The best baseball books

18 authors have picked their favorite books about baseball and why they recommend each book.

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The Bullpen Gospels

By Dirk Hayhurst,

Book cover of The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran

Keith Olberman said that The Bullpen Gospels, "Might be one of the best baseball books written in forty years." 

I would like to go a step further and say that it is THE best baseball book that has been written. Ever. Even better than Ball Four, to me, because it takes place during the modern era of baseball and was written by Hayhurst as he played professionally. 

Hayhurst gives readers a realistic view into what it is really like to be like the majority of minor league players, “Bonus Babies” aside, as he pulls the veil back on professional baseball. 


Who am I?

Before he became a bestselling author with his debut novel, Before We Ever Spoke, Dan Largent spent the better part of two decades as a high school baseball coach. In 2010, he guided Olmsted Falls High School to its first-ever State Final Four and was subsequently named Greater Cleveland Division I Coach of the Year. Dan stepped away from his duties as a baseball coach in 2017 to spend more time with his wife, April, and their three children Brooke, Grace, and Luke. He has, however, remained close to the game he loves by turning doubles into singles as a member of Cleveland’s finest 35 and over baseball league.


I wrote...

Before We Ever Spoke: A Novel

By Dan Largent,

Book cover of Before We Ever Spoke: A Novel

What is my book about?

Cleveland, Ohio. 2006. After a chance encounter, three people soon find out that life can sometimes thrust us into the public eye - even when taking great measures to avoid it. Cooper Madison was the best pitcher in baseball after being drafted number one overall in 1996 from the small Gulf Coast town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. One year after announcing his sudden and shocking retirement, he finds himself seeking anonymity in Cleveland, Ohio. Cara Knox is the youngest sibling to three older brothers. After a tragic work accident to her closest relative, she has built up a tough exterior as she begins her final year of college at Cleveland State University. Jason Knox, Cara's oldest brother, is the lead detective on Cleveland's Edgewater Park Killer case. After months without a suspect, he is feeling the heat from his media-hungry chief. Serendipity intervenes, and all three learn that perception and reality are paths that rarely ever intersect.

Ball Four

By Jim Bouton,

Book cover of Ball Four: The Final Pitch

My go-to baseball book, one that I’ve read twice and listened to twice, which I particularly enjoyed because Bouton reads the audio version. This is the baseball book that changed everything – well, it definitely changed baseball autobiographies and our expectations of them. There are parts that make me cringe, parts that would never pass the “politically correct” test today.

Regardless, what comes through most for me is Bouton’s wit and observations of the game and its players, and what it’s really like to play baseball at its highest level. Also, his love for the game and its grip on him is palpable. And it’s a book that changes over time for me – a romp and an inside look at life in the big leagues when I was young; and as an older man, it serves as a reminder that no matter how much you love doing something, some…


Who am I?

I’m a baseball history fanatic who writes on a wide range of topics for work and pleasure, which I’m glad to say often are the same thing. I’ve been a journalist for many years, even covered a few World Series, and I’ve written stories for books published by the Society for American Baseball Research. I’ve also written a lot about music, science, business, and politics, for newspapers and magazines. I’ve been a playwright, fortunate to have seen my work staged in different venues. And I also wrote a book called, The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography, which I’m really excited to tell you about in the next section!


I wrote...

The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography

By Jerry Grillo,

Book cover of The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography

What is my book about?

This is the amazing story of Col. Bruce Hampton, the charismatic musician/bandleader whose long career ended when he collapsed and died on stage during the encore of his 70th birthday concert, surrounded by some of the world’s best musicians, including Grammy winners and a Cy Young Award winner. It’s a biography that reads like a novel. As Billy Bob Thornton, who directed Hampton in his Academy Award-winning film Sling Blade, said of the book, “You’ll disappear into Bruce’s world in this book, and you may not want to come out.”

With a foreword by Grammy-winner Chuck Leavell and cover designed by Flournoy Holmes (the artist who created the cover for the Allman Brothers’ iconic album, Eat a Peach, and many others).

