ESPN The Magazine executive editor brings sports trivia to book fest

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

Local Jewish sports fans will not be disappointed at this year’s St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. In prior years, presentations were made on the St. Louis Hawks Basketball franchise and talks by Red Auerbach, the legendary head coach of the Boston Celtics and Marvin Levy, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills.

This year, Gary Belsky, a St. Louis native and co-author with Neil Fine of 23 Ways to Get to First Base , will discuss his highly entertaining book, an eclectic collection of “totally irrelevant, absolutely essential sports knowledge.”

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Anat Cohen at The Sheldon

Belsky is no stranger to readers of the St. Louis Jewish Light, having contributed numerous articles to this newspaper and other publications in the course of his distinguished journalistic career. He is currently an executive editor at ESPN The Magazine and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. Previously, he has published several books, including 365 of the Worst Promises, Predictions and Pronouncements Ever Made. He currently resides in New York City.

Belsky’s co-author is Neil Fine, also an executive editor at ESPN The Magazine, and along with Belsky, one of the co-authors of Answer Guy: Extinguishing the Burning Questions of Sports With the Water Bucket of Truth. Obviously both men take sports very seriously, but also have terrific senses of humor, with Neil describing himself as “not as much of a know-it-all” as his friend and co-author.

Among the many gems to be mined in this terrifically enjoyable compendium of sports lore are:

* All eight positions in the world-famous classic Abbott & Costello routine “Who’s on First.”

* The full text of Bill Murray’s “Cinderella Story” speech in the movie Caddyshack.

* The name of every sports figure who has guest-starred on The Simpsons.

* A complete list of all bobble-heads issued by name of player and team since the fad started.

* The 23 ways in which a baseball player can safely reach first base.

Of more socially significant interest is the list “Integration Firsts: African-American Milestones in Major Sports.” While most sports fans are familiar with Jackie Robinson’s historic crossing of the “color line” in 1947, far fewer probably know that the first African-American inductee into the National Hockey League Hall of Fame was Grant Fuhr of the Edmunton Oilers, among other teams. Satchel Paige, who once pitched for the St. Louis Browns, is listed as the first Negro League Inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Also listed are the fundamental principles of the Olympic Games, which deserve to be studied again in view of the recent scandals involving performance-enhancing drugs and substances.

Belsky and Fine have provided both the fanatic as well as the more casual sports fans with a real treasure-trove of interesting and illuminating facts and figures, and Belsky’s talk at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival could be a standing-room-only event.

GARY BELSKY:

Co-author of 23 Ways to Get to First Base

will speak at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 5

Admission: $15 or free with series ticket