Crio’s Question: What sports books did you read as a youngster? asked its subscribers to consider what words fuelled their love of sport in childhood.

“What did you read as a young sports fan? Maybe the sports pages in the local newspaper, or a glossy illustrated magazine? Did your school’s library carry biographies of famous athletes written for children, or did you go straight to the books for adults to satisfy the desire for more knowledge about your favorite sport?”

Their opening blurb also includes….”we hear about kids writing on sports from Phil Dimitriadis and Hannah Kuhar, who contribute to the student pages of the popular Australian fan site, the Footy Almanac.”

So, with congratulations to Phil for his continued torch bearing and an acknowledgement to the impressive USA based site, I ask the same question to our readership….“What did you read as a young sports fan?

Here is the link to the program:


  1. Great question. As a kid in the 60’s I was a voracious reader looking for escapism and fantasy (in a very tame way). My Dad had all the ABC Cricket Books back to 1953 and a library full of Fingleton and Ray Robinson. I can’t say that they remain memorable.
    I was an Anglophile who moved from Biggles to Alistair MacLean, and English County Cricket seemed like an idyllic world to me. Paid full time to play cricket?? Bliss, I imagined. I devoured the undoubtedly ghost written bios of Freddy Titmus and Ken Barrington and who remembers how many others. I remember trying to get through Cardus collections, but they just seemed too esoteric. My style was ‘boys own adventures’. In Christmas holidays there was a downstairs bookshop in Rundle Street (pre Mall) that had back issues of the English “Cricketer” and “Playfair Cricket Monthly” (what a title) magazines. I devoured them, and their stories of SF Barnes, Frank Wooley and other ancient English heroes.
    I always had a short attention span so the magazine format seemed to grab me more than books. In the 80’s I found the great Americans Red Smith and Grantland Rice. Their grasp of the vernacular made poetry of sport in a way that stiffer Englishmen never had. Then it was onto Australian poets of the short form – Les Carlyon and Gideon Haigh (and the Australianised Peter Roebuck).
    AFL didn’t have a great literature though I remember pouring over a dog eared family edition of Lou Richards bio (“Boots n All?). And a big format book of player profiles?? (Haydn Bunton Jnr wading through the Moana surf to overcome childhood illness; Kevin Murray; Polly Farmer and the other VFL giants of my South Australian imagination and the pink Sporting Globe).
    But the ‘sporting’ book with the biggest impact on my life was Frank Hardy’s “Power Without Glory”. It tied all the pieces together. Collingwood ruthlessness and footy tribalism. Great horses and crooked jockeys. Fixed bike races and flawed men (sport, politics and the church) who struggled with their flaws and temptations.
    My seminal book.

  2. The Wrap says

    Crikey Mr B, you had a studious childhood. I was busy birdnesting.

    How young Crio? I got my sports reading from the Sporting Globe & the now defunct Argus. They used to have the team photos in The Argus – in colour – which I’d cut out and paste on cardboard. There weren’t too many sports books around in the 40s & 50s. I guess my sports education was more oral. I was glued to the radio listening to any sports call going around – the cricket, the Davis Cup and the Australian open. And of course the Footy. Even the boxing on Friday night & the wrestling on Saturday night. You may have guessed by now I had no siblings.

    Then there was listening to the adult discussions about sport. It was our family’s religion. Who was the best pre-war footballer/team/cricketer/tennis player/golfer, and who was the best post-war footballer/team/cricketer/tennis player/golfer. No second prizes for guessing the best footballer of the pre-war era; it was Captain Blood.

    For reading it was W.E. Johns’ Biggles series, Edgar Rice Boroughs’ Tarzan & War Lord of Mars series, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Donald Duck & Phantom comics and a monthly publication from England my Grandfather used to get called World Wide Magazine. It was full of real life adventures from the Empire. And the National Geographic.

    Steinbeck, Orwell, Camus, Satre & Bertrand Russell came later.

  3. Mark Doyle says

    I do not remember too many books on aussie rules football in the 1960’s except Jack Dyer’s ‘Captain Blood’ and Lou Richards’ ‘Boots ‘n All’. Some of my favourite writing on aussie rules football was Hugh Buggy’s weekly column on aussie rules history in the Catholic newspaper ‘The Advocate’. There were many books on cricket and I particulary enjoyed those written by Jack Fingleton and John Arlott. I also enjoyed books about professional road cyclists Hubert Opperman and Russell Mockridge. I also read books about olympic athletes such as the swimmers John and Ilsa Konrads and the rower Stuart MacKenzie I also read books about American boxers such as Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis.

  4. Great question.

    And congrats to Hannah and Phil.

    I reckon my first sports book was Football the Australian Way which is still on my shelves. We then got Cricket the Australian Way (which is long gone,but who could forget the biggest ‘sixers’ (sic) at the SCG). We also had a manual by Richie Benaud – possibly a NSWCA publication (green cover).

