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PLAY BALL: 10 Great Books About Our National Pastime

  • Mar 30, 2010
  • by
From the time I was a little kid I have always loved the game of baseball.  Even though I was the fat kid in right field who was always the last one to be picked I enjoyed playing the game.  During the summer we played three games a day.  As I grew older I continued to enjoy the game. Being a native New Englander I was a loyal fan of the Boston Red Sox. To this day, baseball remains my favorite sport..  Below I have compiled a list of 10 wonderful books about the game of baseball.  I enjoyed each and every one of them.  Take a look at the list and see if there is one you might enjoy reading yourself. Spring has finally sprung and at long last it is time to PLAY BALL!  
1
Fifty-Nine in '84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded
I have to tell you that this recently released (March 10) book has to go down as the best baseball book I have ever read. Discover how the game was played in the late 19th Century (no gloves) and marvel at the accomplishments of the subject of the book Hoss Radbourne of the Providence Grays. Largely as the result of Radbourne's epic season (he won an amazing 59 games) the Grays would win the National League pennant in 1884. A great read for baseball fans and history buffs alike.
See the full review, "Recalling the most incredible season a pitcher ever had....or ever will!!".
2
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Likewise, this book about Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Curt Flood's historic court battle against MLB's reserve clause has to be one of the 10 best books I have ever read. Curt Flood put his livelihood on the line to fight for what he truly believed in. Today's athletes in all professional sports owe Curt Flood a tremendous debt of gratitute for paving the way for free agency. And as you will discover in this book, Curt Flood paid a huge price for waging his battle against MLB. An extremely well-written and informative book!
See the full review, "The best damn sports book I have ever read. Period.".
3
Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season (Thorndike Press Large Print Nonfiction Series)
Yet another fabulous book about the man who broke the color line in MLB. Follow Jackie Robinson on a day-to-day basis during his historic 1947 rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Aside from the obvious challenges facing any rookie, Jackie Robinson had to deal with the slings and arrows of those who did not want him on the same field as themselves and of some fans who barraged him with racial epithets and threats. A wonderful book about a courageous and very special man.
See the full review, "Engaging account of Jackie Robinson's groundbreaking rookie season.".
4
Yogi Berra Eternal Yankee
Fabulous book about one of the great charactors in the history of the game. Author Allen Barra makes a powerful case that Yogi Berra just might be the greatest catcher who ever lived. And after you see the evidence presented in this book you will be hard pressed to argue the point.
See the full review, "The proposition that Yogi Berra is the greatest catcher who ever lived!".
5
27 Men Out Baseball's Perfect Games
The odds of pitching a perfect game in MLB is something like 1 in 12,000! The feat has been achieved only 18 times in the history of Major League Baseball and only 16 times since the modern era began in 1900. This 2004 book by Michael Coffey covers all 14 perfect games in the modern era through 2004. You will find several familiar names among the list of pitchers who have accomplished this feat as well as a number of pitchers you may have never heard of who did the same. And you will discover the name of the journeyman catcher who caught 2 of these perfect games. A fun read!
See the full review, "The odds of throwing a perfect game in MLB are 1 in 12,000!".
6
But Didn't We Have Fun
Another terrific book about the early history of the game we came to know and love as baseball. But Didn't We Have Fun? covers a period in the early days of baseball that even those who think they know everything about the popular American sport do not know. Author Peter Morris presents compelling evidence that the story of Abner Doubleday is really just a myth and that the game of baseball actually evolved from several "ball and stick" games that were popular in the mid 19th century. There is lots of great information in this book that I had not seen anywhere else.
See the full review, "Peter Morris debunks the myth about the origins of our national pastime.".
7
The Card
Learn all about the history of baseball cards and discover the story of the most valuable card of them all--the T206 Honus Wagner card issued by the American Tobacco Company just after the turn of the 20th Century. And you'll see how the buying and selling of baseball cards became a full-fledged occupation beginning in the 1980's. You'll meet some ot the key players in the trade and discover that while some are honest many are devious and unscrupulous. This one is an awful lot of fun!
See the full review, "A cutthroat industry populated by hustlers, con men and counterfeiters.".
8
Working at the Ballpark
For everyone who ever dreamed of making their love of baseball into their vocation, Working at the Ballpark will provide a view at their lives that might have been, with interviews with more than 50 people who make a living in major league baseball. Each is asked the same questions: What is your job? How did you get into this line of work? What does this job mean to you? From peanut vendors and equipment managers to general managers and star players, from John Guilfoy, who sells sausages at Fenway, to Chris Hanson, who plays "Bernie Brewer" in Milwaukee, to Omar Vizquel, who anchors the infield at AT&T Park, this is an insider's perspective on the enormous scope of the game.
See the full review, "Tom Jones hits a home run with his delightful new book.".
9
Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution
The trials and tribulations of the Negro leagues from they inception in the 1930's until there demise in the early 1960s. Discover the many obstacles that the owners of Negrp League teams faced each and every season. It was a struggle from the outset and just when the League was finally hitting it's stride Major League Baseball decided to integrate their game. As you might expect the results were devastating for Negro League Baseball. MLB took all the best players and before long Negro Leagues were not longer viable. This is a book that is more about the Negro Leagues as a business that about the players themselves. An extremly interesting and well written book!
See the full review, "Behind the scenes look at the history of the Negro Leagues".
10
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In pitch-perfect prose, and with a gift for conveying the fears and dreams of a young boy's life, Phil Hoose recalls the magical year of 1956, when his cousin, Don Larsen, pitched a perfect game in the World Series, and the game of baseball helped him take root in a tough new town. Perfect, Once Removed is a wondrous ode to the glory of baseball and to growing up. A book that will hold particular appeal to older readers who remember the how much simpler times were when these events took place in the 1950's.
See the full review, "Step into the Time Tunnel and return to a simpler place and time.".

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October 10, 2011
One of the great things about your list is that it covers many aspects of the game. I especially like the inclusion of the Curt Flood and Negro leagues books. In many ways, they were about the same thing. It is hard to believe now that before Curt Flood fought his battle, baseball players were property within the limits of the reserve clause of their contract.
 
April 08, 2010
As a big baseball fan, I appreciate your list. Please feel free to add any of them that are not already in, to the Just Baseball community.
 
March 31, 2010
Thanks for the tip on Negro League Baseball, that is a piece of history I would really like to know more about.
 
March 31, 2010
Wow, Paul, even though these are all baseball books, they're very diverse and makes for a well-rounded list! Thanks for sharing :)
 
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About the list creator
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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