If any sport has a literary feel to it, it’s baseball. There are far more books about baseball than any other sport and it isn’t even close. Check your local bookstore sometime (assuming you’re over 25 and even know what one of those is): the sports section is usually half baseball and half a combination of every other sport. However, since baseball is so old and the sport has been inspiring the literary among us since the days of the first double-header, many of these books were written a long time ago.
Here are five more recent baseball books that are must-read for any fan, along with unique links where you can buy them at a discount:
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
by Michael Lewis
Perhaps the most influential sports book ever, Moneyball eventually became so much more than that. It became a film, a movement, a term of derision, and a symbol for anything to do with analytics, sabermetrics, or advanced stats. The book itself tends to get lost in all the coverage, which is a shame, because it’s a damn good book. Michael Lewis is one of the most skilled people ever to put fingertip to keyboard, and Moneyball is still an engrossing narrative with plenty of information that’s still relevant today. Do yourself a favor and read (or re-read) it.
BUY THE BOOK: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness
by Buster Olney
The Yankees were absolutely THE team of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and former New York Times beat reporter and current ESPN writer Buster Olney captured that era perfectly in this 2004 book set against the backdrop of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series (they lost the game despite the pro-New York post-9/11 sentiment – hence the title). Some highlights are the descriptions of the individual characters, who as a group resuscitated the Yankees mystique between 1996 and 2000; the Scott Brosiuses, the Paul O’Neills, the El Duques, the Jeters. There are also plenty of good – i.e. insane – George Steinbrenner stories. But the best part about this book: you don’t have to be a Yankee fan to enjoy it. I’m a Red Sox fan and hated those Yankee teams, but I still couldn’t put it down.
The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse
by Tom Verducci
This isn’t very hard: Theo Epstein is the best GM in baseball, Joe Maddon is the best manager in baseball, and Tom Verducci is the most talented baseball writer alive. Throw in a lot of behind-the-scenes access and a team coming off a World Series title that was fully willing to cooperate, and you get the best baseball book I’ve read all year. Like Olney, Verducci sets the book against the backdrop of Game 7 of the World Series, specifically the lead up to it, in manager Joe Maddon’s office before the game. From there he spends about half the time talking about the game (and the series) and the other half talking about how the Cubs got there.
Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager
by Buzz Bissinger
This book was written as a response to Moneyball, but I suggest reading them together as a tandem. The author, Buzz Bissinger – who also wrote a little book called Friday Night Lights – was bothered by the glorification of dispassionate analytics in Moneyball and wanted to write something honoring and revealing the human element of the game. He picked the perfect subject in intense, innovative Hall-of-Fame baseball manager Tony La Russa, following him closely for a three game stretch in August of 2003 between La Russ’a Cardinals and the Cubs. Moneyball allows you to understand the mind of the sport; this book will do the same for its soul.
BUY THE BOOK: Three Nights in August
The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First
by Jonah Keri
Written by veteran baseball scribe and former business reporter Jonah Keri, this 2011 book reads a little like a sequel to Moneyball. If Michael Lewis introduced most of the baseball world to advanced analytics through Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, The Extra 2% picks up a half decade later, in a world where almost every team has an analytics department and Billy Beane impersonators are a dime a dozen. Keri goes in deep with the Tampa Bay Rays, focusing on how they built themselves from a laughingstock into the 2008 AL East division champs using financial wizardry and advanced analytics that they learned on Wall Street. Whether you’re a fan of business, baseball, or just well-written books featuring lots of behind-the-scenes access, you won’t be able to put this one down.
(Note: Keri, a native of Montreal, actually has a more recent baseball book about the Expos that is also excellent and just missed this list: Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos)