BESIDES, OF COURSE, THE ASSASSINATION of President John F. Kennedy, the publishing industry has offered up more books on the Dallas Cowboys than on any other Dallas-related topic. The Cowboys and Publisher’s Row bave, in fact, been engaged in a lucrative love affair for the last quarter century; an association that has resulted in almost 100 titles, hardback and softcover, written for adults and children, on “America’s Team.”
Indeed, no professional sports team-with the possible exception of major league baseball’s New York Yankees-has received as much attention from publishing houses nationwide.
“There is an almost unquenchable interest in the Cowboys, past and present,” says Dallas-based literary agent Jim Donovan. “It’s unprecedented in sports book publishing history.”
The list of Dallas players who have written autobiographies- most often with the help of co-authors or ghostwriters-is lengthy and continues to grow. In between Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach (the first Cowboy to do a book) and current superstars Emmitt Smith, Bill Bates, and Troy Aikman have been the likes of Bob Mines. Duane Thomas, Harvey Martin, Lance Kent/el. Walt Garrison, Preston Pearson, Tony Dosett, Pat Toomay, and Craig Morton.
A quick visit to the library or bookstore will also oiler the insights of former Cowboys general manager lex Schramm, coaches Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson, and a couple of former Dallas players assistant coaches who went on to head coaching fame in the NIL; tonner Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, land Dan Reeves, late of Denver and now coaching the New York Giants. If you’re interested in the wit and business philosophies of original team owner Clint Murchison Jr., there’s Dick Hitt’s Classic Clint
And, should you favor fiction over fact, the Cowboys have served as thinly disguised
models for a couple of highly readable novels, one authored by former Dallas receiver pete Gent, the other by Gary Cartwright during the days when he covered the team for The Dallas Morning News. Gent’s acclaimed and humorous North Dallas Forty (Morrow) became a national best seller following its 1973 publication and was made into a successful movie by the same name. However, Cartwright’s The Hundred Yard War (Doubleday, 1968), featuring fictional protagonists who were quickly recognized as coach Landry and quarterback Don Meredith, gets the literary nod.
In truth, there has been no aspect of the team’s remarkable 35-year history’ that has gone unnoticed by publishers eager to cash in on the Cowboys’ widespread fame, Two books have been written on the Cowboys Cheerleaders-the best of which is Mary Candace Evans’ Decade of Dreams (Taylor)- and Bobbi Fields devoted her The Dallas Cowboys Super Wives (Shoal Creek Publishers) to the ladies who cheered their husbands on. Need a cookbook? The Cowboys’ wives have been publishing their favorite recipes in book form for years. For an academic analysis of the workings of the operation in its early years, read The Dallas Cowboys and the NFL (University of Oklahoma Press), by Donald Chipman, Randolph Campbell, and Robert Calvert.
Not every Cowboys-related book to hit the marketplace has represented a literary high-water mark. Still, within the thousands of pages that have been printed lies as comprehensive a history of a major business and those responsible for its success as any reader can hope to find.
Here are some of the best:
TEAM HISTORIES; For the early years (1960-1970), Sam Blair’s Dallas Cowboys: Pro or Con (Doubleday) is a masterpiece of detail, anecdotes, and game-by-game performances; The Dallas Cowboys, An Illustrated History (Harper & Row), by Richard Whittingham, carries the team through its first 20 years with a remarkable combination of photographs and words.
AUTOBIOGRAPHIES: Time Enough to Win (Word), by Roger Staubach with Frank Luksa, is the first and best written of the lot, offering personal insight as well as reflections on the game and fellow players; When All The Laughter Died in Sorrow (Saturday Review Press) by ex-wide receiver Lance Rentzel, is the most personal-and, at times, disturbing-book yet written by a former Cowboy. In the book, Rentzel deals with his humiliating arrest for exposing himself to a child. Out of Control (Putnam), by Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson with Pete Knobler, provides another painfully honest look at the high price of pro football fame by a flamboyant player who proved to be his own worst enemy.
SEASON DIARIES: Next Year’s Champions (World), by former Dallas Times Herald beat writer Steve Perkins, tells the remarkable, no-holds barred story of a 1968 season that found a talented Cowboys team on the brink of stardom; The Crunch (Norton, 1975) by former defensive end Pat Toomay, offers a unique insider’s look at teammates and coaches over the course of a season. And, for a biting inside look at the modern-day Cowboys, there’s Dallas journalist Skip Bayless’ The Boys.
RIVALRY HISTORY: Cowboys an ’ Indians (Leisure Press), Tim Panaccio’s game-by-game, anecdote-by-anecdote history of the Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins wars.
BIOGRAPHY: Tex! The Man Who Built the Dallas
Cowboys (Prentice Hall), by former Dallas Morning News beat writer Bob St. John, recounts the life of the former Cowboys general manager; a man whom history will remember as one of professional sports’ greatest innovators and success stories.
CHILDREN’S BOOK: Quarterback Troy Aikman opted to tell his inspiring life story to a younger audience in Things Change (Taylor) and hit the best-seller list as a result. With almost 100,000 copies already sold since the book came out in the spring of this year, the book was recently ranked No. 5 on the Publisher’s Weekly Top Selling Children’s Books list. Taylor Publishing Company executives are projecting sales of 150,000 by year’s end-a figure that could elevate Aikman to No. 1 among sales of all hardcover Cowboys books.
TRIVIA BOOKS: Dallas Cowboys Trivia Challenge (Taylor), by Gary Stratton and Robert Krug, has it all, from the title of the 45 rpm rockabilly song recorded by receiver Buddy Dial (“Baby, Baby”) to the name of the second University of Houston running back to wear the silver star (Alois Blackwell). The Semi-Official Dallas Cowboys Hater’s Handbook, by Miller Bonner and Mark Nelson, is fun and irreverent and raised hackles of many die-hard Cowboys tans when it was published in 1984.
PLAYERS TURNED NOVELISTS: Pete Gent, author of the aforementioned North Dallas Forty. who has continued his writing career with such titles as Texas Celebrity Turkey Trot, The Franchise, and North Dallas After Forty, and Pat Toomay, author of On Any Given Sunday (Donald Fine).
PICTURE BOOK: Reflections (Taylor), by Bob Lilly with Sam Blair, which features fascinatingly candid photographs of teammates taken by Lilly during his career with the Cowboys.
And there is at least one still-unwritten autobiography that would delight longtime fans. Dandy Don Meredith, the enigmatic quarterback who was Dallas’ first real superstar, has thus far chosen to keep his thoughts on Landry, Dallas, and those early years private-despite repeated pleas by eager ghostwriters.
Meanwhile, however, the presses continue to roll. Due in bookstores this month is King of the Cowboys (Bob Adams Publishing), Dallas writer-sportscaster Jim Dent’s unauthorized biography of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Taylor Publishing will release Emmitt Smith’s The Emmiit Zone as a quality paperback this fall after its reported 80,000-sale hardback success. And Florida-based sportswriter Pete Golanheck is at work on a new history of the Cowboys that is due to be published in 1996.
Now let’s see…how many books have they done about the San Francisco 49ers?