Best Baseball Books

by John J. Miller on May 10, 2010 · 96 comments

in Blog Posts

  • Sumo

When I learned that Ernie Harwell had died, I reached for my bookshelf, where I keep a few baseball books. One is called Ernie Harwell’s Diamond Gems, a collection of anecdotes, most of them short enough to tell between pitches or at-bats. (It’s also a signed copy. The man had very neat handwriting.)

What books should be in every baseball fan’s library? Men at Work by George Will? Moneyball by Michael Lewis? Bless You Boys by Sparky Anderson? Post your suggestions in the comments section.

  • Dave Kern

    Maybe not great, but Ring Lardner’s “You Know Me Al” was a great insight and humorous window of the life of a ballplayer from an earlier era.

  • peter ahrensdorf

    The Ritter book is the best baseball book I have ever read, but I would add after that all of Roger Angell’s books–Summer Game, Five Seasons, Late Innings, Season Ticket–which are beautifully written and rich with insights, and George Will’s book, which is quite interesting.

  • JohnD

    Best Baseball Book:
    “Where They Ain’t: The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team That Gave Birth to Modern Baseball” by Burt Solomon.

    Solomon tells the story of the 1890s National League Baltimore Orioles, a team that, under manager “Foxy Ned” Hanlon, revolutionized the sport through “scientific baseball” and invented the hit and run, double steal, and the dreaeded Baltimore chop, to score runs and advance runners, confounding the opposition. The book captures baseball at the dawn of the modern era and the eve of the turn of the 19th Century. Solomon also chronicles how the National League screwed Baltimore in 1899 and how the American League did the same in 1903, despite Baltimore’s great baseball history, tradition and fans (Note: Baltimore fans attended the 1944 Minor League World series in numbers that greatly exceeded attendance at the 1944 Major Leage WS). A great read for anyone who loves baseball, and to understand how modern baseball developed.

  • Jack Jolis

    The best baseball books were all written, not surprisingly, by relief pitchers. (Well, two pitchers who began as starters but became relievers, and one would-be pitcher). Because they spend most of their working lives in the bullpen, (baseball’s version of the Green Room), relief pitchers are the game’s troubadours and court jesters — baseball’s philosopher/clowns:

    “The Long Season” — Jim Brosnan
    “Ball Four” — Jim Bouton
    “Out Of My League” — George Plimpton

  • Deirdre Mundy

    It’s a kids book, but “We are the Ship” by Kadir Nelson. It’s a gloriously illustrated history of the Negro Leagues… an award winner– and great for adults too.

  • “The Year The Yankees Lost the Pennant” by Douglas Wallopp, the hilarious novel that inspired the Broadway musical and movie “Damn Yankees.”
    (Considering what Hollywood censorship was like in those days, it surprising the movie version wasn’t titled “DARN Yankees!”

  • cory

    How Life Imitates The World Series – Boswell (Thom, not James)

    My Life As Fan- Wilfred Sheed

    It’s What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts – Earl Weaver

  • I think the best baseball books (at least that I have read) are Men At Work by George Will, Money Ball by Michael Lewis and Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger.

  • Arley

    The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., –Robert Coover

    You Know Me Al—Ring Lardner

    Why Time Begins on Opening Day–Thomas Boswell

    Fathers Playing Catch with Sons–Donald Hall

    And, of course, just about anything that Red Smith wrote on the subject. (On any other subject, too, for that matter.)

  • Bob Grillo

    Ball Four by Bouton. He was the first to write an insider book, and no one on the team saw it coming. He wrote a realistic, hilarious and unvarnished account of his days playing for the Yankees and the expansion Pilots that provided insight into the day to day major league experience. The other books talk about the love of the game or get into managerial strategy, this book is about the people and they were a piece of work. As a fan and former amateur player, I find this book to be a treasure.

  • Don

    Mike Sowell “The Pitch That Killed”
    “I Had A Hammer” (Henry Aaron’s bio)
    Halberstam “Summer of ’49”
    Robert Whiting “You Gotta Have Wa” (on Japanese baseball)
    Gene Elston “A Stitch In Time”

  • Scott Lavender

    A book I enjoyed a lot (and don’t see mentioned often) is If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock. It’s fictional and takes its lead character on a time-travel journey back to 1869 where he joins up with the Cincinnati Red Stockings in their first professional season. Interesting from the viewpoint of the idiomatic speech the author has re-created and how surprisingly much the game has changed. Lots of fun. I enjoy your stuff, Mr. Miller, especially as a long time (early ’60’s) Tiger fan. My Tiger jersey has “6” and “Kaline” on the back.

