ANNOUNCING . . . The Essential, Ever-Changing, Annotated Baseball Library

I direct readers to the link in the blue banner up top, “The Essential Baseball Library.” You will find a thorough, annotated list of “Two Guys-Approved” books for your Essential Baseball Library. Have fun scrolling through that ten-thousand word beast. But please know, this is a work in progress. What titles have I missed? Or gotten wrong? Please share your thoughts and suggestions. This list will evolve over time, and hopefully establish itself as the best resource of its kind on the internet. (That sounds like a pretentious thing to say, and I’m sorry for that, but it might be true.) You want a solid list of the best baseball books ever? Come here. And it will only improve with your help.

The books are separated into a few somewhat slippery categories — GENERAL, FICTION, STATS/ANALYSIS, BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR, ANTHOLOGIES/COLLECTED ESSAYS, and ANNUALS. There’s also a section on books about the NEW YORK METS that did not have to meet the same criteria of top-shelf excellence, though some of ‘em do. All alphabetized by author.

For your convenience, here’s the bare bones list without annotations and the pleasing presentation. But really, please, just click here to see the real thing for your dang self!

Key: * asterisk signals that I’ve read it; and + that it’s in my possession.

 

GENERAL


3 Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager by Buzz Bissinger *

Diamonds in the Rough: The Untold History of Baseball by John Bowman and Joel Zoss

Chasing Steinbrenner: Pursuing the Pennant in Boston and Toronto by Rob Bradford *

The Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dicksen. *

Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s by Dan Epstein *

The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance by H.A. Dorfman and Karl Kuehl *

The Last Nine Innings by Charles Euchner *

Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports by Mark Fainura-Wada and Lance Williams

Little League Confidential: One Coach’s Completely Unauthorized Tale of Surival by Bill Geist *

The Teammates by David Halberstam *

A Day in the Bleachers by Arnold Hano *

Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball by John Helyar

No Cheering in the Press Box by Jerome Holtzman

The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn *

Good Enough to Dream, by Roger Kahn *

The Head Game: Baseball Seen from the Pitcher’s Mound by Roger Kahn *

Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting, by Kevin Kerrane +

Baseball As I Have Known It by Fred Lieb

Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams by Robert Peterson

The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence S. Ritter *

Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy by Jules Tygiel +

Weaver on Strategy by Earl Weaver & Terry Pluto *

You Gotta Have Wa, by Robert Whiting *

Men At Work: The Craft of Baseball by George Will +

 

FICTION

If I Never Get Back, by Darryl Brock +

The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover *

The Celebrant by Eric Greenberg +

Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris

The Southpaw by Mark Harris +

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella *

The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella *

You Know Me Al: A Busher’s Letters by Ring W. Lardner +

The Natural by Bernard Malamud +

The Great American Novel by Phillip Roth *

The Kid from Tomkinsville by John Tunis +

 

STATS, ANALYSIS


Baseball Between the Numbers by The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts *

The Fielding Bible Volume III by John Dewan

The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James *

Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? by Bill James *

Moneyball by Michael Lewis *

9 Innings: The Anatomy of a Baseball Game by Daniel Okrent *

The Numbers Game: Baseball’s Lifelong Fascination with Statistics by Alan Schwarz *

The Book: Playing the Percentages In Baseball by Tom M. Tango, Mitchell Lichtman, Andrew Dolphin, & Pete Palmer *

The Hidden Game of Baseball: A Revolutionary Approach to Baseball and Its Statistics, by John Thorn & Pete Palmer *

Fantasyland by Sam Walker *

The Diamond Appraised by Craig R. Wright and Tom House *

 

BIOGRAPHY, MEMOIR

Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen by Dick Allen & Tim Whitaker *

Ty Cobb by Charles Alexander

John McGraw by Charles C. Alexander *

Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer +

Stengal: His Life and Times by Robert Creamer +

Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer

The Way It Is by Curt Flood & Richard Carter *

A False Spring by Pat Jordan +

Koufax by Jane Leavy *

Clemente by David Maraniss *

Pitching in a Pinch: Baseball from the Inside by Christy Mathewson *

Ted Williams by Leigh Montville

Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story by Jim Piersall & Al Hirshberg +

The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America by Joe Posnanski *

