Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Ira Berkow  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1940 in Chicago, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Berkow was born and raised on the west side of Chicago. He earned his MA from the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University.

Biographical and Professional Information

Ira Berkow is a Pulitzer Prize-winning sports reporter and columnist. After 26 years at the New York Times, he retired in 2007. He has also written articles for many magazines including but not limited to ''Esquire'', ''The New York Times Magazine'', ''Art News'', ''Chicago Magazine'', ''The Chicago Tribune Magazine'', ''Readers' Digest'' and ''Sports Illustrated''.Berkow shared a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2001 and was a Pulitzer finalist for Commentary in 1988. He is the author of numerous books, including ''The Corporal Was a Pitcher'', ''Rockin’ Steady'', and ''Summers in the Bronx'', the bestsellers ''Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar and Red: A Biography of Red Smith'', as well as two memoirs, ''Full Swing'' and ''To the Hoop''. He was the coauthor and editor of ''Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life'', which was a primary source for the award-winning documentary ''The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg''. He now lives in New York City.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Beyond the Dream: Occasional Heroes of Sports
ISBN: 0803215959

Bison Books. 2008

Berkow, Ira

The DuSable Panthers: The greatest, blackest, saddest team from the meanest street in Chicago
ISBN: 0689306121

Atheneum. 1978

An account of the 1954 Illinois High School State Championship basketball game between the DuSable Panthers, the first all-black team to make the finals, and a team from Mount Vernon High School.

Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar
ISBN: 0385067232

Doubleday. 1977

Hardcover, DJ with edge wear ans a tear near spine, owner name in front cover, pages good

Red: A Biography of Red Smith
ISBN: 0803260407

Bison Books. 2007

In Red, the personality, career, and world of one of America's best writers and most honored sports journalists are brought warmly to life. From Red Smith’s first story for the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1927 to his last column for the New York Times five days before his death in 1982, his inimitable style graced the country’s sports pages for over half a century. Even in his earliest column, his writing showed evidence of the wit, clarity, and eloquence that would become his hallmarks. In 1976 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism.
The people who appear throughout Red comprise a distinguished twentieth-century hall of fame: Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe Louis, Ernest Hemingway, Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, and Damon Runyon. A biography of one of this country’s finest writers, Red is also American history of a rich and lasting sort.

Pitchers Do Get Lonely (Penguin Sports Library)
ISBN: 0140120459

Penguin Books. 1989

Assembles the best of the syndicated columnist's sports journalism of the 1980s, including stories about Pete Rose's record-breaking hit, the Chicago Bears at the Superbowl, and an imagined Freudian analysis of George Steinbrenner

Hank Greenberg: Hall-of-Fame Slugger
ISBN: 0827606850

The Jewish Publication Society. 2001

New York Times writer Ira Berkow presents a compelling account of the life and career of Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish ballplayer to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (Ages 10 and up)

To the Hoop: The Seasons of a Basketball Life
ISBN: 1566635489

Ivan R. Dee. 2003

Ira Berkow steps out from behind his New York Times reporter's notebook to spin the tales of his life as a pickup basketball player―running the court with Oscar Robertson, talking strategy with Walt Frazier, and finding fellowship and good humor across the country on playgrounds, in gyms, even in some of the world's famous arenas. Mr. Berkow shares his enduring passion for the hardwood, which began in his boyhood in Chicago in the 1940s and '50s and has continued with the same vigor and competitive fire of his youth, often against opponents half his age. To the Hoop tells the story of a year in his basketball life, as he resolves to enhance his game and stave off the ravages of time. It's a wonderful and moving tale of love―for the game, for his friends and family, and for life itself.

"An extraordinary look into the art of pickup basketball. Who would have guessed that, along with his writing talents, Ira knows how to play the game!"―Bill Bradley

"A wonderful book―not just for basketball fans but for everyone."―Earvin "Magic" Johnson

"Ira Berkow is one of the best sportswriters around, so it is no surprise that his basketball odyssey is one of the best sports books of this or any other year."―George Plimpton

Court Vision: Unexpected Views on the Lure of Basketball
ISBN: 0803262299

Bison Books. 2004

Best-selling New York Times writer Ira Berkow presents a unique look at America's premier sport—and its fans—through interviews with a remarkable cross section of widely known and extraordinarily accomplished individuals in a variety of fields, who explain what the lure of basketball is for them. Berkow talked with Chris Rock, Woody Allen, Tom Brokaw, Saul Bellow, Johnnie Cochran Jr., Walter Matthau, Nikki Giovanni, Donald Trump, Julia Child, Frank Stella, Erica Jong, Grover Washington Jr., Seiji Ozawa, and Sharon Stone, among others, to uncover fresh, funny, controversial, and often surprising opinions about the teams and players who make the game intriguing.

