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The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team

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The powerful story of a college basketball team who carried an era's brightest hopes--racial harmony, social mobility, and the triumph of the underdog--but whose success was soon followed by a shocking downfall The unlikeliest of champions, the 1949-50 City College Beavers were extraordinary by every measure. City College was a tuition-free, merit-based college in Harlem kn The powerful story of a college basketball team who carried an era's brightest hopes--racial harmony, social mobility, and the triumph of the underdog--but whose success was soon followed by a shocking downfall The unlikeliest of champions, the 1949-50 City College Beavers were extraordinary by every measure. City College was a tuition-free, merit-based college in Harlem known far more for its intellectual achievements and political radicalism than its athletic prowess. Only two years after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier--and at a time when the National Basketball Association was still segregated--every single member of the Beavers was either Jewish or African American. But during that remarkable season, under the guidance of the legendary former player Nat Holman, this unheralded group of city kids would stun the basketball world by becoming the only team in history to win the NIT and NCAA tournaments in the same year. This team, though, proved to be extraordinary in another way: During the following season, all of the team's starting five were arrested by New York City detectives, charged with conspiring with gamblers to shave points. Almost overnight these beloved heroes turned into fallen idols. The story centers on two teammates and close friends, Eddie Roman and Floyd Layne, one white, one black, each caught up in the scandal, each searching for a path to personal redemption. Though banned from the NBA, Layne continued to devote himself to basketball, teaching the game to young people in his Bronx neighborhood and, ultimately, with Roman's help, finding another kind of triumph--one that no one could have anticipated. Drawing on interviews with the surviving members of that championship team, Matthew Goodman has created an indelible portrait of an era of smoke-filled arenas and Borscht Belt hotels, when college basketball was far more popular than the professional game. It was a time when gangsters controlled illegal sports betting, the police were on their payroll, and everyone, it seemed, was getting rich--except for the young men who actually played the games. Tautly paced and rich with period detail, The City Game tells a story both dramatic and poignant: of political corruption, duplicity in big-time college sports, and the deeper meaning of athletic success.


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The powerful story of a college basketball team who carried an era's brightest hopes--racial harmony, social mobility, and the triumph of the underdog--but whose success was soon followed by a shocking downfall The unlikeliest of champions, the 1949-50 City College Beavers were extraordinary by every measure. City College was a tuition-free, merit-based college in Harlem kn The powerful story of a college basketball team who carried an era's brightest hopes--racial harmony, social mobility, and the triumph of the underdog--but whose success was soon followed by a shocking downfall The unlikeliest of champions, the 1949-50 City College Beavers were extraordinary by every measure. City College was a tuition-free, merit-based college in Harlem known far more for its intellectual achievements and political radicalism than its athletic prowess. Only two years after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier--and at a time when the National Basketball Association was still segregated--every single member of the Beavers was either Jewish or African American. But during that remarkable season, under the guidance of the legendary former player Nat Holman, this unheralded group of city kids would stun the basketball world by becoming the only team in history to win the NIT and NCAA tournaments in the same year. This team, though, proved to be extraordinary in another way: During the following season, all of the team's starting five were arrested by New York City detectives, charged with conspiring with gamblers to shave points. Almost overnight these beloved heroes turned into fallen idols. The story centers on two teammates and close friends, Eddie Roman and Floyd Layne, one white, one black, each caught up in the scandal, each searching for a path to personal redemption. Though banned from the NBA, Layne continued to devote himself to basketball, teaching the game to young people in his Bronx neighborhood and, ultimately, with Roman's help, finding another kind of triumph--one that no one could have anticipated. Drawing on interviews with the surviving members of that championship team, Matthew Goodman has created an indelible portrait of an era of smoke-filled arenas and Borscht Belt hotels, when college basketball was far more popular than the professional game. It was a time when gangsters controlled illegal sports betting, the police were on their payroll, and everyone, it seemed, was getting rich--except for the young men who actually played the games. Tautly paced and rich with period detail, The City Game tells a story both dramatic and poignant: of political corruption, duplicity in big-time college sports, and the deeper meaning of athletic success.

