I started reading baseball books seriously again after the Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway Serious in 2000. I felt compelled to try and put the Yankees run into some sort of perspective, and that led me back to the bookshelf. For the past few years I've enjoyed digging into the subculture of baseball literature, and last year was no different. Perhaps the most significant discovery I made was when I acquired my cousin Gabe's collection of Bill James Abstracts. His mother was selling the house he grew up in, and when he went to clear his things out, I told him to give me any and all of his baseball books if he was going to throw them out. Well Gabe came back with a treasure chest, complete with Bill James' Baseball Abstracts 1984-88, and The Bill James Baseball Book: 1990-92.
I was familiar with James in name and reputation only, but had never sit down and read any of his work. Needless to say, perusing the Abstracts has been a rewarding experience. I'm not a science of math guy by nature, but I found it hard to resist James' irreverent and authoratative prose. I especially liked the biograhical information, and James' even-handed, emperical approach to statistics. I also loved revisiting the 1980's, and reading about the teams and players I grew up with from an adult perspective.
I don't think I actually read any of the James books from soup to nuts, but I picked them up and put them down often. Collections of essays are often my favorite books to read, and re-read. I can only assume the Abstracts will be as well used, and invaluable in the coming years as the Roger Angell and Tom Boswell compilations have been and continue to be.
While discovering Bill James was paramount to my baseball education last season, I didn't stop there. Here is a list of the other baseball books I read:
The Way It Is by Curt Flood and Richard Carter Inside The Yankees: The Championship Year by Ed Linn The Curse of the Bambino by Dan Shaugnessy Beyond the 6th Game by Peter Gammons Baseball Dynasties by Eddie Epstein and Rob Neyer The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers by Bill James The Curse of Rocky Colavito by Terry Pluto Clearing the Bases by Allen Barra No Cheering in the Press Box by Jerome Holtzman
Why Time Begins on Opening Day by Tom Boswell What Ever Happened to the Hall of Fame? by Bill James Baseball's Great Experiment by Jules Tygiel Wait Til Next Year by William Goldman and Mike Lupica Collision at Home Plate by James Reston, Jr A Whole Different Ballgame by Marvin Miller The Short Season by David Falkner
Poorly Written But Informative:
Shut Out by Howard Bryant Talking Baseball: An Oral History of Baseball in the 1970s by Phil Pepe Baseball, Chicago Style by Jerome Holtman and George Vass
I recently finished Jane Leavy's acclaimed new biography on Sandy Koufax, and hope to post a review in the coming weeks. I hardly have enough time to keep up with all the promising books I've got waiting in the wings. A good problem to have, for sure.
Nice Guys Finish Last by Leo Durocher and Ed Linn The New Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball by Leonard Kopett 1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball by Red Barber October, 1964 by David Halberstam Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer