So to get into the mood for baseball season I was thinking about what would be some good reads, both fiction and nonfiction, about the sport of baseball. And while we are at it, what are some good baseball movies? Here is a list of some to try out or to read again and get in the baseball spirit! (This is not a list for die-hard fans, by any means, and should give anyone at least one pick that is suitable for them.)
What are your favorite books/movies about baseball? Who will you be cheering on to the World Series? Leave a comment!
BASEBALL IN BOOKS
MONEYBALL by Michael Lewis ~ Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, is leading a revolution. Reinventing his team on a budget, he needs to outsmart the richer teams. He signs undervalued players whom the scouts consider flawed but who have a knack for getting on base, scoring runs, and winning games. Moneyballis a quest for the secret of success in baseball and a tale of the search for new baseball knowledge—insights that will give the little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom the edge over big money.
2. WATCHING BASEBALL SMARTER: A PROFESSIONAL FAN'S GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS, SEMI-EXPERTS, AND DEEPLY SERIOUS GEEKS by Zack Hample ~
Whether you’re a major league couch potato, life-long season ticket-holder, or teaching game to a beginner, Watching Baseball Smarter leaves no territory uncovered. In this smart and funny fan’s guide Hample explains the ins and outs of pitching, hitting, running, and fielding, while offering insider trivia and anecdotes that will surprise even the most informed viewers of our national pastime. What is the difference between a slider and a curveball? At which stadium did “The Wave” first make an appearance? How do some hitters use iPods to improve their skills? Which positions are never played by lefties? Why do some players urinate on their hands?
3. THE NATURAL by Bernard Malamud ~ The Natural, Bernard Malamud’s first novel, published in 1952, is also the first—and some would say still the best—novel ever written about baseball. In it Malamud, usually appreciated for his unerring portrayals of postwar Jewish life, took on very different material—the story of a superbly gifted “natural” at play in the fields of the old daylight baseball era—and invested it with the hardscrabble poetry, at once grand and altogether believable, that runs through all his best work. Four decades later, Alfred Kazin’s comment still holds true: “Malamud has done something which—now that he has done it!—looks as if we have been waiting for it all our lives. He has really raised the whole passion and craziness and fanaticism of baseball as a popular spectacle to its ordained place in mythology.”
4. BASEBALL BETWEEN THE NUMBERS: WHY EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE GAME IS WRONG by The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts and Jonah Keri ~ This is the ultimate guide to the new statistical thinking that's revolutionizing the game of baseball. In the numbers-obsessed sport of baseball, statistics don't merely record what players, managers and owners have done. Properly understood, they can tell us how the teams could employ better strategies, put more effective players on the field, and win more games. The 1970s saw a revolution in baseball statistics, and it's a controversial subject that professionals and fans alike argue over without end. Despite this fundamental change in the way the sport is watched and understood, no-one has ever written the book that reveals, across every area of strategy and management, how the best practitioners of statistical analysis in baseball think about the game. "Baseball Between the Numbers" is that book. In separate chapters covering every aspect of the game - such as hitting, pitching and fielding - the experts at Baseball Prospectus examine the subtle, hidden aspects of the game, bring them out into the open, and show us how various teams could win more games. (There is a second book in this series, too.)
5. THE BIG BAM: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BABE RUTH by Leigh Montville ~ In this day of overamped salaries, statistics, and physiques, it's useful to be reminded of the singular talent and impact Babe Ruth brought to baseball during his career (1914-35).
6. I NEVER HAD IT MADE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JACKIE ROBINSON by Jackie Robinson and Alfred Duckett ~ Before Barry Bonds, before Reggie Jackson, before Hank Aaron, baseball's stars had one undeniable trait in common: they were all white. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke that barrier, striking a crucial blow for racial equality and changing the world of sports forever. I Never Had It Made is Robinson's own candid, hard-hitting account of what it took to become the first black man in history to play in the major leagues. I Never Had It Made recalls Robinson's early years and influences: his time at UCLA, where he became the school's first four-letter athlete; his army stint during World War II, when he challenged Jim Crow laws and narrowly escaped court martial; his years of frustration, on and off the field, with the Negro Leagues; and finally that fateful day when Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers proposed what became known as the "Noble Experiment" -- Robinson would step up to bat to integrate and revolutionize baseball. More than a baseball story, I Never Had It Made also reveals the highs and lows of Robinson's life after baseball. He recounts his political aspirations and civil rights activism; his friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, William Buckley, Jr., and Nelson Rockefeller; and his troubled relationship with his son, Jackie, Jr.
7. THE SOUTHPAW by Mark Harris ~ The Southpaw is a story about coming of age in America by way of the baseball diamond. Lefthander Henry Wiggen, six feet three, a hundred ninety-five pounds, and the greatest pitcher going, grows to manhood in a right-handed world. From his small-town beginnings to the top of the game, Henry finds out how hard it is to please his coach, his girl, and the sports page—and himself, too—all at once. Written in Henry’s own words, this exuberant, funny novel follows his eccentric course from bush league to the World Series.
BASEBALL IN FILM
1. FIELD OF DREAMS ~ Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice in his corn field tell him, "If you build it, he will come." He interprets this message as an instruction to build a baseball field on his farm, upon which appear the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago Black Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series. When the voices continue, Ray seeks out a reclusive author to help him understand the meaning of the messages and the purpose for his field.
2. MONEYBALL ~ Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) challenges the system and defies conventional wisdom when his is forced to rebuild his small-market team on a limited budget. Despite opposition from the old guard, the media, fans and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beane - with the help of a young, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist (Jonah Hill) - develops a roster of misfits…and along the way, forever changes the way the game is played.
3. EIGHT MEN OUT ~ A dramatization of the Black Sox scandal when the underpaid Chicago White Sox accepted bribes to deliberately lose the 1919 World Series.
4. A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN ~ Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) has been hired to coach in the All-American Girls Baseball League of 1943 while the male pros are at war. Dugan, now a drunk has-been, unexpectedly discovers these girls can play ball! Now Dugans must manage the Rockford Peaches as they try to swing their way to a World Series title. This film is based on a true story.
5. MAJOR LEAGUE ~ An exotic dancer marries the owner of a baseball club. He does not survive the honeymoon and she is in control of his ball club. she wants to move to warmer climes where some new stadiums have been built, but her lease has only one escape clause, poor attendance. She fields the worst team she can find. The attitude of the owner gives the misfits and losers something to rally around and they fight back.
6. THE ROOKIE ~ Jim Morris once dreamed of becoming a big leaguer. But an injury to his pitching arm while playing in the minors forced Morris out of the game. Twelve years have passed and Morris, now coaching a last place high school baseball team. Seeing that Morris still has some juice left in his arm, his team makes a deal that forces Morris to try out for a Major League team. After throwing a 98mph fastball, the aging Morris is signed to a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays giving him a second shot at "the Show".
7. THE SANDLOT ~ Scotty Smalls moves to a new neighborhood with his mom and stepdad, and wants to learn to play baseball. The neighborhood baseball guru Rodriquez takes Smalls under his wing, and soon he's part of the local baseball buddies. They fall into adventures involving baseball, tree house sleep-ins, the desirous lifeguard at the local pool, the snooty rival ball team, and the travelling fair. Beyond the fence at the back of the sandlot menaces a legendary ball-eating dog called The Beast, and the kids inevitably must deal with him.