30 review for The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    4.5 Community College in New York City and the basketball team that won two major championships. Cityy and school pride, the players heroes. Playing their games at Madison Square to huge crowds, they were a team of composed of young men from working class parents. It was also the time of Tammany Hall and rampant corruption. Mobs and gambling, shaving points to beat the spread, money in many pockets, riches to be had. This is book about basketball, a team that beat all odds, but it is also a book 4.5 Community College in New York City and the basketball team that won two major championships. Cityy and school pride, the players heroes. Playing their games at Madison Square to huge crowds, they were a team of composed of young men from working class parents. It was also the time of Tammany Hall and rampant corruption. Mobs and gambling, shaving points to beat the spread, money in many pockets, riches to be had. This is book about basketball, a team that beat all odds, but it is also a book about young men who got caught up in something bigger than themselves. About corruption that included the highest circle of the police, and the men, including 28 young rookies straight out of the academy, that followed the threads to unravel something that will ruin and expose many. A justice system based on who you were, and who you know. Not too much different now, though many years have passed. Loyalty, friendship, motives and goals, young men who will give their all for the school and city, but ultimately pay a heavy price. Well written, kept my interest throughout, and I came to like these young men, care about their future. I also decided I like reading about basketball, though this book is much more, more than watching the game. ARC from Netgalley.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    Three stars--This story is interesting, but it seems like it would make a tighter and more compelling piece of longform journalism. Thanks to Random House-Ballantine and NetGalley for giving me a DRC of this book, which will be available for purchase on November 5th. Full RTC.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    The 1949-50 basketball team from the City College of New York accomplished a feat that will never be done again. They won both the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tourney in the same season. At that time, they were held at different times rather than concurrently as is done now. These championships came at a time when college basketball was much more popular than the professional game and also at a time when gamblers have a large inf The 1949-50 basketball team from the City College of New York accomplished a feat that will never be done again. They won both the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tourney in the same season. At that time, they were held at different times rather than concurrently as is done now. These championships came at a time when college basketball was much more popular than the professional game and also at a time when gamblers have a large influence in the sport. Through these gamblers, City College was found to have participated in a point shaving scandal along with several other college teams. This City College team, its players and both the good and bad times for them is captured in this outstanding book by Matthew Goodman. What is the most striking feature about the book and the writing is how a reader will have a deep connection with the City College players, especially Eddie Roman and Floyd Layne. Roman is Jewish and Layne is black, making them the perfect symbols to represent the student body make up of City College, which was tuition free and comprised mainly of black and Jewish students who were gifted intellectually but would not otherwise have been able to pursue higher education. Goodman starts the book off by introducing the reader to Roman and his family and ends it with a wonderful success story achieved by Layne in a surprising twist. In between, the reader will be taken back to that era of smoke-filled arenas and students cramming the cheap seats while the gamblers, politicians and businessmen filled the lower bowls with other items to take care of than watching the games. While the writing about the basketball was very good and the recap of that special season for City College was easy to follow (and to cheer for them), the coverage of the point shaving scandal is even better. The reader will get information from several viewpoints – the City College players who accepted bribes to shave points, the gamblers who set up the players and the informants who provided the information prosecutors needed to charge the players and gamblers. On the latter, the story of Joseph Gross and his flip-flopping on his willingness to testify was especially entertaining. Between his arrogance when he was arrested and his speedy exit from the courtroom when he was supposed to testify, he is just one character of many with whom readers will become very familiar. However, that quality is best illustrated when writing about the City College players and their lives. Whether Goodman is sharing their family life, their basketball prowess, the shame they felt when arrested and deposed, or their various degrees of success after City College, the reader will feel like they have known these men for a long time. The best section in the entire book is when the players are arrested at Penn Station after disembarking a train after a road game – the emotions of not only the players but Coach Nat Holman are on full display. One more quality about the book that makes it an outstanding read is how several issues that are still discussed today are raised in this book. Only two of the City College players that were arrested served jail time – both of them African American. Several times it was pointed out that nearly everyone involved – the schools, the arenas, the gamblers – were making money off college basketball except the players. These are issues that are still being discussed today. For these and many other reasons, this is a book that should be picked up by either college basketball fans or readers who want to learn more about the history and times of New York City in the 1950’s as the dialogue has an authentic feel. I wish to thank Ballentine Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. https://sportsbookguy.blogspot.com/20...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway giveaway. It’s an interesting book about a topic I know little about!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Everett Egginton

    Just this minute finished reading this truly unforgettable sports book--The City Game (Matthew Goodman). A not ever to be forgotten read detailing the incredible story of one of the biggest scandals in the history of sports in America. Corruption at the highest levels; rampant injustice; the corrupting influence of power and money! And what is truly frightening is the overriding question--has anything really changed, or are the same injustices, inequities, power alignments currently extant, and Just this minute finished reading this truly unforgettable sports book--The City Game (Matthew Goodman). A not ever to be forgotten read detailing the incredible story of one of the biggest scandals in the history of sports in America. Corruption at the highest levels; rampant injustice; the corrupting influence of power and money! And what is truly frightening is the overriding question--has anything really changed, or are the same injustices, inequities, power alignments currently extant, and are our country's athletes somehow immune from these insidious influences? A remarkable, incredibly well-researched, book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    Interesting story, although it’s sad how old it is and how little has changed. College athletes from blue collar backgrounds generate massive profits for the school, but become the scapegoats of scandal when trying to claim any of that money floating around for themselves. The more things change, I guess.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Exellebtly researches and written.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kylee Jackson

    A bit slow and dense at the beginning, but an interesting story overall. 6/10 would recommend.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Deirdre Fagan

