Baseball Books ~ Autobiographies/Biographies
[Note ~ I have put the name of the team(s) that the player was most famous playing for]
I Had A Hammer ~ Hank Aaron (Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves)
I have an extract of this book on a CD titled “Play Ball ~ A Tribute to our National Pastime” read by the Hammer himself. This is a book I have yet to read but it has had excellent reviews and I intend to read it once the season starts. It is the story of the last home run king who hasn’t been tainted by the shadow of steroids. Aaron was one of the last players to play in the Negro Leagues before joining the Milwaukee Braves and being consistently brilliant with the bat. I don’t think anyone of us can really appreciate the hardship that Aaron went through as he came close and then passed Babe Ruth to become the all time home run king. Death threats for playing a game must be terrifying if not only for yourself but for your family but Aaron managed it with remarkable dignity.
Yogi: It ain’t over ~ Yogi Berra (New York Yankees)
This is the story of one of baseball’s most loved (and quoted) players. Yogi played in a record 75 World Series games (yes, I said World Series games ~ no divisional or championship games then). This book read like an oral recollection from his long career with the occasional “Other Voices” to give an added dimension to the story. An entertaining read.
Ball Four ~ Jim Bouton (New York Yankees/Seattle Pilots)
This book was the first of its kind when it came out in 1970, a ballplayer telling it like it is, warts and all. Jim Bouton may not have the fame (or talent) of some of the others in this collection, but his book is amongst the most enjoyable. A quote from the back of my copy says it well by stating “Ball Four is not strictly a book about baseball, but one about people who happen to be baseball players. And it’s hilariously funny”. It also serves to be a document of the Seattle Pilots only season before relocating to Milwaukee to become the Brewers.
Juiced ~ Jose Canseco (Oakland Athletics)
Vindicated ~ Jose Canseco (Oakland Athletics)
When Juiced originally came out, Canseco was vilified as a bitter ex-player who still craved attention after his career was over. The years since then have caused re-think of this position. He has freely admitted to using steroids and even becoming the Godfather of the steroid generation. This was a time when the owners and managers turned a blind eye away from the ever more muscular players. Steroids even acted as a kind of polar opposite to the cocaine problem that was rife in baseball too as Canseco discusses how his lifestyle and diet had to change to allow the steroids to have their full effect. Vindicated was almost a chance for Canseco to say “I told you so” but it also stirred the waters regarding two other stars of the game who have subsequently been tainted by the steroid allegations, namely Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez.
Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero ~ David Maraniss (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Not only was Roberto Clemente one of the finest baseball players in baseball history, but his work off the field is even more awe-inspiring. We live in an age where the barriers between the fans and the players is so vast,whether financially or otherwise, it is refreshing to read about someone who we could show our children and say “be like him”.
Cobb: A Biography ~ Al Stump (Detroit Tigers)
From listening to “Glory of Their Times” it soon becomes apparent that in the early days of 20th century baseball there was a very special player ~ a player who was despised by team mates and opponents alike; his name was Ty Cobb. Stump was hired by Cobb to assist with his autobiography, My Life In Baseball: The True Record ( http://www.amazon.com/My-Life-Baseball-True-Record/dp/0803263597/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b ) but this book did little to reveal the truth behind one of baseball’s most hated players. Cobb was released after Cobb’s death and features more of the “True” than the book he was hired to write had. A must read.
Hawk ~ Andre Dawson (Montreal Expos/Chicago Cubs)
A book I discovered in a charity shop in Stirling, I have yet to read this interesting book about the newly elected Hall of Famer.
DiMaggio: An Illustrated Life ~ Dick Johnson and Glenn Stout (New York Yankees)
A lush book with lots of pictures from the career of the Yankee Clipper but with enough text to make interesting reading, with essays from Thomas Boswell, Stephen Jay Gould, Micky Mantle (DiMaggio’s replacement as guardian of centrefield) and Luke Salisbury and a foreword by his great rival, Ted Williams.
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life ~ Richard Ben Cramer (New York Yankees)
For some reason, I have the large print edition, but this book takes an in-depth look at the man behind the legend.
