Sunday, July 18, 2010

Baseball and Books

It's summer, so we're in the middle of baseball season. I imagine many of us book people are not also sports fans, but I am. Being a Southerner, I really love college football and college basketball. But when I moved to New York, I knew there were be a real dearth of my faves. So in order to try to fit in and actually be able to occasionally watch a sport on TV, I learned about baseball. How? Silly reader, I read books! Now, I lived in Queens, so I was a Mets fan. But the hot dogs at Yankee stadium are the best ever.

Last week The Huffington Post featured a list of the 16 best baseball books. I thought for sure I was going to have read half of them. But no, only two! How can that be!? So I find I must post my list of the best baseball books. The first two are the only ones on the HuffPost list:

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, a new classic, this book is about the economics of sports, and the statistic of sports. Turns out the stats everyone's been following for the last century aren't really relevant,

Ball Four by Jim Bouton, a classic autobiography of a screwball pitcher. He so enraged the Yankees that they refused to invite him to the alumni games for all former Yankees players. All but Jim Bouton.

The Natural by Bernard Malamud (Did you know he won the Pulitzer Prize?) The movie changed the ending of this book COMPLETELY. I really loved this book. It was moody and dark and magical and just perfect.

Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof, yes I read this because of the movie with John Cusack and D.B. Sweeney and Charlie Sheen, but the book is also good, even if not filled with matinee idols from my teen years. Filled with fascinating history, if a little dry.

Baseball: An Illustrated History by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ken Burns, yes I read the whole thing. All 486 pages which doesn't even being to describe the monstrosity that is this book since it's double-columned. It was like reading a book of the encyclopedia. Took me all summer, but I read about a chapter a week, Friday afternoons in my hot hot hot apartment, and it was amazing. This is the companion book to the Ken Burns' PBS miniseries.

The Final Season: Fathers, Sons, and One Last Season in a Classic American Ballpark (Honoring a Detroit Legend) by Tom Stanton, a sweet memoir, perfect for father's day. A father and son go to every home game in the old Detroit Tigers stadium, the last year it was in use before it was torn down.

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Doris bonds with her father over baseball games on the radio. Another perfect father's day book.

Baseball For Dummies by Joe Morgan, Richard Lally, because I had no idea what the infield fly rule was or the designated hitter. This is the natural primer for any baseball neophyte. I still was confused at the end of it, but I was less confused, and I would refer back to this book while watching games on TV. Sadly, I have forgotten most of what I learned.

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, the book behind Field of Dreams. Much better than the movie. My boss's favorite book. He made me read it. It was better than I was expecting (I don't like the movie) but only okay for me. However, many, many people disagree with me.

Baseball is by far the best sport for books. Not only can the games drone on and on with long slow parts (perfect for reading in the stands, if your friends won't think you're a freak/anti-social) but baseball lends itself to prose. I've read a handful of books on football, basketball, even tennis, but baseball is the most literary. Play ball!

"I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us." ~Walt Whitman

1 comment:

Carin said...

I LOVED Shoeless Joe. I actually thought it was fairly close to the movie (other than the writer was J.D. Salinger and the reason Ray built the field). What other movie has Kevin Costner been any good in? None. He plays the boring Iowa farmer quite well! :P

It's one of my favorite books that a movie was based off of. I love baseball movies and I love baseball (although I'm stuck in the AL abyss with my Dallas husband so I don't really watch it anymore--I hate the AL...impure! DH! I cry foul!).

Sorry I'm behind on my Google Reader! That's why I'm posting way late!