I am a baseball fan
and I am a fan of books
Here are some of my favourite books on baseball.
Oral Histories (stories told by the players)
One of the first (and one of the best) that gives you a flavour on the game as it was played a century ago is the wonderful “Glory Of Their Times”. but the edition I fell in love with wasn’t the text edition but the audio version. It is a joy to hear the voices of those men who played the game.
In a similar style, former baseball commisioner, Fay Vincent, has written two excellent books (so far, the third is due out in March/April 2010).
The first is “The Only Game In Town” which is compiled from interviews with players who played in the 1930’s and 1940’s. the second volume, “We Would Have Played For Nothing” continues with interviews with players from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I would say both of these are worthy successors to Lawrence Ritter’s masterpiece.
A chronological approach to an oral history is “We Played The Game” which covers the years 1947-1964. As this is done on a year by year style, the extracts are shorter but you get a feel for that particular year.
[Note ~ I shall include books I own but have yet to read/finish for the sake of providing as many titles as I can, I have also put in the name of the teams 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 consistantly 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 remarable 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 occassional “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 oout 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 statign “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.
Lefty Grove: American Original ~ Jim Kaplan