The best baseball history books about Major League Baseball

Scott H. Longert Author Of Bad Boys, Bad Times: The Cleveland Indians and Baseball in the Prewar Years, 1937-1941
By Scott H. Longert

Who am I?

Scott Longert has his M.A. in American History from Cleveland State University. He has written five books on baseball history with a sixth on the way. His most recent work was Cy Young: An American Baseball Hero designed specifically for children. The book was a selection of the Junior Library Guild. Scott has made numerous appearances on radio and television along with being interviewed for several baseball documentaries. Scott served nine years as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service, stationed at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. Currently, he faithfully attends baseball games in Cleveland, waiting for the home team to capture their first World Series win since 1948.


I wrote...

Bad Boys, Bad Times: The Cleveland Indians and Baseball in the Prewar Years, 1937-1941

By Scott H. Longert,

Book cover of Bad Boys, Bad Times: The Cleveland Indians and Baseball in the Prewar Years, 1937-1941

What is my book about?

Bad Boys, Bad Times is a study of how the Cleveland Indians and Major League Baseball fared in the years leading up to the start of World War Two. The effects of the Great Depression were lessening, allowing people to restart their lives and fill baseball stadiums once again. Just as Americans were beginning to relax, the threat of another World War loomed ahead.

In that time, the Cleveland Indians struck gold when they signed seventeen-year-old pitcher Bob Feller, then nearly lost him by circumventing the rules regarding athletes still in high school. Feller would become one of the game’s greatest stars. In 1940 the Indians had a chance to win the American League pennant, but were stymied by a player revolt in which the team tried to get manager Oscar Vitt fired. The baseball writers found out about the attempted coup and ridiculed the Indians for the remainder of the season.

The books I picked & why

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The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It

By Lawrence S. Ritter,

Book cover of The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It

Why this book?

In the early 1960s, author Lawrence Ritter traveled around the United States, interviewing men who had played Major League Baseball in the late 1890s through the early part of the 20th century. The result is a fascinating account of baseball and America in that long-ago era. With a bulky reel-reel tape recorder, Ritter lets each ballplayer tell their own story of what the game was like before radio and television. Most of the men interviewed were in their late seventies and early eighties but were able to accurately remember a particular game or incident from half a century ago. Within the pages, baseball legends come to life, including Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, John McGraw, and Christy Mathewson.


Baseball: The Golden Age

By Dorothy Seymour Mills, Harold Seymour,

Book cover of Baseball: The Golden Age

Why this book?

The book is a scholarly interpretation of Major League Baseball from 1903-1930. Harold Seymour was regarded as one of the premier baseball scholars in America, concentrating on the business and social aspects of the game. His work is a tremendous source for aspiring writers and those interested in the fine points of baseball rather than an accumulation of box scores. Seymour devotes time to the 1919 World Series fix and how much gambling was a part of the game. The rise to power of Commissioner Landis and his quest to purify baseball is a compelling part of the narrative.


The Pitch That Killed: The Story of Carl Mays, Ray Chapman, and the Pennant Race of 1920

By Mike Sowell,

Book cover of The Pitch That Killed: The Story of Carl Mays, Ray Chapman, and the Pennant Race of 1920

Why this book?

The year 1920 marked the first pennant ever won by the Cleveland Indians. Author Mike Sowell recalls that time with his outstanding work, The Pitch That Killed. Sowell describes in great detail the tragic story of Ray Chapman and Carl Mays, the two participants in one of the most heartbreaking stories in baseball history. Sowell recounts in vivid detail an overcast day in New York when Mays threw an inside fastball that struck Chapman on the left temple. The Cleveland shortstop would pass away the next morning, leading to an unprecedented display of grief throughout the country. This book is a most compelling read.


Babe: The Legend Comes to Life

By Robert Creamer,

Book cover of Babe: The Legend Comes to Life

Why this book?

There have been numerous biographies written about Babe Ruth, but Robert Creamer’s stands out. With excellent research, Creamer gives the reader an intimate portrait of the game’s greatest slugger. From Ruth’s time at St. Mary’s school for boys to his death from cancer, the author reveals a vivid account of Babe’s life and times. There were many highlights in the Babe’s career and Creamer covers them well, including the home run in the 1932 World Series where Ruth may or may not have called his shot. Babe Ruth was always up to the task on and off the field; this book relates his exploits in a most captivating style.


American Baseball. Vol. 1: From Gentleman’s Sport to the Commissioner System

By David Quentin Voigt,

Book cover of American Baseball. Vol. 1: From Gentleman’s Sport to the Commissioner System

Why this book?

Author Voigt produced three volumes of work, detailing the history of the game from its roots in the early nineteenth century, through the latter part of the twentieth. Volume One begins with a debunking of the myth that Abner Doubleday created the game in the green fields of Cooperstown, New York. Voigt in using a tremendous amount of research material, traces the modernization of baseball from a gentleman’s game played for amusement and relaxation to a professional organization built to win.

Readers interested in learning how the game evolved from underhand pitching to a mound sixty feet six inches and three outs to a side would benefit from studying this work.


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