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Communication & Media

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Famous sportswriter to speak with students


NEW PALTZ -- Roger Kahn, who has been called the best baseball writer in America, will discuss his recently completed book on the 1978 New York Yankees while visiting with students from a literary journalism class at SUNY New Paltz on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 12:30 p.m. in Jacobson Faculty Tower, Room 1010.

The workshop is free and open to the public.

Kahn is most famous for his 1972 book "The Boys of Summer," which has sold 3 million copies and is now in its 80th printing. Famous novelist James Michener called "The Boys of Summer" "the finest American book on sports."

In that book, Kahn, who was a sportswriter covering the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team in the 1950s, revisited the famous Dodger players -- Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, among others -- many years after they had left baseball. He then wrote a poignant book that is part memoir and part reportage. Michener described the book as "a work of high moral purpose and great poetic accomplishment."

New Paltz journalism professor Howard Good pointed to Kahn as "the dean of American sportswriting." Noting the "grace and humor" of his writing, Good emphasized that Kahn's work goes "far beyond what the run-of-the-mill sportswriter achieves." Good teaches the college's Literature of Journalism class and shows students how to move beyond simply formulaic news narratives.

Kahn's most recent book -- his 17th -- is titled "October Men: How The 1978 Yankees Fought Themselves and Won a World Championship." Harcourt Publishers will release it next spring. The 1978 Yankees were well known for the internal strife between New York legends Billy Martin, the manager, and Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Fame right fielder. One author referred to the team as a "Bronx zoo."

Kahn, who is 78, grew up in Brooklyn where he watched and idolized the Brooklyn Dodgers. He joined the New York Herald Tribune as a copy boy in 1948 and rose quickly to become a sportswriter. He began to write about the Dodgers in 1952, but also wrote about the other New York teams, the Giants and the Yankees.

At 26 he was the newspaper's "star" sports reporter, making a salary of $10,000.

In 1956 Kahn was named sports editor at Newsweek magazine and then from 1963 to 1969 became editor at large at the now defunct Saturday Evening Post. For a decade, he wrote sports features for Esquire magazine. Five times his articles were voted the best in the country.

In 1972 he wrote the "Boys of Summer," which became not only a best seller but a phrase that is used hundreds of times by other writers during the baseball season. Some of Kahn's other books include a biography of Jack Dempsey, a memoir of the season he owned a minor league baseball team, a history of a student uprising at Columbia University, and a recollection of the era when the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants ruled the world.

Kahn has taught writing at various colleges and lectured at Yale, Princeton and Columbia universities. He lives in High Falls.