The Volunteer Who Became America’s Premier Sports Writer — Arnold Hano (Costa Rica)

by Jerry Norris (Colombia 1963-65)

Arnold Hano

Arnold Hano served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica, 1991-93, after achieving nation-wide recognition for his coverage of the professional baseball sports world as an editor, novelist, biographer and journalist. Both he and his wife Bonnie served as community development volunteers.

Arnold earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Long Island University, graduating cum laude in 1941. Shortly after, he became a copy boy for the New York Daily News. He was tasked with providing captions for the photos he brought back from professional baseball games. This afforded the nineteen-year-old, undreamt of opportunities, to chronicle baseball history.

Interrupted in these endeavors by the US entry into WW II, he participated in various campaigns in the Aleutian Islands. After his discharge, he returned to New York and a career in book publishing, first as managing editor with Bantam, then as Editor-Chief with Lion Books. In the latter capacity, Arnold served as editor for, among others, novelists Lion David Goodis and David Karp.

It was during this period immediately after WW II, specifically in August 1951, that Arnold debuted as an editor with the baseball-themed young adult novel, The Big Out, described by the New York Times as “one of the most thrilling sports novels its reviewer had ever read”.

But it was 1954 that proved to be the turning point for Arnold; he left Lion Books, determined to sink or swim on the strength of his writing. The most important event of that year was Game 1 of the World Series when his handwritten record would form the basis for his break-through book A Day in the Bleachers, published in 1955. It was embraced almost without exception by critics, and has since come to be regarded as a classic of sports
literature, with new editions published in 1982, 2004, and again in 2006. The book’s signature passage, its description of Willie Mays’ most famous play, has been and continues to be frequently cited and quoted or reprinted in full.

Buoyed by the book’s enthusiastic reception, Arnold established himself as a freelance writer, his work appearing in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, and Argosy.

Willie Mays was also the subject of one several sports biographies written by Arnold during the 1960s and 1970s, the others being Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mohamed Ali.

Alongside this, Arnold wrote at least three screenplay novelizations, one being Marriage Italian Style, another Bandolero!, and the third Running Wild, all published by Popular Library under the Hano by-line.

In 1964, he was named 1963s Magazine Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. A few weeks later, he received the 1963 Sidney Hillman Memorial Award in the category of magazine journalism for “The Burned Out Americans,” a muckraking study of conditions facing migratory farm workers in California’s Central Valley.

In 2012, Arnold became the 12th recipient of Baseball Reliquary’s annual Hilda Award, established in 2001 “to recognize distinguished service to the game by a fan. Four years later, with his induction into the Shrine of Eternals, he became the first person to be honored twice by the Baseball Reliquary. In 2015, The Huffington Post announced the upcoming release of Hano! A Century in the Bleachers, a documentary examination of Arnold’s life and work, featuring interviews with fellow sportswriters and former Major League stars. “

The untold story of legendary writer Arnold Hano, who just might be the Babe Ruth of writers, who covered 20th Century pop culture via a constellation of stars like JFK, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Muhammad Ali, Mickey Rooney, and Willie Mays.

Amidst all these public activities, Arnold also taught writing at the University of Southern California, Pitzer College, and the University of California, Irvine. Between 1989 and 1992, he was a contributing editor at Orange Coast Magazine. Given Arnold’s substantial and long-standing participation in community affairs, on the Baseball Diamond and off, he most certainly has contributed greatly to Peace Corps’ 3rd Goal, earning him a well-deserved Profile in Citizenship.

Arnold Hano died on October 24, 2021, at his home in Laguna Beach, California. He was 99 years old.

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