OT: Baseball Books (edited to include top recommendations)

Submitted by LLG on May 6th, 2018 at 3:26 PM

I've become more interested in baseball this year, and I was wondering (for those people on the Board who are fans of baseball), what are your 2 or 3 favorite baseball books?

Also, when your teams is out of the running for the playoffs, what maintains your interest in the game?  Do you follow individual players or have teams that you cheer for in the top tier?  Or do you just somewhat stop watching all together until it gets closer to the playoffs?

Edit -- here are your top recommendations

Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball In the Big Leagues by Jim Bouton and Leonard Shecter

The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George Will

The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It by Lawrence S Ritter

You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting

Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams by Robert Peterson

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Fiction)


Laser Wolf

May 6th, 2018 at 3:38 PM ^

If you’re looking for something with a sabermetric bent, the Baseball Prospectus books are fantastic. Baseball Between the Numbers and Extra Innings are both really interesting and make for a great intro to advanced statistics.

If going for more of a storytelling book, Teammates by David Halberstam and The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn are both great reads.


May 6th, 2018 at 3:42 PM ^

“The Pitch That Killed” and “Where Nobody Knows Your Name” are both tremendous reads for seamheads. To your second question I grew up in a family that prioritized Tigers baseball just as much as Michigan Football so I pay attention on a daily basis even if it’s just box scores in the morning newspaper. If you’re in fantasy sports then I suggest joining a league next year, it’s nothing like football as you literally have to change your roster on a daily basis and not just Sunday morning.


May 6th, 2018 at 3:44 PM ^

Is “The Glory of their Times” by Lawrence Ritter. Baseball is about its history, and in the late ‘50s, Ritter interviewed former major league stars from the turn of the 20th century about their time playing ball. Their stories are fascinating and relatable.


May 6th, 2018 at 5:31 PM ^

I'll second (or third) "Ball Four."

It will seem quaintly dated, but I understand it was a bombshell when it was released.

You'll get only Jim Bouton's views on everything, of course, but I often found myself taking his side.


May 7th, 2018 at 5:52 PM ^

I'l fourth (?) Ball Four. Not nearly as bombshell now as it was then (given TMZ etc), but at the time it was somewhat ground-breaking in terms of 'not all of these baseball players are upstanding citizens' and whatnot.


If you like BIll Simmons, "Now I Can Die in Peace" is worth reading. 


May 6th, 2018 at 4:48 PM ^

Is worth reading. I also loved “If I never get back” when I was a kid - a quick fictional read that gives some interesting historical perspective.

yossarians tree

May 6th, 2018 at 4:49 PM ^

I read a book called "You gotta have Wah" (forget author's name) about the life of an American in the Japan League. Fascinating and funny. Also there are several books by Ernie Harwell that collect the hundreds of great baseball stories and anecdotes Ernie had catalogued in his brilliant baseball mind. As an English major who really appreciates great writing, I second the suggestion of Roger Angell. Writes very beautifully about the game.


May 6th, 2018 at 5:16 PM ^

Ditto on "Ball Four." Great inside look at MLB of the era - although I can easliy understand why Jim Bouton was persona non grata in baseball for a long time.

Two books by David Halberstam: "Summer of '49" and "October 1964," covering the pennant races and World Series of those two years.

"The Boys of Summer" by former New York Herald-Tribune sportswriter Roger Kahn, who covered the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952 and 1953. Really interesting were the follow-up profiles on several Brooklyn players from 15 years later.

"Nice Guys Finish Last," an autobiography of Leo Durocher written in the mid-70's. Although the book is a bit whitewashed, and gives only Leo's side to his many conflicts in his stormy career, it's still full of great stories, covering his beginning as a Yankee shortstop in the 1920's, and ending as Houston's manager in the early 70's.


May 6th, 2018 at 5:28 PM ^

Glory of Their Times is the best baseball pick IMO.

If you're interested in learning more about some of the advanced stats and the logic behind them, Tom Tangos The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball is a great introduction.

I absolutely follow other teams and players as well as the progress of the Tigers top prospects.

The Angels are a very interesting team to follow, they have the best player in baseball, who has arguably had the best start to a career in MLB history in Mike Trout. The first legitimate two way player in Ohtani, and they have the best deffensive SS in the last 20 years in Simmons.

I've followed the Astros, and especially Verlander as well. It's pretty easy to follow and enjoy watching any great starting pitcher if you like basbeall.


May 6th, 2018 at 6:02 PM ^

I've personally read every single one of the baseball books listed...yes, every single one!  The best baseball book ever written (imo) is "Veeck-as in Wreck" by Hall of Fame owner Bill Veeck and Ed Linn.

Trust me on this.



May 6th, 2018 at 6:26 PM ^

by Robert Whiting is probably the best book on baseball, or maybe Japanese culture, I've ever read.

It's absolutely hilarious.


May 6th, 2018 at 6:38 PM ^

Japan Times agrees:

"Robert Whiting’s baseball classic, “You Gotta Have Wa,” (updated in 2009) remains the definitive text on Japanese culture seen through the lens of sport. Whiting has an engaging style, his research is exhaustive and his first-hand knowledge has ensured this book is just as entertaining now as it was when it was first published in 1989.

Examining the Japanese ideal of wa (harmony) through baseball, Whiting’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in Japan — even if you don’t know the difference between a balk and a base hit."



May 6th, 2018 at 8:00 PM ^

but I never saw the movie.

Whiting has a bunch of great books -- all very quick reads. My favorite might be Tokyo Underworld which is a non-fiction account of Japanese gangs in Tokyo centered around an American mobster named Nick Zappetti.  Funny as hell. It really hit home for me as I lived in Tokyo for the best part of a decade and the neighborhoods and establishments in the book were places we often frequented. It's one of the best books I've ever read. 

The Chrysanthemum and the Bat is another great Whiting book.


May 7th, 2018 at 3:17 AM ^

but how was living in Japan? I've lived in Eastern Europe off and on for a few years and wanted to know what the similarities and differences are--outside of the obvious cultural ones.


May 7th, 2018 at 9:23 PM ^

Gotta be the best place in the world to live. Extremely clean, totally safe. Wonderful people, food and both new and old culture. Great train system, buildings and shopping. Oh, and did I mention the women?
The honor and respect shown to their fellow citizens is wonderful.
I need to go back for a while to the US for family reasons but hope to make it back soon for the rest of my life.


May 6th, 2018 at 7:09 PM ^

My favorite baseball biographies, if I had to choose, are "Yaz: Baseball, The Wall And Me" and "Some Of My Best Friends Are Crazy", which is Jay Johnstone's book highlighting his career as more of a dugout prankster than a player of note. 

The "Baseball Hall Of Shame" series is pretty funny and contains some of the more offbeat tales from the game, including things like trades that ended up being lopsided, umpire miscues, famous brawls, and so forth. "Baseball's Greatest Insults" (not sure if this one is still in print) has some of the more pointed things that have been said about various personalities and stadiums. 


May 6th, 2018 at 7:09 PM ^

I will suggest Robert Creamer's biography of Babe Ruth. The guy was such a "larger than life" fascinating character.