Time for some summer reading? You’re in luck. We invited our esteemed writing colleagues at MLB.com to volunteer the title of at least one favorite baseball book. Ball Four has the most mentions (seven), David Halberstam has the most suggested works (three), and we’re sure some will come as a surprise. These folks write about baseball for a living, in some cases books as well, so take their advice and happy reading.
Jordan Bastian: Fifty-nine in ’84 By Edward Achorn.
Mike Bauman: Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof.
Jason Beck: I read Summer of ’49 while in college, and for me it’s still the standard. Really good individual storytelling woven into the bigger context of a pennant race and its place in the larger culture.
Barry Bloom: The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella. Shoeless Joe was turned into a cliche by the movie “Field of Dreams.” Iowa stands on its own as a phantasmagorical allegory for an endless, timeless baseball game and how that applies to anyone’s life.
Hal Bodley: If I didn’t say How Baseball Explains America, my latest and just-published book, I wouldn’t be fair to myself and the 55-plus years it took to assemble the memories and the effort it took to write it. Other than that, it would have to be John Grisham’s Callico Joe.
Rhett Bollinger: Mine is Moneyball by Michael Lewis. It helped me change the way I thought about baseball.
Corey Brock: Dollar Sign on the Muscle introduced me to the world of scouting at a young age. Fascinating stuff. Still pick it up from time to time.
Ian Browne: Teammates by Halberstam.
Jim Callis: Five Seasons by Roger Angell.
Anthony Castrovince: Summer of ’49 by Halberstam. And I’ll always have a soft spot for Nash and Zullo’s Believe it or Else! Baseball edition, a ridiculous book of baseball oddities that I got as a little kid. Still on my shelf.
Gregor Chisolm: Mel Martin Baseball Stories. It’s a six-book set that was written by John R. Cooper in the 1950s. My dad owned the series when he was a kid and he passed them along to me when I first started getting into novels.
Anthony DiComo: I have to go with Moneyball … the first baseball book that got me thinking about the game on a deeper level.
Spencer Fordin: Idiots Revisited.
Steve Gilbert: Weaver on Strategy.
Ken Gurnick: Boys of Summer.
Paul Hagen: Favorite anthology, and one of the books that got me hooked on reading about baseball as a kid: The Fireside Book of Baseball. Novels: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, The Natural by Bernard Malamud, The Celebrant by Eric Rolfe Greenberg, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc. by Robert Coover. Biographies: Joe DiMaggio by Richard Ben Kramer, Sandy Koufax by Jane Leavy, Ted Williams by Leigh Montville, The Last Boy by Jane Leavy, Clemente by David Maraniss. Autobiography: Veeck As in Wreck. Specialty subjects: Dollar Sign on the Muscle by Kevin Kerrane on scouting, The Chrysanthemum and the Bat by Robert Whiting (baseball in Japan), Moneyball by Michael Lewis (front office), The Ticket Out by Michael Sokolove (sociology). True stories: The Long Season by Jim Brosnan, Ball Four by Jim Bouton, Miracle Ball by Brian Biegel.
Chris Haft: Since I was here in Cooperstown to pay my respects to Roger Angell during this invite, I have to go with his Five Seasons.
Greg Johns: I’ll go back to my youth . . . Ball Four by Jim Bouton.
Richard Justice: Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion by Roger Angell.
Dick Kaegel: Not even close. The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence S. Ritter.
Jenifer Langosch: October 1964.
Matthew Leach: Ball Four.
Adam McCalvy: The Milwaukee boy in me really liked Me and Hank by Sandy Tolan.
Brian McTaggart: Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life, by Richard Ben Cramer.
Scott Merkin: The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle.
Doug Miller: The Long Season by Jim Brosnan.
Carrie Muskat: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.
Mark Newman: I need a bracket tournament to choose from among (a) The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams and John Underwood; (b) Clemente; (c) Catcher with a Glass Arm by Matt Christopher; and (d) Men at Work by George Will. If I wasn’t surrounded by luminaries here I would make my grandmother proud and go with C, but instead we’ll give the nod to the bio that captured Puerto Rico’s beloved legend. Oh, and I still have that little Dope Book I wrote about here four years ago.
Tracy Ringsolby: Favorite baseball book is Babe Ruth Caught in a Snowstorm.
