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Two writers long associated with the Reader will be reading from their new books Friday evening at an event the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square is calling Sports Night.
Mike Lenehan, a former owner and editor, will read from Ramblers, his account of the 1963 Loyola Ramblers basketball team that galloped to the NCAA championship, defeating in the regionals a Mississippi State team that defied Mississippi's governor by sneaking out of the state to take the court against black players (Loyola started four), and in the national finals the two-time defending champions, Cincinnati.
And Ted Cox will read from 1001 Days in the Bleachers, a collection of sports columns he wrote for the Reader from 1983 to 2007.
Of all of Chicago's championship sports teams (count the Bulls six times, and they add up), the '63 Ramblers are the outliers. Loyola's not even the team most people think of first when they think of Division One basketball in Chicago. Yet those fast-breaking Ramblers, who by the end of the season had no bench to speak of, finished the year 29-2 and beat Cincinnati in overtime; and Lenehan makes a strong case that they left college basketball not exactly as they found it. "Fifty years ago basketball was played mostly on the floor, black players' opportunities were severely limited, and our country was reeling with racial conflict," he writes. "Today basketball is played largely in the air, black players dominate, and our country is . . . well, still conflicted, but at least a little steadier on its feet." Loyola's "improbable championship," he argues, was a "pivotal moment in that transition."
Sports Night's third author is Rus Bradburd, whose new book is Make It, Take It, a novel about big-time college basketball. The Book Cellar's at 4736 N. Lincoln; the program starts at 7 PM.
Lenehan and Bradburd have other appearances lined up together over the next few days. Sunday afternoon they'll be at the Heartland Cafe, in Rogers Park, and Sunday evening at Logan Square's Revolution Brewing, with nearby City Lit Books hosting. In addition, Lenehan will be selling and signing books Saturday afternoon, when this year's Ramblers play their last game of their regular season, against Cleveland State at Gentile Arena.