    I have ABC Cricket Books going back to early ’70s – first one has Johnny Gleeson on the cover (from memory) but the first one I filled out (meticulously) was 1974-75.

    My father had many of the Fingleton and Robinson books, including The Ashes Crown the Year.

    I didn’t read them until after I read Frank Tyson’s Test of Nerves and The Hapless Hooker. Thise two books really got me reading.

    When I was in Grade 6 or 7 I read an American novel called Strike Three which was about a boy who wanted to be a pro-baseballer. Just terrific. And encouraging re sport and reading.

    PB, I didn’t read Power Without Glory until well after the ABC mini-series (outstanding, and Martin Vaughan’s finest acting moment) but, along with Rush, it served to stimulate further my interest in Australian history and history generally.

  5. Peter Fuller says

    The first book I owned as distinct from one belonging to my brother or parents was Keith Miller’s Cricket Crossfire. My brother’s gift about the same time was Ray Lindwall’s Flying Stumps. Another early book at home was Alan Ross’ account of the MCC tour dominated by Frank Tyson “Australia 55”. I was delighted to read some time ago, that it was a favourite of Gideon Haigh, and I seem to recall his lamenting that he had loaned it to some-body and suffered its non-return. A few years later I was given a Neville Cardus collection; sadly I was too ignorant at the time, to really appreciate its literary merit . I do recall encountering Wisden at our very modest local library.
    Living in rural Victoria prior to television, the printed word was the stimulus for our obsessive interest in sport. Wrap reminded me that we also read the mid-week and Saturday Sporting Globe; the Sun was the family daily and we also had the Argus a few times a week. Two monthly mags, Sports Novels and Sporting Life were also regulars. The Colac Herald kept us abreast of Hampden League, Polwarth League and Colac & District League football
    A real highlight were Champion and later Tiger Annuals, and for a time my doting mother even arranged a subscription to the Tiger weekly at the local newsagent for me. These would arrive by sea mail, so I guess they were about six weeks old by the time they reached me. This was my first encounter with soccer, an interest which I have maintained to the present day. My mother even sprung for Subbuteo (table soccer game) as a Christmas present in my early teens. I also came across a paperback by Geoffrey Green (of the Times) written in the early ’50s with a title something like Soccer the World Game, one of my earliest personal purchases. His later writing has given me a great deal of pleasure, as has the work of Brian Glanville and Hugh McIlvanney (sp.).
    Another minor influence in a gambling career which began aged 7, was the novels of Nat Gould. I was disappointed in recent years to read Les Carlyon’s rubbishing these melodramas, because the subject matter meant that I thought they were pretty hot stuff. I expect that if I’d be born later, I might have regarded Dick Francis’ work in a similar light, although now I treat his potboilers rather more critically.
    I actually learned to read by looking at the form guide. One of the first multi-syllable words I wrestled with was “unlikely” the appelation from a horse which was expected to be scratched. I have a distinct recollection as a pre-schooler thinking of it (and pronouncing in my head) as unk-a-ley, but I’m pretty sure I’d understood it was a probable non-starter.
    The first edition of Football The Australia Way, mentioned by John, came out in 1959, I think, and we also had that. I can’t recall any other book on Aussie Rules, early enough to be a formative influence.
    I expect that I will think of a lot more as the thread progresses, and I reflect more.
    Love the topic, Crio. Some say that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, but I disagree with them.

  6. Great responses…and I received Phil D’s for permission to use this topic here.

    Memories are always flukey but a certainty from my childhood is a poring over the Miller’s Guide.
    We’d get Mum to buy it for Father’s Day and then secure it in our bedroom for nightly quizzes… we became experts on Tassie Medallists!
    Most weeks I see John H. Griffiths pottering around the betting ring and always recall his backpage sponsorship of the J.J. Miller’s Sporting Annual.

    I remember also getting the Victor Richardson Story from my Pa, but the book I loved was my hard copy (still have ) of Les Favell’s “By Hook or By Cut”!

    Another indelible recollection is from my Confirmation – my only memory of that evening was that whilst other kids got rosary beads etc, I, thinking I’d been “blanked”, was outside the Church given a paper bag inside which was a fantastic footy book – featuring Merv Hobbs’ iconic mark(?) on the cover. Was it called High Mark?

  7. I also had Football The Australian Way (1969). I still have it – not sure if I ever read it but loved the photos. I also still have and loved Football 70, the Royal Year with Carl Ditterich and Roger Dean on the cover, again not sure if I read it but loved the stats – especially the club v club records. The photo of Bob Skilton with labels of all his injuries intrigued me. I also had most of the ABC cricket books starting with the Johnny Gleeson on the cover one. The Age on Monday was a treasure – I read every part of the sports section especially the numbers – goals, the ladders, crowd numbers; the reserves scores, the McLelland Trophy, the VFA scores, and ladders. We got the pink Sporting Globe one day – even better. Footy Week was also devoured. If we went to the footy I would read the Footy record cover to cover – every single word, even the ads, racehorse names.
    A few years later I read Every Game Ever Played cover to cover. Just liked numbers I guess. I have now worked on 6 Censuses and 8 elections.
    It’s only through the Almanac that I am exploring my literary part!
    Currently reading: Footy Town!

