Peter Golenbock, one of the nation's best-known sports authors, was born on July 19, 1946 in New York City. He grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, and in 1963 graduated St. Luke's School in New Canaan, Connecticut. He graduated Dartmouth College in 1967 and the New York University School of Law in 1970.
As a boy living in suburban Fairfield County, Golenbock grew up a Yankee fan. He began following professional baseball in 1955 during the heart of the Casey Stengel dynasty. His heroes were Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. One day in the local library he discovered a wonderful book written by Frank Graham, who provided the impressionable 12-year-old with insights into the personalities of the players and the history of the team. It was a book he was to read over and over.
Golenbock began writing about sports at Dartmouth. In addition to writing for The Daily Dartmouth, he wrote for The New York Times and The Boston Globe. At Dartmouth he became friends with Robert Ariel "Red" Rolfe, the former New York Yankees third baseman and college athletic director. Golenbock would listen for hours while Rolfe regaled him with tales of his Yankee teammates, including Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Lefty Gomez. Their time together would influence Golenbock's unexpected career path.
After graduating from law school, Golenbock went into the hotel business for two years providing housing for college students in New York City. After working as a lawyer in a personal injury firm for eight weeks, in July of 1972 Golenbock was hired to work in the legal department of Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
After six weeks of writing about President Nixon's wage and price controls, during one lunchtime he rashly knocked on the door of Nick D'Incecco, the head of the Prentice-Hall trade book division. He told D'Incecco about Graham's Yankee book, which was published in 1948. Golenbock wanted to write its sequel. D'Incecco liked the idea and gave him a contract, almost on the spot.
Dynasty: The New York Yankees 1949-64, the definitive history of the Casey Stengel-Ralph Houk-Yogi Berra era of Yankee greatness, a period of fourteen pennants in sixteen years, became an instant best-seller.
Since 1975, Golenbock has written some of sports' most important books, including five New York Times best sellers. Some of his best-known books include The Bronx Zoo, which he wrote in 1979 with New York Yankee pitcher Sparky Lyle; BUMS: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers (1984), Personal Fouls (1988), a look at corruption in college basketball; American Zoom (1993), a history of NASCAR; Wild, High and Tight (1994) his lurid biography of Yankee manager Billy Martin; and Idiot with Johnny Damon. What these books have in common is that they give readers an opportunity to go behind the scenes for an honest, behind-the-scenes look at professional sports.
Among his other best-sellers are Balls with Graig Nettles, Number 1 with Billy Martin; and The Forever Boys, a look at major league baseball from the eyes of retired ballplayers.
Despite Dynasty's great success, it was the only book Golenbock intended to write. He entered the newspaper business by taking a job working for a weekly Bergen County paper called The Suburbanite, and in 1977 was hired by The Record in Hackensack, New Jersey, where he was a beat reporter and then an editor. He worked at the Record through 1980.
While he was working at The Record he received a phone call from Billy Martin, asking him to assist in writing his autobiography. Martin's agent had another client, New York Yankee relief star Sparky Lyle. Martin was too busy to write his book. Would Golenbock be interested in writing a book with Sparky?
Their resulting collaboration, The Bronx Zoo, an account of the tumultuous 1978 season, reached number two on the Times list behind The Scarsdale Diet by Dr. Herman Tarnower (who was murdered a year later by school principal and lover Jean Harris). The Bronx Zoo stayed on the New York Times best seller for 29 weeks.
When Martin was fired by the Yankees after punching out a marshmallow salesman in Minneapolis, Martin had the time to work with Golenbock to write his autobiography, Number 1, which also became a New York Times best seller.
Golenbock then wrote Guidry, with Yankee pitching star Ron Guidry, and the controversial Balls, with third baseman Graig Nettles. The publication of Balls, which in part outlined the disastrous nature of the ownership of George Steinbrenner, prompted Nettles to be traded from the Yankees to the San Diego Padres. Balls was on the New York Times best-seller list for 14 weeks.
Golenbock's next two books were the highly acclaimed BUMS, An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a book in which he was able to interview most of the former Brooklyn players including the late Carl Furillo, the late Roy Campanella, and the late Pee Wee Reese. He was the first author to interview at length Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow. Bums was awarded the prestigious Casey Award by Spitball Magazine.
In 1985 Golenbock spent the season with New York Mets manager Davey Johnson. Their collaboration, Bats, was an insight into the joys and difficulties of managing in the big leagues.
His next book, Personal Fouls, took a look at the corruption of college basketball in general and in specific through the program at North Carolina State University as it was run by the late Jim Valvano. The book was controversial in that it resulted in the resignation of both university Chancellor Bruce Poulton and Valvano. Despite a threat by the state of North Carolina to sue for $50 million, the book was published by Carroll & Graf, and became an immediate New York Times best seller.
