As you complete your holiday shopping, there are a number of excellent baseball books to consider if you’re looking for a gift for the fan in your life, or some for yourself.
My favorite baseball book of the year was “K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches” by Tyler Kepner.
Kepner, a longtime New York Times baseball writer, has written about the history of every pitch, including the spitball, screwball and split-finger.
Of interest to Oriole fans are incisive anecdotes by Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. Any pitcher and pitch that you could possibly be curious about are interviewed and described.
Kepner interviewed former Orioles general manager Pat Gillick, who references the legendary fireballer Steve Dalkowski, who never made it to the majors. There was only one catcher who could handle Dalkowski, according to Gillick, and that was Cal Ripken Sr.
I didn’t have high hopes when I started “For the Love of the Game” by longtime commissioner Bud Selig with Phil Rogers.
Selig gives his side of the story on the controversies surrounding his time as commissioner, but that’s not the best part of the book.
Most entertaining are his tales of owning the Milwaukee Brewers. Other commissioners have written books, but I don’t recall one from the owner’s perspective, and that makes it worth your while.
“When The Crowd Didn’t Roar” leaves no stone unturned when looking back at the “fanless” game between the Orioles and White Sox on April 29, 2015 after Freddie Gray’s death.
Kevin Cowherd examines the event from every angle, including perspectives from players, manager Buck Showalter and media members. Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter recount their feelings during the riots and preparation for the historic game.
Beyond baseball, Cowherd aptly puts the tragic situation into context, from why things escalated to its potential long-term impact on Baltimore City.” –BaltimoreBaseball.com publisher Steve Cockey
Disclosure: I was interviewed by Cowherd for the book, and comments from me are in it.
Ernie Banks was one of the most loved players in baseball history. Ron Rapoport examines the complex man in “Let’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks.”
Banks was portrayed as an optimistic person, but there was much more to him than that.
Paul Goldberger, the longtime architecture critic for The New Yorker, has written an extensive review of stadiums in “Ballpark: Baseball in the American City.”
Oriole fans will love his take on Camden Yards and its design, and there’s a lot about classic ballparks, too.
There are no shortage of books written to please Yankees and Red Sox fans, but this year there are three that stand out.
One is “Chumps to Champs: How the Worst Teams in Yankees History Led to the ’90s Dynasty” by Bill Pennington.
Pennington, who several years back wrote a fascinating biography of Billy Martin, liberally quotes Buck Showalter, who managed the Yankees from 1992-1995.
In one chapter, Showalter describes how George Steinbrenner attempts to hire him back as Yankees manager days after he hired Joe Torre to replace Buck.
In “Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher,” David Cone, like Kepner, goes inside the mind of the pitcher.
Cone’s book, written with former New York Times writer and YES commentator Jack Curry, goes through the ups and downs of his career.
One chapter is about Cal Ripken Jr.’s final game, and Cone’s attempt to pitch the Iron Man nothing but fastballs.
A year ago in this space, Steve Cockey recommended “Astroball” as a way for Oriole fans to get inside the minds of Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal.
This year, Alex Speier, who covers the Red Sox for The Boston Globe has written, “Homegrown: How the Red Sox Built a Champion from the Ground Up.”
Speier, who often visited Memorial Stadium as a youngster, gives us a different take on rebuilding.
If you’d like a book on the importance of analytics, try “The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players” by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik.
The authors write: “This new phase is dedicated to making players better. It’s Betterball. And it’s taking over.”
Bonus Book: While I focus on baseball books, I like to include other sports books of note written by local writers, and this year there’s a very special one.
Last month, I interviewed Andrea Chamblee, the widow of John McNamara, who was killed along with four others in an attack at the offices of the Capital-Gazette newspapers in Annapolis on June 28, 2018.
McNamara had nearly completed “The Capital of Basketball,” a look at high school basketball in the Washington, D.C. area at the time of his death.
With the assistance of local sportswriter David Elfin, Chamblee was able to finish it, and it’s a worthy addition to your sports library.