Title: "The Girls of Summer"
Author: Jere Longman
Publisher, price, pages: HarperCollins, $24, 318 pages
Title: "The Beautiful Game"
Author: Jonathan Littman
Publisher, price, pages: HarperCollins, $14, 386 pages (paperback)
In city centers and cow pastures, in the most high tech of environments and on converted baseball fields, more than seven million girls play soccer in the United States.
Two new books celebrate two vastly different female soccer teams. "The Girls of Summer" by Jere Longman and "The Beautiful Game" by Jonathan Littman are moving but different accounts filled with passion, honesty and insider insights and celebrate the widening universe that is girls' and women's soccer.
"The Girls of Summer" has as its subtitle "The U.S. Women's Soccer Team and the Game That Changed Everything." It is an account of what took place on July 10, 1999, when the Chinese team was defeated in the Women's World Cup final by a group of 18 talented women from the United States.
Longman's beat is international sports. As the chief Olympics correspondent for The New York Times, he spent virtually every day with the American players from the start of their miracle march in May to their incredible triumph at the Rose Bowl in front of 90,000 fans, the largest crowd ever to attend a women's sporting event.
"The Girls of Summer" is the upshot of Longman's coverage. It is part sports diary, part cultural commentary and all heart, taking us behind the scenes into what made the USA women's soccer team tick.
"You'll never see another team like the U.S. Women's soccer team," Longman notes. "They are true pioneers.
"In men's sports, and in some other women's sports, players have a history to fall back on, a mythology, so to speak. But these women built this game from the ground up and sold it door-to-door. They had an incredible sense of responsibility and resolve."
That they did. From Brandi Chastain's deciding kick - and her tear-off-the-jersey celebration - to superstar Mia Hamm to Michelle Akers and Briana Scurry, the players come to life in these pages.
Far less known are Littman's subjects, the girls who were members of the Santa Rosa Thunder. Once known as a ragtag collection of girls trying to play soccer, they hardly were taken seriously. Then 22-year-old college All-American and rookie coach Emiria Salzmann took over, and lightning struck.
Despite bickering parents, second-guessing former coaches, Salzmann's own inexperience and the girls' resistance at the start, Salzman turned things around.
Salzmann preached conditioning and discipline and taught classic, possession-style soccer. The approach worked. The Santa Rosa Thunder won game after game and advanced to the State Cup.
Littman's approach works, too. He has carefully crafted a narrative that inspires, informs, intrigues. This is a winning book, a celebration of grit and girlhood. Go, Team Thunder!
Kudos to Chronicle Books of San Francisco for two terrific sports books: "Tour De France/Tour De Force, A Visual History of the World's Greatest Bicycle Race" by James Startt ($29.95, 160 pages) and "Maverick's," a detailed and aesthetic look at big-wave surfing by Matt Warshaw ($29.95, 209 pages).
Both books are coffee-table size, loaded with exciting and full-page black-and-white and color visuals. Each book should have much appeal for fans of the Tour and surfing as well as sports fans in general.
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth
College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage
in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
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