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INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

December 18, 1996|MIKE PENNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "60 Years of Winners: A Sportswriter's Look at Champions of the Century"

Author: Bob Oates

Publisher: Granger Press

Price: $34.95 (available at Dutton's and Sports Books bookstores)

Bob Oates' "60 Years of Winners" presents itself as a weighty tome, and it certainly is, checking in at just under 600 pages.

Six hundred pages is a daunting task for even the most ambitious reader, so grazing is the recommended plan of attack. Helpfully, Oates has organized this anthology to facilitate picking and choosing.

Interested in a 1958 interview with Stan Musial? A game report from the 1936 College All-Star Game, which Oates covered? A 1976 profile on Bob Knight? The table of contents alone could serve as a Who's Who of post-World War I American sport: Knute Rockne, Ben Hogan, Joe DiMaggio, Bobby Riggs, Sammy Baugh, Vince Lombardi, Carl Hubbell, George Gipp.

"60 Years" is a collection of 169 columns and articles written by Oates during his six decades as a sportswriter with three Los Angeles newspapers--the Examiner, the Herald-Examiner and The Times. Oates' experience lends a historian's authority to the topics he tackles; when he nominates the Bill Walsh 49ers as pro football's "team of the century," he is speaking as a critic who also observed the George Halas Bears of the 1940s and the Lombardi Packers of the 1960s.

Oates knows the crux of good sports commentary is its ability to stir debate, and he has never been shy about lobbing a verbal Molotov cocktail into the discussion. Thus, he names Deion Sanders one of the 10 greatest athletes of the century but not Michael Jordan, who is dismissed as "a gifted hot dog who needed strong coaching to win."

"60 Years" stands as an ode to Oates' twin passions--sports and newspapering. As the author writes, "I have found a job I like."

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