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Sunday, August 03, 2014

MLB.com writers share favorite baseball books « Baseball Books

Although I have read and enjoyed most of the books listed, my favorite was Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout.

Jim Furtado Posted: August 03, 2014 at 08:51 AM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: books

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   1. jobu Posted: August 03, 2014 at 11:34 AM (#4763347)
Lots of good ones shown there. My favorite baseball book not mentioned is "Lords of the Realm," by John Helyar.
   2. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 03, 2014 at 12:11 PM (#4763361)
The big omission for me is The Pitch that Killed, by Mike Sowell.
   3. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: August 03, 2014 at 07:34 PM (#4763577)
In the fiction world a kid's book called "My Father The Coach" was read and re-read over and over again when I was about 11-12.

On the non-fiction side I would not necessarily pick one but any of the Baseball Abstracts up to and including the The Historical Abstract would be in there.
   4. cardsfanboy Posted: August 03, 2014 at 07:48 PM (#4763582)
I'm surprised Moneyball received so much love.
   5. McCoy Posted: August 03, 2014 at 08:06 PM (#4763588)
I'm sort of surprised that I read a lot of the books mentioned and can recognize the titles of the ones I have not. Kind of makes you realize just how small and crappy the genre is.
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 03, 2014 at 08:49 PM (#4763605)
I'm sort of surprised that I read a lot of the books mentioned and can recognize the titles of the ones I have not. Kind of makes you realize just how small and crappy the genre is.

It's not really all that small or all that crappy, it's just that most people aren't familiar with but a small percentage of what's actually out there. I've got somewhere between 600 and 700 baseball books myself, and that's not counting a complete run of baseball guides from 1876 through 2006, but I've still got fewer than half a dozen titles from this humongous McFarland catalogue. The total number of baseball books ever published has probably gone up tenfold over the past 20 years, and nobody could possibly ever hope to keep up with them.
   7. McCoy Posted: August 03, 2014 at 08:54 PM (#4763608)
Yeah, but most of it is crappy.
   8. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 03, 2014 at 09:01 PM (#4763611)
The big omission for me is The Pitch that Killed, by Mike Sowell.


A favorite of mine as well.

In fiction, nice to see Darryl Brock's If I Never Get Back mentioned. I'd add Donald Hays' The Dixie Association, John Sayles' Pride of the Bimbos & any number of Duane Decker "Blue Sox" juveniles* to that as well, along with Troy Soos' Mickey Rawlings baseball mysteries set circa the WWI era.



*Wish I could remember the authors of all the various baseball juveniles I devoured as a kid. Matt Christopher, obviously, & Joe Archibald, but quite a few others have slipped my mind. William Heuman's name pops up for me as well.

   9. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 03, 2014 at 09:15 PM (#4763613)
Yeah, but most of it is crappy.

You know this, how? The few McFarland titles I've bought have all been very good. Granted it's a small sample size, but what specific titles have you read of theirs?
   10. McCoy Posted: August 03, 2014 at 10:49 PM (#4763639)
I meant most baseball books are crap.
   11. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 03, 2014 at 11:20 PM (#4763647)
As a kid, I devoured Dean Hughes' Angel Park All Stars series religiously. I have no idea if they're actually any good.
   12. BochysFingers Posted: August 03, 2014 at 11:31 PM (#4763650)
I meant most baseball books are crap.

I don't know, man, although I understand you generally f- with people on this site. Granted, I employ a bit of discrimination when choosing a baseball book, but apart from "3 Nights In August" (which really was truly awful), I don't know that I've ever read a bad baseball book (and I've probably hit about a 100).
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:14 AM (#4763663)
I don't know, man, although I understand you generally f- with people on this site. Granted, I employ a bit of discrimination when choosing a baseball book, but apart from "3 Nights In August" (which really was truly awful), I don't know that I've ever read a bad baseball book (and I've probably hit about a 100).


I liked 3 Nights, the only baseball book I can think of as crappy, was some garbage about a fantasy league (not fantasyland) that people on here love, which I just found to be atrocious Tolkien/King level of painful reading...(found it...
universal baseball association)
   14. morineko Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:43 AM (#4763677)
I read a lot of baseball books (quickly) and review them (slowly.) According to my Goodreads log, I've read 292 books, fiction and nonfiction, I've tagged as "baseball" since 2002. Most I have rated as average, not the best but not bad, but there are an awful lot of books I've rated as below average. I wouldn't say that most baseball books that I've read are crap and even the below-average ones had some interesting points, but there still is a whole lot of crap out there. I just tend not to pick it up.
   15. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 04, 2014 at 01:05 AM (#4763682)
As I have said before, although I loathe the man personally, Roger Kahn's "The Era" is excellent
   16. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 04, 2014 at 04:02 AM (#4763694)
Not one mention for The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract?
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 04, 2014 at 07:41 AM (#4763705)
I read a lot of baseball books (quickly) and review them (slowly.) According to my Goodreads log, I've read 292 books, fiction and nonfiction, I've tagged as "baseball" since 2002. Most I have rated as average, not the best but not bad, but there are an awful lot of books I've rated as below average. I wouldn't say that most baseball books that I've read are crap and even the below-average ones had some interesting points, but there still is a whole lot of crap out there. I just tend not to pick it up.

Other than fiction, the crap consists of most of the endless rehashings of the iconic seasons and moments, especially those that coincide with anniversaries. These books are basically magazine articles that never should have been expanded beyond that.

I'd also put most baseball fiction (and nearly all baseball movies) into the crap category. But out of the 600-700 baseball titles I've picked up over the past 50+ years (98% non-fiction), I doubt if I'd consign more than a dozen or so into into the mental dump heap.

Another way I'd put it would be this: When I had my book shop, I turned down a smaller percentage of baseball books than I did from virtually any other category. If you want to see real crap, try the endless stream of bestsellers on How to Get Rich, How to Get Laid, and How to Find Jesus, not to mention the books churned out on political issues by talk show hosts and other assorted morons.

-------------------------------------------------------

Not one mention for The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract?

That'd sure be near the top of my list.
   18. vivaelpujols Posted: August 04, 2014 at 07:47 AM (#4763706)
I really liked 3 Nights in August. That was back when I loved TLR. When I actually starting getting into baseball and saber metrics seriously I started to freakin' hate TLR. Now that Matheny is the Cardinals manager I'm starting to get warm fuzzy feelings for TLR again.
   19. bobm Posted: August 04, 2014 at 09:25 AM (#4763745)
If you want to see real crap, try the endless stream of bestsellers on How to Get Rich, How to Get Laid, and How to Find Jesus

Is that one book or three? :)
   20. Rusty Priske Posted: August 04, 2014 at 09:31 AM (#4763751)
Moneyball and anything by Dirk Hayhurst.
   21. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 04, 2014 at 09:31 AM (#4763752)
Also, no mention (IIRC) of Pat Jordan's A False Spring or Steve Fireovid's The 26th Man? Booooooo.
   22. vivaelpujols Posted: August 04, 2014 at 10:22 AM (#4763780)
Is that one book or three? :)


First you get rich, then you get laid, then you give away all your money and find jesus.
   23. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 04, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4763798)
First you get rich, then you get laid, then you give away all your money and find jesus.

But not before first creating enough tax shelters to keep you going well into your afterlife.
   24. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4763872)
As a kid, I devoured Dean Hughes' Angel Park All Stars series religiously. I have no idea if they're actually any good.


I would go through their box scores to come up with end-of-season stats for all the players.

Surprisingly, I didn't have a lot of friends at the time.
   25. McCoy Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:25 PM (#4763883)
I don't know, man, although I understand you generally f- with people on this site.

I've never once f'ed with people here. In terms of my opinions and feelings I've been 100% honest. I've made jokes and been sarcastic but in terms of my opinions I've said what I believed. If people think their opinions are so obviously so right that they only people who could disagree with them are people that are being dishonest, well, that is on them.
   26. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:47 PM (#4763911)
Props to Paul Hagen, who mentioned two of my top three, and also had a different book by the author of the third (Whiting).

The omission that surprises me is Pat Jordan's A False Spring.
   27. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: August 04, 2014 at 01:10 PM (#4763949)
One that was formative for me as a kid (and one of the reasons why I'm not too concerned vis-a-vis steroids and the integrity of the game) was Dan Gutman's It Ain't Cheating if You Don't Get Caught.
   28. deputydrew Posted: August 04, 2014 at 01:52 PM (#4763996)
Favorites:
Lords of the Realm
Veeck as in Wreck
The Babe

Un-Favorites (had high expectations, which doesn't help)
The Bullpen Gospels - I generally like his writing, but wasn't that into the book.
The Machine - I love Poz's blogs, but hated the book and gave it away after reading about 1/3
   29. rr Posted: August 04, 2014 at 02:10 PM (#4764013)
I have read very little baseball-driven fiction except Bang the Drum Slowly. Two books not mentioned either in the thread or the article that I liked: The Echoing Green, Joshua Prager's dual biography of Thomson and Branca, and
Nice Guys Finish Last, by Leo Durocher with Ed Linn. Apparently Durocher was an incredible sleaze although he obviously does not portray himself as such, but the book is a good read. I also liked Bill James' The Baseball Book annuals from 1989-1991, and his book on managers. Chris Jaffe's book on managers is good as well.