Lefty Grove: American Original ~ Jim Kaplan (Philadelphia Athletics/Boston Red Sox)
One of the greatest left-handed pitchers to play the game, Grove has been overlooked due to his playing on some poor Athletics teams. He started out with a fiery fastball and a fiery temper but an arm injury meant that he had to re-mould himself into being a control pitcher.
Shoeless Joe And Ragtime Baseball ~ Harvey Frommer (Chicago White Sox)
This book is a wonderful biography of one of baseball’s tragic heroes, Babe Ruth has said that he modelled his swing on Joe Jackson’s. Jackson was famously banned for life for his part in the Black Sox scandal and this book has his Grand Jury testimony included as an appendix. Jackson was a victim of unscrupulous team mates and an unscrupulous owner and as one of the best performers for Chicago in the 1919 World Series, his banishment from the game he loved was one of baseball’s biggest tragedies.
Walter Johnson: Baseball’s Big Train ~ Henry W Thomas (Washington Nationals/Senators)
Again, this book was bought based on the recollections of the players interviewed for “The Glory Of Their Times” [see Cobb] but whereas Ty Cobb was universally loathed, Walter Johnson was universally loved (except when the batters where trying to hit one of his fastballs). This is a wonderful book on one of the truly great pitchers. He played on many poor Washington teams (although he did win one World Series Championship towards the end of his career in 1924).
Addie Joss: King Of the Pitchers ~ Scott Longert (Cleveland)
His name may be familiar to those who can name the pitchers who have tossed a Perfect Game (27 batters faced – 27 batters out, no errors, no walks). He also died at the age of 31 of tubercular meningitis ~ which lead to the very first “all-star” game being played, the proceeds of the game went to his family. There is a famous picture of Ty Cobb wearing a Cleveland uniform which was taken from this game.
Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy ~ Jane Leavy (Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers)
Sandy Koufax started out with the Brooklyn Dodgers (his home team) but did not blossom into the legend until the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles. He had a smoking fastball and an unhitable curve but since retiring he has shunned the limelight. Leavy has written an excellent biography and throughout the book are recollections from fans about his moment of perfection (the first Perfect Game thrown at night and was almost a double no-hitter).
The Perfect Yankee: The Incredible Story of the Greatest Miracle in Baseball History ~ Don Larsen (New York Yankees)
One of the hardest feats in baseball is for a pitcher to pitch a Perfect Game. That is, a pitcher faces the minimum 27 batters and with the help of his team mates gets them all out. Only 16 have been thrown since the AL formed in 1901 and this may be the pick of the bunch. Why? Because it was thrown against the defending World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers AND it just happened to be Game 5 of the World Series (a series in which Larsen pitched, and lost Game 2 giving up 4 hits, 4 earned runs in under 2 innings). A remarkable feat.
I’m Just Getting Started:Baseball’s Best Storyteller on Old School Baseball, Defying the Odds, and Good Cigars ~ Jack McKeon (Kansas City Royals Oakland A’s/San Diego Padres/Cincinnati Reds/Florida Marlins)
Jack McKeon spent his entire playing career in the minor leagues but it is as a manager in the major leagues that he has become well known, finally winning the World Series in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. This is an entertaining read from the man nicknamed Trader Jack
All My Octobers ~ Mickey Mantle (New York Yankees)
Each chapter in this book covers a Worlds Series in which Mantle played ~ 12 chapters, which cover both the many wins and a few losses (1954 & 1959 being the only years without the Yankees in the World Series during the time span covered in the book). This book came out a year before Mantle’s untimely death.
Say Hey: The autobiography of Willie Mays (New York/San Francisco Giants)
Mays is without doubt, one of the greatest players in the history of baseball and his love of the game shines through. An entertaining read from a legend of the game.
I Was Right On Time: My Journey From The Negro Leagues To The Majors ~ Buck O’Neill (Chicago Cubs)
He played with and against some of the finest talent in the Negro Leagues, such as Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell and Satchel Paige but didn’t play in the Major leagues. He was however the first black coach in the Major leagues and discovered some fine talent for the Chicago Cubs and, later, the Kansas City Royals. He later went on to become the Chairman of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
Don’t Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows Of Baseball ~ Mark Ribowski (Negro Leagues/Cleveland Indians)
The title of this amazing book comes from one of the many pieces of advice given by one of the greatest (if not the greatest) pitchers of all time ~ “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you”. Paige finally broke into the majors in 1948 at the age of 42 (not surprisingly ~ he is the oldest rookie in the Majors) and pitched a game when he was 59 [although these ages may be incorrect]. A great read.
