Forty years ago, former baseball pitcher Jim Bouton rocked the baseball world with his tell-all memoir, “Ball Four.” This classic, which chronicles his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros, provides readers with delicious inside-baseball details in well-written prose. When the book was first published, teams saw Bouton as a traitor. Bouton was not invited to the Old-Timers Game at Yankee Stadium ybtuk 1998. To mark the anniversary of this book's publication, a library in California is holding an all-day celebration, with a guest appearance by Bouton, this Saturday.
If you haven’t read Bouton's book yet, add it to your “to-be-read” pile for the off-season, which I suspect may be a longer one for Red Sox fans—if our beloved team fails to make it to post-season play. That prospect seems bloody likely, but I’m still hoping for a miracle. I'm with Yogi Berra: It ain't over 'til it's over.
When baseball season is indeed over and the final out is made, you'll have a few cold months ahead of you spring training comes around. To keep the season alive in your mind, immerse yourself in these other great baseball books—fiction and nonfiction—too. I asked several hardcore baseball fans for their recommendations.
ABC News correspondent John Berman (photo: ABC News), Carlisle native and ardent Red Sox fan:
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
The Teammates by David Halberstam Tells the story of the deep friendship of four Red Sox players: Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky.
This summer, the Red Sox unveiled a statue of "The Teammates" outside Fenway Park.
Writer and New England native Rachel Cantor, who tweets under the handle Missing Fenway:
Prophet of the Sandlot by Mark Winegardner
Novelist and Boston resident Joseph Finder (photo by Joel Benjamin), author of current bestseller Vanished:
Game Time by Roger Angell (“anything by Roger Angell, really,” writes Finder, in an email)
The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawidoff
Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Men at Work by George Will
Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris
The Natural by Bernard Malamud
Author Joseph Wallace lists books that served him as inspiration for his recent debut novel Diamond Ruby and for his nonfiction baseball books:
The Summer Game by Roger Angell. Wallace, in an email, writes: “No one has ever written more affectionately and vividly about baseball.”
The Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James
The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter
Baseball Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and his Legacy by Jules Tygiel. See also: Robinson's unflinching autobiography, I Never Had It Made.
The Southpaw by Mark Harris
Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella (the basis for the movie Field of Dreams)
If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock Writes Wallace: “A remarkable--and too little known--fantasy that takes its main character (and the reader) all the way back to 1869 and the birthplace of professional baseball. Don't miss this one.”
The Great American Novel by Philip Roth
Last weekend, Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday interviewed Bouton about his book, baseball and life. You can listen to the interview here.
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