The Minority Quarterback: And Other Lives in Sports
ISBN: 1566635020

Ivan R. Dee. 2003

"If there's anyone doing sports who is even close, I haven't read him."―Mike Royko. Ira Berkow's stories in the sports pages of the New York Times transcend what we know as "sportswriting." Mr. Berkow has a clear understanding of the games he reports, but he also has a sharp eye for the lives of the players, an appreciation of the larger social context, and–not least–an affinity for the well-turned phrase. The Minority Quarterback contains thirty-eight examples of his craft. His subjects have often been touched, transformed, enriched, or, in some cases, destroyed by circumstances that may have nothing to do with their sports connection. The centerpiece of the book is Mr. Berkow's widely admired story of a white quarterback who chose to play football at an all-black college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and what happened to him. Like most of his stories, it offers a surprising perspective and is certain to provoke. But Mr. Berkow can also capture the playfulness of Muhammad Ali, the dignity of Arthur Ashe, the intensity of Michael Jordan, or the buffoonery of Marge Schott. He can report engagingly on lunch at Lutéce with Chuck Norris, or describe the carnival atmosphere of Jake La Motta's wedding in Las Vegas. The Minority Quarterback is a book for anyone who loves good writing for sports lovers especially, these pieces are candy treats–but without soft centers.

Full Swing: Hits, Runs and Errors in a Writer's Life
ISBN: 1566637554

Ivan R. Dee. 2007

It was a long way from the gritty streets of Springfield Avenue on Chicago's West Side, and hawking stockings in the old Maxwell Street marketplace, to a position as sports columnist and feature writer for the New York Times, and a share in the Pulitzer Prize. But Ira Berkow made that improbable journey. In this joyful, moving, and often funny memoir, he describes how he climbed up to become not just a sportswriter but a writer. His early years were not exactly promising. For someone who suffered through poor grades in high school and flunked out of his first crack at college in his first semester, it was a revelation to discover as a junior in college that he had a passion for writing. He pursued it with determination and became one of America's most thoughtful writers on sports, a man interested as much in the people who play the games as in the scores and statistics. His father had not a little to do with forming Mr. Berkow's character and his concern for matters like truth and justice. But there were others who pitched in to help suggest a path for a young man who wasn't always sure what he wanted to do with his life. Like the great sports columnist Red Smith, a mentor who took the time to critique a young writer's efforts and Red Holzman, the Hall of Fame coach of the New York Knicks, who inspired Mr. Berkow as well as his players. Add E. B. White, Muhammad Ali, Saul Bellow, Mike Royko, Ted Williams, P. G. Wodehouse, Michael Jordan―the cast of characters in Full Swing is as broad as Mr. Berkow's interests and as instructive as a day at training camp. This is a writer's memoir with the warts as well as the wows, and with all the intelligence and charm that readers of Mr. Berkow have grown accustomed to. With 12 black-and-white photographs.

The Corporal Was a Pitcher: The Courage of Lou Brissie
ISBN: 1600781047

Triumph Books. 2009

Lou Brissie's extraordinary story is one that takes readers from the terrifying battlefields in Europe in World War II to the playing fields in Philadelphia. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ira Berkow brings together the unforgettable memories of a hero's life, telling the tales of a man who overcame incredible odds with his leg in a protective metal case to realize his dream of pitching in the major leagues. Brissie recounts amazing stories, including Brissie’s leg injury and how he was left for dead in the snow and mud of the Appenines in Italy, his pleading with doctors to not surgically remove his leg so that he might one day play professional baseball, the numerous surgeries and his improbable road to recovery, his friendship with Connie Mack and the opportunity to pitch after his injury, being named to the 1949 All-Star team as member of the Philadelphia Athletics, the big scare Brissie received when a Ted Williams line drive struck his wounded leg, and his regular visits for the past 60 years to both veteran's hospitals and children's hospital wards. The Corporal Was a Pitcher is a must-read not only for baseball fans, but also for anyone looking to find inspiration from a man who never quit despite the odds being stacked so highly against him.

