(Editor’s Note: Longtime SCD columnist Dan Schlossberg did not include his own books in the article that follows. He was the author of Baseball Gold: Mining Nuggets from Our National Pastime and Making Airwaves: 60+ Years at Milo’s Microphone, written with Milo Hamilton.)
While the number of baseball card companies is shrinking, the competition among baseball book publishers is rising so fast that it must be related to global warming. Good baseball books are guaranteed to keep readers warm all winter – even in cities where snow lingers past Opening Day.
Although dozens of good books surfaced in 2007, ranking them was no easy task. They fall into different categories – from biographies to histories and reference works – and come in various sizes, shapes and price ranges. Some are part of a series, others are annuals. Many are timed to coincide with anniversaries, such as the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut.
Only one thing remains the same every year – baseball books are collectibles, savored by both rabid and casual fans. Few can afford them all, but many are excellent buys, worthy of prominent spots in home libraries. How do they rate? Here’s one man’s opinion:
1. Smithsonian Q&A Baseball: The Ultimate Question and Answer Book (Collins, 218 pages, $15.95) by David Fischer – Not a typical Smithsonian work, this handsome paperback is packed with color pictures and concise stories that trace the history of baseball, with an eye on the unusual. Its easy-to-read format includes the expected, such as lists of Hall of Famers and MVPs, as well as the unexpected, from turnstiles to terminology and even two-sport stars. There’s even a section on the disputed 1910 batting crown of Ty Cobb.
2. The Cubs: The Complete Story of Chicago Cubs Baseball (Houghton Mifflin, 460 pages, $40) by Glenn Stout; photos edited by Richard A. Johnson – If Cubs fans could play as well as they write, the team would have won a pennant since 1945. But the Cubs have always found a way to fall short, no matter how many trades they make or how much money they spend. About to enter the 100th year of their rebuilding program, the Cubs have to beat a goat curse, as well as 15 other NL teams. At least they have a rich history, from Three-Finger Brown to Ernie Banks, that is well documented by a team of writers that includes Penny Marshall and Mike Royko.
3. Athletics Album: A Photo History of the Philadelphia Athletics (Orange Frazer Press, 208 pages, $39.95) by Mark Stang – One of five photo books devoted to preserving team histories through photography, this oversized hardcover is packed with rare and oversized photos of players, parks and personalities. Because Connie Mack managed the club for nearly its entire Philadelphia sojourn, the passage of time is clearly reflected in the multiple pictures of the respected manager. This is a keeper not only for fans of the Philadelphia A’s, but for fans of baseball history.
4. The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs (Carroll & Graf, 413 pages, $16.95) by Bill Jenkinson – The author attempts to prove that today’s smaller ballparks and expansion-diluted pitching, plus the increase from 154 games to 162 games per season and assorted rules changes, would have inflated Babe Ruth’s totals to 104 home runs in 1921, a just-as-startling 1,181 in his career and 23 in the World Series. The advent of relief pitching, night ball and coast-to-coast travel might have been counterweights, but that’s not part of this equation. This paperback contains notes on every real Ruth homer, including those hit in exhibition games, plus ballpark charts and photographs.
5. The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia (Sterling Publishing, 1,810 pages, $24.95) edited by Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer; foreword by Peter Gammons – If more bang for the buck is top priority, this is the book to buy. It will settle all arguments – beyond players, records and feats, topics include managers, umpires, ballparks, Negro leagues, Caribbean winter ball and even ex post facto awards (MVPs, top rookies and Cy Young Award winners before those honors existed). An All-Star team of writers and editors combined to make this hefty paperback the best encyclopedia ever.
6. Home Run: The Definitive History of Baseball’s Ultimate Weapon (Potomac Books, 304 pages, $26.95) by David Vincent – For fans of the long ball, this hardcover has it all – players who hit four homers in a game, teams that hit four consecutive homers, even stories from the punchless Dead Ball Era, when home runs were hard to come by and usually inside-the-park. The trivia-loving author, SABR’s home run guru, is undoubtedly planning Volume II, since Chase Wright has joined Paul Foytack as the only pitchers to yield four straight homers, and J.D. Drew has become the only man to participate in two of the five times teams did it.
7. Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season (Simon & Schuster, 323 pages, $26) by Jonathan Eig – This historic hardcover, timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of integration in baseball, reveals that the 12-year-old Bud Selig journeyed from Milwaukee to Chicago for Robinson’s first game against the Cubs. But it fails to mention that Hank Greenberg, an earlier victim of religious bias, offered to help Robinson during an impromptu conversation at first base. The best part of the book? The three chapters that set the stage for Robinson’s big-league bow on April 15, 1947.
