Sunday, May 5, 2013

Books to Motivate Replays

I read a lot of books each year and one of the staples on my list is baseball books. Currently, I’m reading The Bird, the biography of Mark Fidrych by Doug Wilson. And on deck to be read is Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes by John Rosengren.

And as I read these books, soaking in the information and the context of the seasons these guys are playing in, I find I become interested in replaying the corresponding season with the ABPA baseball game. The books, for a lack of better wording, give me something akin to a three-dimensional look at the season.

I don’t often choreograph correctly the season I’m replaying with the APBA game to the book I’m reading. It will take me three or four days to read a book. It takes a year or more to finish playing out a full season.  Needless to say, I’ll read several baseball books chronicling different eras during a single replay.

But, at times the books motivate me to consider which replay I plan to do next.

So, I decided to compile a baseball reading list for replayers. I’ve chosen two books I’ve read for each decade. Obviously, there are numerous other books that can be added to the list. I’ve selected two each. Comments are welcome.

Eight Men Out, Eliot Asinof — The best book, in my opinion, of the allegations that 1919 Chicago White Sox threw the World Series for money.
Cobb: A Biography, Al Stump — Called the best biography of any player by critics, after I read this one, I immediately ordered the 1919 season from APBA and plan to play it next after completing the 1942 season I’m doing now.

Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, Jonathan Eig — A great look at Gehrig which follows closely the 1942 movie “The Pride of the Yankees. 
The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth, Leigh Montville — I’ve not read Robert Creamer’s book Babe, but Montville really does a good job writing of Ruth.

The Gas House Gang, John Heidenry — A look at the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and what baseball was like then.
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life, Richard Ben Kramer — DiMaggio was more known for his play in the 1940s, but I have two other books selected for that era. DiMaggio was my dad’s favorite player; Kramer’s book is not all hero-worship and instead portrays DiMaggio  often as a standoffish person who felt he needed more accolades.

Nice Guys Finish Last, Leo Durocher — This book covers all of Durocher’s life, but the 1940s section, to me, is the most interesting. It includes his time dealing with Jackie Robinson’s first season and Durocher’s banishment from baseball for a year in that era.
Opening Day: Jackie Robinson’s First Season, Jonathan Eig — 1940s baseball history must include something about Jackie Robinson. Eig’s second book on this list.

The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson ..., Joshua Prager — This is a great one that captures the feel of the 1951 pennant race that leads up to Bobby Thomson’s classic home run as the Giants beat the Dodgers. The Giants beat the Dodgers...
The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood, Jane Leavy — As Robinson was the 1940s, Mickey was the 1950s. An honorary mention on this list could be his “All My Summers.”

October 1964, David Halberstam — This reads like an APBA replay of 1964. Halberstam, who also wrote “The Summer of 49,” includes the minutiae of the season that, as replayers, we like.
Ball Four, Jim Bouton — APBA should include this book with every sale of the 1969 season. It’s a must to read this classic before beginning the season. I’ve read Ball Four a dozen times, but I’ll read it again just before I replay 1969.

Bronx Zoo, Sparky Lyle - The 1970s are the New York Yankees, and Lyle’s book shows the insanity of the team and its manager, Billy Martin.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning, Jonathan Mahler — Howard Cosell is incorrectly credited for saying this during a televised Yankees game in 1977 as a fire raged near the stadium. While not all about baseball, Mahler includes the Yankees’ season to balance life in the Big Apple that year and it provides a good feel for that season.

The Bad Guys Won, Jeff Pearlman — The New York Mets won the 1986 World Series with a group of misfits. Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Lenny Dykstra and others rag-tagged their way to the championship, with a little help from Bill Buckner. Again, this gives a great feel for the 1986 season and is a replay inspirer.
Late Innings: A Baseball Companion, Roger Angell — Begin reading this book in the spring and you’ll be chomping for the baseball season to begin. This is a collection of Angell’s baseball works for the New Yorker magazine. It includes “The Web of the Game,” which is his conversation with former pitcher Smokey Joe Wood while the two attended a Yale baseball game.

I stopped at the 1980s. There are plenty of books for the next three decades, but I’m not all that interested in replaying seasons past 1987. Yet. Maybe in another 10-15 years, the 1990s will take on a more ancient feel and be more attractive for replaying.

Again, this is a minimal list of books I’ve read that may help inspire a replay. Feel free to include your own suggestions.


  1. I probably read at least 10 baseball books a year and would also very much recommend Cait Murphy's "Crazy '08" about the 1908 season - amazing year in baseball.

  2. 1908: "Crazy '08" was a great read. GH Fleming's "The Unforgettable Season" is a day by day set of contemporary newspaper accounts from 1908. A must read, as it reveals the story from the point of view of the observers rather than history. Incredible year, incredible story. And Fleming did it again for 1934 in "The Dizziest Season". Same format. Both great, recommended without hesitation.