One of the reasons we founded BackPage was to introduce more of the US sports writing we loved to the UK market. We often had long conversations about writers such as Budd Schulberg, David Halberstam, George Plimpton, John Feinstein, Michael Lewis and Ring Lardner. The Best American Sports Writing of the 20th Century became our bible. However, when our second book, Barca, took off, we found ourselves focusing mainly on European sports writing.
In 2013, we attended the New York Book Expo, without question the noisiest book festival in the world. We took some meetings and investigated the possibility of publishing some of Halberstam’s back catalogue in the UK. Again, we were overtaken by events and it never happened.
That trip did deepen our love affair with US sports writing. In New York, we picked up a copy of The New York Times and found three reviews of sports books in the ‘arts review’ section. Unthinkable in the UK, where it is rare for any sports book to be reviewed in the national press.
We continued to look for interesting US manuscripts, but the right project never arose. Then, in 2018, as part of our Between the Lines series, Neil interviewed Ben Reiter, who wrote an incredible cover piece for Sports Illustrated on the Houston Astros’ amazing three-year rise from being the worst team in half a century of baseball to winning the 2017 World Series.
Around then, we bought our first US title, Grant Wahl’s superb Masters of Modern Soccer, which we re-titled Football 2.0 for the UK market. The same US publisher, Crown, were also due to publish Ben’s book on the Astros, Astroball, so we asked to read the manuscript. On first read, it immediately struck us as a very important story. By the second read-through, our pulses were racing and we were in love.
We have worked to make the UK edition accessible to non-baseball fans. The story deserves that because it transcends the sport in that way only great sports books can. It will be out on July 31, 2019. We think you’re going to love it.