The Essential Baseball Library
April 8, 1998
(Listed in chronological order by season)
1889- Baseball in 1889 by Daniel Pearson (1995).
1899- Misfits! The Cleveland Spiders and 1899 by J. Thomas Hetrick (1991). An account of the worst team of all time. In 1899, Spider owners F. D. and M.S. Robison also purchased the St. Louis Browns. Sending all the good players to St. Louis, Cleveland was left with a team that went 20-134. This book tracks the season day-by-day to its inevitable conclusion. Included are indexes on the players' careers and a list of spurious nicknames used by the press for the hapless Spiders. McFarland.
1904- The Year They Called off the World Series by Benton Stark (1991). Long before the strike-halted season eliminated the 1994 World Series, there was another World Series that was lost to egos and political in-fighting. Benton Stark tells the story of Giant owner John Brush, manager John McGraw, and their fight with American League president Ban Johnson. In this well-researched book, Stark covers the 1904 season and all the events that led to the Series being called off in only its second year of existence. Avery Publishing Group.
1908- The Unforgettable Season by G.H. Fleming (1981). This book received favorable press, but if I wanted to read newspaper accounts, I'd rather go to the original microfilm! In a history book, I want research that goes beyond the newspapers.
1914- The Federal League of 1914-1915 by Marc Okkonen
1919- Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof (1963). This excellent effort tells the story of the 1919 Black Sox. Asinof does an outstanding job of showing how gamblers were able to manipulate that World Series and provides interesting profiles of all the parties involved from White Sox owner Charles Comiskey to "Shoeless" Joe Jackson to gambler Arnold Rothstein. The book follows the events through the grand jury proceedings and the players' eventual expulsion from baseball by Commissioner Judge Landis. Holt Rinehart Winston.
1920- The Pitch That Killed by Mike Sowell (1989). The story of the death of Ray Chapman told in wonderfully historic detail. Sowell not only does his homework, but also recounts the story of the Cleveland Indians championship season in such realistic and colorful prose that-- you are there. Chapman is the only player in the history of the major leagues to be killed by a pitched ball. 1989 Casey Award winner and one of the top five baseball books ever written.
1922- The 1922 St. Louis Browns by Roger A. Godin (1991). The Browns compiled a franchise-high 92 victories that year and finished one game behind the mighty Babe Ruth-led Yankees. The team featured four 100-RBI men, the league's batting leader (George Sisler at .420) and a pitching staff that led the A.L. in ERA.
1927- The Greatest of All by John Mosedale (1974). The 1927 New York Yankees are still considered by most fans the greatest team of all time. It was "Murder's Row" with Babe Ruth's 60 home runs and Gehrig's 174 RBI's against the rest of the league. This account follows the team through the season and their 110 wins and concludes with the World Series sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dial Press.
1930 & 1968- Two Spectacular Seasons by William B. Mead (1980). Mead thoroughly covers the two most unusual seasons of this century: the year of the hitter (1930) and the year of the pitcher (1968). 1930 was the year when the league batting averages ranged over the .300 level, Hack Wilson set the major league record for RBIs with 190 and Ruth was still hitting them out. 1968 was the year when 33 pitchers had ERAs of 2.50 or below! St. Louis' Bob Gibson led his team to the Series with a sparkling 1.12 ERA while the Tigers' Denny McLain led his contingent to the Series by winning 31 games. Mead's research is just as meticulous as his previous effort, Even the Browns.
1934- The Gas House Gang by Robert E. Hood (1976). Hood goes through the incredible St. Louis Cardinals' season including the pennant race with the Giants and the World Series with the Tigers. Much material on the Dean brothers and chapters based on interviews with other members of the Gashouse Gang. Morrow.
1939- 1939, Baseball's Pivotal Year by Talmage Boston (1994). Boston reviews the many significant events and personages of the 1939 season. Each chapter covers a different topic from the decline of Lou Gehrig, to baseball's first television broadcast and the beginning of Little League Baseball. In the author's words, the book traces baseball as it passed from the golden age to the modern era. The Summit Group.
1941- Real Grass Real Heroes by Dom DiMaggio with Bill Gilbert (1990). Like Robert Creamer's book, this one chronicles the 1941 season. DiMaggio takes a personal look at his brother Joe's hitting streak and his teammate Ted Williams' .406 batting title. A remarkable account of an incredible season as only a player could tell it. Zebra Books.
