For baseball fans, the arrival of spring usually ushers in excitement and enthusiasm. With the start of a new season right around the corner, baseball fans across the country happily prepare to welcome back their boys of summer, invest themselves emotionally in every play, and optimistically proclaim that this will, finally, be their year. This year’s spring, however, witnessed a drastically different development for America’s pastime. On March 12th, 2020, Major League Baseball announced the immediate cancellation of Spring Training games in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. MLB also initially delayed the start of the season by two weeks but later confirmed that the season would be indefinitely delayed in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Without their beloved sport, fans have been trying to replicate that familiar baseball feeling in their lives. If you’re like me, a baseball and literature fan, curling up with a good baseball book has been a comforting way to reconnect with the sport. After all, who better to capture the innate beauty and wonder of baseball than wordsmiths? If you too are in the mood to crack open a book in the absence of hearing the crack of the bat, here are some baseball books that touch upon various themes. No matter who you root for or what you miss about baseball, hopefully you can find something here to help get you through baseball’s unfortunate absence.
The following book list is also available here on Bookshop.org, where proceeds benefit independent bookstores. We strongly urge you to buy books from your local bookstores during this critical time. They need us more than ever.
by Courtney Borjas
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
Moneyball often finds itself ranked among the most influential and significant baseball books – and for good reason. Michael Lewis’s book profiled the innovative sabermetric approach of the small-market, low-budget Oakland Athletics in the early 2000s. Sabermetrics, a detailed statistical analysis of baseball, existed decades before the Athletics’ experiments, but Moneyball thrust sabermetrics into the national spotlight. In fact, the term “moneyball” is now shorthand in baseball conversations for “sabermetrics.” Concepts and practices have evolved since the book’s publication in 2003, but fans interested in learning more about baseball evaluation and its development should definitely revisit this classic.
Watch Moneyball the movie after you are done reading the book! Brad Pitt stars in the 2011 film adaptation as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. The movie was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2012.
The Bullpen Gospels: A Non-Prospect’s Pursuit of the Major Leagues and the Meaning of Life by Dirk Hayhurst
After years of toiling away in the minor leagues, relief pitcher Dirk Hayhurst found himself at his wits end when he was assigned to Class A Lake Eisnore, feeling as though his dream of playing in the major leagues was fading quickly. Hayhurst’s decision to document his difficult year resulted in one of the most hysterical, brutally honest, and heart-warming baseball memoirs. The Bullpen Gospels provides an excellent look into the minor league baseball experience, baseball clubhouse culture, and mental health. Baseball fans who enjoy learning more about their favorite players’ personalities and the personal side of baseball will love Hayhurst’s memoir.
Hayhurst has also written three other books about his life and career in baseball: Out of My League, Wild Pitches, and Bigger than the Game: Restitching a Major League Life.
Unwritten: Bat Flips, the Fun Police, and Baseball’s New Future by Danny Knobler
The practice of the “unwritten rules” in baseball has long been controversial. Who is to say what the proper etiquette for a baseball player is when said etiquette is based on rules that change based on cultural and societal norms? Danny Knobler examines the complicated, intricate, and hypocritical nature of baseball’s unwritten rules. Anecdotes from historical and contemporary players add colorful examples to baseball’s most disputed unwritten rules, such as the acceptance of a bat flip following a home run and emphatic displays of emotion on the field. Fans missing the richness of baseball culture or simply looking to build their next sports argument should seek out Unwritten.
Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don’t Play Baseball by Jennifer Ring
There is no rule in Major League Baseball banning women from playing baseball, and yet there are no women on rosters across the major and minor leagues. This is not to say that women have been absent on the field throughout history. Rather, women helped pioneer the game of baseball in America and have long fought to have their cleats on the field. Jennifer Ring’s Stolen Bases spotlights the often-forgotten or ignored tale of women in baseball. Fans of baseball history and trivia looking to diversify their knowledge will appreciate this book.
Ballpark: Baseball in the American City by Paul Goldberger
Major League Baseball has a few rules for the construction of a ball field, such as four bases all on the same level, the presence of an infield and outfield, and the designation between fair and foul territory. However, the size, shape, and overall dimension of the ballpark is entirely up to the team’s discretion. The freedom of design has resulted in the uniqueness of every ballpark, offering different playing and viewing experiences from any other field throughout history.
Paul Goldberger’s Ballpark provides a historical overview of the evolution and development of the ballpark itself. Readers will learn about the influences that shaped some of baseball’s most notable ballparks, gain new appreciation for baseball architecture, and spend time contemplating what truly makes a good ballpark. Ballpark is perfect for those who miss physically being at the ballpark. And when we receive word that travel is safe again, you’ll have your to-visit list updated and ready to go!
Courtney Borjas joined AWM in April 2017. As a lifelong literature connoisseur and history buff, she could not pass up the opportunity to help share the contextual significance of American writing. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.A. in History and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When she is not reading, Courtney can be found engaging with America’s other cherished pastime, baseball.