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paul secor

What Are Your Favorite Baseball Books?

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Spring training is less than two months away, so I thought I'd bring back this thread from the BN Board.

I have too many to list, but I'll start with a handful of favorites:

The Teammates by David Halbertstam. I read this recently, and I'll probably reread it in years to come. It's the story of Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky who drove to Florida in October 2001 to visit their friend and former teammate, Ted Williams, who was dying. The book also includes narratives about Bobby Doerr, another friend and teammate, who was unable to make the trip beause he was taking care of his wife who had suffered her second stroke. The trip is actually secondary. The heart of the book is reminiscences about the four men who came to the major leagues at approximately the same time and who remained close friends through the years. Besides the stories of four interesting and good men, there is a recounting of Enos Slaughter's scoring of the winning run in the 1946 World Series which sheds a different light on the play - at least I had never heard or read this side of it before. Highly recommended to all Red Sox fans, all baseball fans, and especially to Dan Gould.

A False Spring by Pat Jordan. A recounting of years in the minors written by a man who had an arm of steel but little control, and who left baseball to become a successful writer. A False Spring contains a classic description of Joe Torre that I reread a couple of times every baseball season.

"I had no desire to fight Joe Torre, who at 19 already had the looks and attitude of a 30 year old veteran. Joe was fat then, over 220 pounds, and his unbelievably dark skin and black brows were frightening. He looked like a fierce Bedouin tribesman whose distrust for everything could be read in the shifting whites of his eyes."

Good Enough To Dream by Roger Kahn. I've never read The Boys of Summer, but I can't imagine it being better than this book. It's a recounting of Roger Kahn's experiences as owner and president of the Class A Utica Blue Sox (before minor league baseball, like the majors, became big business).

Prophet of the Sandlots by Mark Winegardner. A telling of the ultimately tragic tale of Tony Lucadello, a scout who discovered and signed forty nine major leaguers, including Ferguson Jenkins, Mike Schmidt, and Mike Marshall. It's a well written book showing a side of the baseball world that's often ignored.

A couple of photography books:

Baseball's Golden Age - The Photographs of Charles Conlon by Neal McCabe and Contance McCabe. Open this book and you will find (among other photographs):

Jim Thorpe in 1917 wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform; Joseph Lannin, the Red Sox owner who bought Babe Ruth's contract in 1914, and later sold the Red Sox to producer Harry Frazee, who started the Yankees on the road to success (Thanks, Harry!); Bill Bergin, who had an eleven year major league career and a .170 lifetime batting average! (That's what the book says - I'll have to dig out my Baseball Encyclopedia and check that later. Hard to believe.); Gerry Herrmann (owner of the Cincinnati Reds and chairman of the National Commission) and Ban Johnson (president of the American League) at the 1914 World Series (If you want to know what was and is most wrong with baseball, take a gander at these two and the answer will be obvious.); Side by side portraits of Fred Merkle and Bill Wambsganss, who are known primarily for one play in each of their careers.

The Game That Was - The George Brace Baseball Photo Collection by Richard Cahan and Mark Jacob. More wonderful baseball photos - among them: A somber looking Babe Ruth, wearing a Dodger uniform (He was a coach with the Dodgers. He's probably wishing that the Yankees had brought him back as a coach - they should have. Then again, I can't imagine the Bambino and Joe McCarthy in the same dugout!); A crew installing the ivy on the outfield wall at Wrigley Field in 1937; Wrigley Field vendors in what appears to be the late 30's or early 40's (many of them women, so perhaps it was during WW II), selling beer, hot dogs, and cigarettes(!); A Comiskey Park Groundskeeper wearing a Chicago White Sox sweater from about 1930 - I wonder if Brace ever photographed Jimmy Yancey, who was a White Sox groundskeeper?); Walter Alston, in 1936, wearing a Cardinals' uniform - he came to bat once, pinch hitting for Johnny Mize, who'd been ejected, and struck out. That was his major league career until he returned to manage the Dodgers in 1954; Sparky Anderson, wearing a Phillies uniform in 1959; An unhappy Jimmy Foxx, held in a headlock by wrestler Ed "Strangler" Lewis, who looks ecstatically happy; Photos of a pitcher who was consistent - Al Benton, who gave up homers to Babe Ruth (as an Athletic in 1934) and to Mickey Mantle (as a Red Sox in 1952); And finally, a photo of a baby faced Ernie Banks on his first day at Wrigley Field in 1953.