Summerland

By Michael Chabon,

Book cover of Summerland

It feels a little misleading to suggest that a Michael Chabon book is widely underread, but this one almost never comes up when I talk to writers and readers about their favorite baseball novels.  Perhaps it’s because Chabon, one of our most celebrated writers, imagined Summerland as a book for young readers, and while it is surely that, it is also surely so much more. It’s strange and wonderful and oh so beautifully written. The author’s prose jumps off every page with an exit velocity that demands your attention. Read it with your kids or your grandkids. Read it on your own. Just, read it. 


Who am I?

I’m a writer and a lifelong baseball fan with a weakness for baseball-ish fiction. For a lot of folks, this means reading the usual suspects: Kinsella, Malamud, Coover, Roth, DeLillo... But I especially enjoy stumbling across under-the-radar novels that can’t help but surprise in their own ways. I enjoy this so much, in fact, I went out and wrote one of my own – inspired by the life and career of an all-but-forgotten ballplayer from the 1880s named Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap, one of the greats of the game in his time. In the stuff of his life there was the stuff of meaning and moment… of the sort you’ll find in the books I’m recommending here.


I wrote...

A Single Happened Thing

By Daniel Paisner,

Book cover of A Single Happened Thing

What is my book about?

A father, a daughter, a forgotten icon of 1880s baseball... these are the players in Daniel Paisner's haunting novel about the specter of love and legacy that fills our days and colors our relationships.

A Single Thing Happened
tells the story of a going-nowhere book publicist, David Felb, who encounters the ghost of a former ballplayer - Fred "Sure Shot" Dunlap, a once-legendary second baseman whose career has lapsed into obscurity. Soon, the spirit of Dunlap begins to unsettle Felb's relationships and cloud his already murky worldview. As his tether on reason appears to unravel, the protagonist's daughter Iona - a colorful teenager with a penchant for DayGlo-dyed hair, body piercings, and our national pastime - joins Felb in his quest to be proven sane and whole. In the end, it is Iona's emergence as a confident, self-reliant young woman that sets Felb right, even as his marriage unravels on the back of this ghostly apparition. 

The Resisters

By Gish Jen,

Book cover of The Resisters

I was looking forward to this one and read it as soon as it came out, early on in these pandemic times. It’s not really a baseball novel, except it kinda, sorta is. Mostly, it’s a subversive look at a dystopian future that turns on the redemptive power of baseball. It made a lot of noise on publication, but the focus of most of the reviews leaned away from the baseball bits and into the dystopian bits. Gish Jen writes gloriously about the game – but also about life and love, longing and belonging, hope and hopelessness. 


Who am I?

I’m a writer and a lifelong baseball fan with a weakness for baseball-ish fiction. For a lot of folks, this means reading the usual suspects: Kinsella, Malamud, Coover, Roth, DeLillo... But I especially enjoy stumbling across under-the-radar novels that can’t help but surprise in their own ways. I enjoy this so much, in fact, I went out and wrote one of my own – inspired by the life and career of an all-but-forgotten ballplayer from the 1880s named Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap, one of the greats of the game in his time. In the stuff of his life there was the stuff of meaning and moment… of the sort you’ll find in the books I’m recommending here.


I wrote...

A Single Happened Thing

By Daniel Paisner,

Book cover of A Single Happened Thing

What is my book about?

A father, a daughter, a forgotten icon of 1880s baseball... these are the players in Daniel Paisner's haunting novel about the specter of love and legacy that fills our days and colors our relationships.

A Single Thing Happened
tells the story of a going-nowhere book publicist, David Felb, who encounters the ghost of a former ballplayer - Fred "Sure Shot" Dunlap, a once-legendary second baseman whose career has lapsed into obscurity. Soon, the spirit of Dunlap begins to unsettle Felb's relationships and cloud his already murky worldview. As his tether on reason appears to unravel, the protagonist's daughter Iona - a colorful teenager with a penchant for DayGlo-dyed hair, body piercings, and our national pastime - joins Felb in his quest to be proven sane and whole. In the end, it is Iona's emergence as a confident, self-reliant young woman that sets Felb right, even as his marriage unravels on the back of this ghostly apparition. 