1941- Baseball in '41 by Robert W. Creamer (1991). While Europe is engaged in war, America enjoys one of the most memorable of all baseball seasons. Creamer does an outstanding job of covering the events from Greenberg's draft notice, to DiMaggio's streak, to Williams' hitting barrage, to Mickey Owens' dropped third strike, it is all here. Viking Press.
1941- Streak: Joe DiMaggio and the Summer of '41 by Michael Seidel (1988). Bracketed by a prologue and epilogue, the book covers the DiMaggio 56-game hitting streak from May 15 to July 14th. Box scores for every game of the streak are included in an index. McGraw Hill.
1944- One Championship Season by Carson Van Lindt (1994). The exciting story of the lowly St. Louis Browns one and only N.L. pennant. Led by slugging shortstop Vern Stephens and a solid starting rotation, the Browns battled Detroit down to the final day of the season before finally wrapping it up. The club benefited by losing the least amount of regulars to WWII and lost the World Series in six games to the cross-town Cardinals.
1946- When the Boys Came Back by Frederick Turner (1996). What happened to baseball when WWII was over? Frederick Turner answers the question in this book about the 1946 season. Covering spring training through the World Series, Turner follows the careers of the soldier athletes as they returned from war. One of 1996's best baseball books. Henry Holt.
1947- 1947: When All Hell Broke Loose by Red Barber.
1948- Epic Season: The 1948 American League Pennant Race by David Kaiser. A recap of the first-ever AL race that ended in a tie for first place. Cleveland, Boston and New York all finished within two games of each other with the Tribe defeating the Bosox in a one-game playoff. The big stories of that season involved Bill Veeck, Lou Boudreau, Gene Beardon, Satchel Paige, Ted Williams, Joe McCarthy and Joe DiMaggio.
1949- Summer of '49 by David Halberstam (1989). One of the best of the seasonal histories, Halberstam has brought the high drama of the 1949 pennant race between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees to life. We see the brash Ted Williams, the heroic Joe DiMaggio and all the other players that made this a season to remember. Halberstam's writing is compelling and keeps the reader involved right to the final page. Morrow.
1950- The Wiz Kids and the 1950 Pennant by Robin Roberts and C. Paul Rogers (1996). Covers the building and growth of the team as well as the season in question. Also examines why the team was unable to continue the success of this remarkable year.
1951- The Miracle at Coogan's Bluff by Thomas Kiernan (1975).
1951- The Home Run Heard Round the World by Ray Robinson (1991), Harper Collins.
1951- "The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!" by Bobby Thomson with Lee Heiman and Bill Gutman (1991), Zebra.
1951- The Great Chase by Harvey Rosenfeld (1992). McFarland & Co.
The previous four books examine the amazing 1951 season when the New York Giants came from 13 1/2 games back in mid-August to tie the Brooklyn Dodgers on the last day of the season. The 3-game playoff that resulted gave us one of the most memorable moments in all of sport, Thomson's homerun in the bottom of the 9th in the third and deciding game. Robinson's is better researched and recommended here while Thomson's is more autobiographical. Thomson's book also includes a foreword by Leo Durocher and afterward by Ralph Branca. Rosenfeld's effort is in a diary format and worth a look as well.
1956- My Favorite Summer by Mickey Mantle with Phil Pepe (1991). Mantle reviews his Triple Crown season (.353-52-130) from spring training through the remarkable World Series rematch between the Yankees and the Dodgers. Lots of anecdotes and personal observations make this an easy and enjoyable read. Doubleday.
1959- The Long Season by Jim Brosnan (1960). Brosnan recounts the 1959 season through his eyes from the St. Louis and Cincinnati bullpens (he was a relief pitcher traded at mid-season.) The book, shocking for it's frankness at the time, is the forerunner of the meatier Ball Four and is followed by a sequel, Pennant Race. Harper & Row.