  8. I can remember a glossy ‘colour’ weekly in the late 6O’s. VFL Footy Life??? Was it a Harry Beitzel publication? I can remember buying it all the time because it felt so modern. The Sporting Globe seemed stodgey and old fashioned until I found that the footy reports were just an excuse to publish the form guide.

  9. Rocket Nguyen says

    Football Life, I’m pretty sure was published by the VFL.

    Footy Week was Harry Bietzel’s publication available from Moran and Cato grocery stores.

    Footy Fan – had a colour cover in the mid 1960s – can’t recall the publisher…

  10. Inside Football, Football Life, Royce Harts’ autobiography, all come to mind from the early 1970’s. It would be remiss not to mention waiting for the Sporting Globe’s arrival at our local milk bar on Saturday nights. What year did the Sporting Globe go under ?


  11. Peter Schumacher says

    “Flying Stumps” the story or Ray Lindwall was one for me, another was an early book of Richie Benaud’s (I can’t now recall the title but it did include his take of the Tied Test which was inserted as I recall “after the proofs had been read”.) I also recall a glossy book on Australian Rules Football which would probably be a collection item now but which disappointed me at time because no South Australian Footballers were included. There was a contribution from Haydn Bunton Junior but this was entirely from a Victorian perspective. Seem to remember, vaguely, reading books by Ray Robinson and “Cricket The Australian Way” edited I think by Jack Pollard. There were many others. Actually I used to read Biggles books as well and was always perusing “Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia” One I do recall that I used to go back to a lot was “Teddy Lester’s School Days” a rather idyllic take on a say a fifteen ear old growing up in an English private school. Had a fantastic narration of the hero winning a long distance running race but I think that he was good at everything. The headmaster was a Mr Stone who had the nickname of “Peter” and was portrayed as being a thoroughly great man.

  12. Lord Bogan says

    As an 8 year old sitting in the lounge room at the back of dad’s milk bar in Queenstown, Tasmania, I began reading Football:The Australian Way. It was 1978 and the book was a gift given to me by my older brother, who still lived in Melbourne at the time.

    Armed with a Wagon Wheel, Strawberry Quik and Smarties, I came across this passage by Carl Ditterich:

    “Whether I’m playing football or playing cards, I want to win, and I think that is what is wrong with a lot of young men these days. They want the easy life, and they want to get things the easy way…They are too interested in girlfriends and drinking, and some of the time this couldn’t-care-less attitude even comes into their jobs. Too many boys are too lazy to play football after school. They would rather go home, switch on the television and watch cartoons while they cram themselves with biscuits.” (In Craven, (Ed), 1972, p.p.63-64)

    1972, 78, 2013?

  13. Call me anal, but my boyhood reading was the “Wisden Critickers Almanac”, and I would read it from cover to cover.

  14. Flannelled Fools

  15. I’ve got a book titled Bonaventure and the Flashing Blade by Gary Sobers. It’s a novel. I got it for Christmas in 1968 and plan on reading it soon.

    Once I was in the newsagent in Boulder on a Sunday and saw a bloke buy the paper, The Football Register and Jack Sheedy’s My Football Life and dreamed that one day I could something like that.

  16. Ah Wisden cover to cover. I’m still trying to work out who I Zingari are.
    And why are they the “5 best cricketers of the year” who’ve never been any good before. Sort of like this year’s Brownlow with Ablett and Watson excluded.

  17. Peter S,
    ” a Mr Stone who had the nickname of “Peter” and was portrayed as being a thoroughly great man.”
    Did you have advanced copies of my obituary???

  18. Hooked on Football by Dermott Brereton, still have it now although it is a little worn. My late Grandmother also owned a Courage Book of VFL finals which I liked reading even though I struggled to understand it.

    Once owned a copy of Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the NBA which followed the Cleveland Cavaliers of 1987 into Boston Garden to face the defending champion Celtics. Lenny Wilkens (legendary coach who also coached the USA in Atlanta to gold) and his trainer who I believe was named Briggs were prominent. Game went into overtime, Celtics won. Amongst the Cavaliers were the likes of Ron Harper (who won 4 championships elsewhere), Hot Rod Williams, Brad Daugherty (who now is a NASCAR analyst on ESPN) and Craig Ehlo (the same bloke who couldn’t guard Michael Jordan on a game winning shot). Also owned an old book detailing the NFL hall of fame till about 1988.

    There were also a couple of cricket books like Two for the Road, which was basically stories told by Rod Marsh and Doug Walters complete with John Hook cartoons, and also a book called The Holy Grail Is Ours which chronicled Queensland’s first Sheffield Shield winning season.

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