    Another Goodman book not to be missed. Having read Goodman's Eighty Days, I was eager to read The City Game. Goodman is a master prose writer with brilliant pacing, and he is adept at creating past worlds. His extensive research not only recreates the past but teaches us in the present. Even if you don’t like ball (I don't follow it myself), you will be on edge reading his descriptions and visualizing the games, but this is more than a book about basketball. It is a book about race, class, trium Another Goodman book not to be missed. Having read Goodman's Eighty Days, I was eager to read The City Game. Goodman is a master prose writer with brilliant pacing, and he is adept at creating past worlds. His extensive research not only recreates the past but teaches us in the present. Even if you don’t like ball (I don't follow it myself), you will be on edge reading his descriptions and visualizing the games, but this is more than a book about basketball. It is a book about race, class, triumph and destruction. You will visit this time in New York and read about exposure along the lines of Serpico. You will learn where the phrase “in like Flynn” originated. Corruption is a major theme in The City Game as is the rise and fall of the underdog and extensive injustice. Through riveting revelations about corruption and those thrown under the train, you will develop understanding and empathy for these players as you reflect on Old New York and what has and has not changed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ken Dowell

    On the surface this is a piece of New York City college basketball history. It’s 1949. City College of New York (CCNY) is the best basketball team in the city. Madison Square Garden is on 49th Street and 8th Avenue. The NIT is the most important championship tournament. And Marty Glickman is calling the games on the radio. But it’s a story that goes beyond basketball. It’s an historical portrait of New York City. It’s about immigrants and race, housing segregation and educational opportunity, boo On the surface this is a piece of New York City college basketball history. It’s 1949. City College of New York (CCNY) is the best basketball team in the city. Madison Square Garden is on 49th Street and 8th Avenue. The NIT is the most important championship tournament. And Marty Glickman is calling the games on the radio. But it’s a story that goes beyond basketball. It’s an historical portrait of New York City. It’s about immigrants and race, housing segregation and educational opportunity, bookies and gangsters, crooked cops and crooked politicians. The CCNY basketball team was a fitting representative of its city and its time. The 15-member team included 11 Jews and 4 blacks. They were not pampered prep school prima donnas, they take the subway home after practice to row houses and tenements. Their parents were truck drivers, janitors, house painters and domestics. This at a time when there was still not a single black player in the NBA and when no NCAA championship team had ever included a black player. My favorite basketball moment in the book is the 1950 NIT quarterfinal game between CCNY and the much more heralded University of Kentucky. Kentucky is a state that at the time still had a law on the books enforcing segregation in education. Adoph Rupp’s team not only didn't have a black basketball player, the university didn’t have a black student. When they took the court against a CCNY team with three black starters, the Kentucky players refused to shake the hands of the black CCNY players. You know what happened next? The CCNY kids blew the racists off the court and out of the tournament, 89-50. Sixteen years later in the 1966 NCAA championship final Kentucky was still all white and when they faced an unfancied Texas Western team with five black starters, they again came out losers. For the 1949-50 season, CCNY became the only team to win both the NIT and NCAA championships in the same year. It was an amazing accomplishment that elicited euphoria on campus and in the city. It didn’t last. That’s the other half of this story. One year later, seven CCNY players were arrested for taking money to shave points. That’s the practice whereby a team assures that, even if they win, it will be by less than the point spread, thus making winners of the gamblers who bet on the other team. They were not alone. Players from NYU, LIU and Manhattan were also involved. None would ever really have big-time programs again. This was a time when college recruiters offered players packages that included weekly spending money. One of the City players had received an offer from the University of Cincinnati that included full scholarships for him and his brother, $50 a month spending money, a rent-free apartment and free use of a car. It was also a time when some of the players, before a big game at Madison Square Garden, would throw their coats on and go out in the street to scalp their two free tickets. These scandals and others that were to follow resulted in decades of no tolerance by the NCAA for either gambling or for under-the-table payments of any kind, however selectively the rules were enforced. It begs a question which is still an issue for college sports. It is the players that the fans want to see, the players who are ultimately responsible for the enormous amount of money that is produced by big-time college basketball and football. It seems as though everyone gets a piece of that pie, everyone but the players who baked it. While all of the City players who took the bribes later regretted it (some even before they got caught), the pitch the set up men gave them was all about “why shouldn’t you get a piece of the action?” While I’m an avid sports fan, I don’t often read sports books. Unbridled adulation and manufactured controversy are outside my realm of interest. But every now and then there’s a sports book that transcends the usual sport talk. Hoop Dreams and The Blind Side are two that come to mind. The City Game belongs in the same category. Goodman seems to not only have discovered what all the key players said, but also what they were thinking and how they felt. He can write about basketball with the verve of a play-by-play announcer while also presenting legal issues with the meticulousness of a DA. And put it all in context, the context of New York City at the mid-point of the 20th century. A terrific book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    THE CITY GAME is two separate stories. The first is the saga of The City College of New York, a tuition-free, merit-based college in Harlem that was far better known for intellectual achievement than sports victories. In 1950, their basketball team won both the NIT and NCAA championships, and remains the only school to have pulled off that feat in the same year. But the glory of that accomplishment is tempered by the second part of the book: an account of college basketball’s point-shaving scand THE CITY GAME is two separate stories. The first is the saga of The City College of New York, a tuition-free, merit-based college in Harlem that was far better known for intellectual achievement than sports victories. In 1950, their basketball team won both the NIT and NCAA championships, and remains the only school to have pulled off that feat in the same year. But the glory of that accomplishment is tempered by the second part of the book: an account of college basketball’s point-shaving scandal that almost destroyed the game and even today profoundly impacts college and professional sports in America. Recently, accomplished scholarly writers have ventured into the world of athletics to produce histories that provide readers with far more than box scores and highlights. The stories of athletes and coaches like Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson and Vince Lombardi place the lives of their subjects in the context of American culture. Matthew Goodman’s historical account of City College is far more than descriptions of games played in Madison Square Garden and other arenas. He takes readers to the halls of governments; New York City courtrooms; backrooms, where bookies and gamblers plied their trade; and police stations, where willing officers were paid to look away from gambling activities. It is a story both inspiring and upsetting, and is told with skill, insight and a deep understanding of time and place. During the 1950 season, City College was a team like no other. They were not a powerhouse state school like Kentucky, Indiana or Kansas. Only two years after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, and at a time when the NBA did not have a single black player and the NFL had very few, the City College starting five consisted of two black and three Jewish players. Of the 15 on the team roster, 11 were Jewish and four were black. Every player was the child of immigrants, from Eastern Europe and the West Indies. Later in the season, when City College would face Kentucky in the NIT, the starting lineup included three black players. As the officials prepared for the opening jump ball, the City College players extended their hands for the pregame handshake, a ritual of courtesy and sportsmanship. Three Kentucky players turned away. City College destroyed Kentucky 89-50, a score so one-sided and surprising that the Kentucky legislature proposed lowering the flag at the statehouse to half-staff. Goodman’s descriptions of these games are riveting. In fairness to history, the rules no longer provide for teams to play in both tournaments, and March Madness far surpasses any level of fan attention present in the 1950s, when no television and limited radio broadcasts were available. In New York City, the City College players and coaches were treated like heroes. If the story of their improbable victories is exhilarating and inspiring, part two of THE CITY GAME, which recounts the point-shaving scandal that rocked college basketball, is sad and depressing. It reminds us that the game is still one of unequal financial benefits. Following the arrests of college athletes, one journalist wrote, “[T]here are no amateurs in big-time college sports: there are only underpaid professionals.” Everyone made money in college basketball except the players, who were the reason anyone watched games at all. Many athletes justified taking money because they recognized how everyone else was benefiting from their skills. As Goodman notes, even today, as college players are denied any form of financial compensation, the temptation to accept money illegally is still present. The next scandal is always around the corner. Goodman’s stirring history reminds us that athletic success often comes at a price. His story of greed and exploitation in college sports one-half century ago is as relevant today as ever. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jena Henry

