1997 Best Baseball Books

Sunday, December 14, 1997

The Babe in Red Stockings: An In-Depth Chronicle of Babe Ruth with the Boston Red Sox by Kerry Keene, Raymond Sinibaldi and David Hickey. Covers Ruth's significant days with the Red Sox and his achievements in the post-season. Certainly a must read for both Ruth and Bosox fans alike. Sagamore Publishing.

Baseball's First Stars by Frederick Ivor-Campbell, Robert Tiemann and Mark Rucker. Volume 2 of SABR's biographies of 19th century players. Includes career statistics on them as well as profiles of other prominent figures. Combined with the first volume, the profiles now number 289. Society for Baseball Research.

The Baseball Timeline: The Day-by-Day History of Baseball from Valley Forge to the Present Day by Burt Solomon. The definitive timeline-style book to date makes an excellent addition to all baseball libraries. Starts with a 1778 diary entry of a Valley Forge soldier and continues day-by-day, year-by-year through 1996. In addition to the on-the-filed highlights (and lowlights), the reader is notified along the way of births, deaths, significant trades, unusual and/or humorous occurrences, rules changes, important books, movie releases, television programs and much, much more all of which is referenced in a handy index. Also included is a helpful bibliography. Avon.

The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers by Bill James. The grand stat-meister takes a look at the all-time skippers, decade-by decade, statistically analyzing them as only James can. He also breaks down the managers in a categorical chart in the back of the book allowing one to evaluate the best of all time from this unique perspective. Scribners.

Casey Stengel: A Splendid Baseball Life by Richard Bak. The illustrated story of the Old Perfesser by the same guy who did the Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig collections. Taylor.

The Early All-Stars: Conversations with Standout Baseball players of the 1930s and 1940s by Brent Kelly. Including Harlond Clift, Mel Harder, Andy Pafko, Bill Rigney, Dick Sisler and Al Zarilla-- seventeen in all. Fully illustrated with bibliography and index. McFarland & Co.

The Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Major League Baseball by David Nemec. Highly recommended, it goes well beyond any contemporary encyclopedia and is essential for all baseball historians. Donald I. Fine.

Jackie Robinson by Arnold Rampersad. A brutally honest biography of baseball's great black pioneer. Culled through conversations and letters (to his wife Rachel), the author presents a true portrait of the man-- an intelligent, hard-working athlete with a fierce determination to break through racial barriers. Few know or remember that in retirement, he became an outspoken advocate of civil rights working for the NAACP and the SCLC. If you really want to know Jackie Robinson-- his triumphs and failures, his virtues and faults-- this book will enlighten you. Knopf.

Jimmie Foxx: Baseball Hall of Famer, 1907-1967 by W. Harrison Daniel. Biography of one of the greatest power hitters of all time and how he influenced the game on and off the field. Many players say they love the game but this guy truly did. Fully illustrated and indexed. McFarland & Co.

Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis by David Pietrusza. The first book since Spink's effort in 1947on the most influential commissioner baseball ever had. Landis was brought in to rule on the Black Sox scandal in 1920 and lasted 24 years in the position eventually entering the Hall of Fame. Diamond Communications.

Lefty O'Doul: The Legend Baseball Nearly Forgot by Richard Leutzinger. O'Doul starred in the PCL for years as a pitcher before finally getting his chance at regular outfield duty with the Yankees (and then the Giants) at the age of 31 after his arm went dead. He went on to compile a .349 lifetime batting average in eleven seasons but has been ignored by Hall of Fame voters. He was also loved in Japan where he made many personal appearances and was known as the Father of Baseball there. Fully illustrated with bibliography and index. Carmel Bay Publishing Group.

Memories of Summer: When Baseball Was an Art and Writing About it a Game by Roger Kahn. More great baseball memories from the author of Boys of Summer. Kahn weaves autobiography and baseball history together with a skill only he possesses. He covers his early days as a newspaper writer for the New York Herald Tribune where he met some of the countries greatest sports writers. The book follows the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Yankees, and the careers of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. A very pleasant read. Hyperion.

The Name Game: Football, Baseball, Hockey & Basketball: How Your Favorite Sports Teams Were Named by Michael Leo Donovan. All the nicknames are listed here including professional, college, the minor leagues, Canadian and other foreign teams. Not only does the author explain how the name came about but also includes all the relocations of the franchise as well as many trivial and fun anecdotes where appropriate. Very well researched. Warwick Publishing.    

Olí Pete: The Grover Cleveland Alexander Story by Jack Kavanagh. The real story of the great Hall of Fame pitcher and his tragic battle with the bottle and with epilepsy. Despite this, he is tied with Christy Mathewson for the most wins by an NL pitcher all-time. Also covered are his boyhood days on a Nebraska farm and his loving relationship with his wife Amy. Fully illustrated and indexed. Diamond Communications.

REAL Major League Baseball: Rankings of Efficiency and Longevity by Position, 1893-1995 by Frank Peters (self-published, $35). Features statistical rankings by position of the best players in baseball history including arguments for the Hall of Fame inclusion of those still deserving. (The book already resides in the HOF's library in Cooperstown.) The purpose of the REAL system, the author explains, is to create a mathematically true picture of each player in comparison with other players. By developing his unique sabermetric formulas and through painstaking research of over 13,000 players, Peters feels he's improved upon the previous efforts of such noted statistical analysts like Bill James, Charles F. Faber and others.

Also featured are explanations of his unique formulas and why they are the best indication of a player's historical value, the top 200 position players and the top 200 pitchers of all-time, interviews with ex-Indians Mel Harder and Al Milnar and other biting essays and arguments. So whom does Peters' formula pick for the five greatest players of all time? Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Mike Schmidt and Nap Lajoie. The greatest pitcher is Walter Johnson. Peters' top five players who should be in the Hall of Fame are Ron Santo (star Cubs third baseman of the 60s), Bob Johnson (slugging star of the 30s), George Davis (turn-of-the-century shortstop) and 300-game winner Don Sutton. Address all orders and inquiries to Frank Peters, PO Box 1134, Mentor OH 44061-1134.

Tales from the Dugout: The Greatest True Baseball Stories Ever Told by Mike Shannon. More than the usual anecdotes you always hear, the author recounts some of the lesser-known stories from out great pastime. Shannon is a writer with keen insight and is also the editor of Spitball magazine. Contemporary Books.

This Side of Cooperstown: An Oral History of Major League baseball in the 1950s by Larry Moffi. Features interviews with several players from that classic decade. University of Iowa Press.

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