July 2014

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.

Summer of '49Jason 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.

Bill Chastain: The Natural, by Bernard Malamud; Bang the Drum Slowly, by Mark Harris; and Ball Four, by Jim Bouton.

Ball FourGregor 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.

Alyson Footer: Wait ’til Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Also I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story.

Spencer Fordin: Idiots Revisited.

Joe Frisaro: BUMS by Peter Golenback. Boys of Summer is considered the ultimate Brooklyn Dodgers book. “BUMS” is a great read that really captured the bond between that team and its fans.

Brittany Ghiroli: Moneyball!

Steve Gilbert: Weaver on Strategy.

Alden Gonzalez: Men At Work: The Craft Of Baseball by George Will. I read it early in my career, before taking on a beat, and it made me understand and appreciate the game in a whole new light.

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.

Glory of Their TimesChris 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.

Jonathan Mayo: I would pick Halberstam’s Summer of ’49 and October 1964.

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.

ClementeMark 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.

Tom Singer: I’m going old school: Jim Brosnan’s Pennant Race and Mark Harris’ Bang The Drum Slowly.

Lyle Spencer: Willie Mays, The Life, The Legend, by James Hirsch.

MoneyballT.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.

Todd Zolecki: Ball Four and Moneyball.

Share your favorites in the comments and let us know what you think of the list.

— Mark Newman

The Art of Scouting

By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com

ArtOfScoutingAlmost 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.

Click here to read the full article

Buy The Art of Scouting

Induction Day at Cooperstown

Induction Day at CooperstownBy Paul Hagen / MLB.com

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.

Click here to read the full review

Buy Induction Day at Cooperstown

Johnny Evers: A Baseball Life

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

Johnny Evers: A Baseball LifeExcept 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].”

Click here to read the full article

Buy Johnny Evers: A Baseball Life

Catch and Release

By Byron Borger

catch and releaseIn 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.

Click here to read the full review

Buy Catch and Release

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