Pomerantz’s second non-fiction work, Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds (Crown, 2001), chronicled the lives of 29 people aboard an ill-fated commuter flight in 1995 and was described by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review as “a heart in your throat story . . . Spellbinding.” Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds has also been published to acclaim in Germany, Britain and China. The London Evening Standard called the book “a flawlessly constructed narrative . . . a masterpiece of non-fiction storytelling.”
WILT, 1962 (Crown, 2005), Pomerantz’s third book, returned him to his sports writing roots with a vivid narrative that recreated one of basketball’s most remarkable performances, the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa. WILT, 1962 is a portrait of a fabled game, a celebrated player known as The Big Dipper, and the nation on the cusp of social and cultural revolution. Named an Editors’ Choice book by The New York Times, WILT, 1962 was called by Entertainment Weekly “a meticulous and engaging narrative – a slam dunk of a read.” For the 50th anniversary of Chamberlain’s 100-point game in March 2012, Pomerantz appeared on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines,” National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” and in an hour-long documentary, “Wilt, 100,” produced by NBA Entertainment.
His fourth book, The Devil’s Tickets (Crown, 2009) is a Battle of the Sexes narrative set in the Roaring Twenties that centers on a sensational killing and murder trial in Kansas City and the contract bridge craze that swept America. When housewife Myrtle Bennett shot and killed her husband Jack after a spat during a social bridge game with neighbors in 1929, she hired as her defense attorney Senator James A. Reed, a Democratic presidential candidate. Watching from New York, the tuxedoed P.T. Barnum of the bridge craze, a cunning, spotlessly-manicured Russian named Ely Culbertson, exploited the Bennett tragedy to sell bridge, his bridge instruction books, and himself. USA TODAY called The Devil’s Tickets “an irresistible summer read,” and National Public Radio hailed it as “deliciously detailed and splendidly written.” The Kansas City Star wrote, “This is history with a whole lineup of compelling characters . . . Pomerantz handles it all with a stirring sense of story and human behavior.”
In 2013, Pomerantz authored Their Life’s Work, a narrative about the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty. Published by Simon & Schuster, it follows those celebrated Steelers across the decades while examining football’s gifts and costs. The book was named a finalist for the 2014 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, and The Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Gene Collier called it, “One of the great sports books ever written. . . . sculpted into a monument.”
A 1982 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with a bachelor’s degree in history, Pomerantz served as sports editor of The Daily Californian and covered the Bears’ football and basketball teams. In 1987-88, he was named a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan; there he studied theater and the Bible. Later he served from 1999-2001 as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at Emory University in Atlanta where he taught courses on news reporting and writing, and the history of the American press.
For the past twelve years at Stanford University, Pomerantz has taught specialized reporting and writing. A number of his former students from Stanford and Emory work in the media today at Google, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Fox Sports and ESPN, among other news outlets.
Pomerantz spent 18 years as a daily journalist, first as a sportswriter for The Washington Post where he covered Georgetown University basketball, the Washington Redskins and the National Football League, and later at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he wrote about race, sports, culture and politics, and served for a time on the newspaper’s editorial board. His work has also appeared in Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and other publications.
The American Journalism Review has placed Pomerantz among a select group of journalists “whose techniques produce imaginative, technically accurate, and thoroughly documented stories that fall into the broad category of literary journalism.” He has captured numerous journalism honors, including the Ernie Pyle Award, the nation’s top honor for human interest writing awarded by the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi national award for feature writing. Pomerantz also has been acknowledged by The American Editor magazine and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for his distinguished writing about race relations.
A frequent public speaker, he has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio programs, including The CBS Early Show, CNN Sunday Morning, ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” “NFL Live” and “Outside the Lines,” the BBC World Service’s “Outlook” and National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered” and “Weekend Edition.”
Pomerantz lives today in San Francisco with his wife Carrie and their three children. He served for several years on the advisory board of Beyond Borders, a multicultural summer program for children in Marin and San Francisco, and on the Council of the Friends of The Bancroft Library at University of California, Berkeley. He coached 27 seasons in youth sports (baseball, basketball, softball), spent seven years as an oft-injured infielder on the Mooseheads, six-time Over-40 softball champions of Corte Madera, Calif., and still engages annually in an NL-Only Rotisserie baseball league. Each spring he joins older his brothers, Greg and Glenn, on a tour of baseball spring training camps. He frequently hikes the hills of San Francisco with his dog Eddie, a 10-year-old Westie who usually wants to walk in a different direction.
He wears a family ring of great sentimental value. It once belonged to his grandfather, Philip Pomerantz, and carries his initials (“P.P.”). After Philip’s death in 1968, Gary’s father, Ed, wore the ring for thirty years. Then he gave it to Gary on their 1998 trip to Kremenchug, Ukraine, where Philip had been born a century before. After having worn the ring for 19 years, Gary lost it in the McCall River in Belize in Central America in December 2017 when his canoe capsized in a surging rapid, and the ring slid from his finger. In a small miracle, the ring was later found, and returned to Gary, who immediately announced his retirement from canoeing.
Stories About Gary