  • Hal

    I loved “Why Time Begins On Opening Day”.

    Can anyone tell me what in the world happened to “The Baseball Encyclopedia”? I can’t find it and it appears they no loner print it every year. It was a Sporting News product for a while and then ESPN took over for a couple of years and over the last two years….nothing.

    I feel lost without it.

  • Todd Stump

    1. “Veeck as in Wreck”, the autobiography of baseball’s greatest showman, Bill Veeck. Batting midgets, exploding scoreboards, and endless fun from the man who chose baseball as the expression of his love for life and his fellow man.

    2. “The Catcher was a Spy”, the true story of Moe Berg, journeyman professional catcher, scholar, polyglot, and WWII spy. Baseball is a magnet for eccentrics, but Berg was one of the most consequential.

    3. “Park Life ’77”. This one might be just for me. My favorite place in the world as a child was Comiskey Park. In my memory, it was an idyllic place; a building on a grand scale filled with everything a kid could want, heck it was a place you saw on TV! This collection of photos was taken by an IIT student during the summer of ’77. My dad bought season tickets that year and I must have spent 60 nights at 35th and Shields. The book was published years later and was a stark look at how memory can fool you. Cracked concrete, chipped paint, and grubby vendors were nothing like what I remembered. It was a bit jarring to see at the time of publication, but now I look at it with great nostalgia and fondness. Time changes perspective, styles and come and go, physical spaces decline and are renewed, but baseball endures.

  • Karl May

    The Boys of Summer, and Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever

  • Doghouse Riley

    All the above are good choices. I would add:

    “Pitching in a Pinch” by Christy Mathewson. Christy obviously got some ghostwriting help here but nonetheless this is still perhaps the best look we’ll ever get at the dead ball game as it was played.

    “Nice Guys Finish Last” by Leo Durocher. Leo doesn’t seem to hold much of anything back here. If you could read only one memoir of the forties and fifties you know this has to be it.

    The 1980’s “Baseball Abstracts” by Bill James (out of print). Not only is it fascinating to watch the science of sabermetrics evolve in full public view, the man has a killer wit which you’d never suspect from his public image as a stat head.

    And my favorite baseball fiction: “The Southpaw” and “Bang The Drum Slowly” by Mark Harris.

  • Ned F.

    My favorite baseball fiction is “Catcher in the Rye”

  • skip

    M favorite is “Bang the drum Slowly”. Interesting book, decent (not great) movie

  • Matt

    “Lords of the Realm” is required reading for any serious baseball fan. The complete history of the baseball industry, not just the games on the field.

    “Glory of Their Times” is spectacular history.

    “Moneyball” is your best read on how the game is played today.

  • Brian

    “1939: Baseball’s Pivotal Year”, by Talmedge Boston, a Dallas attorney and baseball fan, is a wonderful read.

  • Sean

    They are dated and quaint but the books by John R. Tunis in the 1930s and 40s remain my favorite baseball books. The Kid From Tompkinsville and the Kid Comes Back still inspire me. Too bad kids today wouldn’t read them (although mine did)

  • Ron M.

    “Shoeless Joe”, by W. P. Kinsella. It’s the novel from which the movie “Field of Dreams” was adapted. Suprised it didn’t get more of a mention when J. D. Salinger passed away, as the reclusive writer in the book was Salinger. It’s a great book for anyone with a love for baseball.

  • Dave Kuchler

    Lots of good suggestions folks. I just finished reading a new one, Kiss it Good Bye by John Moody about the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates and Vernon Law. I loved it but it might be because I’m a Pirate fan and grew up with half of the story already.

  • Jim Condon

    Two wonderful books from the early days of baseball, when all of the legends were created:

    “The Glory of Their Times” by Lawrence Ritter – The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It.

