What baseball books mean to me:
sharing my all-star favorite reads

On my All Star Book Giveaway page, you can enter to win one of three autographed copies of my novel, Out of Left Field.

Summer is a time for reading and for baseball, so why not ask writer friends and fans for their favorite baseball books? I was interested in books they might have read when young, as well as current titles. Here are some suggestions. I look forward to expanding the discussion:

Lou GehrigMy husband, John Straus, still owns the biography of Lou Gehrig that he read when he was a young Brooklyn Dodgers fan: Lou Gehrig: Boy of the Sand Lots, by Guernsey Van Riper, Jr. (Childhood of Famous Americans Series, 1949). With lots of invented dialogue and action, it reads like a fast-paced novel, but brings the game to life. 

Since we moved to the Boston area, John and I have shared and enjoyed a number of baseball-themed books together. Favorites have been Moneyball, by Michael Lewis; Wait Till Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s memoir of enjoying the game with her father; and Chad Harbach’s wonderful novel, The Art of Fielding. John also recommends Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, by Jane Leavy, about one of the game’s greatest pitchers, and David Halberstam’s The Teammates, which profiles four great Red Sox players.

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Long before I became an ardent Sox fan, I followed Roger Angell’s baseball writings in The New Yorker. The New York Post has called him “The clear-eyed poet laureate of baseball.” The Roger Angell Baseball Collection gathers three books of his essays into one. 

As I wrote my baseball novel, Out of Left Field, I reread and quoted from A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti. Our friend David Riley, a poet, playwright, and passionate Red Sox fan, called to remind me of John Updike’s brilliant piece in The New Yorker, which chronicled Ted Williams’s last game (Williams finished with a home run).

In addition to these adult titles, I also appreciate baseball books for young readers. For a lively historical overview, I recommend Baseball For Everyone: 150 Years of America’s Game, by my friend Janet Wyman Coleman.

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My former student, Cathy Goldberg Fishman, tells the moving story of the first encounter between Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg in When Jackie and Hank Met (illustrated by Mark Elliot). Virginia Euwer Wolff’s novel, Bat Six, follows a girl’s softball team in Oregon, post-WWII. 

Fellow New Englander Matt Tavares has written and illustrated a number of books about the Red Sox, including his recent Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues. Ken Mochizuki’s Baseball Saved Us, illustrated by Dom Lee, is a moving story about Japanese Americans who turned to baseball as a way to survive their internment during World War II.

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My good friend Nolan Zavoral, a poet and journalist who briefly covered the Brewers, told me that his all-time favorite baseball book is Bang the Drum Slowly, by Mark Harris. Nolan wrote: “What stays with me is that last line, a killer: ‘From here on in, I rag nobody.’ …It’s a sad, ironic, funny book, with a first-person narrator who pitches in the bigs. My runner-ups are a tie between [Bernard Malamud’s] The Natural, and Ball Four; the first for all the writerly reasons, the second because Jim Bouton (with a fine assist from Leonard Schecter) made us see baseball players without the halos.”

My cousin George Grayson, who taught himself to read by poring over the sports pages at the breakfast table, also praises Ball Four, which he said “was a controversial book, detailing Jim Bouton’s struggles as a knuckleball pitcher. Of course, as an 11- year-old, I enjoyed it immensely and was convinced it was the best book ever published. Unfortunately for me, it was released in very late August, at a time when I was supposed to be ‘finishing up’ my summer reading list…”

George, a long-time Senators—now Nationals—fan, had a personal connection to Kiss It Goodbye by Shelby Whitfield, about the Senators’ final season and their fatal last night. George told me a story that makes today’s games seem tame: “I went to the final game of that last season with my father,” George wrote. “Our sole remaining good player, the gentle giant Frank Howard, hit a laser shot of a home run that night and the crowd wouldn’t stop cheering. Finally, in the 9th inning, many in the crowd stormed the field, physically uprooting and then literally stealing second base, and the game was declared a forfeit.”

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Readers: what are your favorite baseball titles? On my All Star Book Giveaway page, you can enter to win one of three autographed copies of my novel, Out of Left Field. Share your favorite title before midnight, Tuesday, July 14th, and we’ll enter you in the drawing. We’ll draw names from a baseball hat and notify winners within the week after July 14th. Winners’ names will be posted on that same giveaway page.

Remember: The entry deadline is midnight Tuesday, July 14th (CDT). Sorry, only readers from the U.S. mainland are eligible for this giveaway.

Happy summer, and happy reading!

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