8. Crazy ’08: How Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History (Smithsonian Books, 368 pages, $24.95) by Cait Murphy; foreword by Robert W. Creamer – Baseball was different in 1908. The ball was dead, the pitchers worked often and the leagues had eight teams that played day games and sent their champions directly into the World Series. But getting there was hard, especially since it meant beating the likes of Christy Mathewson, Three Finger Brown and Honus Wagner in the National League, and Cy Young, Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson in the American. Both leagues had tight races, but the NL’s version included the notorious Merkle’s boner, which set up the New York Giants for a fall.
In her first book, Fortune magazine editor Cait Murphy captures all the details so well that she could be the literary Rookie of the Year.
9. Baseball and the Blame Game: Scapegoating in the Major Leagues (McFarland, 216 pages) by John Billheimer – When the Yankees blamed their 2007 ALDS defeat on a swarm of gnats, theirs was just the latest example of a litany of scapegoating in baseball. Merkle’s boner, Mickey Owen’s passed ball, Buckner’s boot and Steve Bartman’s grab are here too, along with errors in judgment, bad decisions and bad calls – even though Eric Gregg’s wide strike zone of the 1997 NLCS is missing.
10. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball 2007 (St. Martin’s Griffin, 859 pages, $23.95), by David S. Neft, Richard M. Cohen and Michael L. Neft – Although the ESPN Encyclopedia includes basic rosters of each big-league team, this paperback reveals the names and stats of every player on every team and indicates the arrival sequence of those obtained during the season. The year-by-year wraps are terrific, but the postseason line scores would benefit if home runs were added.
11. The Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations (Skyhorse Publishing, 787 pages, $24.95), edited by Wayne Stewart; foreword by Roger Kahn – With only “Nice guys finish last” making the journey from ballfield to Bartlett’s, this hefty hardcover is a welcome addition to baseball literature. Though it has no photographs, the book contains separate chapters on quotes by and about Babe Ruth, plus sections on hitters, pitchers, fielders, the World Series and the media.
12. An Indian Summer: The 1957 Milwaukee Braves (McFarland, 218 pages, $29.95), by Thad Mumau – Fifty years later, the World Champion Milwaukee Braves remain a team to be remembered. Buoyed by four future Hall of Famers, they overcame several serious injuries to outlast the Dodgers, Cardinals and eventually the Yankees – thanks primarily to Hank Aaron’s bat and Lew Burdette’s resilient right arm. Motivated by a Yankees official who referred to Milwaukee as “Bushville,” the ’57 Braves were a veteran team with power, pitching and a potent bench. Thad Mumau brings them back to life in this well-crafted paperback.
13. The Pride and the Pressure: A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl (Doubleday, 273 pages, $23.95) by Michael Morrissey – Even with a plethora of books about the Yankees, this behind-the-scenes look at the 2006 team ranks at the head of the class. The author, a New York Post sportswriter, reveals a world of intrigue that includes trade negotiations, clubhouse commentary and postseason goings-on. There’s even a chapter on Brian Cashman, whose skills as GM belie his youthful appearance.
14. The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball (Houghton Mifflin, 265 pages, $13.95) by Derek Zumsteg – With Barry Bonds on thin ice and more to come, this peppery paperback is prescient with good timing. Beyond the sections on Gaylord Perry and Billy Martin are historic aspects (i.e. John McGraw) and segments on such misbehavior as doctored baseballs, corked bats and substance abuse.
15. That One Glorious Season: Baseball Players With One Spectacular Year, 1950-1961 (Peter E. Randall publisher, 353 pages, $16.95) – While the premise of this book is terrific, some of the choices are somewhat dubious. Lew Burdette, a borderline Hall of Famer, had more than one great year, as did Al Rosen, Harvey Kuenn and Johnny Antonelli, to name a few. But the selections of Jim Konstanty, Ned Garver, Dusty Rhodes and Joey Jay certainly have merit. This paperback spans the last 11 years before expansion changed the game, and it contains full-color baseball cards of the 21 players it covers.
16. The Gashouse Gang (PublicAffairs, 304 pages, $24.95) by John Heidenry – Despite the Depression, the Dust Bowl and personality clashes between Dizzy Dean and Joe Medwick, the St. Louis Cardinals were a force on and off the field – especially during the tumultuous 1934 season. This long-overdue hardcover reveals how Branch Rickey built the team, how Frankie Frisch handled it and the derivation of the well-deserved Gashouse Gang nickname.
17. Carrying Jackie’s Torch: The Players Who Integrated Baseball – and America (Lawrence Hill Books, 262 pages, $24.95) by Steve Jacobson – A series of stories that need to be told, this 20-chapter hardcover shows that players who followed in Robinson’s footsteps had their own race-related struggles, from segregated hotels to bigoted managers. The author, a longtime Newsday columnist, used interviews from “Jackie’s Disciples,” his 2004 ESPN special, to create a worthwhile addition to the baseball bookshelf. Featured players include Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson and Bob Gibson.
18. Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman (University of Nebraska, 683 pages, $34.95) by Lee Lowenfish – Like Connie Mack, Branch Rickey was a light-hitting catcher who found success as a manager and executive. More than anything, he was a pioneer – the man who gave baseball the farm system, the flood of black stars who followed Robinson, and the outline of expansion. This fat but fun-to-read biography reflects a decade of meticulous research by Lowenfish, a writer/historian whose last book focused on baseball labor relations.
19. Mets Essential (Triumph Books, 210 pages, $25.95) by Matthew Silverman; foreword by Ralph Kiner – If Woody Allen had written this hardcover, it would be called “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Mets but Were Afraid to Ask.” Silverman, a Mets fanatic, recounts the feasts and foibles of the 47-year-old franchise, such as the background of the Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver trades, the excitement of the 1969 miracle and 1986 comeback, as well as the tumult of the Art Howe era. He rates the managers and all-time Mets teams, includes frequent what-if sidebars and intersperses the colorful history sections with thoughtful trivia questions.
20. The Voice: Mel Allen’s Untold Story (Lyons Press, 270 pages, $24.95) by Curt Smith – A Jewish kid from Alabama who once sold men’s clothes, Mel Allen made it to the majors, spent two dozen years as “Voice of the Yankees,” lost his job under mysterious circumstances and then rebounded to king of the hill as voice of “This Week in Baseball.” Curt Smith, a one-time presidential speechwriter who has published several top books on baseball broadcasting, does a great job of profiling the man many consider the best announcer of all time.
21. The Last Years of the Brooklyn Dodgers (McFarland, 216 pages, $29.95 ) by Rudy Marzano – The title might be a bit misleading, since this paperback spans the years from 1950-57 rather than concentrating on the two contentious seasons when Walter O’Malley played seven “home” games in Jersey City to make a point to the Brooklyn city fathers. A sequel to the author’s 2005 tome on the Dodgers of the 1940s, this paperback reveals the pain of the 1951 collapse, the joy of winning the world championship four years later and the despair of impending departure in 1957.
22. Through a Blue Lens: The Brooklyn Dodgers Photographs of Barney Stein, 1937-1957 (Triumph, 162 pages, $27.95 ) by Dennis D’Agostino and Bonnie Crosby; forewords by Carl Erskine and Peter O’Malley – During their last two decades in Brooklyn, Dodgers on and off the field were the focal subjects of Barney Stein. Those pictures, some never published previously, were salvaged and preserved by daughter Bonnie Crosby and presented in this coffee-table hardcover. Although Brooklyn didn’t keep the Dodgers, baseball fans of all stripes will want to keep this book.
23. Jews and Baseball, Vol. 1 (McFarland, 232 pages, $39.95) by Burton A. And Benita W. Boxerman; foreword by Martin Abramowitz – Identifying the relative handful of Jewish players throughout baseball history is hard enough; finding pictures of those not named Greenberg or Koufax is even tougher. This book does both in a well-researched, scholarly hardcover that is the first volume of what projects as a two-part series. Now that the Hall of Fame has held a “Jews in Baseball” weekend, card sets have been issued for Jewish players and the embryonic Israel Baseball League was launched last year, the timing of this volume couldn’t be better.
24. Ty and the Babe: Baseball’s Fiercest Rivals (Thomas Dunne Books, 290 pages, $23.95) by Tom Stanton – Cobb was already an established star by the time Ruth reached the big leagues as a left-handed pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. By the time Cobb retired, however, Ruth had stolen his mantle as the biggest name in baseball. Totally different in personality, Cobb and Ruth opposed each other in more than 200 games, but became friendly competitors off the field – even playing golf together long after their playing days. Tom Stanton captures this unknown story in this easy-to-read hardcover.
25. Florida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League (Intrepid Traveler, 268 pages, $14.95) by Alan Byrd; foreword by Mike Stanley – At last! Here’s a great, up-to-date and easy-to-read reference totally devoted to the changing face of spring training in Florida. Because driving distances are so great in the Sunshine State, the maps and suggested road trips really help, along with the stadium seating diagrams and tips about parking, food, souvenirs and postgame meals.
26. The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America (William Morrow, 276 pages, $24.95) by Joe Posnanski – Though he never played in the majors, Buck O’Neil became a soft-spoken ambassador for the game, dispensing philosophy well past the age of 90. The one-time Negro leagues standout traveled until the day he died, touring the country and promoting the game he loved – even though it spurned him in selecting 17 other Negro leagues stars for the Hall of Fame. Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski documents the last year of those travels in this intriguing hardcover, guaranteed to keep readers warm on cold winter nights.
27. Baseball: A Geek’s Guide (Barnes & Noble, 304 pages) by Douglas B. Lyons – Revised and resuscitated after a one-year bout with a British publisher, this paperback is packed with oddball facts, ironies and items designed to tickle the funny bone. Unlike four previous humor tomes co-written with brother Jeffrey Lyons, this well-designed book is Doug’s first solo shot and his best. There’s even a mention of a famous New Jersey license plate – this columnist’s BRAVES1.
28. The Complete Guide to Big League Ballparks (August Publications, 498 pages, $19.95) by the editors of Ballpark Digest – With ballparks springing up like mushrooms, this well-illustrated, information-packed paperback will have to be updated frequently. For the moment, however, it serves as the best reference to the 30 active parks, with histories, oddities and information on concessions and nearby attractions. The only thing missing is stadium seating charts.
29. Few and Chosen: Defining Giants Greatness Across the Eras (Triumph, 203 pages, $25.95) by Bobby Thomson with Phil Pepe – This handsome hardcover suggests Bobby Thomson knows more about baseball history than most players. Asked to rank the top five Giants at each position, he picks many from the three-decade span when John McGraw ran the club early in the 20th century. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Barry Bonds all top their respective positions – surprise, surprise – but some of the other choices may shock or delight the reader.
30. The Bill James Baseball Handbook 2008 (ACTA Sports, 488 pages, $21.95) by Bill James, John Dewan and Steve Moyer – Ah, the wonders of computer science! How else could these experts produce such a comprehensive review-and-preview volume so quickly? In addition to easy-to-find records of active players, this valuable paperback reveals managerial tendencies, the most hitter-friendly ballparks, the best-hitting pitchers, who’s likely to succeed in 2008 and more.
31. Pride and Pinstripes (HarperCollins, 280 pages, $24.95) by Mel Stottlemyre with John Harper – The ace of the Yankees pitching staff during the lean years between pennants, Mel Stottlemyre finally reached the World Series as a pitching coach in New York. Working for both the Mets and Yankees, then soft-spoken native of the state of Washington became a highly respected coach but still overcame bumps in the road – arguing with Andy Pettitte, witnessing George Steinbrenner’s harassment of interim manager Don Zimmer, surviving the death of a brother and his own bout with cancer. This hardcover is the fifth book from New York Daily News writer John Harper.
32. Once Upon A Game: Baseball’s Greatest Memories (Houghton Mifflin, 152 pages, $19.95) by Alan Schwarz, foreword by George F. Will – This compact hardcover is a mix of short first-person essays and large photos, many in color, from prominent baseball personalities and a few famous baseball lovers (i.e. Kevin Costner). Energetic baseball scribe Alan Schwarz covers lots of territory, mixing incisive interviews with memoirs from Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Hank Greenberg.
33. Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits (St. Martin’s Press, 258 pages, $24.95) by David Ortiz with Tony Massarotti – Beloved in Boston because of his big bat and omnipresent smile, Big Papi has blossomed into the anchor of the Red Sox lineup. But the team didn’t expect that when it swiped him from obscurity in Minnesota. This book traces the Ortiz odyssey from the Dominican to the majors, but it’s not entirely an autobiography. Two sections, set in a different typeface, interrupt the flowing narrative and make the book feel somewhat disjointed.
34. Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball (University of Nebraska, 724 pages, $39.95) by Norman Macht – Don’t be misled by the title – this hardcover is far from a complete biography of the man who managed the Philadelphia A’s for 50 years. In fact, it covers only the period from his youth, his humble 19th-century debut as a weak-hitting catcher and through the first great run of the A’s, ending with the advent of the Federal League. Desperate to prevent stars from jumping without compensation, Mack broke up his 1914 champions – plunging his club into a period of prolonged futility. The team’s rise and fall would happen again, but it’s not in this book. Maybe a second volume is in the offing.
35. The Joy of Keeping Score: How Scoring the Game Influenced and Enhanced the History of Baseball (Walker & Co., 117 pages, $14.95) by Paul Dickson; foreword by Tim Kurkjian – Anyone who thinks keeping score is a bore will have his opinion reversed by this clever and compact hardcover. Filled with examples of scorecards and boxscores, the illustrated volume is presented not through stuffy statistics but through the prism of baseball history.
36. Red: A Biography of Red Smith (Bison Books, 308 pages, $18.95) by Ira Berkow – Unlike a star player, whose career seldom exceeds two decades, Red Smith had longevity. His byline graced the sports pages for nearly 50 years, crossing a timeline from Ruth’s heyday to the era of divisional play. He knew the greats of both game and pressbox, including Grantland Rice and Ernest Hemingway, and he was their peer when it came to polished prose. Like Smith, author Ira Berkow was a sports columnist for The New York Times. That affiliation shows in this work.
37. Commish & the Cardinals: The Most Memorable Games, as Covered by Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis Post-Dispatch Books, 224 pages, $21.95) edited by Mike Smith – Glossy paper, large color pictures, big Cardinal moments captured in short headlines — These are the elements that make up this paperback tribute to St. Louis writer Rick Hummel, who became the Cardinals beat writer in time to cover Ozzie Smith, Whitey Ball, Jack Clark’s playoff heroics, Mark McGwire’s 70-homer year and the advent of Albert Pujols. Even such moments as the tarp that attacked Vince Coleman and the night Jose Oquendo pitched four frames of relief are inside.