    I am a basketball fan, thriving on high school, college, and NBA action. I’m drawn to the speed, incredible skill and chess-like maneuvering of the game. I couldn’t wait to read this book and I found it just as thrilling as any NBA playoff game. Author Matthew Goodman’s book promised a story of “Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team” and it delivered. When I tell you I’m from Cleveland, you will understand how I could relate to this book. Cleveland- sports proud and blessed with fans I am a basketball fan, thriving on high school, college, and NBA action. I’m drawn to the speed, incredible skill and chess-like maneuvering of the game. I couldn’t wait to read this book and I found it just as thrilling as any NBA playoff game. Author Matthew Goodman’s book promised a story of “Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team” and it delivered. When I tell you I’m from Cleveland, you will understand how I could relate to this book. Cleveland- sports proud and blessed with fans who root for their home team, “this year will be the year.” Except it never was the year for a Cleveland championship, until 2016, when the stars aligned and one star in particular, LeBron James, led Cleveland to an historic NBA championship. Sounds like the plot of The City Game, so let’s tip-off and see how the book plays out. The cover of this book shows a scene from Madison Square Gardens and that’s where most of the hoops action in this book takes place. City College of New York played most of its basketball games there. City College was a beacon of hope for its students- who were mostly poor and from proud immigrant families. Their dreams and hope for the future made City College a vibrant place. The City College basketball team is the focus of this story, and the basketball season of 1949-1950 was the miracle year for the Jewish and African American players. It was a time of segregation, yet this team achieved the pinnacle of success, not once, but twice that year. They were heroes, at the top, then it all crashed down. Author Goodman’s book is filled with research and facts that bring the players, their families, teachers and coaches, and the times to life. In a parallel story, we also learn of the scandals and corruption in the police and political world of New York City and how illegal gambling poisoned the times. This book is written in the “creative fiction” style, so while it is dense and factual, the story reads like a thriller. You will feel like you are living in the New York of 1950 and experiencing the sights, food, and energy of this melting pot city. You will also enjoy your “seat” in Madison Square Gardens as you root for the City College Beavers. Who were to blame- the players, the coaches, Madison Square Gardens, New York City, the system? This is a good book to read, and to discuss. Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for a digital review copy. This is my honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Fred Levick

