A Bumper Crop of Baseball Books

March 28, 2006 | 7 books mentioned 4 2 min read

coverOpening Day is almost upon us, and that means that this year’s baseball books are already upon us. My friend Derek was once a Baltimore Orioles fan like myself, but then the Nationals swept into Washington, DC, and stole his heart away. I consider him a traitor, of course, but in his defense, I’m told that watching the Nats play at RFK has become one of the joys of summertime in the Nation’s capitol. Being a big Nationals fan, Derek has been bugging me about one baseball book in particular. National Pastime is an account of the Nationals debut season by Washington Post baseball writer Bruce Svrluga (an excerpt is available). The season was exciting and worthy of a book not only because the Nationals were unexpectedly contenders last summer, but also because the team became a phenomenon in a city that had gone without baseball for decades. It’s the sort of baseball story that baseball fans love (Even so, I’m still an O’s fan.)

covercoverEvery once in a while, though, there’s a baseball book that draws interest beyond diehard fans. A couple of years ago it was Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball that turned baseball on its head. This year it’s the book Game of Shadows by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, which presents, it seems to me, incontrovertible evidence that Barry Bonds’ monster performance of the last few years was, in fact, steroid-fueled as so many had suspected. Ever since Sports Illustrated ran an excerpt of the book a few weeks back, this has been the number one story in baseball. It seems likely to stay the number one story for a while, too. ESPN The Magazine recently ran an excerpt of another Bonds book, Love Me, Hate Me by Jeff Pearlman. That book will be out in May.

coverPerhaps as important as baseball (and Bonds’ steroid troubles), though, is fantasy baseball. I’ll be tearing it up this year in a league put together by fellow blogger, Jeff. My team is the Ravenswood Ravens, a reference to both my neighborhood and Edgar Allan Poe. The team’s success will rely equally on my managerial prowess and on a breakout season by Wily Mo Pena. Fantasy baseball has clearly become a huge business in recent years and a summer long obsession for many sports fans. In Fantasyland, Wall Street Journal writer Sam Walker does what many of us fantasy baseball fans seem apt to do all summer, and that is chronicle the ups and downs of our fantasy team to anyone stuck listening to us. What sets Walker apart, though, is that he’s a sportswriter, a job which affords him real life contact with the players on his fantasy team. I don’t have access like that, so when I need fantasy tips I turn to the baseball geeks at Baseball Prospectus. Their annual Prospectus is indispensable, and this year also I managed to get my hands another new book of theirs, Baseball Between the Numbers, in which the BP folks use their formidable mastery of numbers to shatter more myths about the game.

Update: Sam Walker is blogging this week at Powells.com.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

4 comments:

  1. I just finished reading the paperback edition of Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger – chronicling a 3 game series in Aug. 2003 between the Cubs and Cards. Great stuff.

  2. The husband is reading "Fantasyland" and assuring me that it will make me laugh, make me cry. Apparently Jacque Jones is one sensitive dude. He also has "Baseball Between the Numbers" lined up.

    Good luck with your fantasy team — the Fernwood Frogs are sitting pretty with Albert Pujols in place as team captain and MVP. I anticipate a great year for my boys, though they're a bit more skeptical about me as manager.

  3. I've got Pujols, too! My number one pick, of course.

    I think I'll Have to put Fantasyland on my wishlist…. It sounds pretty great

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