Five Books about Baseball
As the 2008 baseball season nears its climax, it's time for addicts of the game to begin easing their looming withdrawal by laying in baseball books for the winter. Here to get you started are five classics of the genre:
Ball Four, by Jim Bouton (1970). Published at the end of the far-out decade, this is a hipster's guide to baseball written by one of its own, a journeyman pitcher who had nothing to lose by blowing the whistle on the then-rampant drug-taking, womanizing and drinking. (Oh, wait, they're still rampant, aren't they?) It's still an effective riposte to those who wax too sentimental about the game.
The Summer Game, by Roger Angell (1972). Angell's innovation was simple: Write about the sport as intelligently as you would about the operas of Mozart or the sonnets of Shakespeare. Angell's gift is to do so without sounding prissy. This collection of columns originally appearing in the New Yorker is the baseball book by which all others are measured.
The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn (1972). Seventy-two was the year of great baseball books by men named Rogers; this one explains what was so special about the late, great Brooklyn Dodgers (mostly that they played scrappily and well despite being overshadowed by the gold-plated Yankees).
Moneyball, by Michael Lewis (2003). A look at the nouvelle vogue of building a baseball team by the numbers, as practiced by Billy Beane, longtime general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Zeroing in on arcane but telling statistical trends, Beane has consistently produced contenders despite having one of the lowest payrolls in the game. (Or, rather, had consistently fielded them; Oakland has slipped recently, and the new exemplar of bargain-basement success is Tampa Bay.)
Three Nights in August, by Buzz Bissinger (2005). Published the year before the St. Louis Cardinals won their 10th World Series, this is an account of the Cards' manager Tony La Russa, one of the game's savviest, in action. In deconstructing a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs, Bissinger makes baseball akin to a great chess tournament.
What are your picks for books about America's Pastime?
-- Dennis Drabelle
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