So, I read an article on Bookish.com the other day from a Sports Illustrated writer about his favorite baseball books. So, I thought I would throw (ha – see what I did there? Throw – baseball – HA!) together my own list:
- Ball Four: Great, funny scandalous work about the real life of a baseball player. Written by the very funny Jim Bouton, who in addition to being a knuckleballer, helped invent Big League Chew. This takes you through baseball in the 1960s and 1970s – different than today, but fun, engaging and timeless.
- The Art of Fielding: College baseball, May-December secret romances, depression, and a scruffily bearded friend and an untimely death. What else do you need?
- Catcher with a Glass Arm: OK, so anything by Matt Christopher had me riveted when I was 8, but this book has stayed with me for decades. (And I was a little crushed when my baseball obsessed son didn’t love it as much as I did, but when I read it, it is a little dated. But whatever. It still makes the list.
- The Catcher Was a Spy: Baseball and spies?!? Yeah, the story of Moe Berg, a journeyman catcher who just happened to work for the OSS. Awesome stuff. Read it. Seriously.
- Shoeless Joe: I will admit that the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams was actually better than the book, but totally read it. There is magic here..
- A Pitcher’s Story: Anything that Roger Angell writes about baseball is worth reading. And when he writes about thoughtful and passionate people like David Cone, only good things can happen.
- Moneyball: Baseball is a business. And I dare anyone to find a better business writer than Michael Lewis. He makes dull things like WAR (wins above replacement value) come alive, and makes drama from the data that is the business of baseball. Skip the Brad Pitt version and read the book. It is great.
- Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion: So, Roger Angell makes it twice. His look at baseball is just the right mix of cerebral and emotional. He is enthralled with the boyhood hero-worship of the men that roam the green grass of the diamond. But he knows that they are flawed and imperfect heroes. This kind of tension haunts Angell’s writing to make him the finest long-form baseball writer ever. (I would posit that Peter Gammons is the finest short-form writer.)
- The Wrong Stuff: So, it ISN’T a great book. Bill “Spaceman” Lee is completely insane, and his editorial voice wanders. But this is reminiscent of Bouton. Bill Lee was (and is, still) an original voice in baseball. For any Red Sox fan, this is worth reading.
- Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball : You either like George Will or you hate him. I dislike his conservatism immensely. However, he has a romance with baseball that is true and real. Like Angell, he wonders at the majesty of the players – their athleticism, their grace. But he sees them for who they are, and it is this flawed hero worship that I am drawn to again and again.
What are your favorites?