There are books focusing on various decades and on teams. The racial inequalities of baseball in the 1950s are represented and the Pete Rose issue is looked at yet again. A stadium and a dream road trip are featured in books this year and another Babe Ruth book is out there.
It is a good year for any baseball fan. If APBA players need a break from rolling the dice, they can pick up any of the following books and continue to feed their obsessions. I know I did.
Here are some of the books published this year:
The Hall: A Celebration of Baseball's Greats. National Baseball Hall of Fame – At 624 pages, this is the complete registry of its inductees with photos, biographies and stories. Each section contains an essay written by a player or coach, including Henry Aaron, George Brett, Tommy Lasorda, Carlton Fisk, Nolan Ryan and more. The book won't come out until July 15, but it looks like it's going to be worth the wait.
A Nice Little Place on the North Side, George Will – The columnist who never met a word he could expand, writes about his love of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. I've read Will's “Men at Work,” the baseball book that featured Tony LaRussa and Tony Gwynn and, while it is interesting, it's very slow. His style of writing would calm a meth addict on a 36-hour binge.
Babe Ruth's Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball's Greatest Home Run King, Ed Sherman – A look at the legendary 1932 World Series home run by Babe Ruth. Did he point to the stands in Game 3 when the Yankees played the Chicago Cubs and promise a home run off of Charlie Root? Sherman tries to answer that question.
Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, Kostya Kennedy – Despite having more hits than any other player in baseball, Rose isn't in the Hall of Fame due to his gambling. Should he be? Kennedy, who also wrote “56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number,” about DiMaggio's consecutive game hit streak, researches Rose's career. I've read a portion of this in Sports Illustrated and it looks pretty insightful.
Jackie and Campy, William Kashatus – A great look at the strained relationship between Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella on the early 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers teams. Kashatus does a great job of putting into context the issue of race in sports at the time and how each player dealt with it, and how their reactions helped to sever their own friendship. I recommend this one greatly.
1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever, Bill Madden – This comes out in May. Madden looks at the two black superstars – Willie Mays and Lary Doby – who led their teams to the World Series in 1954.
The Fight of Their Lives, John Rosengren – The author of last year's book on Hank Greenberg, looks at the 10 seconds that changed the lives of John Roseboro and Juan Marichal in 1965. The Giants and Dodgers were in a pennant race when on Aug. 22, Marichal bludgeoned Roseboro with a bat sparking one of the more violent fights in baseball. Rosengren writes of the season leading up to the fight and the subsequent ways the two players dealt with the aftermath for years. Another great read.
Stars and Strike: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76 Dan Epstein – It was the season of Mark Fidrych, the Yankees, the Big Red Machine, Mike Schmidt and his Phillies and the celebration around the country's 200th birthday. This book comes out next week. It looks like a great motivation for anyone doing a late 1970s APBA replay.
Brooks, Doug Wilson – A biography of Oriole's third baseman Brooks Robison. About time. By the author of Bird, the bio on Mark Fidrych.
I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days, Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster – The ultimate road trip sends two fans to baseball games across the country. The book is released on May 6 and early reviews look good. I've got it reserved at my library because I'm cheap.
Down to the Last Pitch: How the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time, Tim Wendell – I'm biased, but the 1991 Series was my second favorite to watch only behind the 1987 Series, which the Twins also won.
Up, Up and Away, Jonah Keri – Perhaps the most interesting book on this list. It's a look at the Montreal Expos history. Regardless if you're a fan of the Canadian team, this book presents a slice of baseball history that can't be ignored.
Seasons in Hell, Mark Shropshire – This book is the re-release of Shropshire's book on the birth of the Texas Rangers, which was first published in 1996. It's not really new, but the book is certainly worth reading. I bought it used at a Memphis bookstore years ago and, along with Ball Four and Nice Guys Finish Last, it's a book I enjoy reading over and over. Shropshire writes about covering the Rangers in those early years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It reads as if Hunter Thompson had the baseball insight of Jim Bouton.
These are just a few of the baseball books available this spring and summer.