Behind the Mic: Zander Hollander

If you can imagine a time before ESPN, the NFL Network, the MLB Network, the NHL Network, CBS March Madness, etc, etc., then you might know the name Zander Hollander. Before college football and basketball came into your living room on pretty much a daily basis and before there were television channels singularly devoted to professional hockey, baseball, and soccer, there was Zander Hollander. Many of you probably do not know the name. He was called “the official king of sports paperbacks” by Sports Illustrated in the 1960’s. That was my era for childhood sports development. I knew Zander Hollander and I knew his work. He died on April 11 of Alzheimer’s disease.

Zander Hollander wrote approximately 274 books, many with “The Complete Handbook of …” as the beginning of the title and ending with a particular sport in a particular year. Amazon.com lists 23 pages of his book titles in a very large price range with some carrying a $1,000 price tag. Hollander would focus on a given sport in a given year, listing statistics, records, team rosters, and even making predictions for that year. He was extremely prolific, publishing a book almost every three months or so.

Even though he specialized in the “Big Four” of national interest sports, he also wrote or co-wrote The American Encyclopedia of Soccer, Bud Collins’ Tennis Encyclopedia, Lake Placid 1980: The Complete Handbook of the Olympic Winter Games, a tome on Madison Square Garden, and more and more.

I could ill-afford to buy the Hollander books, but luckily, our high school library did have many of them. I was introduced to them while teaching in high school and would use the information often when broadcasting a sport like soccer about which I knew very little. The books would offer up rules, how a game was played, the position responsibilities, stories and anecdotes. The Hollander books also allowed me to keep track of my favorite players and teams, and, more importantly, would settle plenty of arguments or, even better, create some.

I have such fond memories of the detail, the numbers, the tidbits and the trivia that was found in the writings of Zander Hollander. I also find it quite ironic and quite sad that the man who supplied so many memories for sports fans for decades was stricken by a disease that took those memories from him and hid them away somewhere in his brain. Although it strikes me that present-day technology has diminished the joy and the importance of the works of Zander Hollander. There is also something very ironic and very sad about that.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Actual baseball attendance seems to really be suffering early this season. Is it the weather, the price of tickets and concessions; is it the attention span of the youth of today; is it the competition of other sports; is it all of the above? Something to chew on, though, is that the Baseball Almanac says that baseball attendance is statistically up based on tickets sold, but down based on how many fans really come to the games. Why are there so many fans who can afford to NOT go to the games?

2. I watched the LPGA Lotte Championship late Saturday night (I know, get a life!) as much because of the beautiful Hawaiian scenery as my interest in seeing if Michelle Wie could win a championship. When she first came on the scene, she was supposed to be the female Tiger Woods. That certainly never materialized, but boy did she play well on Saturday, shooting five under par and winning by two strokes. It was only Wie’s third tournament win and her first on US soil. She is 24 and has plenty of time to still be a dominant force in women’s golf. If she plays like she did this past weekend, she will be.

3. The NFL Draft is on May 8. Quarterbacks Blake Bortles (Central Florida),Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) will all go early (top 5?). The Eagles will probably take a defensive secondary player (much needed).

4. Between the Easter dinner and the Easter dessert this past Sunday and, thanks to TiVo, my family watched the Flyers beat the Rangers in Game Two of the NHL playoffs. To me, hockey is a great television sport and NBC and NBCSN are starting to reap the rewards of higher television ratings. They really do hockey well and deserve the rising success.

5. For both your sake and mine, this blog will be manned by guest writers for the next three weeks. Randy Kane of Grandview fame will offer up his thoughts next week, followed by fitness guru Scott Barr, and then onto a very opinionated John Leone. Enjoy!