One last one - The New York "Yanquis" by Bill Grainger. A novel that may have seemed completely fictional when it was written, but now seems more real than not. George Bremenhaven, owner of the New York Yankees, decides to get even with his overpaid players (who have gone on strike) and the rest of the baseball establishment by getting rid of his entire team and replacing them with players imported from Cuba, obtained with the blessings of the State Department and Castro (that part's a little hard to believe, but who knows what the future will bring), whom he can sign for minimum salaries. It goes on from there, and it's most highly recommended to anyone who can't stand George Steinbrenner (I imagine that's every baseball fan here).

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I love Halberstam's SUMMER OF '49--might have to re-read that one come spring. And, of course, THE BOYS OF SUMMER.

Has anybody else here ever read Ted Williams' MY TURN AT BAT? I think it's one of the better "as told to" memoirs.

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I've been trying to get my hands on Super Joe: The Life and Legend of Joe Charboneau for ages. What a fascinating guy. Over the fall, I read Cult Baseball Players which includes a number of essays by folks such as Gammons, McCarver, Joe Morgan and David Mamet.

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One book I've had for several years and haven't read yet is Arnold Rampersad's biography of Jackie Robinson. Fully intending to read it this spring. "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" Yeah, Jackie! (And Basie and Buddy!)

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There was a book several years ago that I thought was great. I think it was called Willie's Time by Charles Einstein, one hell of a baseball writer.

Another good one was Lawrence Ritter's The Glory of Their Times. Fantastic book. A must for any good baseball library.

I'd like to read Teammates. Heard it's really good. Usually anything Halberstam writes is top notch.

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I read A False Spring many years ago when it was maybe two years old, and I still remember the story about his telephone conversation with his old girlfriend.

I recommend Bill Veeck's Veeck As In Wreck.

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I highly recommend two already mentioned here, A False Spring and Veeck as in Wreck. Other favorites:

I Had a Hammer by Hank Aaron. For those who thought Jackie Robinson had a tough time integrating the majors, read about one of the first black players in the Sally League. A whole different ballgame. Plus, there's later in his career, but it's the early stuff I recommend it for.

The Pitch that Killed Can't remember the author or the names of the players involved (all my baseball books are packed away in the garage), but an engrossing account of the first (only?) on-field baseball fatality. Well written and in depth.

There was a really good book by Kinsella (not the Shoeless Joe one, but another...) that I really enjoyed, but I can't remember the title. Great help, eh? Something about the Iowa Leagues if I recall right.

Then there was George Plimpton's book about pitcher Sidd Finch. Lot's of fun. Again, I can't recall the title...

Jeez, I wish I could find that box; there were some good books in there...

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My only baseball book is "That Old Ball Game", a fascinating book of photos from around 1850 'til 1930. It was published in 1975 and is probably hard to find. The text is by our own Larry Kart.

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I've been trying to get my hands on Super Joe: The Life and Legend of Joe Charboneau for ages. What a fascinating guy. Over the fall, I read Cult Baseball Players which includes a number of essays by folks such as Gammons, McCarver, Joe Morgan and David Mamet.

I have always wondered what happened to him. He had that one great Rookie of the Year season and then seemingly vanished.

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Other favorites: 

The Pitch that Killed Can't remember the author or the names of the players involved (all my baseball books are packed away in the garage), but an engrossing account of the first (only?) on-field baseball fatality.  Well written and in depth.