38. Is This a Great Game, or What? (St. Martin’s Press, 258 pages, $24.95) by Tim Kurkjian – In a game reeling with the stench of steroids and the machinations of a heirarchy that consistently makes mincemeat of time-honored traditions, this clever hardcover is a welcome respite. Loaded with laughs, the book even has a chapter devoted to players who bat and throw one way but do everything else the other (i.e. Brooks Robinson) – despite the omission of two-time MVP Dale Murphy, a righthanded batter and thrower who writes and eats left-handed.
39. The San Francisco Giants: 50 Years by the Bay (Author House, 217 pages, $17.95) by Chuck Nan – Fifty years already? Time really flies, especially for living heroes like Mays, whose Giants career spanned two cities. This creative paperback traces the team’s 1958 arrival in California and its exploits since — the 16-inning duel between Spahn and Marichal, the day Mays was moved to the Mets, the controversies encountered by Bobby and Barry Bonds and the contributions of Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Will Clark through the years. Every key game, especially in postseason play, and every important record, including the 73-homer season, is included.
40. The Pittsburgh Pirates: Images of Baseball (Arcadia, 128 pages, $19.99) by David Finoli, and The Chicago Cubs: Tinkers to Evers to Chance (Arcadia, 128 pages, $19.99) by Art Ahrens – Not just team books, these twin paperbacks are the latest in the Arcadia series of gorgeous photo albums, with a heavy emphasis on history. Oozing old and rare photos, the Cubs book spans 1898-1916, while the Pirates book covers the 20th century and beyond. Those vest-type unis still look terrific.
41. It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book (Basic Books, 457 pages, $25.95) edited by Steve Goldman – An assortment of talented, analytical writers presents a baker’s dozen of pennant races, even though some of those chosen were divisional title races that do not match the old pennant-race standard. Strangely missing, however, are the Braves-Giants chase of 1993, the last before the wild-card watered down the significance of finishing first, and the Yankees-Red Sox battle that rewrote baseball history five years later. The hardcover closes the notes and charts typical of a Baseball Prospectus product.
42. Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (Health Communications, 408 pages, $16.95) by Billy Staples and Rich Herschlag; foreword by Jack Canfield; introduction by Brooks Robinson – Active and former players, some of them Hall of Famers, reveal their little-known boyhoods in an easy-to-read paperback with a heavy New York flavor (four of the first five chapters involve New York stars). Gotham bias also shows in the inexplicable selections of Marvin Miller and the illustrious Frank Tepedino.
43. Baseball on the Brain: 1,000 Trivia Challenges (Workman Publishing, 556 pages, $14.95) by Dennis Purdy – Unlike previous trivia books, which often make finding the answers a time-consuming challenge, this comprehensive paperback groups questions and answers into groups of seven, with the answers in small type below. Finally, a guy who gets it! Purdy, well known in the sports card and memorabilia hobby, peruses a wide variety of topics, including baseball media, movies, misfits, moguls and memorable moments, along with the frequent name-that-year quizzes make for refreshing interludes.
44. Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong (Basic Books, 454 pages, $24.95) edited by Jonah Keri – The Baseball Prospectus think tank strikes again in this paperback, which compensates for no photography with dozens of graphs, charts and line art that surrounds serious essays from multiple authors. Topics range from the Kevin Maas fizzle to the Joe Torre legacy, while also touching on such topics as Coors Field, A-Rod’s deal, Derek Jeter’s defense, Big Papi’s bat and the reasons Mike Redmond pounds Tom Glavine.
45. I Live For This! (Houghton Mifflin, 236 pages, $25) by Bill Plaschke with Tommy Lasorda – When the Dodgers made Joe Torre their 2008 manager, a New Jersey sportswriter said, “Oh: Lasorda without the shmaltz!” Throughout his two-decade tenure as Dodger manager, Lasorda provided plenty of shmaltz, plus enough wins to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame. This well-crafted biography shows how he did it – by embracing the game with a complex personality that has more mood swings than the Coney Island roller-coaster. The description of Kirk Gibson’s homer alone is worth the read.
46. Sal Maglie: Baseball’s Demon Barber (Northern Illinois University Press, 468 pages) by Judith Testa – The losing pitcher in Don Larsen’s perfect game, Sal Maglie was the winner in many others. He pitched for all three New York teams, cultivating a reputation as a head-hunter. The saga of his sale from the Cleveland Indians to the Brooklyn Dodgers is one of the best parts of this comprehensive hardcover, along with the story of Maglie’s exile in Mexico.