    “Only the Ball Was White” by Robert Peterson – Covers the great black stars who played in the shadows of “Organized Baseball” from 1898 to 1946

  • darrell vaughn

    Men At Work, Moneyball, and from my childhood, The Babe Ruth Story (as told by Babe) and The Pride of the Yankees: The Lou Gehrig Story, both written in the 40s.

  • Jon S.

    The Pitch that Killed by Mike Sowell. I actually think The Glory of Their Times is the best baseball book every, but since the WSJ already picked that, I will mention the Sowell book, which is a gripping tale of Ray Chapman and Carl Mays, the man who threw the pitch that killed Chapman in 1920.

  • Ron M.

    One more, on a different plane- “We Could’ve Finished Last without You”, by Bob Hope (not that Bob Hope). It’s a history of the first 25 years of the Braves in Atlanta, by their former PR director. It was published in 1991, just as the Braves were beginning their record-setting playoff run of division titles, and has a ton of great stories of a really bad team and the promotions that helped keep them afloat, including the Ted Turner ostrich races. Chief Nok-a-homa, Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro and Dale Murphy are there, too.

  • Peter Meilaender

    I cast a second vote for the boys’ novels of John R. Tunis. Glad to see them mentioned above. These are wonderful books. In addition to those already mentioned, don’t neglect the less well-known “Buddy and the Old Pro.”

  • Bob C

    “The Echoing Green” by Joshua Prager, the story of Bobby Thompson, Ralph Branca, and the Shot Heard Round the World. A fabulous book, an echo of a different time, and incredible insights into the key players in this most monumental event in baseball history.

  • Bernie Gilbert

    The out-of-print Bill James abstracts from the 1980s taught me more about baseball than everything and everyone else. His “Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” is right up there, brilliantly analyzing arguments sucha as who was the greater player, Mantle or Mays, and why he thinks Stan Musial was a greater left fielder than Ted Williams, saying something along the lines of, “I’d take Musial in the field, on the basepaths, and in the clubhouse. The only place I would give Williams the advantage is with the bat in his hand. And Musial could hit a little, too.”

    James doesn’t just teach you about baseball. He teaches you about how to think. The book is a joy, which, not so coincidentally, is also what baseball is.

  • The Duke of Havana by Ray Sanchez & Steve Fainaru:
    Tells the story of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez’s escape from Cuba (Where he was a national hero) to the USA, where a few months after arriving, he would take the mound for a World Series game in Yankee Stadium.

  • Rich

    Nine Innings by Daniel Okrent. In this book, Okrent details a Brewers-Orioles ballgame inning by inning, all the while telling tangential stories to the action on the field.

    Lords of the Realm is also outstanding.

    But perhaps the best is The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt, by WP Kinsella. A collection of short stories about baseball, each one is unique, hilarious and poignant.

    Do not make the same mistake I did and read Daryl Strawberry’s autobiography. That is two hours of my life I won’t get back.

  • Greg Ecklund

    “The Pitch That Killed” by Mike Sowell has been mentioned several times already, but I don’t hesitate to mention it again and recommend it highly to anyone who has not read it.

    Sowell wrote two other books that deserve mention as well. The first was “July 2, 1903” about the life and death of Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty – it is a great read on a mostly unexplored subject. Sowell’s last book was “One Pitch Away: Stories of the 1986 League Championships”, and while the subject is more contemporary the story is just as interesting.

    Joining Sowell in producing consistently great work is Charles Alexander, whose fine biographies of Ty Cobb, John McGraw, and Rogers Hornsby are all worth having on the shelf.

    Other recommendations:
    Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer
    My Turn At Bat by Ted Williams
    Walter Johnson: Baseball’s Big Train by Henry Thomas
    Satchel by Larry Tye

  • Brad

    I like The Great American Novel by Philip Roth. Great baseball book.

  • Dave

    Any of Roger Angell’s collections. The Mark Harris novel, BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY. And bill James’ WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HALL OF FAME.

  • allison

    I’m going to recommend kids’ books, because really, what’s better than kids reading about baseball?

    A brand new picture book: No Easy Way, the story of Ted Williams and his .400 season, is terrific. Beautiful pictures with a great story and great message that there is no easy way to be the greatest (in anything.) A lovely message for parents wondering how to navigate sports heroes who take steroids…

    Picture book: Play Ball, by Jorge Posada. Great story about Jorge learning to be a switch hitter, practice, and determination.

