For over three decades Bill Conlin has anchored one of America's best sports sections: the back pages of the Philadelphia Daily News. Conlin has spent his entire career in Philadelphia, starting with the Philadelphia Bulletin, but he is probably best known for his tremendous contribution to the Philadelphia Daily News. This sassy tabloid combines sharp reporting with lively opinion writing, provocative headlines, and its irreverent voice as a self-styled "People Paper." Its sports section, in particular, bristles with what Philadelphians call "atty-tude." "Batting Cleanup, Bill Conlin" is a collection of his best sports writing. From behind the scenes, Conlin presents athletes as all too human but his descriptions of game action convey the magnitude of the athletes' talent, and the demands of the sport itself. His writing is widely appreciated for the way it captures an intricate moment of baseball time through a series of sharp images and dynamic verbs.
In making the selections for this volume, editor Kevin Kerrane reveals how Conlin's playfulness with language and ideas has led to creative nicknames -- like "The Lowly Grim Giant" for Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson -- and tho entire stories based on outrageous premises. Who else would report a baseball game from the viewpoint of a space alien? Who else would interview God to find out what He really thinks about Randall Cunningham?
Conlin's columns deal with just about everything. Or maybe it just seems that way because he brings just about everything to bear on a topic that interests him: lessons from military history, characters from Shakespeare, personal experiences, persistent reporting, amusing one-liners, and laugh-out-loud jokes. His "King of the World" columns offer a fantasy of poetic justice in which fools and knaves are skewered, but with humor rather than heavy-handed moralizing. This humor, insight, keen intelligence, and a true love of sport has made Conlin a cult figure among sports fans. Kerrane explains such admiration this way: "It's not just because of Conlin's fierce honesty, or broad curiosity, or Irish wit, it's also because of his deep feeling for the values of sport -- which baseball, in his telling, crystallizes so beautifully.