47. Baseball Prospectus 2007 (Plume, 602 pages, $19.95) edited by Christina Kahril and Steven Goldman – A fat paperback full of statistics and analysis, this photoless preseason guidebook is perfect for people who use mathematical formulae to forecast baseball events. In addition to chapters on rookies, managers,and more, long sections are devoted to each of the 30 teams.
48. Few and Chosen: A Legend Ranks the Greatest Players of All Time (Triumph, 209 pages, $25.95) by Monte Irvin with Phil Pepe – Unlike Bobby Thomson, who also did a ratings book with Pepe this year, Monte Irvin takes a different focus in this illustrated hardcover, rating the top five Negro league players at each position. His choices are surprising – Satchel Paige, Ernie Banks and Roy Campanella all missed the top spots – but the soft-spoken former slugger explains his reasons well. It’s an important book, because most of the men Irvin names never reached the white majors.
49. The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History (Triumph, 206 pages, $24.95) by Jason Stark – Ratings always generate controversy and this easy-to-read hardcover is no exception. But Stark misses the man who should have topped his underrated list – two-time MVP Dale Murphy, a sterling centerfielder and gifted slugger who can’t buy a vote for Cooperstown even though he dominated the 1980s, leading in total bases, placing second in both home runs and RBIs, playing in seven All-Star games and winning five Gold Gloves (five more than Cooperstown contender Jim Rice, who also had fewer homers). Rice, who should appear in the overrated category, is absent, while Ralph Kiner is listed as underrated rather than overrated.
50. Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends and Eerie Events (Lyons Press, 288 pages, $14.95) by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon – Ghosts, curses and hexes are as old as the game itself, but never before have so many been captured in a single volume. This clever paperback insists players don’t just drink spirits but see them, especially in aging ballparks like Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. Players tired of questions about steroids willingly shared stories of paranormal experiences, inexplicable events, bizarre beliefs and strange disappearances.
52. The New York Mets: Ethnography, Myth and Subtext (North Atlantic Books, 320 pages, $16.95) by Richard Grossinger; foreword by Mike Vaccaro – Being a Mets fan means riding a roller coaster of peaks and valleys, putting up with everyone from Jay Hook to Jay Horwitz, rooting for opposing players to dawdle on the disabled list and wondering why management would pluck Oliver Perez and Jorge Sosa off the scrapheap and strike gold with both. There are no no-hitters, no world titles since 1986 and no pennants since 2000, but this paperback proves loyalty knows no boundaries. And Mets fans, after so many years of losing, are as loyal as their lungs will allow.
53. Reynolds, Raschi, and Lopat: New York’s Big Three and the Great Yankee Dynasty of 1949-53 (McFarland, 240 pages, $29.95) by Sol Gittleman – The Yankees teams that won a record five World Series in a row from 1949-53 relied on a troika of talented starters often overshadowed by the club’s hitting stars. But Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and soft-tossing Eddie Lopat were formidable. In 1951, for example, Lopat and Raschi won 21 each, and Reynolds won 17. When Raschi sought to avoid a pay cut three years later, however, he was sold to St. Louis, leading Reynolds to retire after that season. The Yankees regrouped to win four more flags in the decade but have never again strung together five straight world titles.
54. The Rocket: Baseball Legend Roger Clemens (Potomac Books, 320 pages, $26.95) by Joseph Janczak – With seven Cy Young Awards and two decades of pitching excellence under his belt, the story of Roger Clemens is still evolving, as his recent inclusion on the list of ballplayers cited in the Mitchell Report on steroid use would so vividly illustrate. An overpaid mercenary in recent seasons, Clemens had contract clauses that permitted him to stay home between starts. He also suffered the most embarrassing first inning in All-Star Game history – ostensibly because he was involved in too many pregame commercial events in his hometown of Houston – but the author skims over that episode far too quickly, concentrating on such positive aspects as the two 20-strikeout games.
55. Baseball Barnstorming and Exhibition Games, 1901-1962: A History of Offseason Major-League Play (McFarland, 283 pages, $29.95) by Thomas Barthel – This informative paperback fills huge voids in baseball information, tracing the myriad of unofficial games played by major leaguers to make extra bucks in the days before seven-figure contracts. Virtually everyone did it, from Ruth to Aaron, even though such activities often resulted in fines or suspensions from the commissioner of baseball. Data on black/white games in the pre-integration era is the best part of a terrific research job by the author, an active SABR member.
56. Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 (Collins, 224 pages, $34.95) edited by John Thorn – A true coffee-table tome, this glossy hardcover goes beyond the long-running exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. It skillfully captures the years when New York had three great teams, with at least one or two in every World Series in all but one of the last 10 years that New York had three teams.
