Cover image for My turf : horses, boxers, blood money and the sporting life
My turf : horses, boxers, blood money and the sporting life
Nack, William.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[Cambridge, Mass.] : Da Capo Press, [2003]
Physical Description:
xii, 376 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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GV707 .N355 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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William Nack is widely acknowledged as one of the finest sports writers of the past half-century. He has won the prestigious Eclipse Award, given annually for the best magazine piece on horseracing, an unprecedented six times. Laura Hillenbrand, best-selling author of Seabiscuit, recently called his acclaimed biography Secretariat the gold standard" of horse books. But Nack's "turf" goes far beyond the racetrack.In this, his first collection, Nack's finest horse racing journalism is coupled with his legendary, one-of-a-kind profiles of athletes from Sonny Liston to Formula One driver Alex Zanardi, Rocky Marciano to Rick Pitino, and Keith Hernandez to Willie Shoemaker. And that is not all. From his compelling history of Yankee Stadium, to his inspiring account of Bob Kalsu, the only professional American athlete to die in Vietnam, to his poignant portrait of Cincinnati Reds catcher Willard Hershberger, who, at fifteen, discovered his father dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and later committed suicide himself, Nack serves up riveting stories of people and places. He also uncovers some of the dirtiest secrets in sports from the shady world of hit men and greedy owners who hire them to kill their horses for insurance payoffs to weightlifting muscle men, who, while stoked up on steroids, have gone on murderous rampages. Whether writing about famous athletes-human and equine-or weighing in on some of the most controversial events and personalities in sports, William Nack has few equals."

Author Notes

William Nack was born on February 4, 1941. He graduated from the University of Illinois, then served two years in the U.S. Army. After he was discharged, he got a job at the newspaper Newsday. He covered local politics before switching to sports during the eleven years he was there. He worked at Sports Illustrated for 23 years. He retired in 2001 and then wrote freelance articles for publications including ESPN and GQ. He received seven Eclipse Awards for excellence in writing about horse racing, the first in 1978 and the last in 2003.

His book, Secretariat: The Making of a Champion, was published in 1975 and was adapted into a movie starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich in 2010. Nack appeared in the movie as a reporter and served as a consultant. An article that he wrote about Rocky Marciano served as the basis of a 1999 film about the undefeated boxer. In 2017, Nack received the PEN/ESPN America Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. He died from complications associated with cancer on April 13, 2018 at the age of 77.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this stellar, if at times formal, collection, longtime horseracing and sportswriter Nack takes readers through his career at the track, the ring and the stadium. He forgoes many of the thrills of the games themselves for the dramas of the people (and animals) who play them. A profile of a determined and nearly human Secretariat mixes easily with an account of Keith Hernandez's loneliness, Bobby Fischer's ambivalence toward celebrity, and Sonny Liston's poignant awareness of the effect his race has on his reputation, and vice versa. Nack can use too blunt an instrument in his attempt at psychological portraiture, as he does in a piece about Robbie Davis, whose horse trampled fellow jockey Mike Venezia. (The accident took him "back to all those years of biting anger, self-loathing and shame that sprung from [his] abuse"). But more often he hits the mark. Nack also sets himself apart from other sports scribes with his prose style; rarely does sportswriting veer so easily into poetry. There is, it should be noted, a courtliness to his tone that can give some of the pieces a mechanical feel. And his portraits of place, particularly those on Saratoga and Yankee Stadium, feel especially soulless and perfunctory. But he more than makes up for these flaws with his keen eye; the author has an uncanny talent for finding the anecdote that illuminates greater truths about an athlete, such as heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano's paranoid refusal to accept checks. Anyone who has tasted the drama of sports-that is, the drama of being human-will enjoy this book, finding in its profiles of the larger-than-life an abundance of small pleasures. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

For two decades, Nack's reporting and "bonus pieces" for Sports Illustrated have been a special pleasure of reading that magazine. Nack, the official biographer of the racehorse Secretariat, works the same classic beat (horses, boxers, football, baseball) traveled by Lardner, Runyon, Broun, and others of sportswriting's Golden Age. Nack chooses timeless subjects that get his blood up: the death of Secretariat (who once copped Nack's notepad in his teeth); the 60th anniversary of the 1927 Dempsey-Tunney "Long Count" fight, perhaps the greatest sports controversy of its century; the racing paradise of Saratoga Racetrack; the bruised childhood that drove baseball's Keith Hernandez; the secret life of Rocky Marciano; and, perhaps the most ambitious piece, Nack's original search for Bobby Fischer, America's greatest chess prodigy turned recluse, in the early 1980s. For this, Nack dresses in store-bought rags to loiter inconspicuously in the Los Angeles Public Library, one of the media-phobic Fischer's haunts. Nack lets us feel his Old School discomfort with the whole gonzo exercise, including his fear of Fischer himself. Nack's pieces are so complete and personably told that it's remarkable that several of them haven't already been turned into books. For all sports collections.-Nathan Ward, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.