    This absorbing and heartbreaking narrative takes you back to a time when college basketball was king and New York City was its hotbed. It weaves the tale of one of the most improbable and remarkable sports stories of all time amidst the backdrop of governmental corruption and protection of a massive gambling network that ensnared young players in its web and changed their lives, and New York City college basketball, forever. In March 1950, the City College of New York accomplished a feat that wil This absorbing and heartbreaking narrative takes you back to a time when college basketball was king and New York City was its hotbed. It weaves the tale of one of the most improbable and remarkable sports stories of all time amidst the backdrop of governmental corruption and protection of a massive gambling network that ensnared young players in its web and changed their lives, and New York City college basketball, forever. In March 1950, the City College of New York accomplished a feat that will never be repeated by winning both the NCAA tournament and the National Invitational Tournament. The team from CCNY, the first fully free public institution of higher education in the United States (and known as the “Harvard of the proletariat”), was made up entirely of Jews and Blacks, children and descendents of immigrants and slaves. During the following season, many of its players and other college players were found to have been involved in taking bribes from gamblers to shave points to alter the margin of victory. Goodman does an artful job in telling this poignant story through characters that are rich and compelling. He provides us with a piece of New York City history and a glimpse into organized crime and police corruption that reached the highest levels of City government, as well as a tale of the exploitation of college athletes and, sadly, how those at the bottom suffer the greatest punishments. “So much of the best literature has been a variety of sports writing.” writes author Rich Cohen. He says The CIty Game is “a sports-writing masterpiece,” and I heartily agree.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Schmidt

    I received an advance uncorrected proof through Goodreads First Reads, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. This was a fascinating and compelling story that really threw you into the worlds of basketball, New York, and the law at the time. Going in, as a person not too invested in sports, I was unsure what I would think of the narrative, but the author does a wonderful job visually bringing to life the setting. Reading the book, I could almost envision the colorful atmosphere of City Colle I received an advance uncorrected proof through Goodreads First Reads, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. This was a fascinating and compelling story that really threw you into the worlds of basketball, New York, and the law at the time. Going in, as a person not too invested in sports, I was unsure what I would think of the narrative, but the author does a wonderful job visually bringing to life the setting. Reading the book, I could almost envision the colorful atmosphere of City College and hear the chants of Allagaroo! Tying in with that, I appreciated just how detailed the book was on the setting, characters, and historical events. This was clearly a well-researched book that took lots of love and effort to reach fruition. The only minor issue I had was that for most of the book, there were actually two separate stories going on without much direct linkage: the triumphs, bonds, and struggles of the City College basketball team; and the complicated criminal and political investigations by the police. It's not until late in the book that the two threads get tied together, and I'm not entirely convinced that the narrative successfully balanced the two focuses fully. Even so, that does not distract from the complex and fascinating story told in the book, and this is a great book that captures the history and culture of the time. I have no regrets about reading it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Esturgis

    I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book, having adored Goodman's previous book Eighty Days. His skill at storytelling, especially of an involved, multi-plot period of time, is amazing. As the reader learns, the subtitle is just the beginning of the journey Goodman takes us on. Like Eighty Days, where each chapter focused on the two women, but interwove the time periods so you could follow it easily and appreciate it, City Game develops multiple "story lines" and then pulls them t I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book, having adored Goodman's previous book Eighty Days. His skill at storytelling, especially of an involved, multi-plot period of time, is amazing. As the reader learns, the subtitle is just the beginning of the journey Goodman takes us on. Like Eighty Days, where each chapter focused on the two women, but interwove the time periods so you could follow it easily and appreciate it, City Game develops multiple "story lines" and then pulls them together. But not too soon! By the time the scandals overlap with sports, the reader has gotten to know the players, whether politician, basketball or "shark". I cheered for the City College team as they overcame all negative expectations and then took it all the harder as their story turned. But to his credit, Goodman doesn't over-sentimentalize the results. And Goodman doesn't end with the court decisions but takes us through their future lives, and the ongoing impact of that one year. A great read for college basketball fans. But I'm not one particularly and yet I loved the story. I also knew nothing about City College of NY and found that many friends' parents attended it. As Daniel Okrent is quoted as saying, "The City Game is simultaneously stirring and upsetting". Captures my feelings very well. @randomhouse #thecitygame.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    The City Game is an intriguing look into a part of New York’s history, one rife with gangsters and gambling, corruption common in high places, running rampant through all levels of law enforcement. It’s a sympathetic look at young men from disadvantaged backgrounds, sons of immigrants, Jews and blacks, who worked hard and earned a tremendous amount of money for other people but saw none of it themselves. It’s fascinating in particular that the same issues brought up in 1950 are still the same 70 The City Game is an intriguing look into a part of New York’s history, one rife with gangsters and gambling, corruption common in high places, running rampant through all levels of law enforcement. It’s a sympathetic look at young men from disadvantaged backgrounds, sons of immigrants, Jews and blacks, who worked hard and earned a tremendous amount of money for other people but saw none of it themselves. It’s fascinating in particular that the same issues brought up in 1950 are still the same 70 years later: Is it fair that 18- or 20-year-olds (who too often are economically disadvantaged and/or in ethnic minorities) are generating millions of dollars for others when they get none of those riches and only have the hope that perhaps they can strike it big later on in professional ball? Should the situation be changed to actually pay them at some level, rather than either simply give them full scholarships to college, or to keep pretending that colleges or booster clubs aren’t too often doing illegal things to get around those rules barring them from being paid? Little has changed. Read my full review, including a rating for content, at RatedReads.com: https://ratedreads.com/city-game-bask... * I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mich