There was a really good book by Kinsella (not the Shoeless Joe one, but another...) that I really enjoyed, but I can't remember the title.  Great help, eh?  Something about the Iowa Leagues if I recall right.

Jeez, I wish I could find that box; there were some good books in there...

I know where you're coming from, moose. My Baseball Encyclopedia is in a box in the garage.

Anyway, The Pitch That Killed is by Mike Sowell, and it tells the stories of Carl Mays, who threw the pitch, and Ray Chapman, who was killed by it.

The Kinsella book you mentioned is probably The Iowa Baseball Confederacy.

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Right on both counts, Paul; thanks! :tup

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I'll put in a vote for "Moneyball: the Art of Winning An Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis. Fascinating. I've been meaning to read Halberstam's "The Teammates"---maybe now is a good time.

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Fair Ball by Bob Costas (I agree with a lot of Costas' ideas; he should have been commish) from 1999, and the one by Whitey Herzog. I've also been meaning to check out the Baseball volume in the Library of America series. It is a collection of writing, fiction and essays, on baseball, minor and major leagues.

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The Bronx Zoo-Sparky Lyle

Ball 4-Jim Bouton

The Boys Of Summer-Roger Kahn

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The Teammates by David Halbertstam ... Highly recommended to all Red Sox fans, all baseball fans, and especially to Dan Gould.

Thanks Paul, Dad got it for me for my birthday, and actually my brother unknowingly gave it to me for Christmas, so it was the gift that kept on giving-I exchanged it at Borders for a CD! :)

But yet, its an excellent and moving book.

I'll also give a thumbs up to the Kinsella books (Shoeless Joe is better than the movie, IMO).

There's also a nice book by a Boston sportswriter called One Pitch Away which tells the story of the 1986 post-season, including the sad story of Donnie Moore who gave up the home to Dave Henderson which led to the Sox coming back from a three to one deficit against the Halos and ultimately killed himself.

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There are some nice photos in "That Old Ball Game," but my favorite baseball books are John R. Tunis' novels for boys -- "The Kid from Tomkinsville," "Keystone Kids," "Rookie of the Year," "The Kid Comes Back," "Highpockets," etc. -- about a fictional group of Brooklyn Dodgers. They're very grown up emotionally, and Tunis, a former sportswriter who knew what he was talking about, was a subtle, economical writer. Another very good, grown up baseball novel (it even includes sex; Tunis doesn't) is the previously mentioned Charles Einstein's "The Only Game In Town," which may be hard to find (I had it as mass market '60s paperback). Einstein, BTW, is (or was; he may be deceased) the considerably older brother of comedians Albert Brooks and Bob Einstein ("Officer Judy" on the Smothers Brothers Show and "Super Dave Osborne" on his own). Yes, that means that Brooks' given name is Albert Einstein. "There was a lot of shtick in our house," Brooks has explained. (Their father was a dialect comedian who appeared on the old Eddie Cantor radio show, pretending to be Greek, under the name Parkyakarkas.) Another fine baseball book is the late Leonard Koppett's "The Thinking Man's Guide to Baseball," in which he explains in convincing detail, and I believe for the first time, citing such unimpeachable authorities as Yogi Berra, that the chief attribute every effective major league hitter must have is the ability to control the fear of being hit by a pitched ball (Berra, obviously not a brooder, said that the fear never goes away, always must be mastered). Koppett's point, as I recall, is that the particular sort of passive-active courage/judgment (or whatever you want to call it) that's required to stand in there effectively against the likes of Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez is subtly different from a lot of other athletic tasks that also call for plenty of courage/guts/good judgment under fire, plus a fair amount of physical ability.

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Anything by Roger Angell. My favorite is Five Seasons as I'm partial to tales from the '70s, when men had beards and afros and played on plastic.

