Baseball books are everywhere – the bookstore, airports, shopping malls, smartphones. It is all a matter of what team, player, year, or story you wish to read about. And now weather you want a book in your hands on a book on the screen of the phone in your hands.
There are so many baseball books that have been written, and I have tried to compile a formidable and complete list of them here. Some have been turned into movies (Moneyball) while others have probably been used as a doorstop. Regardless of weather a book is about the New York Yankees, which is about every other baseball book written, or the infamous Black Sox scandal, they are all worth consideration for a baseball fan somewhere.
Aces is the documentary of the final season that Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito all pitched for the Oakland Athletics. Obviously, if you are an A’s fan, this will be a great read that brings back old memories. The Big Three were a formidable pitching trio that inevitably came to an end once it was renewing each of their contracts was on the brink. This book focuses mainly on three pitchers, but it is also near the same time frame as another famous $ baseball book about the Oakland A’s.
This book is probably better known for the movie of the same title, but Michael Lewis has a gem in explaining the transition of scouting and roster management in Moneyball. The book is a little difficult to read through, with the charts and statistics, but the story is what makes the book a classic. Lewis has a way to take non-fiction and turn it into fiction like reading. Billy Beane is the protagonist who tries to get a small budget team to compete and win against the big budget teams.
Derek Jeter has his own publishing company, but before he was a surefire Hall of Famer, this former New York Yankee wrote one of the most memorable books for kids in the early 2000s. This book has details about Jeter’s upbringing up through his early years with the Yankees. There are pictures to go along with the easy read. Today’s youth only know Jeter as an aging and retired old timer, and the material is too amateur for an adult. If you read this book as a child, you definitely remember buying it at your school’s book fair.
This is a fiction novel that centers on a college baseball player that is a defensive guru. He runs into problems both on and off the field, which makes for an interesting read. The progress of the book is both predictable and unpredictable. While it is a nice beach novel, it could be passed on if you’re looking for a focus on the baseball diamond. Although baseball is the backdrop, the book appeals to general readers more than baseball enthusiasts. There are themes that should be familiar with and appeal to many college athletes.
This memoir by Dirk Hayhurst gives an insight of the unlikely journey to the Majors by a witty and talented pitcher. Hayhurst details the ups and downs from being drafted to the toiling in the minors to the call that every minor league player strives for: being called to The Show. There is ample humor to go along with the the anecdotes that make this a good light-hearted read for baseball fans. This is one of three novels by Hayhurst, and he used the success of his books to garner an analyst position on TBS for the MLB playoffs.
Odd Man Out is another minor league memoir by a baseball hopeful. This particular book takes place in Provo, Utah, a Mormon town that is home to a minor league affiliate of the Angels. Matt McCarthy discusses his journey from Yale University to the strenuous rules of his new hometown. It is filled with things you would only find in the locker room, which makes it even more entertaining hearing closed door stories that involve familiar baseball names. Some players would be upset about the kiss and tell information, and that is what makes it even harder to put down.
While this book seems to be a spin-off of Moneyball, The Extra 2% has its own agenda as a short history of the Tampa Bay Rays. It chronicles the change in culture and atmosphere of the once proclaimed Devil Rays into an AL East contender. The theme of a small town and small budget team competing with the big spenders is shown through the strategies used by unlikely baseball personnel. It is another look at how statistics have changed how teams utilize players and assemble their rosters.
This novel by John Grisham is short and sweet. It is about a once promising superstar who has his career cut short by a traumatic injury. His post career is spent trying to overcome the pain of what could have been and move on from the hopes of a professional career. Grisham does a nice job of telling a story with enough background to give depth to the main character, while keeping it short enough to make the reader wanting more. A quick read, this book has a different feel from the typical happy ending stories that line the book shelves. It has the makings for a script to be written to turn this into a drama on the big screens.
One of my favorite topics in baseball books, and sports books in general, is the process of getting to the top of the game. This book by John Feinstein details the ups and downs of different men (players, coaches, umpires) who have had a taste of The Show but been sent back to the minors. There are journeymen who spend their whole careers in the minors trying to become a Major Leaguer, and there are players who have been to the Majors but were not good enough to overcome the atrophy of age. The struggle of getting to the Major Leagues is tough, but getting back after you have had a taste could be even more difficult. The grass might not always be greener, but it is definitely greener the higher the level you are playing or coaching at.
Jon Pessah does a great job of recapping the Bud Selig era in baseball. The book focuses on the transition into Selig’s reign up until his passing of the torch unto Rob Manfred. Mostly everything in-between has a connection to George Steinbrenner, as he is definitely the second most referenced person in the book. This has a personal feel among the recap of conversations that happened over the years and does a nice job with the dialogue. A little heavy on the Yankees’ coverage, but who else would you expect among baseball’s power brokers?
