September 23, 2019
Summer, technically if not seasonally, is over. In my mind, this time of year reliably conjures two things: Christmas decorations hit store shelves, and Major League Baseball playoffs begin, eventually wrapping up with the fall classic, the World Series. For those of you about to be bored right off the page by what I’m saying, just hear me out. Baseball, as both the most storied and the most human of sports, naturally lends itself to great storytelling. Yes, this has been an exciting summer for baseball — spirited play, records set and broken, and hopes remaining high for many teams and cities well into the season (as of this writing, the Wild Card races are still close). But 2019 was also a banner year for nonfiction books about the game and its history, including many that will appeal to non-baseball, even non-sports fan patrons.
First, biographies. After all, one of baseball’s greatest draws is the way it shines a light on its many outsized personalities. Fallen-from-grace icon Pete Rose penned a revealing memoir, Play Hungry, about growing up and his early years in the game, and Cal Ripken gave us a values-based autobiography in Just Show Up. But also look for engaging life stories about Yankees stars Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle, two (!) books about Cubs legend Ernie Banks, and a biography of beloved Chicago broadcaster Harry Caray, for crying out loud.
Memorable matchups: As 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the World Series win for the New York “Miracle” Mets, this year brought us three books chronicling that squad’s exploits, including Here’s the Catch, by ’69 Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda. Next, we have the bizarre occurrences, as exemplified by Kevin Cook’s Ten Innings at Wrigley, an account of a 1979 game between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies that produced an incredible final score of 23-22 (the Phillies took it).
Finally, there is the rare baseball book that eloquently dissects and contemplates an aspect of the game in microhistory, as does K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by New York Times columnist Tyler Kepner. “K” is baseball slang for “strikeout,” and Kepner considers the impact of ten types of pitch (e.g., fastball, curveball, slider, etc.) within the context of the sport’s entire long history.
There are so many recommendable titles that we’re just scratching the surface. For more options, type or paste the search string GN sports and competition baseball into the NoveList search bar and select Date Newest in the Sort by drop-down box to find every book mentioned here plus many more. Are life stories of the greats the most requested at your library? Then filter the above search by adding AND GN (Biographies OR Autobiographies) to the end of the string and search again to get only biographies and memoirs. And let’s not forget all the terrific baseball-themed fiction books, many of which inspired some of our favorite sports films, like Bernard Malamud’s The Natural and W. P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe. Try a search for NF fiction AND SU baseball to find baseball novels, comics, and picture books for all ages.
New to field codes? Learn more here or watch this video.
Remember, though bleacher bums everywhere may soon be zipping up windbreakers and blowing into cupped hands, summer can’t truly end until the final out.
Clay Boyer is a Metadata Librarian at NoveList. He is currently reading The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and Jazz: A History of America's Music by Geoffrey C. Ward.