their legs and arms gave out. Certainly their perspective was not unwise, but inevitably it removed from their grasp the sheer thrill of being a ballplayer. Of being someone who had escaped routine.
I am not sure that I agree with Hawkins that interesting baseball personalities have sharply decreased. But his marvelous imagery–that is, fellas breaking their cigars sliding into second base–later flashed back to me…because Prentice-Hall, the book publishers, had invited me to put together a collection of magazine articles dealing with a certain breed of sports figures that had become, more or less, my beat. Quite early in my free-lance career an editor of True had labeled me “our nut specialist’; other magazine editors, also sensing some sort of perversion in my makeup, followed suit, with the result that I was soon forced to abandon all notion of making a serious contribution to journalism. Instead I have been a biographer of a species that ballplayers call “flakes.” While old colleagues of mine have gone on to write books on foreign affairs or become giants of public relations and advertising, I have gone around picking up the broken cigars that occasionally litter second base.
The collection features stories on Bo Belinsky (“Baseball or Broads?”), Dean Chance, Roberto Clemente, Frank “Trader” Lane, Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell, Bob Prince (“Why Doesn’t He Shut Up!”), Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart, and Mike Epstein (“Make Way for the Super Jew!”). The book is long out of print is worth hunting for.