Cobb by Al Stump +

Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye +

Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck & Ed Linn *

Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker *

 

SEASONS

The Long Ball by Tom Adelman *

Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof +

Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?: The Improbable Saga of the New York Mets First Year by Jimmy Breslin *

Crazy ’08 by Cait Murphy +

The Summer of ’49 by David Halberstam *

Baseball in ’41 by Robert W. Creamer *

October 1964 by David Halberstam +

Summer of ’49 by David Halberstam *

The Pitch That Killed: The Story of Carl Mays, Ray Chapman, and the Pennant Race of 1920 by Mike Sowell

The Last Good Season by Michael Shapiro

Summer of ’68: The Season That Changed Baseball — and America — Forever by Tim Wendal

 

BOOKS BY PLAYERS

Ball Four by Jim Bouton *

The Long Season by Jim Brosnan *

Pennant Race by Jim Brosnan *

The Game from Where I Stand by Doug Glanville

The Wrong Stuff by Bill Lee & Richard Lally

The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams & John Underwood *

 

ANTHOLOGIES, COLLECTED ESSAYS

The Summer Game by Roger Angell *

Five Seasons by Roger Angell *

Late Innings by Roger Angell *

Season Ticket by Roger Angell *

How Life Imitates the World Series by Thomas Boswell *

Why Time Begins on Opening Day by Thomas Boswell *

Red Smith on Baseball by Red Smith *

Special Mentions: In a separate category that I won’t include here, there’s a great number of multiple-author anthologies that have warmed the cockles of many a baseball-loving heart. The Fireside Books of Baseball (3 vols), edited by Charles Einstein, seem to be fondly remembered, though I’ve never laid eyes on them. Likewise, John Thorn’s Armchair Book of Baseball series brought together great baseball writing by a variety of authors.

BOOKS ABOUT THE NEW YORK METS 

(Unlike the other titles on this list, some of these titles hold more limited appeal and are not necessarily essential for anyone other than a blue-and-orange Mets fan.)

A Pitcher’s Story: Innings with Dave Cone by Roger Angell *

The Last Days of Shea by Dana Brand

Mets Fan by Dana Brand

The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching by Ron Darling *

Wherever I Wind Up by R.A. Dickey & Wayne Coffey *

Turning Two by Bud Harrelson with Phil Pepe *

If At First: A Season with the Mets by Keith Hernandez & Mike Bryan *

Pure Baseball by Keith Hernandez & Mike Bryan *

The Worst Team Money Can Buy by Bob Klapisch & John Harper *

The New York Mets: The Whole Story by Leonard Koppett

Screwball by Tug McGraw and Joseph Durso

When the Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman +

Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets by Greg Prince +

The Amazin’ Mets 1962-69 by William Ryczek

The Art of Pitching by Tom Seaver *

The Magnificient Seasons: How the Jets, Mets, and Knicks Made Sports History and Uplifted a City and the Country by Art Shamsky & Barry Zeman *

New York Mets 50 Amazing Seasons: Complete Illustrated History by Matthew Silverman

Mets By the Numbers by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman


ANNUALS

Please go to the permanent page by clicking the link in the blue banner for a brief (but fascinating!) discussion of the history and evolution of Annuals.


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4 comments

  1. Michael Geus says:

    Anyone who knows someone who loves baseball books should be looking at this page as soon as possible. With the holidays approaching it can be a great source for the perfect gift. Wonderful job Jimmy, I am getting my list ready for Santa right now.

  2. Alan K says:

    Great list! Two other bios I would recommend are “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud” by Joe Pepitone and Berry Stainback, and the Mantle bio “The Last Boy” by Jane Leavy.

  3. DD says:

    I would add Jim Brosnan’s two seasonal diaries, which off the top of my hear would still be my two favorite baseball books. One could give Broz the spot occupied by George Will; that’s a stronger lineup.

    Also, glad to see Arnold Hano getting some love. He was my favorite magazine read when I was a kid.

    And I enjoyed the John R. Tunis books when I was even younger, but if you intend to buy some of those titles to share with a kid today, prepare to be disappointed at the response you get.

  4. Thanks, DD. Both of Brosnan’s books were already listed — thanks to you. I believe you told me about Brosnan long, long ago.

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