    Picture book: Luke Goes to Bat, about a boy learning to play, and about Jackie Robinson. Another story about determination and practice.

    Nonfiction: The Easy Baseball Book is a book that teaches kids what they need to know to play baseball well. Simple lessons, easy to understand, clear and fun.

  • Brian

    Jonathan Eig’s “Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig.” Just a superb biography of a heroic man.

  • John Fembup

    I really like The Glory of Their Times, Shoeless Joe, and the Bill James’ abstracts – but they’ve already been mentioned.

    My list (and I hope yours)would not be complete without

    1. Pitching in a Pinch – Christy Mathewson
    2. You’re Missing a Great Game – Whitey Herzog
    3. Baseball Encyclopedia (any year is great)
    And, for kids –
    4. and 5. The Redheaded Outfield, and The Shortstop, both by Zane Gray (a pretty good college and minor league player in his day. )

    All of these and more besides are in my study.

    But let’s face it fellas and fillies – the list of good-to-great baseball books is much longer than most shelf space. And why not? The subject warrants it all.

  • Nectar K

    If you are into baseball stats, then pretty much anything by Bill James is a must read. Particularly, “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract”. Its does an incredible job of explaining how the game has evolved.

  • Keith Gallie

    Living on the Black is a pretty good recent work. Especially if you like Glavine or Mussina.

  • Noah Glyn

    Any Official Baseball Almanac.

    Ted William: The Biography of an American Hero by Leigh Montville.

    Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss.

  • joe

    My Life in Baseball: The True Record


    Cobb: A Biography

    both by Al Stump.

  • don frese

    My two favorite books by men who played the game: The Long Season by former major league pitcher, Jim Brosnan; and A False Spring by Pat Jordan, who relates his failure to become a professional ball player.

  • Peter N

    Any list has got to include “Ball Four”. As an earlier commenter noted it is the first real insider’s account of the baseball world, and allowed all Yankee haters to really hate the Yankees. Bill James’ Baseball Abstracts are also indispensible. But, and I know this sounds silly, The Baseball Encyclopedia is perhaps the baseball book that gives the most entertainment. You can look to see if W.P. Kinsella’s Moonlight Graham really existed (if I remember correctly, he did). You can look up the stats for any and everyone. It really is a “can’t put down” thriller for any true baseball fan.

    As for fiction, Shoeless Joe is inspired writing.

  • Dan Michaelis

    I agree on a lot of the books already mentioned. I’ll add the somewhat obscure “Seasons in Hell” by Mike Shropshire, an eyewitness account of the early years of the Texas Rangers (the second failed Washington Senators franchise). It includes a great description of how Rangers manager Billy Martin did his part to turn the Indian’s ill-advised 10-cent Beer Night into a full-fledged riot.

  • Roger

    A new novel, “The Heater,” by John Conlee, deserves to have a place among the best baseball books. It takes the reader through an entire big league season into the playoffs and then on to a stunning and surprising climax on a wind-swept island off the west coast of Ireland.

  • Mike L

    Cobb by Al Stump
    Stan Musial’s Autobiography with Bob Broeg
    October 1964 by David Halberstam

  • GL

    Fifty-Nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had by Edward Achorn

  • Larry Kaufmann

    “Boys of Summer” IMO is hands-down the best. Great story of a team (the Brooklyn Dodgers) and a time, and character studies of one of a kind personalities like Jackie Robinson and Leo Durocher (whose autobiography is also very good). Roger Kahn also went back to revisit the players and talk about their lives long after their playing days were over, which gives the book even more depth.

    Another fine, and overlooked, book of a colorful team is “The Gashouse Gang” by Pete Heidenry. Any book about a team that literally started a bonfire outside their dugout is bound to be fun, and the author does a good job of setting the story of their World Series winning year (1934) in the context of a still brutal economic Depression.

  • Don

    Ball Four is far and away my favorite. Best quote:

    “You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

    I wore number 56 proudly during my years in organized baseball.

  • roberto

    “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton, definitely.
    An underated selection is “The Bronx Zoo” by Sparky Lyle. It’s the story of the 1978 Yankees. It is quite good. Lyle had just won the Cy Young award in 1977, and Steinbrenner goes out and signs Goose Gossage. The great line, “Lyle went from Cy Young to Sayonara “.