The October Twelve ~ Phil Rizzuto (New York Yankees)
Between 1949 and 1953, the New York Yankees were crowned World Series winners, there were 12 players on those teams who were in all 5 squads and this is their story as told by the great Yankees shortstop.
I Never Had It Made ~ Jackie Robinson (Brooklyn Dodgers)
This is the autobiography of one of the most important figures in baseball. Jackie Robinson became the first black player to play in the Major leagues in 1947. It is beyond comprehension what he went through. This game ~ this past time, should not provoke death threats and insults and yet this is what Jackie Robinson had to deal with. Anyone would be expected to react at the various taunts and dirty play that Jackie Robinson had to endure, but he had to take the insults without reacting ~ in a sport where many undeserving athletes are called Heroes, here is one man worthy of the title. A must read.
Uncle Robbie [Wilbert Robinson] ~ Jack Kavanagh & Norman Macht (Brooklyn Dodgers)
As a catcher on the 1890s Baltimore Orioles, Robinson played alongside John McGraw and “Wee” Willie Keeler on one of the roughest teams of the era. He then joined McGraw with the Giants before turning the Brooklyn Dodgers into a pennant winner.
Babe: The Legend Comes To Life ~ Robert W. Creamer (Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees)
The fiercest rivalry in baseball is arguably that between the Red Sox and the Yankees and Babe Ruth is where it began. He was one of the top pitchers of his day and could well have made it to the Hall of Fame as a pitcher but it is the king of the home runs for which he is most famous. Traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees in order to provide funding for a musical ~ “The Curse of The Bambino” was born. Before the trade, the Red Sox were one of the most succesful AL teams and the New York Yankees were still in search of their first World Series; since then the tables had turned with the Yankees winning one World Series after another while the Red Sox found new ways to come agonisingly close to another World Series. Coincidentally, I read this book in 2004 ~ the season that the curse was finally broken and the Red Sox were crowned World Champions once more.
Steinbrenner – The Last Lion Of Baseball
I started reading this book a few days after the passing of Mr Steinbrenner. I had heard some of the stories about this charismatic owner who bought the New York Yankees and return the ailing franchise back to glory . This book is a fascinating read and reveals how close Steinbrenner came to almost owning the Cleveland Indians, how he was implicated in the Watergate scandal and why he was kicked out of baseball. He was someone who was either loved or hated (or in some cases hated then loved) but was someone who commanded respect. Regardless of your opinion on the Yankees owner, this is a must read.
Chasing The Dream: My Lifelong Journey To The World Series ~ Joe Torre (Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves – St. Louis Cardinals [player] New York Yankees [manager])
This is the autobiography of Joe Torre, written just after winning his first World Series, in the year he lost one brother and his other brother was awaiting for a heart transplant.
Hitter: The Life and Turmoils of Ted Williams ~ Ed Linn (Boston Red Sox)
A fantastic biography of the greatest hitter in the game, Williams was the last player to bat over .400 for a season. He was famous for working on the art of hitting a round object with a cylindrical object but he was also a Marine pilot in two wars. This book is an absolute must read.
My Turn At Bat: The Story Of My Life ~ Ted Williams (Boston Red Sox)
This is Ted Williams’ autobiography and is a very entertaining read. Ted Williams has never been afraid of giving a forthright opinion and here is a whole book of them.
Zim: A Baseball Life ~ Don Zimmer (Brooklyn Dodgers [player] Boston Red Sox/Chicago Cubs [manager] New York Yankees [bench coach])
He was a backup short stop to Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese at the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was the manager of the Red Sox when Bucky “bleeping” Dent hit the memorable home run for the Yankees in 1978 and managed the Cubs to the NL East title in 1989. He was also Joe Torre’s right hand man as the Yankees became a dominant team once more. This is an entertaining read full of great baseball stories.