- Mississippi’s Greatest Athletes 2014
- BOO A Life In Baseball, Well-lived 2009
- It’s More Than a Game 2000
- Vaught: The Man and His Legacy 2000
By Jacob Farris (SHS)
Mississippi sports writer Rick Cleveland was born October 7, 1952, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he also grew up. His father, Ace Cleveland, was also a sports writer and is in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His dad encouraged him to become a writer, but the person who influenced him the most as a writer was the famous Willie Morris from Yazoo City, Mississippi.
Cleveland first became interested in writing in elementary school. Every day he always read the sports page first, and he also read many sports books and biographies. He thought writing would be a good way to make a living, and he loved to play sports as well as read books.
In high school, Rick Cleveland was an average student. He did well in history and English, but he didn’t do as well in math and science. He did well if he was interested in a subject, but otherwise he struggled and his grades were not as good. He worked part time in the sports department at The Hattiesburg American newspaper throughout high school and college.
Cleveland graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. At USM, he had a double major in journalism and history with a minor in English.
He has now been writing for over thirty-five years. His advice for future writers is to read a lot and read the great writers like Twain, Faulkner, Hemmingway, Welty, and Styron. His advice for students is to “find something you love and do that.” He has worked at other jobs and made more money but couldn’t find anything he liked more than writing. Now, he looks forward to going to work, and says in many ways his work is a hobby. “How many people can say that?”
Cleveland has written two books: It’s More Than a Game and Vaught: The Man and His Legacy. Rick Cleveland’s second book, Vaught — The Man and His Legacy chronicles the life of the former Ole Miss head coach. He continues to write daily for the Jackson Clarion Ledger sports page.
Rick Cleveland has now been a sports writer (most of those with The Clarion-Ledger) for more than four decades and is also now executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. In 2009 Cleveland published BOO A Life In Baseball, Well-lived.
He most recently published Mississippi ‘s Greatest Athletes, a coffee table book that records the accomplishments of many famous Mississippi athletes who are in the Mississippi sports Hall of Fame of which there are more than 300. Publisher and writer Neil White aided in finding the photographs in the book and published it. There are also two acting editions by Cleveland available on Amazon: My Buddy Bill and My Pal George, published in 2010.
A Review of It’s More Than A Game
It’s More Than a Game is an excellent book written by Rick Cleveland of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi. It is a collection of his articles on Mississippi sports or on major national sports events . The articles appeared in the newspaper from 1985 to1999.
Cleveland writes about everything from learning from his father how to oil a baseball glove to watching the great Mississippi college football players like Steve “Air” McNair from Alcorn, Brett Favre from USM, Jerry Rice from Mississippi Valley State, Archie Manning from Ole Miss, and D.D. Lewis from Mississippi State. He also writes about people who weren’t athletes but loved sports like Melissa Winfield from Starkville, a great Mississippi State baseball fan who died when she was ten years old and Bob Hartley, the long time sports information director at Mississippi State.
It’s More Than a Game includes sports articles that range from elementary and middle school, to high school, college, and professional sports. Also included are a few articles about his personal life with his family and friends. He also has written articles about learning to parachute, running marathons, and fishing, among other subjects. All sixty-five of the articles are very well written and interesting.
Personally, I really enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend this book to any sports fan or anybody interested in becoming involved with sports. Again, this is an excellent book and a must-read for any sports fan.
By Jacob Farris (SHS)
What is your birth date, and where were you born?
“Jacob, I’m old. I was born October 7, 1952, in Hattiesburg.”
Where did you grow up?
Who is your favorite author?
What author do you think has influenced you the most?
“My dad was a sports writer and a huge influence on me. I became a sports writer because of him. His name was Ace Cleveland, and he is in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. But the author who undoubtedly had the biggest influence on me was Yazoo City’s Willie Morris. He was not only my favorite author, but one of my best friends. Willie once told me me, ‘Ricky, the English language is marvelous. If you work at it, and search diligently enough, it will always provide you with the right word.’ “
When did you become interested in writing? Was there something in particular that got you interested in writing?
“I have been interested in writing since I was in elementary school. When I wasn’t playing, I was reading. I read the sports page first every day, but I also read a lot of biographies and sports books. I used to try writing my sports columns when I was a little kid. I think what interested me most about writing, at least at first, it seemed a mighty fine way to make a living. I loved sports and I loved words.”
What kind of student were you in high school?
“I was an average high school student. I did well in English and history and not so well in math and sciences. Generally speaking, when I was interested in something, I usually did well, and when I wasn’t interested, I struggled. I was working in the sports department of The Hattiesburg American newspaper the entire time I was in high school and then college.”
Where did you attend college?
“I went to school at USM in Hattiesburg and double-majored in journalism and history with a minor in English.”
Do you have any advice for future writers?
“My primary advice to future writers is, No. 1, read, read and read some more. Read the great writers. Read Twain and Faulkner and Hemingway and Welty and Styron. If newspaper writing is what you want to do, also get on the Internet and read columnists from around the country. You can find literally hundreds at sportspages.com.”
Do you have any advice for students today?
“My advice to students: Find something you love and do that. I could have worked in other professions and made considerably more money, but I could not have done anything I would have enjoyed more than what I do. I look forward to going to work. My work is in many ways my hobby. How many people can say that?”
- Read articles by Rick Cleveland at Clarionledger.com
- “A few words can say so much” by Rick Cleveland tells of Cleveland’s experiences working with Mississippi writer and editor Elliott Chaze at the Hattiesburg American.
- Rick’s Writings on the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame website
- Rick Cleveland’s Twitter Account
- Columns in the Sun Herald Times
- Cleveland: Book Details top Mississippi Sports Heroes. The Clarion Ledger. 2014
- Cleveland, Rick. E-mail Interview. 12 December 2002
- Cleveland, Rick. It’s More Than a Game.Vancouver, Washington. Pediment Publishing. 2000.