Today Show regular and Emmy Award-winning sportscaster Len Berman has hosted World Series games and Super Bowls, and reported from the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the 2000 summer games in Sydney, and the 1996 games in Atlanta. He is most known for his Spanning the World segments on the Today Show and NBC 4 in New York City. He has also served as the weekday sports anchor for News Channel 4 for more than 15 years.
I think if you ask anyone what book he or she remembers reading as a kid, you'll get a ready answer. That same person won't remember what he ate for lunch yesterday, but will recall something from a book 30 years ago. Tells you a lot about kids, and learning, and books.
For me the first book that comes to mind is Babe Ruth. That's not as obvious a call as you might think. I never had any intention of becoming a sportscaster. It just 'kind of happened.' But I do remember reading a series of books about famous sports figures. They had orange covers. One was about Babe Ruth, another about Lou Gherig. To this day, there are facts about the Babe I still recall from that book. "You mean they're going to pay me to play baseball?" That was in there. Did the Babe really say it? Who knows? But it sure sounds good, particularly in light of today's money-hungry sports environment.
My eldest son is not particularly a sports fan. But when I told him I was going to put together a book of wild and crazy sports stories, he asked me if Eddie Gaedel was in there? Of course he is. Who is Eddie Gaedel? He was the dwarf that the great baseball showman Bill Veeck sent up to bat in 1951. He was 3 feet 7 inches tall, and of course didn't have much of a strike zone. So, he walked on 4 pitches. Everyone thought it was a riot, except for the people who ran baseball. They passed a rule banning dwarfs from playing in the big leagues. My son remembered reading about that when he was a kid. Never forgot it. My Babe Ruth remembrance, and my son's Eddie Gaedel memory help to explain why I was so excited writing this book. There's a kid out there in Wyoming, or the Bronx, who will read it and carry some of it with him for life! What a powerful notion. I have no idea who wrote that Babe Ruth book I read as a kid, and kids will have no recollection of me years from now. But the stories will live on in their memories. The hole-in-one that bounced off a moving car. The basketball player who got down on all fours and barked like a dog. You can't make this stuff up. And I feel it's not only an honor, but a privilege to pass these stories down to young readers. "You mean they're going to pay me to write a kids book?" Don't tell my editor I said that.