John Schulian, nationally-recognized sports columnist and writer for nearly 40 years, stirs up memories of some of the most heroic sports figures in Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand: Portraits of Champions Who Walked Among Us. Schulian provides a collection of his interactions with athletes like Willie Mays, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Montana.

Bill’s thoughts on Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand:

John Schulian walked away from the sports writing dodge years ago. My recollection is that he said he was tired of running after 19-year-old kids who didn’t want to talk to him. He moved on to the considerably greener pastures of TV writing.

Happily, he left behind a lot of great stuff. Much of it isn’t about 19-year-olds. He wrote about Willie Mays and Nolan Ryan and Muhammad Ali. He wrote about Red Smith and W.C. Heinz, too, and about Oscar Charleston and Al McGuire and Buddy Delp, the trainer who said he could put Spectacular Bid in the gate backwards and he’d still win.

When I spoke with John Schulian, I asked him whether the title of this collection of his work, Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand, was meant to be wistful.

“Yes,” he said. “Or maybe ironic.”

Whichever way you take the title, the book is full of fine writing. Schulian deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as some of his heroes, including the aforementioned Smith and Heinz. Thanks to University of Nebraska Press for collecting this work.