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Walter Wellesley (Red) Smith writes a daily (except Monday) column entitled "Views of Sport" for the New York Herald-Tribune. He has been doing this since the fall of 1945 and he is now generally considered the outstanding representative of the sports-writing trade. "Out of the Red," the author's first book, is a collection of 112 of Smith's best columns.
One of the prime virtues of this book is that is introduces Smith to thousands of people who seldom, if ever, get a chance to see his work. "Views of Sport" appears in only a few outside papers and Smith's following is thus limited to a comparatively small, if rabid, number of devotees (about 2,000,000).
Smith's columns average 900 words and they are, with almost no exceptions, excellent. No sports columnist is more literate, none has the great perception and the ability that Smith has to make things perfectly clear with just the right word or phrase. The cliche--bane of every sportswriter--is a rare thing indeed in "Views of Sport," because its author is possessed with the genius of describing what he sees with brand new ideas that register every time.
Smith's favorite subjects are baseball, football, horse racing, and boxing. However, there are also columns on the Olympic games ("the amateur sporting world's clearest expression of nationalism"), the Indianapolis "500" (a gigantic, grimy lawn party, a monstrous holiday compounded of dust and danger and noise, the world's biggest carnival midway and the closest sporting approach permitted by the Humane Society to the pastimes which once made the Roman Coliseum known as the Yankee Stadium of its day--cars are used in this entertainment because the S.P.C.A. frowns on lions"), on basketball, on the Westminster Kennel Club (the second one, in 1948, is often judged Smith's best column), and on fishing. The latter is Smith's favorite personal sport and it produces some of his most entertaining columns.
The dynamite incident in the Stadium two years ago has been immortalized, after a fashion, here.
Stanley Woodward, former Tribune sports editor who brought Smith to New York from the Philadelphia Record, finds the 44-year-old columnist's sole flaw stems form unalterable belief that no wrong can be done by Notre Dame, his alma mater. There is certainly little to criticize about Smiths' writing; he has his favorite expressions, but he is always fresh.
Nor has Smith lost his perspective. "I always like to remember that these are games that little boys can play. The future of civilization is not at stake. . ."
Willard Mullin, sports cartoonist for the New York World-Telegram and Sun, has illustrated the book. "Out of the Red" combines the talents of two men who are tops in their fields.
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