New Book Explores Comprehensive History of St. Louis Sports

Ed Wheatley's St. Louis Sports Memories covers baseball, bowling, chess and more

click to enlarge Ed Wheatley holds his book St. Louis Sports Memories in front of a book shelf.
Ed Wheatley's new book covers the nuanced and detailed history of sports in this city.

People kept asking Ed Wheatley when he would write a book on the history of bowling. St. Louis’ bowling history was magical — Wheatley couldn’t deny that. In 1958, a St. Louis squad, considered the “dream team,” set the record for the highest score — a record that would last for over 35 years.

“St. Louis was the bowling capital of the world,” he says.

But Wheatley didn’t know if he could sell a whole book about bowling. He started thinking. What about tennis and Arthur Ashe’s journey through St. Louis? What about horse racing at Fairmount Park in Illinois? What about the kids from the Hill who participated in the 1950 World Cup game?

There was just so much that people didn’t know about sports in St. Louis. Then, he realized he had a book.

“It just expanded to why not put it all into one book?” he says.

That’s how Wheatley’s newest book, St. Louis Sports Memories, which hits the shelves on October 1, came together.

Everyone in St. Louis knows about the Cardinals and the Rams, Wheatley says. But this book highlights the comprehensive, multifaceted and hyper-local history of St. Louis sports history — from bowling to the NIT champion Saint Louis University basketball team to the historic Washington University volleyball program to Sonny Liston to Jackie Joyner-Kersee to the World Chess Hall of Fame.

“It's the diversity of the sports,” he says. “We're not a one-sports town or a two-sport town. We have a history, centuries old.”

Over the years, Wheatley has written a number of books about the history of St. Louis sports history, including wrestling at The Chase, the St. Louis Browns and baseball. But for this book, he realized he wanted to appeal to everyone, to allow St. Louisans to go back in time and reminisce.

“Go back and remember the good times,” he says. “Build upon it, recognize what you have.”

click to enlarge The bright red cover of St. Louis Sports Memories features baseball players, boxers and basketball players.
The book comes out October 1.
Throughout the month of October, Wheatley will give book tours in the St. Louis area, making stops at St. Louis Sports Collectors Show, Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream, Left Bank Books and Grant's View Public Library. He’s also working on a new book about the Negro Leagues in St. Louis.

Normally, he takes two or three years a book, Wheatley says. But his publisher asked him to complete this one by the end of 2022, and he finished it in eight months.

“I put this one into supersonic speed,” he says.

He’d wake up out of his sleep at 3 a.m., and if he had an idea, he’d start researching and writing. Sometimes he wouldn’t stop until the sun went down.

“It was the excitement of finding these nuggets — that each time you go into a sport, there were these nuggets that we don't know about or herald here,” he says.

Wheatley hopes that comes through in the book.

“This book is all about St. Louis proud,” he says. “Every chapter. Every single chapter is St. Louis proud.”

Catch Ed Wheatley at the first book signing for St. Louis Sports Memories from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, October 2, at the St. Louis Sports Collectors Show (4300 Hoffmeister Avenue). It is free to attend.

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