57. Baseball Over the Air: The National Pastime on the Radio and in the Imagination (McFarland, 230 pages, $35) by Tony Silvia; foreword by DeWayne Staats – At first glance, this paperback looks too slim to be a comprehensive history of baseball on the radio. But the author captures it all, from Harold Arlin’s 1921 debut through the advent of XM Satellite Radio as the official – and deliberately uncontroversial – radio network of Major League Baseball. There’s room for pioneers Grantland Rice and Graham McNamee, and icons Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell and Vin Scully. But sadly absent is Milo Hamilton, whose WSB radio call of Aaron’s 715th is invariably replayed over footage of the event.
58. I Told You I Wasn’t Perfect (Triumph, 404 pages, $24.95) by Denny McLain with Eli Zaret – He flew his own plane. He played the organ. He was a magician on the mound. The only pitcher to win 30 games since Dizzy Dean in 1934, Denny McLain was on the top of the world – for awhile. After winning consecutive Cy Young Awards, however, the wheels fell off fast. Suspended three times in the following year, McLain became a 20-game loser and was soon out of baseball. Although he might have survived as an entertainer, a myriad of legal and personal problems – many of them self-imposed – intervened. Broadcaster Eli Zaret, who was with McLain at his Tigers zenith, captures a colorful but troubled personality in this roller coaster ride of a book.
59. Game of My Life: Atlanta Braves (Sports Publishing, 217 pages, $24.95) by Jack Wilkinson – Since the Braves won an unprecedented 14 straight division crowns, monopolized the National League’s Cy Young Award and produced the lifetime home run king, author Jack Wilkinson had a mountain of material at his fingertips. Great Braves of past and present, from Murphy to Tom Glavine, share personal memories of their greatest games in this compact hardcover, part of a series that also features the Dodgers, Twins and several other clubs this year.
60. The Best Game Ever: Pirates v Yankees, Oct. 13, 1960 (DaCapo Press, 280 pages, $26) by Jim Reisler – Seldom has a single game merited a whole hardcover book. But Game 7 of the 1960 World Series was an exception. Each inning merits a chapter, with follow-up information on what happened the day after. Only two complaints – a too-small section of black-and-white photos sandwiched in the middle of the book, and inclusion of a “streamlined” boxscore rather than the form popular at the time (showing when pinch-hitters appeared and how they did).
61. A Great Teammate: The Legend of Mickey Mantle (Sports Publishing, 256 pages, $16.95) by Randall Swearingen – Although his reputation as a party animal, plus his penchant for getting hurt shortened his brilliant career, Mickey Mantle was as beloved by his Yankee teammates as he was by their fans. Often playing in pain, he anchored the Yankee offense, winning three MVP awards and a Triple Crown while hitting a record 18 World Series homers. The teammates, managers and coaches who remember him best share their memories in this well-conceived paperback, produced by one of the most renown and prolific Mantle experts (and a collector, too) in the country.
62. Satchel Paige and Company: Essays on the Kansas City Monarchs, Their Greatest Star, and the Negro Leagues (McFarland, 308 pages, $29.95 ) edited by Leslie A. Heaphy – More than a dozen different contributors recall the players, parks and memories of the Negro leagues, the only professional options for black players until Jackie Robinson integrated organized ball in 1947. Since most of the essays concern Satchel Paige and his Kansas City Monarchs, the title is a no-brainer.
– Burying the Black Sox: How Baseball’s Cover-Up of the 1919 World Series Fix Almost Succeeded (Potomac Books, 361 pages, $26.95) by Gene Carney
– The Ultimate Yankees Companion (Maple Street Press, 400 pages, $24.95) edited by Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer
– Baseball and the Media: How Fans Lose in Today’s Coverage of the Game (University of Nebraska, 262 pages, $24.95) by George Castle
– Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants & Stars: Calling Balls and Strikes for the Negro Leagues and Beyond (Sports Publishing, 224 pages, $16.95) by Bob and Byron Motley
– Baseball Eccentrics (Triumph, 206 pages, $22.95) by Bill Lee with Jim Prime
– The Amazin’ Mets: 1962-1969 (McFarland, 278 pages, $29.95) by William J. Ryczek
– Game of My Life: Dodgers (Sports Publishing, 256 pages, $24.95) by Mark Langhill
– The New York Giants Base Ball Club: The Growth of a Team and a Sport, 1870-1900 (McFarland, 251 pages, $28.50) by James D. Hardy Jr.
– Mathematician at the Ballpark: Odds and Probabilities for Baseball Fans (Plume, 206 pages, $15) by Ken Ross
– The Psychology of Baseball: Inside the Mental Game of the Major League Player (Gotham Books, 271 pages, $26) by Mike Stadler
– Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks (Vintage, 272 pages, $13.95) by Zack Hemple
– Mickey Mantle’s: Behind the Scenes in America’s Most Famous Sports Bar (Lyons Press, 248 pages, $19.95) by William Liederman
– The Night Casey Was Born: The True Story Behind the Great American Ballad ‘Casey at the Bat’ (Overlook Press, 220 pages, $25)
– Baseball in Blue and Gray: The National Pastime During the Civil War (Princeton University Press, 146 pages, $14.95) by George B. Kirsch
– Level Playing Fields: How the Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball (University of Nebraska, 216 pages, $24.95) by Peter Morris.
