With summer wrapping up and school getting back into session, what better way to pass the time than to read about baseball? I don’t mean reading articles on the internet. I mean the old-fashioned method – reading an actual book! When it comes to our pastime, there are tons of books to read for any subject that interests you – baseball cards, biographies, team stories, instructional books – anything!
Here are some of the books that I’ve read over the summer that I highly recommend. If I left any of your favorites out, let me know. I’m always looking to read more and more about the sport we love!
The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife
Author: Brad Balukjian
This was a great book detailing a man’s journey to meet every player whose card he pulled out of a 1986 Topps pack that he opened in 2015. Read the full review I originally published on the site back in 2020. It’s a nostalgic look back on the players’ lives along with the author’s. The cover alone is worth it! Brad is on Twitter @BradBalukjian and the next book he has coming out pertains to 80’s wrestlers. It was so good that I had to read it again!
Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict
Author: Tanner Jones
Jones is the foremost expert on Jose Canseco baseball cards. This is his story about how he became an uber-collector of Jose and spent hours with him at his house. You read that correctly – Tanner spent hours at Jose’s house. He’s a great follow on Twitter @tanmanbbfan.
Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child’s Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Industry
Author: Pete Williams
Upper Deck entered the card industry in 1989 long after the Big Three (Topps, Fleer, Donruss) were in business. This is the story of how they turned the industry upside-down upon their entry into the hobby.
Author: Sam Walker
A great story about how a Wall Street Journal sports columnist joined Tout Wars. Good humor is mixed in throughout the book.
Minor League Baseball Analyst
Authors: Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney
Years: 2006 to present
A comprehensive look at minor league prospects analyzing their stats, giving insights into each player and their potential.
Authors: Baseball Prospectus Team
Years: 1995 to present
Scouting reports and notes on minor league players and includes PECOTA projections, also.
My Prison Without Bars
Authors: Pete Rose, Rick Hill
The book where Pete Rose admits and apologized for his gambling and explains the reason for his addiction. Great story in which Rose details his upbringing that influenced his competitive behavior throughout his life, which he believes led to his betting on the game.
Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin
Author: Peter Golenbock
There are quite a few books written about Billy Martin but Golenbock’s is the most detailed and thorough one. Martin’s story is a tragic tale right up until the very end.
Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original
Author: Howard Bryant
Rickey was always an enigma both to fans and his teammates. Bryant’s book takes a look into his upbringing and career. He also reveals if the “Rickey-isms” were true. Did Rickey frame a million-dollar check without cashing it? Did he tell John Olerud he played with another teammate who wore a helmet on the field like him? Did Rickey call a GM telling him that Rickey wanted to discuss Rickey playing for them? All of that is discussed in the book, thankfully.
Imperfect: An Improbable Life
Authors: Jim Abbott and Tim Brown
Great story about an inspirational man who battled improbable odds to become a successful major league ballplayer. Abbott was born without a right hand and pitched in the major leagues for 10 years even throwing a no-hitter in 1993 while with the Yankees.
Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig
Author: Jonathan Eig
Deep dive into the life of one of the game’s greatest players. A comprehensive account of his life before and after the Iron Man’s “luckiest man” speech.
Author: Michael Lewis
Alright, so Oakland never won a World Series but this isn’t a story about that, nor was it ever meant to be. The book describes how the Oakland organization found new ways to judge talent and how to spend their money on undervalued players in order to compete with teams whose payrolls were much higher than theirs. The movie is great, too, but nothing like the book. Spoiler: Billy Beane is still waiting to win the final game of the year. Word of caution: don’t read this book close to fantasy draft day or you’ll wind up drafting a high-OBP player like Yandy Diaz over Ronald Acuna in the first round.
Battle of the Bay: Bashing A’s, Thrilling Giants and the Earthquake World Series
Author: Gary Peterson
After the 1988 “Kirk Gibson” World Series, Oakland looked to avenge their loss and fate had them face their bay area rivals, the San Francisco Giants. This was Jose Canseco vs. Will Clark. Arrogant, young, new-wave Oakland vs. veteran, fundamental San Francisco. And it was also the Loma Prieta Earthquake. The book takes a look at how the players were impacted by the disaster and the aftermath both on and off the field.
