This Writer Dreamed of Being a Professional Athlete

George Plimpton just kept trying and trying.

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If ever there were someone who believed variety to be the spice of life, it was writer George Plimpton. Nowhere was this evidenced more than in the way he channeled his love of sports. Never content simply to be a spectator, he insisted on trying any game he could at the professional level, in a practice he referred to as participatory journalism. His books documenting those efforts—seven of which are being reissued today—made for both compelling comic tales of ineptitude, and poetic odes to the fine art of giving your best shot. Color us inspired.

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Here, a look at the seven books by George Plimpton being reissued today by New York-based publisher Little, Brown.

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Out of My League (1961)


In the book that Ernest Hemingway dubbed "beautifully observed and incredibly conceived," Plimpton takes the mound to pitch against the All-Stars of the day.

Paper Lion (1965)


In which he famously tries his hand as quarterback for the Detroit Lions, training with the team for four weeks—taking the reader into the locker room and around training camp as he works his way toward finally taking the field with the team.

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The Bogey Man (1968)


His chronicle of a month spent on the professional golf tour, where he crosses paths with legends of the sport including Arnold Palmer—the very man for whom your beloved iced-tea-and-lemonade beverage is named.

Mad Ducks and Bears (1973)


After stepping into the more glamorous position of quarterback, Plimpton returns to the gridiron to try a much more bruising position on for size: lineman.

One for the Record (1974)


Using the insight gained from his precious time on the mound—and years as an avid fan of the American pastime—Plimpton turns his attention to Hank Aaron, as he looks to break Babe Ruth's seemingly unbreakable home-run record.

Shadow Box (1977)


Plimpton steps into the ring to face off against Archie Moore, light heavyweight champion of the world, kicking off a series of events that lands him palling around with Muhammad Ali as he prepares to engage in the legendary Rumble in the Jungle.

Open Net (1985)


Here, the writer joins the Boston Bruins on the ice in the form of the ultimate target—the goalie—rubbing elbows with hockey legends Bobby Orr, Eddie Shore, and Wayne Gretzky in the process.

All books are $20 each at

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