– Pittsburgh: Major League Baseball’s Five-Star City (Word Association, 144 pages, $19.95) by Greg Spalding
– The New Ballgame: Understanding Baseball Statistics for the Casual Fan (ACTA Sports, 160 pages, $14.95) by Glenn Guzzo
– SCD’s 2008 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (F&W Publications, 1,848 pages, $39.99) edited by Don Fluckinger
– The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed (Dutton, 336 pages, $24.95) by J.C. Bradbury
– Stan Musial: A Biography (Greenwood Press, 165 pages) by Joseph Stanton
– African American Pioneers of Baseball: A Biographical Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 299 pages) by Lew Freedman
– The Boys Who Were Left Behind: The 1944 World Series (University of Nebraska, 173 pages, $29.95) by John Heidenry and Brett Topel
– A Game of Brawl: The Orioles, the Beaneaters & the Battle for the 1897 Pennant (University of Nebraska, 296 pages, $24.95) by Bill Felber; foreword by Senator Edward M. Kennedy
– Lost in the Sun: The Comebacks and Comedowns of Major League Ballplayers (McFarland, 219 pages, $29.95) by G. Richard McKelvey
– St. Louis’ Big League Ballparks (Arcadia, 128 pages, $19.99) by Joan M. Thomas
– Alex Rodriguez: A Biography (Greenwood Press, 157 pages) by Wayne Stewart
– Ask Hal: Answers to Fans’ Most Interesting Questions about Baseball Rules from a Hall of Fame Sportswriter (Gray & Co., 181 pages, $14.95 ) by Hal Lebovitz
– Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line (University of California Press, 364 pages, $21.95) by Adrian Burgos Jr.
– Mets Pride: For the Love of Mookie, Mike, and David Wright (Cumberland House, 253 pages, $12.95) by Alan Ross
– Jackie Robinson: A Biography (Greenwood Press, 165 pages) by Mary Kay Linge
– The Arrival of the American League: Ban Johnson and the 1901 Challenge to National League Monopoly (McFarland, 240 pages, $29.95) by Warren N. Wilbert
– Entangled in Ivy: Inside the Cubs’ Quest for October (Sports Publishing, 256 pages, $16.95) by George Castle
– The 2007 Baseball Register (Sporting News, 575 pages, $22.95), edited by Zach Bodendieck and Tom Gatto.
– Rico Petrocelli’s Tales from the Impossible Dream Red Sox (Sports Publishing, 215 pages, $19.95) by Rico Petrocelli and Chaz Scoggins
– The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 (ACTA Sports, 352 pages, $19.95) produced by Dave Studenmund
– High and Inside: My Life in the Front Offices of Baseball (McFarland, 280 pages, $29.95) by Lou Gorman
– Baseball’s Iron Man: Cal Ripken, Jr., A Tribute (Sports Publishing, 256 pages, $14.95) by Jeff Seidel
– Scoring From Second: Writers on Baseball (University of Nebraska, 360 pages, $21.95) edited by Philip F. Deaver; foreword by Lee K. Abbott.
– The Cubs Fan’s Guide to Happiness (Triumph, 183 pages, $12.95) by George Ellis
– El Birdos: The 1967 and 1968 St. Louis Cardinals (McFarland, 410 pages, $29.95) by Doug Feldmann
– Echoes of Cincinnati Reds Baseball: The Greatest Stories Ever Told (Triumph, 180 pages, $19.95) edited by Mark Stallard
– Blue Jays 1, Expos 0: The Urban Rivalry That Killed Major League Baseball in Montreal (McFarland, 202 pages, $29.95) by David Luchuk
– Pouring Six Beers at a Time and Other Stories from a Lifetime in Baseball (Triumph, 336 pages, $24.95) by Bill Giles with Doug Myers; foreword by Jason Stark
– The 1969 Seattle Pilots: Major League Baseball’s One-Year Team (McFarland, 204 pages, $29.95) by Kenneth Hogan
– Kent Hrbek’s Tales from the Minnesota Twins Dugout (Sports Publishing, 192 pages, $19.95) by Kent Hrbek with Dennis Brackin
– Forbes Field: Essays and Memories of the Pirates’ Historic Ballpark, 1909-1971 (McFarland,254 pages, $35) edited by David Cicotello and Angelo J. Louisa; foreword by Philip J. Lowry.
– Baseball Haiku: The Best Haiku Ever Written About the Game (W.W. Norton, 240 pages, $19.95) edited by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura
Longtime SCD columnist Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, N.J., is the author of 34 baseball books, including the forthcoming Baseball Bits, due from Alpha Books (Penguin Group) in May 2008.