Monday, September 8, 2014

More Baseball Books to Read

Reading books on baseball and conducting APBA replays seem to go together. Both embrace history and both are learning experiences. I'm sure a majority of the people who do the baseball replays with the APBA game are also avid readers. I know I am.

When I think of the baseball books I've read over the years, a majority of them are biographies of players or teams. Those are the easiest to find. Go your library's biography section and look in the Ms. Chances are there'll be a handful of books on Mickey Mantle. If you check the 796.357 section in the library's shelves, there'll be loads more of players or eras.

And that's all good. There are great biographies out there. I've written here before about some of them.

But there's also some good baseball books that aren't about the players.

Here's a short list of a few books that I've read and enjoyed that, while they cover baseball, they don't focus on players only.

One of the better books on the history of labor in baseball is John Helyar's Lords of the Realm. Helyar, a Wall Street Journal sports reporter, investigates the owner-player relationship from the turn of the century, to greedy owners to the emergence of $100,000 contracts, to labor disputes and, eventually, the 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series. This is a must read for any baseball historian.

A Whole Different Ball Game: The Sport and Business of Baseball, by Marvin Miller. Miller, an economist with the steelunion in the 1960s, helped form the Major League Baseball Players Union. I found Miller to be blunt and, at times, self-deprecative in his thoughts on his role in history. Writer Red Barber called Miller the “second most influential person in baseball” behind Babe Ruth.

Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball by Norman Macht sort of violates my criteria of books not being about baseball players. Mack did play baseball some. However, a majority of this 700-page book is about his managing and owning of the Philadelphia As. There's an interesting section about the old Federal League of 1914-15 and the battle between the leagues to keep players. I've not read the second half of Macht's collection, Connie Mack: The Turbulent and Triumphant Years, but I am sure it is just as good as the first.

Reporters need love, too, and Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell deserves as much love as the reader can muster. Shropshire chronicles his time covering the Texas Rangers during the seasons immediately after the team left Washington in 1972 and writes of Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin, phenom pitcher David Clyde and the heat of July day games at Arlington Stadium. I found this book at a Memphis used book store for $3. Best three bucks I spent. Think Hunter S. Thompson meets Ball Four.

While we're dishing out love, save some for umpires. Durwood Merrill wrote about his experiences as a major league umpires in You're Out and You're Ugly, Too! The first time I read this maybe 15 years ago, I wasn't impressed. But I picked it up again earlier this year and enjoyed it. Maybe my APBA playing gave me more historical perspective and a better appreciate for Merrill's stories from behind the plate.

Juicing the Game, by Howard Bryant, is a look at the steroid era of baseball. While, technically it is about players, the book also looks at how Major League Baseball failed to address the scandal, fearing it would reduce record revenues brought from the 1998 home run race of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who later both
admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. The book came out in 2006 and is ahead of its time. Bryant also wrote about race issues in Boston and his biography of Henry Aaron, The Last Hero, which is one of the better sports biographies I've ever read.

Marty Appel writes about being the public relations director for the New York Yankees in Now Pitching for the Yankees. Again, the book does include lots of players, but it's more of Appel's dealings with them and the day-to-day crises he faced while spinning the PR for the Yankees for seven years. He writes of the mayhem that followed the marriage switch between pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich in 1973, getting Catfish Hunter on the team and working with George Steinbrenner. Appel has written 18 books, mostly on the history of the team. (Read Pinstripe Empire for the best historical look at any team, ever.)

These are a few books I've read that, for the most part, don't focus only on players. If you're looking for a change in baseball reading, consider some of these. And, as I've said in my other posts here about books, any comments are welcomed and appreciated. I am always looking for new books to delve into.

5 comments:

  1. "Seasons in Hell", I found this book at a Half-Priced Bookstore years ago .... still one of my favorite reads!

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    1. Shrop also wrote The Last Real Season, about the 1975 baseball season. He apparently also cashes in with football and just wrote one about Johnny Manziel's time at Texas A&M.

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  2. John Kruk's book was pretty good, and for the football fans out there Fatso by Art Donovan was a laugh out loud book.

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    1. I'll never read Fatso. I'll have to find it. Donovan was always funny in interviews. I grabbed a couple of football books at the library the other day: The Breakthrough Boys, about the 1971 Dallas Cowboys, and America's Quarterback, the bio of Bart Starr.

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    2. you need to read Fatso if for nothing else the Alan Ameche story and the Bobby Brown story was funny as well.

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