Latest in Purvis’ sports series reaches greatness
The master of the sports metaphor and simile is back in the saddle. And, this time, he has a hit a dinger over the center field fence and the ball is still going.
Andy Purvis, author of the “Greatness Series” of sports memorabilia books, has surely acquired legendary status with his new book “Shadows of Greatness: Keeping our Sports Heroes Alive.” This sports fanatic is wellknown in coastal and South Texas, but his prolific writing and talent surely transcend the regional aspects of his success.
“Shadows of Greatness” is the seventh book in his “Greatness Series” of documenting sports legends of days gone by and helping the reader re-live memories that were crystallized over a lifetime of following sports and their heroes.
But this was no desperation “Hail Mary” pass in the waning seconds of game.
The well-researched and well-written book may be his best. Purvis chronicles the lives of 54 former sports legends in crystal-clear vignettes of three to six pages each. Similes and metaphors are sprinkled throughout the book to make the reading as interesting as watching a comet fly through the clear Texas night sky. But, more importantly, each description is unique to the character he is writing about, giving the reader a true understanding of the life of a former great athlete.
Among the athletes covered in this book are Roger Bannister, “Master of the Mile”; Rusty Staub, “The Big Orange”; Billy Cannon, “Always a Tiger”; Willie McCovey, “Gentle Giant”; King Kong Bundy, “The Walking Condominium”; and George H.W. Bush, “Glove Man until the end.”
You get the idea.
Even the titles of the vignettes are interesting and full of mystery as to just what Purvis uncovered about these heroes. It’s like listening in on family secrets.
My favorites include the essay on sports announcer Keith Jackson, he of the voice as mellow as a field of Texas Bluebonnets on a spring morning. He titled this one “Pert-Near Perfect.” “Whoa Nellie!” as Jackson used to say, that’s a good one.
My other favorite was on Texas high school phenom Cedric Benson, who went on to star at the University of Texas and as a pro.
Benson may be the best high school running back ever in the Lone Star State, snagging “headlines like he did touchdowns and always drawing more coverage than the Oscars” at Midland Lee High School.
Benson “moved faster than bad news,” Purvis said. But it was not all rah-rah for the Lone Star legend. His tragic death at the age of 37 is part of the story.
Purvis is more than just a good sports writer; he is a master of nostalgia. With his “Greatness Series” he has become the sports storyteller for the Baby Boomer generation, who now lives for the memories.
Writes Purvis in his Preface to “Shadows of Greatness, “Nostalgia is the art of remembering the things we want to remember.”
Indeed, we see our sports heroes in our dreams and Purvis’ writing helps jog the memory enough to rekindle thoughts and experiences that may have been veiled behind a fog bank coming in from the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Manuel Flores Guest columnist