MLB.com writers share favorite baseball books
Time for some summer reading? You’re in luck. We invited our esteemed writing colleagues at MLB.com to suggest at least one favorite baseball book. Ball Four tops Moneyball, 8-6, for most mentions. David Halberstam has the most suggested works with three. Some titles will surprise you. These 47 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.
Brittany Ghiroli: Moneyball!
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, Steinbrenner by Bill Madden, 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). Seminal works: The Long Season by Jim Brosnan, Ball Four by Jim Bouton, Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn, 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.
Bryan Hoch: I’ll go with Jonathan Eig’s Luckiest Man, and Bouton’s Ball Four. Also honorable mention for The Worst Team Money Could Buy, which I dog-eared as a teenager. And two more I have to mention: The Bronx is Burning and Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball.
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.
Jane Lee: Have to go with 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.
John Schlegel: Red Smith on Baseball. It’s a collection of the great columnist’s works on baseball, and it becomes sort of a time portal to an era when baseball really was America’s only pastime and newspapermen were the great communicators of the game’s beauty. The way he crafted his columns, it could be a sportswriting textbook. I also like Teammates, Moneyball (even though I disagreed with the general sentiment, it’s so incredibly well written and researched) and I Had a Hammer.
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.