Phil Rogers: Put me down for Heart of the Game, Scott Price’s book on Mike Coolbaugh and the line drive that killed him while he coached first base. Runnerup is Ernie Banks: Mr. Cub and the Summer of ’69, by Phil Rogers. That was a hell of a book.
Jesse Sanchez: Clemente by David Maraniss is my favorite.
Mark Sheldon: Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig. Also Jane Levy’s The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood.
Lyle Spencer: Willie Mays, The Life, The Legend, by James Hirsch.
T.R. Sullivan: If I Never Get Back. It is a novel by Darryl Brock about a man who gets stuck back in time and ends up as a reserve for the 1869 Cincinnati Reds.
John Thorn: Let me mention three. Favorite baseball book with a historical theme: Larry Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times. Favorite baseball history: Harold and Dorothy Seymour’s Baseball: The Early Years (Volume I, to 1903; Volume II was great too: Baseball: The Golden Age … to 1930). Favorite baseball book, and the most important one, Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. For other favorites of mine (as if these were not enough!), see: http://fivebooks.com/interviews/john-thorn-on-baseball
Meggie Zahneis: What a coincidence! Before checking my phone and seeing this invite, I finished Mariano Rivera’s autobiography, The Closer, and loved it. I really enjoyed The Baseball by Zack Hample as well.
Share your favorites in the comments and let us know what you think of the list.
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Almost every day before a game at Kauffman Stadium, the baseball scouts gather at one end of the press box. They sit and they talk, and very often, Art Stewart is at the center of the group, telling stories.
Stewart has a lot of stories to tell, because at 87, he’s been scouting in seven decades. He’s a great storyteller and that’s why it’s our good fortune that he’s decided to put his tales in a book, “The Art of Scouting,” being published on Thursday by Ascend Books.
What co-author Sam Mellinger, a Kansas City Star columnist, has done so well is capture the cadence, the spirit and the enthusiasm of Stewart. It’s like you’re sitting right there with the scouts, listening to ol’ Art tell a story. Or two or three.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and, needless to say, a lot has changed in the picturesque little village in upstate New York since the building was formally dedicated in 1939.
“Induction Day at Cooperstown” by Dennis Corcoran, as its title suggests, takes a year-by-year look at the most celebrated day of the baseball calendar. It’s a thorough examination of each Induction Day from the beginning through 2010. The who, what, when, where and why is here, and it’s an engrossing road map to the growth of the institution.
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
Except for a few rhyming lines dashed off by a long-ago sportswriter, second baseman Johnny Evers might be like most other Hall of Fame players from the early 20th century: Great then, largely unknown now.
The ode to the Cubs’ double-play combination of the day, Tinker to Evers to Chance, immortalized the trio. Shortstop Joe Tinker and first baseman Frank Chance are also enshrined in Cooperstown. But this has been a double-edged sword. It’s nice to be remembered. Evers thanked the author, Franklin P. Adams, when they met for the first time in 1937, for writing something that kept his baseball career alive. “I owe you a debt of lasting gratitude for keeping my name before the public all these years,” the former player said. “I’d have been forgotten long ago if it were not for [the poem].”
By Byron Borger
In the last few BookNotes I’ve introduced you to some pretty serious books – from old theology to new liturgy, from a good, young writer talking about hard times to a respected older writer talking about God’s divine conspiracy. Soon I’m going to share an important list of books about some very heavy stuff, so for today I’m going to tell you about the feel-good book of the summer.
Interestingly, fun as it is, it includes some data about, and reveals a huge heart to work against sexual trafficking and modern day slavery. I’m glad to say that even though it has a sub-theme about justice, it is about that quintessential American game, baseball, but, even more, about the simple joy of having a game of catch. Catch and Release: Faith, Freedom and Knuckleballs is truly delightful, an enjoyably nice read, and at times, even stirring. I’ll admit, one touching chapter just slayed me and I closed the book, happy about the ending, but wishing for more. I loved this book about playing catch and trying to bring release to the captives.
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
Larry Shenk’s first season as the public relations director for the Phillies was 1964. He was the third person in as many years to hold the position. That was also the season when Philadelphia saw a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 games to play disappear, a World Series whiff that still lives in franchise infamy.
