From spring training through the last game of the World Series, I can turn to the game to help me through the day. When the season's over, I turned to books to get my baseball fix. The following are the five best (oops, six actually) baseball books I've read in no particular order.
by George Plimpton
Sometimes we watch baseball players make things look easy on the field and we think to ourselves: "I could do that." Even those of us athletically inclined think it can't be that difficult to throw a strike from 60 feet, six inches. George Plimpton shows just what it's like for an athletically gifted citizen to play amid professionals such as Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks and Willie Mays. I could feel the fatigue through Plimpton's writing and couldn't help but laugh through it all. I'm not sure if the fact that it's only 128 pages is a testament to Plimpton's concise writing or how quickly he was chased off the mound at Yankee Stadium.
by Buzz Bissinger
Why do managers take out pitchers when they're doing perfectly fine? Does it really matter that the pinch hitter is right handed versus a left-handed pitcher? Why not steal bases more often? All the little details are covered in this book that follows St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa for a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs. LaRussa (surprisingly) allows Bissinger into his world so us fans can see what's really going through the manager's head.
by David Maraniss
After reading this, it's hard to tell if Clemente was a better baseball player or a better human being. The chapters alternate between Clemente's life — on and off the field — to the tragic events that led up to his plane crashing into the sea while he was attempting to bring relief supplies to earthquake victims. While getting great baseball stories, I also got a great suspense novel.
by Michael Lewis
Moneyball was the LSD of baseball books because I never looked at the game the same after reading it. There's a lot of controversy from a lot of people who haven't read this book saying it's not how baseball players should be measured. Lewis simply tells how Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics did it and how it worked. It's another great David vs. Goliath-type story.
by Joe Posnanski
Buck O'Neil is the definition of optimism. The former Negro league star can light up a room with his smile or my living room with a story from Ken Burns' baseball documentary. Posnanski was fortunate enough to follow the great man around for a summer and write down everything he saw, including O'Neil's great advice, "Never let a woman in a red dress pass you by."
by Jim Bouton
Jim Bouton set the baseball world on fire at release of his chronicle of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros with his honesty. He made me embarrassingly laugh out loud at many passages in public places. Bouton goes from triple-A to the big leagues and then is traded to a contender late in the season to give the reader a great feel for what life in the big leagues is all about including groupies, farting, "beaver shooting" and old stories of his times with the Yankees of the early-mid sixties.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Jeff Jackson
I'll never be a sports fan, but I will always be a baseball fan. I've worked professionally as a sports writer, but never really enjoyed it unless I was writing about baseball. It's a good estimate one of every five of the books I read are about baseball.
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