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This marks the beginning of a three-year collaboration with the program’s producers to preserve these historic interviews and to make them available for listening on a streaming basis free to the public on the Library’s website …
Library Acquires Historic Sports Audio Recordings
Mickey Mantle, Billie Jean King, Bill Russell Among Athletes Interviewed
January 9, 2013
In 1994, baseball legend Mickey Mantle talked candidly in a radio interview about his alcoholism and the impact of his father’s death. “I’ve always felt like that if he would have lived longer that I would have been much better. I know I wouldn’t have been over the hill at 33 or 34 years old,” he said. His reflections and those of thousands of other iconic sports figures will reside among the vast audiovisual collections in the world’s largest library.
The Library of Congress announced today the acquisition of 15 years of recorded sports interviews originally broadcast on the radio network program “Sports Byline USA,” hosted by Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Ron Barr, between 1988 and 2003. This marks the beginning of a three-year collaboration with the program’s producers to preserve these historic interviews and to make them available for listening on a streaming basis free to the public on the Library’s website (www.loc.gov). Programs produced from 2004-2014 will be added to the collection over the next two years.
Launched in 1988, Sports Byline USA has presented more than 10,000 interviews with athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, owners, writers and others in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis, golf, track and field, and many other sports. These interviews collectively form an invaluable archive and an extensive resource for researchers, fans and sports professionals.
“Sports in America embody the nation’s indomitable spirit of competition, excellence and teamwork,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “This collection of interviews will be an important addition to the Library’s holdings, ensuring that we preserve a significant part of the nation’s culture and history.”
The daily network radio show has been featuring present, past and future sports notables for nearly 25 years. “One of the things that makes this archive unique is there won’t be any more interviews with Bob Feller, George Steinbrenner, Bill Walsh, Kirby Puckett, Joe Frazier, Evel Knievel, Dale Earnhardt and others who have passed away, but we have them in our extraordinary library sharing their lives, careers, successes and failures,” said Darren Peck, Sports Byline USA network president.
Notable interviewees in this collection include John Wooden, Reggie White, Mickey Mantle, Elgin Baylor, Hank Aaron, Oscar Robertson, John Elway, Jose Canseco, Charles Barkley, Jimmie Johnson, John Mackey, Archie Griffin, Bonnie Blair, Bill Bradley, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, John McEnroe and Meadowlark Lemon.
Some of the interview highlights include:
- Baseball great Micky Mantle in 1994 talking about the impact of his drinking on his career and how the death of his father adversely affected his life.
- Barr’s first studio guest when the program launched in Oct. 1988—baseball icon Willie Mays. Mays, who started his Hall of Fame career as a teenager in the Negro Leagues, shared his memories and thoughts about other great Negro League players. The Sports Byline collection contains the largest archive of audio interviews with Negro League players in existence.
- Bill Russell, voted one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All Time, setting the record straight about his relationship with another NBA great, Wilt Chamberlain. Many thought they were bitter enemies, on and off the court, when just the opposite was true. Russell shared personal and poignant stories of their special friendship in a 2001 interview.
The reaction of Mickey’s dad to hearing his struggling son say that he didn’t think he could make it in baseball:
“‘Hell, I’m taking you home. … You can go back and work in the mines with me. I thought I raised a man. You’re nothing but a coward.’ He had tears in his eyes. He really let me have it. I thought he was going to come up, pat me on the shoulder and say, ‘Hang in there, kid.’ ”
On his alcoholism and the long-term impact of the loss of his father to Hodgkin’s disease in 1952:
“I was just kind of in a fog or something. It did hurt my game when my dad died. … I’ve always felt like that if he would have lived longer that I would have been much better. I know I wouldn’t have been over the hill at 33 or 34 years old.”
On disciplining players:
“A coach has the greatest ally in the world if he’ll use it. I’ve found many, many coaches are afraid to use it: the bench. They all like to play. … You can’t be afraid to use it.”
On his impact on the game:
“I didn’t think anybody could beat me doing anything when I came into the league. I was just a little cocky kid coming along – a 20-year-old kid. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to catch these kinds of balls they talking about people couldn’t catch. I wasn’t supposed to throw runners out like I did, hit home runs. I just didn’t feel nobody could beat me doing anything.”
On his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record:
“I knew that I was coming upon something that nobody else had ever done in sports, and I knew that it was going to cause some trouble. I was preparing myself. I said, if they come at me like they came at Roger Maris, I was going to try to handle it a little bit better than Roger did.”
“A lot of people don’t know me. They don’t know Oscar Robertson. I haven’t been caught using drugs. I’m not an alcoholic, and I don’t do a lot of other things. This is what, usually, gets you a lot of attention.”
“I’m happy and proud the Library of Congress will be the home of this great collection of sports interviews,” said Barr. “This collection is unique and reflects the last 50 years or more of those who played the games, and others involved in sports. This is an important part of American history. I’m glad to have witnessed it while conducting these interviews and happy that through the Library of Congress, everyone will forever be able to enjoy them.”
The interviews will be digitally preserved at the Library’s Packard Campus for Audiovisual Conservation (www.loc.gov/avconservation/) in Culpeper, Va. The Sports Byline collection will join other great sports recordings in the Library’s holdings, including Clem McCarthy’s classic calls of the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling rematch, and the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, as well as many memorable broadcasts featuring such sportscasting greats as Bill Stearns and Mel Allen.
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