The Baron, as he is universally known, has more than overcome those inauspicious early omens. Shenk is still going strong as the vice president of alumni relations. Shenk started at Connie Mack Stadium, went to Veterans Stadium and now works out of Citizens Bank Park, where the press box is named after him.
In all those years, Shenk has seen and heard it all. Now, he’s sharing some of those tales in a breezy read called “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories From the Philadelphia Phillies Dugout, Locker Room and Press Box.”
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
It’s probably fair to say that Willie Randolph has had a better baseball career than most people realize. As a player, he was part of seven teams that went to the postseason, including five pennant winners and three that won the World Series. He made six All-Star teams and was a Yankees co-captain for three seasons.
When Randolph retired, he ranked fifth in Major League history with 2,152 games played at second base. As a Yankees coach, he went to the postseason 10 straight years and added four more championship rings. Randolph became the first African-American manager in New York City when hired by the Mets in 2005. A year later, he led the team to a 97-win season, which is the last time the team appeared in the playoffs.
All of which gives “The Yankee Way: Playing, Coaching, and My Life in Baseball” its authority. Randolph has produced a thoughtful volume that covers everything from growing up in the tough Brownsville section of Brooklyn to selecting an All-Star Yankees team from his playing and coaching time in that storied organization.
The title is a dead giveaway that Randolph focuses on his time in pinstripes. But there’s much more here.
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
Baseball touches so many aspects of society that most people barely stop to think about it. From the culture to the language to the history, the national pastime has influenced the way people talk, think and entertain themselves.
Veteran journalist Hal Bodley, the senior correspondent for MLB.com, stopped to think about it. The result is “How Baseball Explains America,” a loosely arranged collection of 17 chapters that connects the dots between the game and the various ways it informs our workaday lives.
Some of the territory covered is familiar. Chapter 9, for example, is devoted to the legacy of Jackie Robinson. Of course, it would be impossible to write a book of this nature and omit Robinson’s enormous contributions and how the integration of baseball in 1947 is widely viewed as a spark for the civil rights movement as a whole.
On those occasions, the tone shifts from professorial examination to personal memoir. Bodley is in his sixth decade of covering baseball for a living. He has been fortunate enough to have a front-row seat at many of the important milestones that have occurred in the game since he began his career in 1958.
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
Ask any baseball player who has just been part of a significant event — whether it’s a personal milestone or an important win for the team – about what it all means and his answer will almost always be the same. He’ll say that he hasn’t really had time to think about it, that it hasn’t sunk in, that he probably won’t fully appreciate the magnitude of what just happened until much later.
That’s because only time can add perspective to memories — not to mention that, after a decent interval, a certain now-it-can-be-told sensibility sets in. The statute of limitations runs out on stories that might once have been deemed better left inside the clubhouse.
Longtime MLB.com Red Sox beat writer Ian Browne has deftly tapped into that reality with “Idiots Revisited: Catching Up with the Red Sox Who Won the 2004 World Series.” It is both an in-depth remembrance of the team that broke the franchise’s 86-year championship drought and a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most charismatic clubs in recent memory.
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
Baseball is justifiably proud of how the Brooklyn Dodgers’ signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947, breaking the unofficial color barrier, played an important role in promoting civil rights in this country.
Award-winning baseball writer Bill Madden makes a compelling case in “1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever” that the real impact of that historic event on the sport wasn’t actually felt until seven years later.
It’s true that by then, Robinson was well-established in the big leagues. When Spring Training began that season, he had won a National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949 and had made the NL All-Star team each of the previous five seasons. And it’s also true that the Dodgers had already added other African-American standouts such as Don Newcombe, Joe Black, Roy Campanella and Junior Gilliam.
But integration in the sport was still the exception more than the rule.
That was the year, for example, that Ernie Banks became a full-time player for the Cubs and when Hank Aaron made his Major League debut for the Milwaukee Braves. It was the year when, for the first time, both teams appearing in the World Series, the Indians and New York Giants, featured black players.
It was the year that Willie Mays returned from military service and blossomed into one of the most magnetic players in history. His outsized impact on his team’s success is duly chronicled. It was the year that the Dodgers started five blacks on July 17, the first time in history whites had been outnumbered in the lineup.
That was also the year that the Supreme Court ruled in “Brown vs. Board of Education” that segregation in public schools based solely on race was illegal. Still, at the beginning of the season, half the 16 teams that existed at the time had yet to use a black player.