I am a huge fan of Five Seasons and The Long Season and will go back to re-read favorite parts of both.
   30. rr Posted: August 04, 2014 at 02:23 PM (#4764027)
Another book that is not bad that I never see mentioned anywhere is Epic Season by David Kaiser, which is a very straightforward day-by-day account of the 1948 AL pennant race.
   31. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: August 04, 2014 at 02:43 PM (#4764060)
The one book that I think influenced my baseball fandom as an adolescent more than anything else was If At First by Keith Hernandez (and Mike Bryan), a day-by-day account of the 1985 New York Mets season (as well as a look at Hernandez's career up to that point). Not sure why; maybe just because it was the only baseball book we had lying around when I was a kid. But I must have read that thing a dozen times, and absolutely know more about the 1985 Mets than their 2014 counterparts.
   32. deputydrew Posted: August 04, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4764074)
I also really liked "Pure Baseball" when I read it years ago. It's a pitch-by-pitch breakdown of one (or two) games. It was really interesting to see how the players (the smart ones, at least) view the game. I'm not sure if it would stand up to a re-reading, now that I'm a somewhat more educated fan.

As a kid, I loved the Ron Luciano books. I thought they were hilarious. No idea if they would be to an adult.
   33. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: August 04, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4764093)
(Part of the appeal of that 1985 Mets team is that the Rick Camp Game took place on my birthday. But I don't know if I put that together when I was a kid.)
   34. Rowland Office Supplies Posted: August 04, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4764116)
Part of the appeal of that 1985 Mets team is that the Rick Camp Game took place on my birthday.

The day it started or the day it ended?
   35. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: August 04, 2014 at 03:24 PM (#4764123)
I thought about the Luciano books this weekend - really enjoyed them as a kid as well.

My first week of college, I checked out and promptly places on a cafeteria tray the UBA book. Replacing cost ~$125, more than I spent on all other activities over the rest of the year (sans tuition, dorm and caf). That was heartbreaking and likely colored my view of the book (which I thought was just okay).

Moneyball was disappointing - overhyped and lacking complexity.

A False Spring >> The 26th Man

Never read The Babe.

The Seymour histories are worth checking out if you haven't already...
   36. McCoy Posted: August 04, 2014 at 03:45 PM (#4764148)
I flipped through the Luciano books a couple of years back in a bookstore and the anecdotes and stories seemed interesting. Not enough for me to spend money on it but if they had been published in article form online I would have enjoyed reading them.
   37. AndrewJ Posted: August 04, 2014 at 07:41 PM (#4764337)
Some worthy titles I haven't seen mentioned yet:

The Ultimate Baseball Book (Okrent & Lewine)
The Unforgettable Season (Fleming)
Baseball Founders/Baseball Pioneers (various)
Baseball before We Knew It (Block)
A Game of Inches (Morris)
Dickson Baseball Dictionary (Dickson)
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning (Mahler)
Stars and Strikes (Epstein)
The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant (Wallop)
   38. Bruce Markusen Posted: August 05, 2014 at 08:54 AM (#4764516)
There are tons of good to great baseball books that never get mentioned. The notion that the baseball genre is somehow weak is preposterous.

Anything by Terry Pluto, especially The Curse of Rocky Colavito, is excellent reading.

Marty Appel's biography of Thurman Munson is exceptional, as is his Now Pitching for the Yankees.

Southern League, by Larry Colton, is criminally underrated--one of the best baseball books I've ever read.

Bill Madden gets all sorts of grief here, but his new book, 1954, is terrific--very insightful into baseball's race relations in the mid-1950s.

Mint Condition, about the history of baseball cards, is a wonderful read.

Bill White's book, Uppity, sheds a lot of light into segregation and the difficult nature of Bob Howsam.

I could go on and on, and I will, if I have to.
   39. bobm Posted: August 05, 2014 at 09:33 AM (#4764526)
A Game of Inches (Morris)

A great book about the history of baseball, organized for easy reference by topic.
   40. AndrewJ Posted: August 05, 2014 at 09:46 PM (#4765193)
Two more for the road:

The Hidden Game of Baseball (Thorn & Palmer)
The Numbers Game (Schwarz)

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