  • RES

    Glory of Their Times is not a great book about Baseball; it is a great book about America, as told by baseball players. Essential to any Baseball library (and you might look up the audiobook version to listen to the actual recorded interviews from which the book was written.)

    Boswell’s Why Time Begins surely belongs on the list (although I’m not sure his “How Life Imitates the World Series” isn’t better), as do Mark Harris’ “Henry ‘Author’ Wiggens” books. The Tunis books are classics of YA sports fiction. The Roger Angell books are all masterpieces, especially if you lived through those seasons covered and thought you watched those games retold.

    Many other superb suggestions (the author of First Assassin ought appreciate the craft of Darryl Brock’s If I Never Get Back) but one recent not previously already suggested is Jane Leavy’s Sandy Koufax : A Lefty’s Legacy — interspersing Koufax’s career biography with the play-by-play retelling of each inning of his perfect game.

    And I probably shouldn’t hit the SUBMIT button before observing that Malamud’s The Natural is a pretty good read, as can be said of Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof.

  • Liam Hughes

    “The Baseball Reader,” an anthology edited by Charles Einstein, should be in every fan’s library. Poetry, transcripts of classic radio calls, dispatches filed from games, excerpts from many of the works cited above, its all here.

    I would also recommend “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy” by W.P. Kinsella.

  • LM

    Speaking of picture books on Ted Williams, a few years ago Ted Williams and author David Pietrusza produced a very fine one, “Teddy Ballgame, Revised: The Exceptional Life of Baseball’s Greatest Hitter, In Pictures and His Own Words.”

    Of course, Ted’s earlier “My Turn at Bat” was excellent. Just plain riveting.

    And Pietrusza has turned out such baseball books as “Judge and Jury,'” a biography of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and “Rothstein,” which provided an overdue new take on the 1919 World Series fix.

  • So glad to see other John R. Tunis fans popping up here. Reading Kid from Tompkinsville and others with my Dad in the 70s made me love baseball and want to be a writer. Too bad to find out years later that Tunis was a big lefty (the political kind, nothing against southpaws implied here…)

  • Bill Machin

    Kind of surprised that nobody has mentioned Tim McCarver’s “Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans: …”. A real nuts and bolts view of the game by someone who knows it well.

  • seamus

    “The Celebrant”, by Eric Rolfe Greenberg.

  • Jane Leavy — Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy

    Buster Olney — The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty

  • Nathan

    1) “Veeck as in Wreck”
    2) Bang the Drum Slowly
    3) The Iowa Baseball Confederacy
    4) Slouching Toward Fargo

  • Chuck Swanson

    Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball by Norman Macht

    This book brings to life the unruly origins of baseball as a sport and a business. It also provides the first complete and accurate picture of a character who was larger than life and yet little known: the tricky, rule-bending catcher; the peppery field leader and fan favorite; the hot-tempered young manager. Illustrated with family photographs never before published, it affords unique insight into a colorful personality who helped shape baseball as we know it today.

  • Nathan


    5) The Thrill of the Grass

  • Doug V

    Growing up in the ’60’s I was a big Tigers fan. The first baseball book I ever read was “Behind the Mask” by Tigers catcher Bill Freehan. I couldn’t tell you now if it was any good, but as a little league catcher, Freehan was my idol.

  • Eric F.

    To enhance your ability to watch baseball as a student of the game, I’d recommend:

    Pure Baseball by Keith Hernandez (really)
    Watching Baseball Smarter by Zach Hample

  • Anthony Livoti

    Summer of ’49 by Roger Halberstam is a great book on baseball in the 40s and 50s and started me on my love of the Red Sox. Also The Era by Roger Kahn about New York baseball. Moneyball by Michael Lewis.

  • Jeff Andrews

    The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book – Fred C. Harris and Brendan C. Boyd (1973).

    Received it as a kid. Treasure it to this day.

    Essentially page after page of baseball cards (mostly obscure players) from the 50’s and 60’s with the the authors’ irreverent memories of the players on each. Captures the essence of the 50’s and early 60’s better than any product Tom Brokaw has ever put out.

  • Nicholas Frankovich

    Alan Schwarz, “The Numbers Game,” about sabermetrics (2005).

