Not so interesting confession: I’m a big baseball fan. And when the doldrums of the New England winter starts to really sink in right…about…now, I turn to baseball books.
Sometimes I think books about sports are kinda tossed into a throwaway category by readers. Like oh sports = not smart, who cares, back to Plato.
Now while I have no doubt that Plato probably might have dug baseball had he seen a few innings back in the day, I’d argue that there are a lot of great books out there about sports.
So that’s what this week’s post is about, quick and easy. I’m offering three examples of my favorite baseball books that are absolutely worth the read.
Hopefully, these will get you through until Spring Training….
This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I remember reading it and thinking hey a little girl like me who also loves baseball, pretty cool! I guess representation matters, huh? Plus, as a side note, the main character’s name was Shirley Temple which I found endlessly amusing.
What strikes me looking back on this book now as I get the point of it being more outside the realm of just baseball is it is a story about how sports can make people feel included and normal so to speak.
Even though the story is fiction, it’s loosely based on Bette Bao Lord’s own experiences. She came to America as a young girl and had trouble fitting in. But she was able to find a bond in the school yard with classmates around the Brooklyn Dodgers and it’s historic star, someone else who didn’t ‘fit in,’ Jackie Robinson.
It’s a great story on how, in it’s purest sense, a sport can be something that brings people together.
Probably every baseball fan I know has read this book. I was a major fangirl of Michael Lewis before this came out having read Liar’s Poker first. But what he managed to do for Wall Street, he did for baseball too.
If you haven’t read the book but have seen the movie (which amazingly is pretty close to the book), it follows along with Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s, a perennial sad sack team with zero money that had to compete with big market teams like the Yankees.
The secret for Beane is inside the numbers, not the salaries. He looks at advanced stats in a way that can help predict how a player will perform in the future. The concept is called Sabermetrics, and while Beane was by no means the first to do this, this book really made the concept popular.
It’s a very cool look at how a small market team can basically game the system, looking for market inefficiencies, where potentially producing players are undervalued, and grab them up at a discount.
The money inside baseball today is, frankly, outrageous. Last year the Red Sox signed pitcher David Price to a 7 year, $217 million dollar contract. Clayton Kershaw, arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball made $34,571,000 in 2016, and he only started 21 games.
Where, during the steroid era of the late 1990s it was ‘chicks dig the long ball’ now it’s owners want the arm. And that doesn’t mean just any old arm, it means the arms that produce hard throwing, ideally triple digit speed fastballs.
That’s where Passan’s book is set. It looks at what’s going on around pitching, namely around the explosion of elbow problems. Most notably an injury called Tommy John among hard throwing pitchers. And I’m not just talking about in the MLB, Passan also follows teenagers who at 18 years old are lining up for this surgery.
Right now, baseball seems to be unsure what to do. Owners are passing out $200 million dollar contracts over 6-8 years to men who, most likely, will never see the end of it because their arm will blow.
I’ve given you some of my favorites. There are plenty of good baseball books I haven’t mentioned. I may or may not be saving up for a project that’s specifically about these books.
But I’m always happy to hear about new ones. So let me know what you like in the comments!