    The City Game is the story of the CCNY team that won the NIT and NCAA basketball championships in 1949-50 and caught shaving points in the 1950-51 season. At that time CCNY was a college that was free and relatively difficult to get in. The team consisting of 12 Jewish athletes and 3 African-Americans, nearly all from poor or middle class families. Nat Holman, one of the original Celtics and known as the "Mr. Basketball" was the coach, but Bobby Sand, the assistant coach was the real brains behi The City Game is the story of the CCNY team that won the NIT and NCAA basketball championships in 1949-50 and caught shaving points in the 1950-51 season. At that time CCNY was a college that was free and relatively difficult to get in. The team consisting of 12 Jewish athletes and 3 African-Americans, nearly all from poor or middle class families. Nat Holman, one of the original Celtics and known as the "Mr. Basketball" was the coach, but Bobby Sand, the assistant coach was the real brains behind both offense and defense alignments. The team came from nowhere and ascended to the top before it all came crashing down, engulfing the majority of the team in scandal. Some of the players went to jail; they were expelled and their lives ruined. Nat Holman somehow escaped being fired and while he claimed he didn't know what was going on, he should have. Holman, who I knew when I was a counselor at his camp in 1962 (he could still swish set shots from midcourt at 60) was an aloof, somewhat patrician man. He never knew the names of his campers (looking at their name tapes) and often didn't know the names of his players. If he had been a proper coach, he would have known they were shaving, could have put a stop to it and avoided the meltdown of his own reputation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Yofish

    Really more like 4.25 stars. A history of CCNY’s basketball team in 1949-50, and the subsequent cheating scandal. The curious thing is that it sounds a lot like a first-person experience. Except that this was 70 years ago, so almost everyone is dead, and a lot of his research is talking to the children of the central characters. Almost no first-hand reporting. But it is still pretty compelling. The basketball parts are interesting; the police and legal parts are interesting. The off-season exploi Really more like 4.25 stars. A history of CCNY’s basketball team in 1949-50, and the subsequent cheating scandal. The curious thing is that it sounds a lot like a first-person experience. Except that this was 70 years ago, so almost everyone is dead, and a lot of his research is talking to the children of the central characters. Almost no first-hand reporting. But it is still pretty compelling. The basketball parts are interesting; the police and legal parts are interesting. The off-season exploits (mostly playing basketball in the Catskills, but also genuinely working as waitstaff for the hotels that hired them to play basketball) are interesting. It was a little weird to read of how different basketball was back then. Free throws after which you get the ball back. Baskets followed by tip-offs. No shot clock, of course, and no 3-pointers, but also almost no jump shots. The center is 6’7---and the center on the women’s team is 4’10”!! The actual scandal seemed pretty minimal---just a few bets on a few games, that everyone was doing it. And everyone seemed to agree that the problem would be solved if they stopped playing in Madison Square Garden. Ummm, sure. The corruption in the police department was pretty impressive.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    Mr. Goodman has written a captivating book about the rise and the eventually downfall of the dual NIT/NCAA Championship 1949-50 CCNY squad. The City Game is meticulously researched, but the book is a page-turner. It is not bogged down with detailed recaps of each of their games and other minutiae. It captures the zeitgeist of both student life at CCNY along with a college-basketball crazed city. What a time that must have been to be alive. Even though this was 70 years ago, one thing remains the Mr. Goodman has written a captivating book about the rise and the eventually downfall of the dual NIT/NCAA Championship 1949-50 CCNY squad. The City Game is meticulously researched, but the book is a page-turner. It is not bogged down with detailed recaps of each of their games and other minutiae. It captures the zeitgeist of both student life at CCNY along with a college-basketball crazed city. What a time that must have been to be alive. Even though this was 70 years ago, one thing remains the same. Everybody makes money off the backs of the players, except the players themselves. I played basketball and found myself thinking if I came from the same at best working-class family backgrounds in the 1940's and lived in the same era as these players, would I have helped dump a couple of games for the sums they were receiving - given all forms of sports gambling was a way of life and completely unregulated at the time. I highly recommend this book for all basketball fans, people who love in New York City history, CCNY alums. True Crime readers might find the book of mild interest as well.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ginny

