In honor of opening day, here are five of our favorite baseball books of all time. These books consist of varying genres and eras, representing a small sample of the treasure trove of literature that exists on the sport.
Let us know your favorites in the comments. And let's go Mets!
Regardless of your feelings on Doris Kearns Goodwin's politics, here she perfectly captures the golden era of 1950s baseball in New York City, a time in which the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and New York Yankees battled for the tri-state areas' -- and America's heart. For all of those fans rooting for lovable losers, this is the book that will give you hope that this could be your year...or you might just have to wait till next year. "Wait Till Next Year" is that rare nostalgic book that will be read and loved equally by those young and old.
2. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
"Moneyball" sought to show how the Oakland Athletics under the sage management of Billy Beane were able to compete as David's against baseball's Goliath big market teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Michael Lewis shows how Beane applied the principles of value investing to baseball; how essentially to stretch the A's' dollar further than that of other teams, he sought players who were artificially undervalued because of the biases inherent to baseball towards players with certain physical builds or players who excelled under traditional statistical metrics, and exploited this informational advantage to field the best possible team for the least possible money. The A's continue to dominate and shock baseball employing this strategy today (though the big-market teams are now applying many of the Athletics' principles to their own player evaluation efforts), and the lessons of this book apply beyond baseball to every single industry there is.
3. The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams with John Underwood
A classic book on hitting, this is an instructional guide useful for kids in Babe Ruth Leagues to the beer league softballer in your household. The 'Splendid Splinter' used to hit until his hands bled, and was such a perfectionist of his craft that he could hit through any defensive shift set against him. In this book he gives insight into the method to his madness that made him one of if not the greatest hitter of them all. In the Sabermetric Age, Ted Williams and John Underwood's book may be looked back on as primitive, but it is nonetheless and early noteworthy effort to try and add some statistical rigor to the game. It's helpful diagrams and advice on hitting remain timeless and invaluable to ballplayers young and old.
4. The Natural by Bernard Malamud
The book on which the great Robert Redford movie is based, "The Natural" is in this writer's view one of the more underrated fictional works on baseball out there. Even if you have seen the movie, read the book.
We wrote about George Will's newest book this past week, but it bears repeating that "A Nice Little Place on the North Side" is a delightful short read that ingeniously ties in the iconic Wrigley Field to American presidents, entrepreneurs, gangsters and poets, not to mention the ballplayers with some of the more colorful personas you can imagine who graced it. Will's new effort reflects why baseball is truly America's national pastime.