Summers in the Bronx: Attila the Hun and Other Yankee Stories
ISBN: 1600783929

Triumph Books. 2009

From George Steinbrenner's odd reliance on the book, The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun to the views of such memorable Yankee greats as Casey Stengel, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and more recent stars like Reggie Jackson, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, Ira Berkow takes the reader with him into the clubhouse and onto the field as he observes, interviews and comments on the Bronx Bombers over his long and distinguished career writing and reporting on them.

Summers in the Bronx: Attila the Hun and Other Yankee Stories is a collection of Berkow's rich, candid and nationally popular sports columns and feature stories for The New York Times and other sydicated papers are devoted to the New York Yankees, arguably the most famous, controversial, beloved and sometimes berated organization in the history of sports. Berkow's eye for detail and for the unusual insight along with the comedy and drama revealed by his subjects themselves bring to life a Who's Who of unforgettable Yankee personalities from the last half century

Rockin' Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool
ISBN: 1600785263

Triumph Books. 2010

For millions of basketball fans in the 1970s, Walt "Clyde" Frazier defined the word cool. One of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Clyde guided the New York Knicks to their only two championships with a style and flair that was wholly his own. Back in 1974, Clyde and New York Times sportswriter Ira Berkow collaborated on a book that has become an iconic and much-sought-after piece of basketball history. Now, three decades later, Rockin' Steady: A Guide to Basketball & Cool is back with an all-new introduction, afterword, and everything that made it one of the most unusual sports books of all time.

Autumns in the Garden: The Coach of Camelot and Other Knicks Stories
ISBN: 1600788661

Triumph Books. 2013

Featuring 25 years’ worth of columns from one of New York’s most popular sportswriters, this collection is guaranteed to delight Knickerbockers fans of all ages. These unforgettable opinions, stories, and observations from New York Times columnist Ira Berkow capture the spirit of the Knicks, from memories of Red Holzman and Earl Monroe to reflections on Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin. As the 2013 team celebrates the 40th anniversary of their 1973 NBA championship, this book enlightens fans on the entire colorful history of the franchise.

Summers at Shea: Tom Seaver Loses His Overcoat and Other Mets Stories
ISBN: 1600787754

Triumph Books. 2013

Culled from 50 years’ worth of columns from one of the country’s most popular sportswriters, this work stands as a remarkable collection of opinions that is guaranteed to delight Mets fans of all ages. Former New York Times columnist Ira Berkow captures the spirit of the Mets in this unforgettable collection of opinions, stories, and observations from his long and distinguished career as he interviews and comments on the team. From memories of inaugural franchise manager Casey Stengel and Hall of Famer Tom Seaver to reflections on ace Johan Santana and the superstar David Wright, this collection combines Berkow’s eye for detail with the comedy and drama revealed by the subjects themselves, bringing to life Mets’ personalities from the last half century.

Wrigley Field: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Chicago Cubs
ISBN: 1584799153

Stewart, Tabori and Chang. 2014

This stunning tribute to “the one and only,” written by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Ira Berkow, is timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field in 2014. Wrigley Field brilliantly and beautifully documents the stadium’s entire career through a decade-by-decade account, a priceless collection of historical photographs and memorabilia, and vivid first-person reminiscences of the people to whom this great place has meant so much. Notable fans interviewed for this book include Barack Obama, Scott Turow, Joe Mantegna, Sara Paretsky, Jim Bouton, and George F. Will, among others. Rounded out by a foreword by former player Kerry Wood and an afterword by associate justice John Paul Stevens, this is a book that no Cubs fan—and no baseball fan—will be able to resist.

Counterpunch: Ali, Tyson, the Brown Bomber, and Other Stories of the Boxing Ring
ISBN: 1600789730

Triumph Books. 2014

Spanning the period between 1967 and 2005, this compilation includes 84 of Pulitzer Prize–winning author Ira Berkow’s columns on boxing. Readers will meet some of the greatest names in the sport’s history in the pages of this book, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Joe Louis, and Mike Tyson. Among the unforgettable stories gathered in this collection are the heated rivalry between Ali and “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier, Tyson’s infamous “Bite Fight” in 1997, and the will-he-or-won’t-he retirement saga of Sugar Ray Leonard. Written in Berkow’s gripping prose, the columns included in Counterpunch chronicle the most important moments in boxing over the last four decades.


Ira Berkow received the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for his article ''The Minority Quarterback'' in the New York Times series ''How Race is Lived in America''. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 1988 for Distinguished Commentary.

The Man Who Robbed The Pierre

Speaking Engagements

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