Its publication helped spark a revolution in college athletics with educators and administrators passing rules to try to insure that college athletes leave school with an education and not just a pile of press clippings.
Golenbock next wrote an award-winning children's book entitled Teammates, which described an incident during Jackie Robinson's first season as a Brooklyn Dodger when he was publicly befriended by teammate Pee Wee Reese, a Southerner who believed Robinson had just as much right to be playing as anyone. Teammates was selected by Redbook Magazine as one of the ten-best children's books of 1990. It is still being used in schools across America today to foster racial relations.
Golenbock then published The Forever Boys, an intimate look at the lives of former major league ballplayers as they attempted to recapture former glory in the Senior Professional Baseball League. Golenbock spent the 1989-90 season with the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the senior league, rode the buses and was welcomed into the clubhouse and dugout as he wrote an intimate book about the joys and hardships of playing baseball on the professional level.
Golenbock in March 1991 published Fenway, a sprawling, indepth colorful history of the Boston Red Sox. Golenbock interviewed dozens of former Red Sox players for the book. It was published by G.P. Putnam Sons and hit number 3 on the non-fiction best-seller list of the Boston Globe.
His next book, American Zoom, an inside look at the multimillion dollar NASCAR stock car racing industry, was published in September 1993 by the MacMillan Publishing Co. American Zoom was excerpted in Circle Track Magazine. To date there are more than 50,000 books in print, the best-selling book ever written about the sport.
In May 1994, St. Martin's Press published Wild, High & Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin, Golenbock's 545-page master work. Said Larry King in his column in U.S.A. Today, "it is one of the best biographies I have ever read." Robert Lipsyte in the New York Times said, "it is the first nonfiction baseball book that reads like a Russian novel." He added, "Wild, High, and tight is essential reading for anyone intersted in the Yankees, baseball and the darker sides of manhood in America."
Golenbock in 1996 published Wrigleyville, an oral history of the Chicago Cubs published by St. Martin's Press. Wrigleyville featured interviewed with dozens of former Cubs, going all the way back to the late Woody English, who was the captain of the team in 1927.
Golenbock in 1997 published Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes, an oral history of the Dallas Cowboys. The book included more than a hundred hours of interviews with men who played under legendary coach Tom Landry. Among those interviewed were Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Calvin Hill, Thomas Henderson, Pete Gent, Duane Thomas, Drew Pearson, and Landry himself.
In 1998 Golenbock published The Last Lap, a look at the men who lost their lives on the NASCAR race circuit. He then wrote The Spirit of St. Louis, an oral history of the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns. It was published by Spike in the spring of the year 2000, as will paperback reprints of Dynasty and Bums by Contempory Books. Golenbock also wrote a children's book about Hank Aaron's ordeal in breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record entitled Brave In Every Way.
His next book was Amazin’, an oral history of The New York Mets, followed by an oral history of The University of Florida football team entitled Go Gators! It was published by his friend Gary Froid under the Legends Press imprint. He wrote a book with race car legend Emerson Fittipaldi entitled En Vida en Alta Velocidade, which became a number one best-seller in Brazil.
Golenbock then published Nascar Confidential, the third in his NASCAR trilogy, and then he wrote Thunder and Lightning with Phil Esposito. Published by Triumph books in America and McClelland and Stewart in Canada, the book reached number three on the Canadian best-seller list.
In 2005, Golenbock teamed with Boston Red Sox centerfielder Johnny Damon to write Idiot: Beating the Curse and Enjoying the Game of Life, his sixth New York Times best-seller. That year Triumph books republished his Cowboys book as Landry’s Boys, and in 2006 Golenbock wrote Miracle: Bobby Allison and the Saga of the Alabama Gang. The book has been optioned for a movie.
Then in 2007 he published the controversial 7:The Mickey Mantle Novel. It was controversial only because the conservative press blasted it for being “pornographic,” but the reaction from those who bought it and read it has been uniformly positive. Those who knew or met Mickey had the highest praise.
Golenbock has two projects coming out in 2008. The first is American Prince, the autobiography of movie great Tony Curtis. It will be published by Harmony books in the spring, and then in the summer HarperCollins will publish In the Country of Brooklyn, a book that answers the question: Why did Brooklyn embrace Jackie Robinson in 1947 when he came up to the Dodgers at a time when people from everywhere else in the country reviled him? It’s a look at Brooklyn as a hot bed of social activism over the years.
Golenbock was a radio sports talk show host in 1980 on station WOR in New York City. He was the color broadcaster for the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball League in 1989-90 and has been a frequent guest on many of the top television and radio talk shows including Biography on A&E, the Fifty Greatest Athletes and the Dynasties on ESPN, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, ESPN Classic, and the YES network.
Golenbock lives in St. Petersburg, Florida with his two basset hounds, Doris and Fred.