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I figured we ought to have a dedicated thread for reviews and recommendations of baseball books, fiction / non-fiction / whatevah....

I'm a huge fan of Roger Angell; I've posted so many times about his books that I probably don't even need to mention him again -- but I will. ;) Many of his collected stories are now out of print but some aren't, and you can find almost everything used/new online anyway. He writes with a subtle sense of humor, finds joy in the small and sometimes overlooked pleasures of baseball, and seeks out unusual stories. One of my favorites was when he hung out in the bullpen of the Royals for a week or so (this was in the late 70's, iirc). The bullpen was on the side of the field in foul territory with a peculiar, half-sunken-in-the-field bench -- the players' heads were just about field level when they were sitting down. The relief pitchers would get bored and make up games to amuse themselves, and one of their favorites was playing "submarine" -- the bench was their sub, and foul balls were depth charges. When one would come flying their way, they'd let off warning bells and whistles, had a chain of command to report damage, sometimes start sinking and have to take emergency action, etc. Anyhow, I'd recommend "Five Seasons" and "The Summer Game", but any of his stuff is good.

I also like "The Book on The Book" by Bill Felber. Released in 2005, it's definitely in the vein of "Moneyball", in that Felber uses statistical inquiry to look at the various strategies in baseball, and see what works and what doesn't. In the end, he thinks managers often do what they do because "that's the way it's always been done" (no big revelation here), but in other areas he makes good arguments for such things as not stealing bases, unless you are really good at it, in which case steal all the time; that starting pitchers should pitch more often but not throw more pitches in each game; that bullpen hierarchy is the biggest sham in baseball strategy today; and that park effects are far more variable than we assume. He contradicts some of the finding of heavyweights like Bill James but does so with all due reverence and a load of stats and formulas to back him up. A good read, and made me question many assumptions I've held for along time about how the game should be played.

Any other favorites out there?

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I know it's a cliche, but it's one for a reason: Ball Four by Jim Bouton.

You know, that's one of those books that I always mean to pick up...and yet I always forget about it when I'm in the bookstore or browsing online.

Some kind soul should really just pick one up & send it to me....

What did you like best about it? Humor, or getting an "inside view" of the game?

Anybody ever read "The Natural"? I liked the movie well enough but I've heard the book is head and shoulders above it, albeit with a significantly different ending. I'd like to check it out, though.

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Both the humor and the inside look...they kinda go hand in hand. Plus the brutal honesty of a former fireballer just trying to hang on by becoming a knuckler.

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Moneyball is pretty good. They spend a good amount of time talking about Chad Bradford and his journey from high school to the majors.

And even though this book is Red Sox themed, Teammates is really good as well.

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Thanks, Poz :laughlol:

I'll second that one. Hell of a book.

Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball... books are really cool.

And, of course, another vote for Moneyball. At least if more people read it there will be fewer people to talk about it without any understanding :laughlol:

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I know it's a cliche, but it's one for a reason: Ball Four by Jim Bouton.

Someone asked me the other day what was the best book I ever read and it took me about 1/2 second to say, "Ball Four."

I read the book when I was 17 and have since bought the Jim Bouton signed collectors addition with Ball Five and six in it when he went back to Yankees stadium.

I bought and tried to get through his second book about saving an old stadium but it didn't have any of the same magic that Ball Four had.

Ball Four had great characters and if ever a movie should have been made about a book, that was it.

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Someone asked me the other day what was the best book I ever read and it took me about 1/2 second to say, "Ball Four."

I read the book when I was 17 and have since bought the Jim Bouton signed collectors addition with Ball Five and six in it when he went back to Yankees stadium.

I bought and tried to get through his second book about saving an old stadium but it didn't have any of the same magic that Ball Four had.

Ball Four had great characters and if ever a movie should have been made about a book, that was it.

You know, the only reason why it hasn't been made a movie is that it was a true story and most of the people involved were none too happy to be part of the book.

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When the most recent edition of Ball Four was released, I went to a book signing Bouton did at the Barnes and Noble here in the Inner Harbor. His opinion was that Ball Four would make a great Broadway musical.

I'm not sure if I can say this here or not, but as he envisioned it, the show would open with a lavish dance production called 'Shooting Beaver at the Shoreham'.

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I found this list of essential baseball books that Rob Neyer posted on ESPN.com back in 1999, although he must have updated it at some point, because Moneyball's on there.

It's also worth checking out the link just to see how in 1999, it was still necessary to remind people that there was this 'Webstore' called Amazon.com that sold hard-to-find books.

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Pretty good list from Neyer. Though leaving off Shoeless Joe and, worse, The Natural seems a bit crazy to me. The former is a good read (and much preferred to the movie, for me) while the latter is simply fantastic.

I read most of my baseball books when I was young - 10 to 14. I remember reading The Natural before the movie came out (1984), so I must have been 11 or so when I read the book. I was so much happier at the time with the movie ending than the ending of the book, but in retrospect, I can't fathom how Levinson changed so much about the storyline.

I'll note, too, being disappointed at 12 or 13 when I figured out Catcher in the Rye wasn't about baseball. I didn't pick it up again until I was 15.

I remember Bang the Drum Slowly, as well, from back then. Pretty great story - Wiggins, Piney Woods, et al, seemed so real and so foreign at the same time.

Edited by Lucky Jim

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Yeah, Neyer's omission of The Natural just seems ... wacky. Though I was glad to see him give a shout out to Philip Roth's The Great American Novel, which is simply a lot of fun.

On the non-fiction side, I think Dan Okrent's Nine Innings — a blow-by-blow deconstruction of a single mid-season game between the Brewers and Orioles in 1982 — is pretty essential stuff, especially if you're an O's fan.

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