    This book is about the 1949-50 City College of New York Beavers, who became the first and only team to win both the National Invitation Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. They were from a tuition-free college and the entire team was made up of African-Americans and Jews. They became the top college basketball team in the country. Most of them were from very poor families and despite the fact that everyone around them was getting rich from the money they brought in, the players resorted to going This book is about the 1949-50 City College of New York Beavers, who became the first and only team to win both the National Invitation Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. They were from a tuition-free college and the entire team was made up of African-Americans and Jews. They became the top college basketball team in the country. Most of them were from very poor families and despite the fact that everyone around them was getting rich from the money they brought in, the players resorted to going out before each game and selling their two complementary tickets for around $5. The book chronicles their lives, their victories and then their arrests for point shaving. The racism and classism behind their downfall is heartbreaking. It's a beautiful book, written in a way that makes 1950's New York City one of the characters. I am not a person who knows that much about sports. There were detailed descriptions of basketball games. I'm glad I took the time get translations of these parts from my spouse or from google. You can skim over them, but they are as poetic as the descriptons of New York.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Howard Lazar

    Great period piece of NY circa 1950. My father (St Johns class of 1954) long ago told me of the point shaving scandals that hit many, mostly NY centered, college basketball teams, particularly City College. This book details that scandal and the political corruption around it. At its core, it's a heartbreaking story of young basketball players; most of the players were children of Jewish and black immigrants, who were struggling to find their way in America. These players succumbed to the tempta Great period piece of NY circa 1950. My father (St Johns class of 1954) long ago told me of the point shaving scandals that hit many, mostly NY centered, college basketball teams, particularly City College. This book details that scandal and the political corruption around it. At its core, it's a heartbreaking story of young basketball players; most of the players were children of Jewish and black immigrants, who were struggling to find their way in America. These players succumbed to the temptation of easy money when those around them were making a lot, particularly with their sellout games at Madison Square Garden. Some ended up going to jail...all were scarred by the experience. Two anecdotes of the time...None of the players at my father's alma mater, St John's were arrested although some participated in point shaving, due to the intervention of New York's Cardinal Spellman and his political connections. Also, in a sign of the times, when the. judge was about to read the sentences for the players, he sent all of the women out of the courtroom so there would be no hysterics. I very much recommend this book!

  22. 5 out of 5

    EVAN

    One of the best books on the history and sociology of sports I've ever read To call "The City Game" a book on sports is to do it a grave injustice. Like Jonathan Mahler's "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning," Mr. Goodman does an incredible job of weaving together the story of an unexpected championship team, the city and culture that raised them, feted them and ultimately brought them down. I also appreciated the jaundiced eye that he brought to the coaches, administrators, police, politic One of the best books on the history and sociology of sports I've ever read To call "The City Game" a book on sports is to do it a grave injustice. Like Jonathan Mahler's "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning," Mr. Goodman does an incredible job of weaving together the story of an unexpected championship team, the city and culture that raised them, feted them and ultimately brought them down. I also appreciated the jaundiced eye that he brought to the coaches, administrators, police, politicians and judges who blamed the players while ignoring the rot in the wider system. While the book hit multiple sweet spots for me (I'm a college basketball fan and the son of CCNY graduates, who told me about the 1949-50 team), you don't need to be a fan to appreciate the scope of this book. I'll leave with, "the more things change..."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rich

    Wow, what a book! What a piece of sports journalism!!! Or is it crime journalism, or maybe NYC journalism, or about police corruption, or history of CCNY, or gambling... why not ALL OF THEM! This is a fascinating book of the point shaving scandal that engulfed college basketball in '49-'51. CCNY is THE only team in the history of college basketball to win the NCAAs and the NIT in the same season... a season when they shaved points from their margins, winning at closer margins to benefit the NYC Wow, what a book! What a piece of sports journalism!!! Or is it crime journalism, or maybe NYC journalism, or about police corruption, or history of CCNY, or gambling... why not ALL OF THEM! This is a fascinating book of the point shaving scandal that engulfed college basketball in '49-'51. CCNY is THE only team in the history of college basketball to win the NCAAs and the NIT in the same season... a season when they shaved points from their margins, winning at closer margins to benefit the NYC gamblers. Police corruption was obvious, 23 were indicted (and hundreds more were on the take) but (surprise surprise) all the evidence was lost and the main witness wouldn't testify. And, again surprise surprise, none of the players did any jail time EXCEPT for the two black players, who were sent right to Rikers because the judge called them arrogant. Some things never change...

