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Bob Dixon

Agency Manager


Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

New Exciting Sports Books Plentiful for Christmas

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught

Are you looking for a nice Christmas gift for a sports fan who also enjoys reading? Here's a list of recently-published books that you may want to consider as a special gift for a loved one or a friend.

--Dugouts & Diamonds: Heartaches and Triumphs with the Texas Rangers by Jim Reeves (Berkeley Place Books, $14.95) captures all the drama, heartbreak and sheer craziness that filled 50 years of Texas Rangers baseball. Starting when sportswriters embedded themselves with a team, the author, who was writing for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, experienced behind-the-scenes access most journalists likely will never see again. Not only from the press box but from the dugout and the clubhouse, the locker rooms and the front office; at the dives and the discos ― from spring training to victory celebrations, he saw it all. The paperback discloses among other things how Nolan Ryan came to make peace with future Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura, the player who had charged the mound and attacked the legendary pitcher. Reeves spent four decades as an award-winning sports columnist/baseball writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Afterward, he spent a year writing columns for and is now a freelance journalist. The book is scheduled to have a new edition in Spring after the Rangers won the 2023 World Series.

--Lone Stars: The Historic Season of the World Champion Texas Rangers by The Dallas Morning News (Pediment Publishing, $39.95) is a 160-page coffee table book that is filled with exclusive stories and dynamic photos from the award-winning journalists of The Dallas Morning News. The colorful book uncovers the magic behind the Rangers' first-ever championship from Spring Training to the World Series through vivid storytelling and captivating photographs. It’s a unique keepsake and the perfect way to keep the memories of the Rangers’ thrilling season alive. It would make a nice gift for a Rangers fan.

--Magic: The Life of Earvin "Magic" Johnson by Roland Zazenby (Celadon Books, $40) is the definitive biography about the pro basketball legend that is written by highly respected sportswriter and author of Michael Jordan: The Life (published in 2015). The author spent years tracking the unlikely ascension of Johnson -- an immensely popular public figure who was instantly scandalized but who then turned to his legendary will to rise again as a successful entrepreneur with another level of hard-won success. Through hundreds of interviews with Johnson’s coaches, representatives past and present, teammates, opponents, friends, and loved ones, as well as key conversations with Johnson himself over the years, the author has produced the first truly definitive study, both dark and light, of Magic Johnson, the revolutionary player, the icon, the man.

Author Kim Wickens displays her book at the recent Kentucky Book Festival in Lexington. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught)

--Lexington: The Extraordinary Life and Turbulent Times of America's Legendary Racehorse by Kim Wickens (Ballantine Books, $28.99) is a powerful story of the champion Thoroughbred racehorse who gained international fame in the tumultuous Civil War-era South, and became the most successful sire in American racing history. The early days of American horse racing were grueling with the four-mile races, run two or three times in succession. The stallion Lexington, named after the city in Kentucky where he was born, possessed these winning qualities, which pioneering Americans prized. Lexington shattered the world speed record for a four-mile race, showing a war-torn nation that the extraordinary was possible even in those dangerous times. He retired in 1855 but his role as a sire began. Horses from his bloodline won more money than the offspring of any other Thoroughbred -- an annual success that led Lexington to be named America’s leading sire an unprecedented sixteen times.  Twelve of Thoroughbred racing’s 13 Triple Crown winners descended from Lexington. A lawyer and dressage rider, the author spent years meticulously researching the horse and his legacy.

--My Home Team: A Sportswriter's Life and the Redemptive Power of Small-Town Girls Basketball by Dave Kindred (PublicAffairs, $30) is an intimate memoir about a legendary sports journalist who once wrote for a major newspaper in Kentucky. The author writes about about his rise to professional success and the changes that brought him back to his hometown late in life. As he dealt with personal hardship, his urge to write sustained him. For years, he has recapped the games of the Lady Potters, including their many runs to state championships. He attended game after game, sitting in the stands and making notes, paid nothing but Milk Duds. And the team and their community were there for him as he lost a grandson to addiction and his wife to long-term illness. Kindred has covered dozens of Super Bowls and written about stars like Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan. But a high-school girls basketball team—the Lady Potters of Morton, Illinois—stands apart from the rest. And his story reminds readers what sports are really about.

--Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments by Joe Posnanski (Dutton, $29) is a one-of-a-kind love letter to the sport that has us thrilled, torn, inspired, and always wanting more. The 378-page hardcover is a countdown of 50 of the most memorable moments in baseball’s history. The author writes of major moments that created legends, and of forgotten moments almost lost to time. It’s Willie Mays’ catch, Babe Ruth’s called shot, and Kirk Gibson’s limping home run; the slickest steals; the biggest bombs; and the most triumphant no-hitters. But these are also moments raw with the humanity of the game, the unheralded heroes, the mesmerizing mistakes drenched in pine tar, and every story, from the immortal to the obscure, is told from a unique perspective. As you may recall, Posnanski’s previous book, The Baseball 100, portrayed the heroes and pioneers of the sport. The author has been named National Sportswriter of the Year by five different organizations.