1960- Maz and the '60 Bucs by Jim O'Brien (1994). O'Brien's work springs from interviews with most of the principals of the 1960 Pirates and Yankees. Also included are comments from ordinary fans. The book is overly long often telling the same anecdotes many times. Several fans interviews are with people with no connection to the 1960 Series other than being citizens of Pittsburgh. This one is for die-hard Pirate fans or masochistic Yankee fans. James P. O'Brien Publishing.
1961- Pennant Race by Jim Brosnan (1962). Brosnan recounts the 1961 N.L. pennant-winning season of the Cincinnati Reds with the same insightful view as his previous book. The Reds, led by the hitting of Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Gordy Coleman, rebounded from a sixth-place finish the year before to win the flag by eight games. But they lost to the mighty Yankees, some say the best ballclub of all time, in the World Series. Harper & Row.
1961- Season of Glory: The Amazing Saga of the 1961 New York Yankees by Ralph Houk and Robert W. Creamer (1988). Putnam.
1961- Sixty-One: The Team, The Record, The Men by Tony Kubek and Terry Pluto (1987). Macmillan.
The previous two books look at the 1961 New York Yankee World Championship team from the perspective of the manager (Houk) and a player (Kubek). Both have as co-authors respected sports writer and both do an excellent job of chronicling the season. Kubek, the Yankee shortstop, divides his effort into three sections: Roger (Maris), The Season, and The Men. The latter contains personal sketches of each Yankee player. Yankee manager Houk gives a more detailed look at the day-to-day grind of the season itself and the World Series that followed. He also includes a chapter on Maris's quest to break Ruth's single season home run record.
1962- Can't Anybody Here Play This Game? by Jimmy Breslin (1963). A humorous but reverent look at the New York Mets first season that saw them lose 120 games. The team featured Marvelous Marv Throneberry and Frank Thomas, two of the worst fielders in the National League, who combined to slug 50 home runs and four starters who, as a group, managed to lose 80 games while winning just 31. You'll also enjoy the stories of manager Casey Stengel, catcher Choo Choo Coleman and the legion of fans that flocked to the old Polo Grounds to lovingly revel in their team's ineptness. Viking Press.
1962- Chasing October by David Plaut (1994). Two of the biggest rivals in baseball, the Dodgers and the Giants, went head to head all season finishing in a tie for the N.L. pennant--just like 1951. Both teams' equal depth in hitting and pitching kept them in the hunt but the Giants prevailed in the three-game playoff. The Dodgers checked in with the MVP (Maury Wills and his famous 104-steal season) and the Cy Young winner (Don Drysdale) but lost ace Sandy Koufax to a season-ending injury in July.
1964- October 1964 by David Halberstam (1994). The story of the '64 World Series. For the New York Yankees it would be the last series in a dynasty that started in the 1920's. The St. Louis Cardinals were young and brash and just starting their own glory years. It was Whitey Ford versus Bob Gibson. It was an injured, aging Mickey Mantle against catcher, Tim McCarver and speedsters Lou Brock and Curt Flood. Halberstam effort is another success. Villard Books.
1967- Down to the Wire by Miller (1992). The story of the incredible American League pennant race where four teams finished within three games of one another. The Great race featured Boston going from ninth (the year before) to first and Chicago, whose leading batter hit .241. It was Boston's first pennant since 1946. The Red Sox, Twins and Tigers hung on until the final day of the regular season and finished a game apart.
1978- The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock (1979). Lyle candidly recounts the 1978 championship season in a day by day format. On July 17, the Yankees started their climb to the top from 14 games back despite injuries and internal turmoil-- mostly between Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson-- that led to Martin's pressured resignation. Jackson led the parade of Yankee heroes that also included Bucky Dent, Ron Guidry and Graig Nettles. Dell Publishing.
1983- Pinstripe Pandemonium by Geoffrey Stokes (1984). The inside story of Billy Martin and his '83 Yankees takes you into the clubhouse on a daily revealing look at another team in turmoil. Included is the famous George Brett pine tar incident. The Yanks finished third and out of the playoffs though. Good reading.
1986- One Pitch Away by Mike Sowell (1995). Sowell paints a dramatic picture of the conclusion to the 1986 season made famous by Bill Buckner's error in the N.L. championship series. The book covers the league championships and the World Series, all of which seemed to come down to the final pitch. Extensive research and interviews with the participants help make the writing crisp and compelling. Macmillan.