Speaking of the '70s, Talkin' Baseball: An Oral History of Baseball In The 1970s by Phil Pepe is full of stories and pictures (including Oscar Gamble of course) and makes for a fun fast read.

An overlooked favorite is Nine Innings by Daniel Okrant (probably have to find it used.) "The anatomy of baseball as seen though the playing of a single game." The game takes place in the summer of '82 between the Orioles and the Brewers.

A great coffee table book is The Ultimate Baseball Book by Daniel Okrent & Harris Lewine. Probably another you'd have to look for used and it may only go through the 1980s.

Some favorite books by players (& their ghostwriters):

The Wrong Stuff - Bill Lee. Learn Don Zimmer's real nickname (Buffalohead) and read examples of Eckspeak from the latest inductee to the HOF.

Ball Four - Jim Bouton

The Bronx Zoo - Sparky Lyle

As far as newer issues, Rob Neyer's latest Big Book of Baseball Lineups is a good bathroom read.

Not new, but old Bill James Abstracts are still good after all of these years. Oh, and his Historical Abstracts are engrossing too.

And finally The Brothers K, by David James Duncan. A funny (& sad) novel that touches upon baseball, religion, Vietnam and family. Highly recommended.

Edited by Quincy

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Anything by Roger Angell.

Angell's post-playoff retrospective articles for the New Yorker are always a bittersweet pleasure for me--savoring the season past, sorry that it's over...

This thread is giving me my first spring-training shivers! :excited:

Oh, and Bernard Malamud's THE NATURAL. Devastating.

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Charles Einstein (b. 1926 -- about 25 years before brother Albert Brooks) is apparently still with us. "The Only Game in Town" was a Dell paperback original, published in 1955; cheap copies can be found through various used book search services, e.g. Bookfinder. Einstein also edited an excellent large-format anthology of baseball pieces in the 1950s. Google him and you'll find the title, which escapes me right now.

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There are baseball books? :huh::wacko:^_^

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Got this one when I was a kid, and it remains a favorite still:

strangebbstories.jpg

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...my favorite baseball books are John R. Tunis' novels for boys -- "The Kid from Tomkinsville," "Keystone Kids," "Rookie of the Year," "The Kid Comes Back,"  "Highpockets," etc. -- about a fictional group of Brooklyn Dodgers.  They're very grown up emotionally,  and Tunis, a former sportswriter who knew what he was talking about,  was a subtle, economical writer.

YES!!!

Between the ages of 10 and about 14, I read every one of those I could get my hands on, going so far as to visit libraries in other towns to see waht they had. Obviously good training for collecting music...

Another series I read as fully as possible was Wilfred McCormick's BRONC BURNETT titles. But they were more idealistic than Tunis'. Still, for a kid who loved the game with a passion but played it less than ideally, those book and Strat-O-Matic dice baseball (APBA was too expensive at the time) were wish-fullfillment of the highest order!

Those Tunis books were hip - for instance, the players aged. Highpockets went from being a wiseass rookie to a grizzled, veteran leader over the course of the series, and the players had names that closely resmebled those of real players. The only one I can remember is "Bob Appermonte", the fictitious version of Bob Aspromonte. But it was that "reality" that made those books a cut above the rest, including the Bronc Burnett series.

Nice to see that somebody else remembers those. I had forgotten them myself!

Edited by JSngry

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The Politics of Glory by Bill James is an absolutely fantastic look at the Hall of Fame and who "deserves" to be in.

JSngry ... I've still got my copy of "Strange but true," too, ordered from my elementary book club back in the 1970s!

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Are there any good books out there that deal with the Black Sox scandal? All of the Pete Rose talk has given me thought of re-visiting that era...

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Are there any good books out there that deal with the Black Sox scandal? All of the Pete Rose talk has given me thought of re-visiting that era...

I strongly recommend the book that was the basis of the movie, Eliot Asinof's Eight Men Out.

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