--Winning Tools: 3 Leadership Principles That Build Purpose, Respect & Success by Matthew Mitchell (Lioncrest Publishing, $26.99) reveals the tools that made him and his basketball teams successful: honesty, hard work, and discipline. He details how leaders who make decisions based on the Winning Tools enjoy added benefits. Personal satisfaction, professional success, and financial rewards naturally follow. A three-time SEC Coach of the Year, Mitchell coached at UK for 13 seasons, posting an impressive record of 303-133. Mitchell’s retirement came in 2020 after the head coach had offseason brain surgery which altered his future, choosing to step away from coaching.

--At long Last: The Texas Rangers' Historic Run to the 2023 World Series by Rangers Today (Triumph Books, $16.95) takes baseball fans through an incredible year marked by defiant self-belief. Led by new manager Bruce Bochy and a star-studded squad, the Rangers raced to their best regular season start in franchise history and demonstrated remarkable heart on the long path to victory. Through insightful stories from Rangers Today and colorful photos, relive all the key moments of this championship journey, including the Wild Card series against the Tampa Bay Rays, the dominant ALDS sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, a nerve-wracking Game 7 against the Houston Astros and finally raising the trophy after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks. This 128-page commemorataive paperback also includes feature stories on popular figures like Bochy, Corey Seager, Josh Jung, Adolis Garcia and more.

--100 Things Rangers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Rusty Burson (Triumph Books, $14.95) is the ultimate resource for true fans of the Texas Rangers, whether you cheered on the Ryan Express or are a recent supporter of the team. Sportswriter Rusty Burson has collected every essential piece of Rangers knowledge, plus must-do activities, and ranks them all from 1 to 100, providing an entertaining and easy-to-follow checklist as you progress on your way to fan superstardom. This updated edition was published in 2017.

--They Call Me Mr. Secretary: Through the Lens of a Winner by Derrick Ramsey with Dr. John Huang (independently published, $19.99) is a remarkable story about a former college and pro football star who grew up in segregated Hastings, Florida and eventually became a high-ranking administrator. In addition to his athletic director duties at Coppin State in Baltimore, Maryland for several years, Ramsey served as Kentucky Deputy Secretary of Commerce under Gov. Ernie Fletcher and as Secretary of Education and Workforce Development under Gov. Matt Bevin. A key member of UK coach Fran Curci's powerful 10-1 team in 1977, Ramsey discusses the constant tension between athletic prowess and academic achievement. He dives deep into relationships with family, friends, teammates, opponents, and adversaries. As the first African American quarterback to start at UK, he openly discusses the never-ending issue of racism in America. “I wasn’t the smartest, the fastest or the strongest guy," Ramsey wrote. "But I never gave up and took the work ethic I learned from home and applied it to life. It sends a message to young people — this could be you. No dream is too big.”

--The Lane Way: Family, Faith, and Fifty Years in Basketball by Coach Don Lane with Sarah Jane Herbener (Butler Books, $29.95) takes readers through his extraordinary life as a longtime successful basketball coach at Transylvania University in Lexington. With insight, wisdom and humor, Lane relates stories about his players, his strategies, his coaching style and philosophy, and the triumphs and setbacks of each season. He also generously shares with us the life lessons he’s drawn from 80 years of a life truly well lived. He grew up in Woodford County, Kentucky, where he learned the work ethic from working in the tobacco fields with his father and brothers. During his early days, Coach Lane learned and developed basketball skills from his brothers and started playing at the high school varsity level while still in middle school.

--A shameless plug by yours truly. I guess I should include my new UK paperback in this article. The title of the book is Forever Crazy About the Cats: The Improbable Journey of a Kentucky Sportswriter Overcoming Adversity (KySportsStyle360, LLC, $16.95). If you’re feeling nostalgic for UK's glorious basketball past, this could be the book for you. The 408-page paperback is an updated version of the hardcover, which was released in December of 2022. The entertaining volume, which also contains UK football stories, features many fascinating and inside accounts about the Kentucky Wildcats. The featured individuals include Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Dan Issel, Mike Pratt, Cawood Ledford, Tubby Smith, John Calipari, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Ray Correll, Blanton Collier, Fran Curci, Jerry Claiborne, Vic Adams, Mark Stoops, Maci Morris, Oscar Tshiebwe (and his high school coach Rick Mancino), among others. The book begins with a chapter on legendary broadcaster Cawood Ledford and ends with a chapter on legendary coach Joe B. Hall. In addition to numerous UK stories and interviews, the book is also part memoir about the author's long, adventurous career of covering the Wildcats in basketball and football while overcoming personal adversity — a devastating hearing loss since birth. Vaught, who now has written six books about UK basketball, discusses his early personal struggles in dealing with his severe hearing impairment or near deafness.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of six books about UK basketball, including recently-published “Forever Crazy About the Cats: An Improbable Journey of a Kentucky Sportswriter Overcoming Adversity." He is the editor and founder of Magazine, and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @KySportsStyle or reach him via email at


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