    “Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman,” by Lee Lowenfish (2007).

    And I second the recommendation of Mike Sowell’s “The Pitch That Killed (1989, 2004).

  • bob r

    book about the black sox. can’t remember the name.

  • Tom Christie

    When I was a kid in the mid 70’s my great uncle was a Sporting News fan, haberdasher, and frequenter of disreputable establishments he used to give us all the stat books from the Sporting News I would pour over them like they were gifts from God. He also gave me:

    Nice Guys Finish Last – Leo Durocher’s autobiography, this stands out to me – not great literature but a great baseball book.

    My 10 year old enjoys the Baseball Card Adventures by Dan Gutman.

  • Mike

    Marvin Miller wrote an autobiography about his time as head of the players’ union, I think it was called “A whole different ballgame”, that is fascinating. It’s very opinonated and slanted in places, but you learn about the other side of the labor disputes that the writers and commentators never treated fairly.

  • mike

    Also, the two books that are collections of comic strips written with the help of Tug McGraw, about a left-hander relief pitcher named Scroogie who plays for the Pets.

  • John M

    Many great ones listed here. One I haven’t seen yet is what I call “Roger Kahn’s other book”: Good Enough to Dream. The entire story is compelling, but just the short narrative of the Kangaroo Court during a typical low minor league bus ride justifies the purchase price of this one.

  • Jkumpire

    There are three must read books for Baseball:

    1. The Rules of Baseball 2010 Edition.
    2. The Rules of Professional Baseball; A Comprehensive Reorganization and Interpretation, by Chris Jaksa and Rick Roder
    3. Major League Baseball Umpire’s Manual 2009 edition, (2010 ed not out yet)

  • Glenn D

    Baseball As I Have Known It — Fred Lieb
    A baseball writer for over 70 years from Wagner thru Aaron breaking the Babe’s record, this book just scratches the surface of all Lieb saw.

  • Rod Anderson

    “Moneyball” is over-rated, IMO. Not as a book necessarily, but as an idea — it works for regular season wins, and gets beat like an old rug in playoffs (bunts and fielding matter).

    I second the votes for:

    John R Tunis books. I read ’em all as a youngster.

    Bang the Drum Slowly.

    And I’ll nominate “The Mick” by Mickey Mantle. It is not so good as a read, but my copy has Mantle’s autograph in it, signed right in front of me.

  • “The Knucklebook” by Dave Clark is a must-read for baseball fans. Pitchers who throw the knuckleball have been some of the most colorful characters in the game. Clark profiles some of ’em — Phil Niekro, Wilbur Wood, Tim Wakefield — and he explains why a knuckleball, which is thrown with very little velocity and travels through the air without spinning, acts like a knuckleball. A fascinating, if short, read.

  • Jeff Chesnut

    I really enjoyed reading David Halberstam’s “The Summer of ’49”. Great writing and an engrossing story that made me feel as if I was reliving the 1949 American League pennant race.

    I was also thoroughly engrossed by the audio book of J.P. Kinsella’s “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy” as I drove late at night. If I recall correctly, I extended my drive by a couple of hours so I could continue to listen.

  • Let me add “The Big Bam” Leigh Montville’s Babe Ruth bio and “Joe Dimaggio: The Hero’s Life” by Richard Ben Cramer. Both are excellent.

    “The Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig” by Jonathan Eig is well researched and well written, but I cannot recommend it as highly as the other two (or the Duke of Havana). Lou Gehrig was certainly one of the best players to ever set foot on a baseball diamond, and his death was tragic and far too early, but other than that, he may have been one of the most boring guys ever. Compared to the antics that Ruth and Joe D got mixed up in, the story of his life is a bit dull. How many times can you read that Gehrig went 2 for 5 during the game, made a great play in the field, then went home for a quiet dinner with his parents (later his wife)?

  • John Barnes

    Two that haven’t been mentioned:

    “The Game of Baseball,” by Gil Hodges. A great look at a great game by a great player and manager. (Who ought to be in the Hall of Fame, but isn’t.)

    “Baseball in ’41,” by Robert Creamer. One of the great seasons: Ted Williams hitting .400; DiMaggio’s 56-game streak; and Mickey Owen’s famed “dropped third strike” in the World Series. And hovering above it all the dark storm clouds of World War II.