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Small

    This wonderful book, about so much more than basketball, has the arc of a Greek tragedy. It is also a love song to New York City in the the 1950's; it's a cultural history of a fabulous time, as well as a penetrating psychological study of the young men of the championship CCNY basketball team caught up in a point shaving scandal. You surely don't have to like basketball (I don't particularly) to enjoy this book about sports heroes who become pariahs, gangsters, bookies, corrupt cops and politic This wonderful book, about so much more than basketball, has the arc of a Greek tragedy. It is also a love song to New York City in the the 1950's; it's a cultural history of a fabulous time, as well as a penetrating psychological study of the young men of the championship CCNY basketball team caught up in a point shaving scandal. You surely don't have to like basketball (I don't particularly) to enjoy this book about sports heroes who become pariahs, gangsters, bookies, corrupt cops and politicians, and a crusading DA. Goodman has done a fabulous job recreating the times and texture of this era in the life of the city.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I had heard about "The Game" and was anxious to get my hands on a copy of this book when it was published. But I completely unaware that the focus of "The Game" went beyond the historic NIT tournament upset (50 years ago last month) of white racists from powerhouse Kentucky by at team of Blacks and Jews attending City College for free. The first half of the books focuses on the Cinderella story, but then take a heart-wrenching turn chronicling their fall from such a tremendous height. I still do I had heard about "The Game" and was anxious to get my hands on a copy of this book when it was published. But I completely unaware that the focus of "The Game" went beyond the historic NIT tournament upset (50 years ago last month) of white racists from powerhouse Kentucky by at team of Blacks and Jews attending City College for free. The first half of the books focuses on the Cinderella story, but then take a heart-wrenching turn chronicling their fall from such a tremendous height. I still do not understand, in general, why such harsh punishments are metered at the bottom of the totem pole.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Don't do it. Just don't do it. This true account of the college basketball point-shaving scandal imparts this lesson on moral decision making more dramatically than any other book or any other person. The book is replete with first-hand accounts and newspaper quotes which provide a full, multi-perspective telling of what went down. Goodman takes you into the heart of 1949-1952 NYC with detailed descriptions of everything from the CCNY architecture to the Chuck Taylors worn by the players. Don't Don't do it. Just don't do it. This true account of the college basketball point-shaving scandal imparts this lesson on moral decision making more dramatically than any other book or any other person. The book is replete with first-hand accounts and newspaper quotes which provide a full, multi-perspective telling of what went down. Goodman takes you into the heart of 1949-1952 NYC with detailed descriptions of everything from the CCNY architecture to the Chuck Taylors worn by the players. Don't miss the footnotes; every one of them provides a fascinating tidbit of information. This book made me think, it made me cheer, and it made me cry.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Highly detailed exploration of City College and the forgotten college basketball giant. This book serves as a history lesson for both the college basketball enthusiasts and does an excellent job of exploring the lives of the young men involved. Furthermore, the book beautifully illustrates the vibe of New York City during this time period. I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary Thomas Watts

    You don't have to be a basketball fan to love this beautifully told story about 1949-50 City College of New York basketball team. It is a window into mid-20th Century New York City, even America itself. Matthew Goodman is a masterful writer and a soulful storyteller. My rule of thumb is to put down whatever else I am reading to pick up anything written by him, and I am always greatly rewarded for it. You don't have to be a basketball fan to love this beautifully told story about 1949-50 City College of New York basketball team. It is a window into mid-20th Century New York City, even America itself. Matthew Goodman is a masterful writer and a soulful storyteller. My rule of thumb is to put down whatever else I am reading to pick up anything written by him, and I am always greatly rewarded for it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sgtdawkins

    If you like non-fiction accounts of betting scandals, police corruption in mid 20th century NYC, and the City College basketball team that won both the NIT and NCAA tournaments in 1950, then you could do a lot worse than reading Matthew Goodman's book about the betting scandal involving New York's City College that rocked the world of college hoops in the early 1950's, and the corrupt policemen who tried to keep it hidden. Three stars. Maybe three and a half. If you like non-fiction accounts of betting scandals, police corruption in mid 20th century NYC, and the City College basketball team that won both the NIT and NCAA tournaments in 1950, then you could do a lot worse than reading Matthew Goodman's book about the betting scandal involving New York's City College that rocked the world of college hoops in the early 1950's, and the corrupt policemen who tried to keep it hidden. Three stars. Maybe three and a half.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Pressman

    Very interesting book about the CCNY Beavers. This is when MSG was really the mecca of basketball. Gamblers trying to get an edge by giving money to players to shave points. The lost opportunity for some of the players. The many years it took for redemption. One of the players getting an opportunity to coach CCNY after many years . My dad would have loved this book

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