Bucky F*cking Dent

By David Duchovny,

Book cover of Bucky F*cking Dent

I loved this book the moment I saw the title. And the cover! I loved it even more when I noticed it shared a publication date with my own baseball novel back in 2016, so it feels to me like we’re related. The title and cover alone should earn this one a spot on your shelf, but there’s tasty goodness inside. Duchovny’s love of the game is apparent – but so too is his Ivy League education. He writes like a lifelong reader, with a keen eye for baseball and its denizens and an ear for poetry. He’s funny af, too.   


Who am I?

I’m a writer and a lifelong baseball fan with a weakness for baseball-ish fiction. For a lot of folks, this means reading the usual suspects: Kinsella, Malamud, Coover, Roth, DeLillo... But I especially enjoy stumbling across under-the-radar novels that can’t help but surprise in their own ways. I enjoy this so much, in fact, I went out and wrote one of my own – inspired by the life and career of an all-but-forgotten ballplayer from the 1880s named Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap, one of the greats of the game in his time. In the stuff of his life there was the stuff of meaning and moment… of the sort you’ll find in the books I’m recommending here.


I wrote...

A Single Happened Thing

By Daniel Paisner,

Book cover of A Single Happened Thing

What is my book about?

A father, a daughter, a forgotten icon of 1880s baseball... these are the players in Daniel Paisner's haunting novel about the specter of love and legacy that fills our days and colors our relationships.

A Single Thing Happened
tells the story of a going-nowhere book publicist, David Felb, who encounters the ghost of a former ballplayer - Fred "Sure Shot" Dunlap, a once-legendary second baseman whose career has lapsed into obscurity. Soon, the spirit of Dunlap begins to unsettle Felb's relationships and cloud his already murky worldview. As his tether on reason appears to unravel, the protagonist's daughter Iona - a colorful teenager with a penchant for DayGlo-dyed hair, body piercings, and our national pastime - joins Felb in his quest to be proven sane and whole. In the end, it is Iona's emergence as a confident, self-reliant young woman that sets Felb right, even as his marriage unravels on the back of this ghostly apparition. 

The Glory of Their Times

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

In the 1960s, Ritter interviewed a bunch of guys who played major league ball in the early days, from the 1890s through the 1930s (or so), with lots of stuff from the Deadball Era. The result is this marvelous book filled with priceless tales told by the men who knew, played with (and occasionally fought with) Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Nap Lajoie, and the immortals from that era. Anyone who wants to understand what baseball was like in 1903, or there-and-then-about, must read this book. Reading this book is like sitting on a porch in a rocking chair next to grandpa while he tells stories that you actually want to hear.


Who am I?

I’m a baseball history fanatic who writes on a wide range of topics for work and pleasure, which I’m glad to say often are the same thing. I’ve been a journalist for many years, even covered a few World Series, and I’ve written stories for books published by the Society for American Baseball Research. I’ve also written a lot about music, science, business, and politics, for newspapers and magazines. I’ve been a playwright, fortunate to have seen my work staged in different venues. And I also wrote a book called, The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography, which I’m really excited to tell you about in the next section!


I wrote...

The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography

By Jerry Grillo,

Book cover of The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography

What is my book about?

This is the amazing story of Col. Bruce Hampton, the charismatic musician/bandleader whose long career ended when he collapsed and died on stage during the encore of his 70th birthday concert, surrounded by some of the world’s best musicians, including Grammy winners and a Cy Young Award winner. It’s a biography that reads like a novel. As Billy Bob Thornton, who directed Hampton in his Academy Award-winning film Sling Blade, said of the book, “You’ll disappear into Bruce’s world in this book, and you may not want to come out.”

With a foreword by Grammy-winner Chuck Leavell and cover designed by Flournoy Holmes (the artist who created the cover for the Allman Brothers’ iconic album, Eat a Peach, and many others).

Baseball

By Dorothy Seymour Mills, Harold Seymour,

Book cover of Baseball: The Golden Age

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.


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 Pitch That Killed

By Mike Sowell,

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

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.


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.

Babe

By Robert Creamer,

Book cover of Babe: The Legend Comes to Life

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.


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.

American Baseball. Vol. 1

By David Quentin Voigt,

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

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.


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.

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