Macho Row: The 1993 Phillies and Baseball’s Unwritten Code
Author: Williams C. Kashatus
The 1992 Phillies ended in last place, 26 games out of first place. A year later and they were in the World Series facing the defending champions, the Toronto Blue Jays. How did they go from worst to first? What was Macho Row? This is a look into an interesting team of castaways and misfits and how chemistry played a huge role in the team overcoming the odds to win over a tough city and captivate a nation.
Ladies and Gentleman, The Bronx is Burning
Author: Jonathan Mahler
The book interweaves three stories about New York in 1977 – the “Son of Sam” killer, the political race for mayor, and, of course, the New York Yankees. The Yankees were a team in turmoil with constant bickering among manager Billy Martin, owner George Steinbrenner, and newly signed free agent Reggie Jackson. It’s a great book that uncovers all you need to know about the team and more. It was also made into a fun ESPN miniseries by the same name.
Eight Men Out
Author: Eliot Asinof
There are many books that discuss the 1919 Chicago White Sox (aka Black Sox) but this is the definitive one. The book delves deep into what really happened with Shoeless Joe Jackson, Chick Gandil, Charles Comiskey, and the rest of the team. It was also made into a movie in 1988.
The Bad Guys Won
Author: Jeff Pearlman
The 1986 Mets warned other teams they would come into their town to drink their beer and steal their women. This is the story of Doc, Straw, Nails, and the entire Mets team and how they banded together against the world to win the World Series that year.
For Red Sox Fans Only
Author: Rich Wolfe
I will admit that this is the one book here that I didn’t read but there are a few stories in there from our site leader, Scott Greene (@Scotty_Ballgame), which puts it on my Mount Rushmore of finest baseball books ever written.
Behind the Scenes
Author: Jim Bouton
Jim Bouton’s book was the first tell-all story released back in 1970. He writes about drug use among players, womanizing, drinking, and his clashes with teammates and managers. It was controversial at the time it came out and is still a great read to learn more about what some players go through in their careers.
The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
Author: Bill James
For anyone who wants to learn more about Sabermetrics and Win Shares and where most of these newer statistics originated from, look no further than this book. Bill James is the godfather of statistical analysis, influencing countless baseball executives and fans with his outside-the-box thinking.
Three Nights in August
Author: Buzz Bissinger
Bissinger covers a three-game series between Tony La Russa’s St. Louis Cardinals versus the rival Chicago Cubs in 2003. Bissinger had full access to Larussa and the Cardinals clubhouse while writing the book and gives us a great glimpse into the mind of a manager attempting to motivate today’s players. It’s a phenomenal, eye-opening tale of how a manager must think and plan ahead and how each of their moves can impact future innings, games, and series.
The Bullpen Gospels
Author: Dirk Hayhurst
Dirk Hayhurst was a reliever for Toronto’s farm system who wrote about a season in the minor leagues. He took notes, much to the suspicion of some teammates at the time. Reading this book, you feel like you’re actually next to him in the dugout, bullpen, or clubhouse learning a lot of the things that go on behind the scenes of a baseball team. Hayhurst also released three other books each giving his humorous insight into life and baseball.
Tony Bps Spina is a lifelong baseball fan hailing from the City of Brotherly Love - Philadelphia! Tony has loved baseball since 1980 and has followed the Phillies through good and bad times. Tony is married with 3 kids and works for a financial institution but has enough free time to play in 20 fantasy baseball leagues with 75% of them being Dynasty Leagues. He lives a few blocks away from Citizens Bank Park and attends many Phillies games per year in addition to their minor league teams in Lehigh Valley and Reading. He can be reached on Twitter at @TonyBps1.
If you have never read “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc, J. Henry Waugh, Prop,” you really must. Written in 1968, it’s the first book about fantasy baseball. Not what we now call ‘fantasy,’ this is a real fantasy, with imaginary players that he dreamed up. The book shuffles back between his real life and the imaginary one, lived by the players.
This sounds pretty interesting. I will check it out – thank you for the recommendation!