Spring Training has arrived. Yesterday, courtesy of SiriusXM, I listed to WEEI’s coverage of the first Red Sox game I’ve gotten to hear since the final game of the World Series. I know, I know, it is Spring Training and the games don’t count. But I love listening to the games nonetheless. Plus, my little girl Anastasia Colleen is a big Sox fan too, and so we listen to the games together. Will the Red Sox repeat last year’s success? I don’t know. Maybe. Hopefully. But I’m not much on predictions as I thought there weren’t going to win the World Series last season. But I digress.
For those of you anxious for Opening Day, as am I, today’s post will give you a little bit to hold you over until then. As part of my series on my favorite books, here are my favorite baseball books. Most of it is non-fiction, a bit of it fiction, and I admit a certain bias when it comes to Red Sox books because, well, they are my team after all.
This one is a must read for any Red Sox fan. Steven King and Stewart O’Nan chronicled the 2004 season as it happened. The book consists of their musing about games that they watched, along with email exchanges between the two. You get the highs. The lows. And the magic of the comeback against the Yankees. You can almost hear Tessie blaring from the book as you read, and it might leave with the sudden urge to belt out Sweet Caroline. Though normally known as a horror guy, King is actually pretty damn funny, a fact this book attests to. (Added bonus: the Audiobook version is great.) The Curse of the Bambino was broken. And maybe Bucky Dent can finally drop his acquired middle name of Bucky “Fucking” Dent. Well, on second thought, let’s not get too carried away……
Baseball is made for summer, especially summers on Cape Cod. This book details a single season of the Cape Cod League, following a specific team, the Chatham As. It was kind of a rough season for them, but you get to meet players who are among the best college baseball has to offer, along with coaches and host families who all strive to make the league the best damn summer league in the country. The nice things about books that follow specific teams is that you really get to know the players and come to care about what happens to them.
As I’ve said many a time, I love baseball on the radio and old time radio programs, so imagine my sheer joy when I discovered this gem on the shelf at a used bookstore. A ranking of the 101 best announcers in baseball history! Oh the joy! I won’t spoil it for you by saying who ranked first on the list, but if you are a longtime baseball fan, I’m sure you can guess. But all of the big names are in here, from Red Barber to Vin Scully to Harry Caray. If you are a baseball fan and you’ve never listened to a game on the radio, this season do yourself a favor and try it.
I absolutely love this book! It’s a collection of the best baseball pieces from Sports Illustrated from the late 50s through the early 2000s. Some of the stories are from big name writers, but others are by writers that you might not have heard of before. The articles are varied, from great pieces on the old Negro Leagues, to baseball in Japan, to fishing with Ted Williams, to why baseball is best on the radio, this book has it all. It is one that you can read at your own leisure, a piece at a time. Any baseball fan, particularly a fan of the history of the game, needs a copy of this.
I picked up this book almost as an afterthought one afternoon. It is set at a small college and is about the baseball team, but also the college itself. It’s about friendship, love, self doubt, anxiety, and second chances. In other words, things we’ve all seen in our own lifetimes. I think this book might appeal to those who either are fans of baseball, or work at small colleges as it does a good job detailing what that is like too. There are some great books on baseball fiction out there, and this is one of them.
I’m not a huge fan of the time travel (or time slip) novel. In fact, I’ve only read two. One is the excellent firefighting novel Chicago 1871 by James Merl. The second one is If I Never Get Back. In this tale, a sportswriter finds himself covering a team during baseball’s early era. The problem? Well, he’s from a considerably later time period. What’s great about this book is that it does a good job describing what early games were like, how the teams traveled and lived, and how the game evolved. It’s got its funny bits as well, and so it is well worth the time to read it.
This book is for the serious Red Sox fan only. It consists of stories from the team’s past, from the earliest days to the near present. Mostly the stories are interviews with people and it can be difficult to digest at times, but every Sox fan must have this book on their shelf. It is available on Audiobook too, but honestly, it isn’t a very good listen. You are better off buying a copy and reading it the old fashioned way.
Feinstein is the godfather of American sports writing, so when he turned his pen to life in the Minor Leagues, he produced an instant classic. From players chasing their dreams of big league glory, to general managers with shoestring budgets, this book paints a picture of the underbelly of professional baseball. It isn’t all nationally televised games and mega million dollar contracts. No, for most, they toil in relative obscurity with the odds of making it to The Show stacked against them. If anything, this book gives you a greater appreciation for what the players go through to make it to the big stage.
So there you have it, Dear Readers. A baseball reading list to tide you over until Opening Day. There are many notable books that did not make the list, mainly because my lists consist of my favorites, something which is dictated by personal taste and not my non-existent talent as a literary critic. Here’s hoping that your team wins most of their games this season.