August 15, 2013

Before The Internet Sports Fans Had Zander Hollander

There is an absolutely fantastic feature in the New York Times this week about Zander Hollander. For nearly three decades he wrote annual "Complete Handbooks" about hockey, baseball, football and basketball. He wrote over 300 sports books over 45 years. I have most of the hockey books, though a couple of seasons are very hard to get a hold of.

These books were the bible of sports back then, spreading statistics and player biography information that simply was not compiled in such a "complete" and "handy" format until the internet came along. Sports fans of that era owe Hollander a debt of gratitutde.

This story, authored by Pete Croatto, is a celebration of Hollander's work and life. But it does have a sad ending.

From 1971 to 1997, Hollander edited sports yearbooks, brick-sized tomes known as Complete Handbooks, which in the pre-Internet era were almost holy objects to a certain type of sports-crazed youngster. Here, in one glorious place, was information — statistics, team rosters, records, schedules, predictions for the coming season and more — freed from the restrictions of newspaper column inches and far beyond what a still embryonic cable television system was providing.

In black and white were photos and detailed profiles of players from every team, players that even the most devoted fans might glimpse only in a rare nationally televised network game of the week or an All-Star contest, if at all. The work was Hollander’s driving force. Then he had a stroke, with Alzheimer’s following shortly after. Now 90, he no longer remembers the books that he struggled to produce, that brought him professional fulfillment, friendships and minor fame.

Here's the full story, including the complete behind-the-scenes look at how Hollander produced so many books every year.

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