Sunday, October 18, 2009

#133: Steelers Book Review

---Complete Illustrated History---

If you're a Steeler fan with a coffee table, there's one conversation piece it shouldn't be without.

"Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete Illustrated History" is accurately billed as a "comprehensive history of the NFL's most successful team."

This 192-page tome contains 200 photos and organizes the information by decade.

The first four chapters outline the franchise's lean years, and is especially informative to the fans who are aged 40 or younger who don't remember the days when the Steelers weren't one of the premiere franchises in professional sports.

Lew Freedman, the author (and longtime sports journalist), did his homework as he gives readers an inside look at the personalities who made their way through Pittsburgh, like Johnny "Blood" McNally (do you know where the nickname came from?), Byron "Whizzer" White (future Supreme Court Justice), "Bullet" Bill Dudley, and even guys without nicknames or even folks who never actually made the roster (Arthur Jarrett).

Some figures are given added attention, to the point where you feel like you have actually met them, like former quarterback Bobby Layne, defensive tackle Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb, and of course, "The Chief" Art Rooney.

The book is littered with information, from bios on front office personnel that helped build the great 1970s Steeler dynasty (Bill Nunn, Jr), to anecdotal recollections (including one in which a famous singer enlisted in Franco's Italian Army).

There is also a bibliography and appendix at the end that includes team and player statistics through 2007.

The photographs are both well-chosen and well-laid out. The conglomeration of the prints and the prose do the difficult job of transporting the reader out of time.

Now to the nitty gritty (and somewhat picky).

It is evident that this book was rushed to press, perhaps to capitalize on Pittsburgh's Super Bowl XLIII triumph.

As a former college newspaper editor, typos jump off the page for me. For example, in the fifth paragraph of the introduction, the "L" is missing from the name "Blount". In the biographical sidebar for Bill Nunn, Jr, the word "took" is omitted when "Noll advantage of Nunn's" skills.

The largest gaffe I found in the collection was a graph that illustrates the team's year-by-year records. In the 2000s, it lists the 2004 record as 12-4 (instead of 15-1) and the 2008 record as 7-9 (quite low for a Super Bowl winner).

It appears that the publisher copied the graph from the end of the 1990s chapter, put in its place for the 2000s chapter, but neglected to change the actual records.

Overall, through, "Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete Illustrated History" appears to be factually accurate and simultaneously tells the 76-year history of the team through the eyes of its players and its observers.

If you can deal with the occasional typographical error, this book is well worth the $30 retail price. Perhaps future printings will correct the mistakes mentioned above and tighten up the publication that much better.

"Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete Illustrated History" is available in book stores, Sam's Club, or through (where it is nearly $12 less) and other online retailers.

(Four out of Five Stars)