  • Mark Franceschina

    Without a doubt…..”Eight Men Out!” by Eliot Asinof.

  • Martin Wooster

    John: How about Paul Dickson’s DICKSON’S BASEBALL DICTIONARY? Dickson’s HIDDEN GAME OF BASEBALL is also very entertaining.

  • larry

    1. The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America by Joe Posnanski.

    2. From Ghetto to Glory, The Story of Bob Gibson by Bob Gibson

    3. Three Nights in August.

    4. The Blue Sox series by Duane Decker, which included “Good Field, No Hit”, “Starting Pitcher”, “Rebel In Right Field”, “Fast Man on a Pivot”, “Mister Shortstop”, “Switch Hitter”, and others. I grew up reading these books back in the 60s and they probably contributed more to my love of baseball than anything other than the Cubs. Now that I think about it, more than the Cubs. What have the Cubs ever done to make me love baseball???

  • Kirk Emerich

    In newer books, I really liked “The Machine” by Joe Posnanski, just published last year. The story of the 75 Reds. Also covering that season is “Game Six” which is specifically about the World Series in 75.

    Ball Four and Bill James’ early Abstracts were and are amazing works.

  • Barry

    How come no one has mentioned Don DeLillo’s masterpiece “Underworld”?

  • Bob Manderville

    It’s not a book but this site will keep you busy for weeks. It gives the box score of almost every baseball game played plus player stats.You can find it at:

  • JimG

    I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned “The Umpire Strikes Back” by Ron Luciano.

    Laugh-out-loud funny, and one I’ve read several times.

  • Phil

    Men At Work by George Will,

    The Greatest Slump of All Time by David Carkeet

  • Erik

    “Summerland” by Michael Chabon

    Great for young readers — a fantasy novel for young readers where baseball literally saves the world.

  • RES

    One additional suggestion – there have been a few attempts at combining the baseball and mystery genres, probably most successfully in the Duffy House mysteries by Crabbe Evers: Murderer’s Row, Bleeding Dodger Blue, Murder in Wrigley Field, Fear in Fenway and Tigers Burning.

  • Baseball’s Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon. Conlon worked from 1904 into the early 1940s and his photographs are a fascinating look into the game during this time. His most famous photo is an action shot of Ty Cobb sliding into third, but all of the photos tell a remarkable story.

  • The Dove

    Thomas Boswell’s “Why Time Begins on Opening Day” and Charles Alexander’s bio of Ty Cobb.

  • Clemente, by David Maraniss was terrific.
    I have three Ernie Harwell books, God rest his sole.
    The Long Ball, by Tom Adelman.
    Crazy ’08, by Cait Murphy.
    The Card, by Michael O’Keefe and Teri Thompson.
    I love baseball, am a lifelong Detroit Tiger fan, and just started reading “Al kaline, the Biography of a Tiger Icon.”

  • jeff

    Second the vote for “9 innings”, although I admit my opinion may be colored by the fact that I’m a Brewers fan.

    Bob Uecker’s autobiography from 20-plus years ago, “Catcher in the wry”.

  • Banjohitter

    There’s a new baseball book, “The Heater,” by John Conlee, that’s really good. In fact it’s much more than a baseball book — it deftly blends intrigue and Celtic legend into an exciting American League pennant race.

  • Tsmith

    Good posts. I would like to add two more to the list.

    “Wait Till Next Year”, Doris Kearns Goodwin writes a delightful book about growing up in Brooklyn in the 50’s. She writes of her love for her father, her church, her neighborhood, and of her beloved Dodgers.

    “Baseball and Other Matters in 1941”, Robert Creamer writes of the wonderful baseball season of 1941 against the backdrop of the world at war and America about to enter.

  • Rgdailey

    Hope someone here might be able to help. As a kid in the early 1970s, my dad gave me a book along with my first glove, bat, and ball. It was a bout a kid who couldn’t hit the ball. First, someone suggested he get a lucky hat, then a lucky bat. He still struck out. In the end he discovered that only practice would help him to hit. I’d like to find this book and give it to my son. Does anyone here know the title. It was more of a picture book, written in the 60s or 70s. Thanks

  • Pingback: Must-Reads of the Week (Through May 11, 2012) « The Trolley Dodgers()

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