While sabermetrics has become the popular topic among baseball analysts, Trading Bases tells how one man put the math to use by placing bets on baseball and making money. Joe Peta was out of a job and needed something to both pass the time and generate income. He developed a math heavy formula for predicting outcomes in baseball based on player statistics and future probabilities. There was nothing illegal and no takedown of the game, but the process of developing and implementing a betting strategy is a new take on the benefits of sabermetric analysis.
If you’re looking for a new take on traditional baseball, this is your book. Kenny dives headfirst into unconventional ways that would make baseball managers lose their minds (but not their good looks). Pitching the bullpen first. Getting rid of the “Win” statistic. No sacrifice bunting. Ignoring batting average. This is definitely a conversation starter. If you think baseball is perfect the way it is, you may find yourself yelling at the book, or looking for the nearest ear to vent to about the outside the box ideas from Kenny.
Another sabermetrics inspired book. Except this does not involve the Yankees, Cubs, or any Major League baseball team. Rather, it is about an independent ball club in a four-team league in the northwest. The Sonoma Stompers took on two math kids who happen to write about baseball and let them become the general managers for a season. Lindbergh and Miller use spreadsheet data to pick players, optimize playing time, and establish defensive tactics to try and become real life fantasy gurus. There is only one MLB name you will recognize in the book, but his inflated ego has nothing to do with the outcome.
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a handful of books written about them. This one focuses on a particular three game series and dives into the mindset of the manager and the strategies used on a nightly basis. While the time frame is centered on one series, the book also looks into leadership and how Tony La Russa handles his roster to put them in the best situations to win. It is a great inside look into managing and handling a ball club.
Alex Rodriguez was a controversial baseball player towards the end of his career. Even in his prime, the potential Hall of Famer garnered the most lucrative contract in baseball history and was the always the center of discussion. Roberts dives into the personal live of Rodriguez and looks at how he handled his life both on and off of the diamond. A-Rod had the talent to play with anyone and the personality to keep fans across the country talking about him.
If you have read Moneyball and Freakanomics, this book is the combination of the two. Bradbury looks at both quantitative and qualitative data to ask questions the casual fan might not consider. Steroids. Valuation of players. Competitive balance of teams. Trade-offs of player tools. It is impossible to tackle every possible topic but this book covers many topics from an economical point of view. What is the value of a win, and what does it take to create both a winning and cost-effective team?
The Cape Cod League is the pinnacle of summer collegiate baseball. The best of the best are invited and get to compete against each other. This is the league where scouts get the best look at pro prospects. Collins follows a group of players on the Chatham A’s as they go from high school to college to Cape Cod and beyond. Every player is different and has his own reasons for playing the game. Most fizzle out at some point and some get to live the dream until they decide to hang up the cleats for good. No matter the end result, to play well in the Cape Cod League is to be one step closer to having the chance to achieve the dream of playing Major League Baseball.
You might not expect to see Stephen King as the author of a baseball book. Nonetheless, this baseball book is a short novel that looks at a player who was essentially erased from the record books. It is a short read and will give you the tension of King’s writing with the joy of baseball. Expect a quick read that is neither 100% mystery/thriller nor 100% baseball.
Shawn Green finds a philosophical and spiritual connection in the game of baseball. Green talks about the daily grind of being a Major League player and how to go about the process with enlightenment within oneself. A book unlike most other memoirs, this is a look into the mind of a hitter who did his best to erase the outside distractions and focus simply on the game. One of the downfalls for players is thinking too much, and Green talks about the process of trying to eliminate that thinking.
The Teammates is a book about the friendship and bond formed on the baseball diamond. Johnny Pesky, Dominic DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, and Ted Williams had a bond that lasted beyond their playing days. The story of their undying friendship is one that both baseball fans and casual readers can enjoy and relate to. Although it is centered around baseball, the story can be applied to any group of long lasting friends.
If you’ve wondered what it is like for players making the journey from the minors to the majors, this is a good place to look. The book looks at the lifestyle and environment of a Class A ball club. It also goes into the personal history of the featured team, the Clinton LumberKings. There are parts of the book that baseball enthusiasts will find slow and unrelated, but this is a story/memoir that can be related to many minor league baseball teams.
Many baseball books try to be politically correct and give a behind-the-scenes look at the game while only telling the “good” stories. Kendall is no holds barred and does not hold back. He has both personal stories and rules of baseball that are often overlooked by other authors. There are some basics for casual fans and some in depth discussions for fanatics. Something for everyone. This is an insightful book that takes readers beyond the field and into the locker room.
If you are curious about arm injuries to pitchers, Tommy John surgery, and recovery or comeback stories, this book is for you. Passan looks at the arm usage of young players from little league to travel ball to high school to the professional ranks. There are multiple anecdotes from both players you have heard of and those who never made it big. The only downfall is that there is no real breakthrough or end result about arm injuries, except that the most injury prone athletes are those who have been injured before.