Friday Five: Lesser-Known Baseball Books
This week’s Friday Five covers one of my favorite topics: baseball books. I’d like to say that the frantic pace of my life is the reason that I haven’t been able to read as many of them as I’d like recently, but that’s no excuse; there are ways one could make time. At any rate, I do manage to get some reading time in — mostly when I’m taking a dump. But it counts.
I promise you that none of the books I have listed here were read when I was on the toilet, so don’t let that stand in the way of your enjoyment (by the way, on that topic, see “Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi). I’d love to hear if anyone else has some winners, too. Click each picture for information on purchasing these books on Amazon.
#5: The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers (Bill James, Scribner):
Lots of attempts to attach numbers and rankings to the stuff managers do. Includes summaries about the changes in the way managers have their jobs over the years. My favorite article is about why NEW managers seem to do a much better job than the managers they replaced were doing. It’s number five because it’s better known than the others on the list.
#4: Essential Cubs (Doug Myers, Contemporary Books)
The statistical lists are non-sabermetric and therefore a little oversimplified, and it has wonderful stories about a lot of Cubs, well-known and obscure. It goes into great detail about some of the greatest games in Cubs history (Like Wood’s 20 K game), ranks good/bad trades, discusses GMs, and makes a hall of fame case for Ron Santo, among others. It’s written by a die-hard Cubs fan and it shows, so if you’re not a fan of this blog’s reason for being, don’t waste your time. The book quotes Dick Ellsworth as saying, “We played for the fans, not for management. They were the ones who gauged our abilities and degree of success.”
#3: The Hustler’s Handbook (Bill Veeck/Ed Linn, Fireside):
This “sequel” to Veeck as in Wreck has lots more great stuff from Bill’s life in baseball. It’s written in a very campy, informal style that presents Veeck as the teacher and the reader as student and hustler-to-be. Nonetheless, a very entertaining read.
#2: Green Cathedrals (Philip J. Lowry, Addison Wesley):
Now quite dated, as the newest stadium in the book is Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but it has some GREAT facts about all of the parks used up until then (by the major and negro leagues). My favorite entry is about Clark Field in Austin, Texas (hosted a few Negro League games in ’49-50); it reads:
“This is perhaps the only two-tiered field ever. With a 12-foot-high cliff separating the upper outfield in left around to right center from the infield and lower outfield, there were two levels of play, the upper tier and the lower tier.”
#1: Sadaharu Oh (Oh and David Falkner, Times Books):
The story of the Japanese home run hitter who applied zen and martial arts training to his baseball approach. Lots of great stories of Japanese baseball and insights on what he’s seen of American players. The coolest part is that there are about 20 pages in the middle of the book which you can flip and see Oh’s swing.