Are you stuck for Christmas present ideas for a relative or friend who follows baseball? Perhaps you are a baseball fan yourself and are being badgered for an idea or two on what you might like to receive?
In both cases, baseball books could be the perfect solution. With 25 December rapidly approaching, here’s a guide to some titles you might want to consider. All links point you to Amazon.co.uk, but you may want (need) to buy your copy from another retailer. Note also that there are reviews for a number of these books available by clicking on the ‘Book Review’ category.
You really can’t go wrong with ‘Baseball for Dummies’. It covers all aspects of the sport, from the basic rules to playing the game and much more besides. It’s also one of the few baseball books you might be able to find on the shelves in your local major bookshop. As an alternative, try ‘Watching Baseball Smarter’.
‘Moneyball’, ‘Ball Four’, ‘The Glory of Their Times’ and ‘The Boys of Summer’ should be on the bookshelves of every baseball fan, so any of these would be a welcome present if they are not already owned.
Coffee table books
Baseball: An Illustrated History. Full of great photos spanning the history of baseball alongside articles by some of the finest baseball writers around (Roger Angell, Bill James, Thomas Boswell, Robert Creamer, George Will etc). The only negative is that as it was published in 1996, the last ten years or so are not covered. If you want a similar type of book of more recent vintage, have a look at ‘Sports Illustrated: The Baseball Book’, which was published in 2006.
There are so many brilliant biographies to choose from, it’s difficult to know where to start (and I’ll leave out the links this time to save on the red ink). Yankee fans will be particularly drawn to Robert Creamer’s biography of Babe Ruth, Richard Ben Cramer’s biography of Joe DiMaggio, Jonathan Eig’s biography of Lou Gehrig and Tony Castro’s biography of Mickey Mantle, but these are all legends of the sport that any baseball fan should learn more about. Away from the pinstripes, give some thought to Al Stump’s biography of Ty Cobb, Leigh Montville’s biography of Ted Williams, Michael Sokolove’s biography of Pete Rose and David Maraniss’ biography of Roberto Clemente.
History and Stats
‘The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract’ is guaranteed to make a good first impression as a present, being a very substantial and heavy tome, but it will also be something that the reader will constantly go back to as an essential reference guide. Alan Schwarz’s ‘The Numbers Game’ is a wonderfully readable history of the use of statistics in baseball, while somebody looking to delve into the more advanced side of statistical analysis can do no better than ‘Baseball Between the Numbers’.
I reviewed ‘Sports Illustrated: Great Baseball Writing’ back in February and can strongly recommend it as a collection that you will keep coming back to. You will also find several other good books that bring together work by individual writers, such as Roger Angell (‘Game Time: A Baseball Companion’) and Thomas Boswell (‘Cracking the Show’).
British and European baseball
Why not delve into some local baseball history with one of Josh Chetwynd’s two books: ‘British Baseball and the West Ham Club: History of a 1930’s Professional Team in East London‘ and ‘Baseball in Europe: A Country by Country History‘?
Finally, how about trying some baseball fiction? Books such as ‘The Natural’ and ‘Shoeless Joe’ will be known from the successful films that they inspired (Field of Dreams in the case of the latter). Other authors to look into include Mark Harris and Darryl Brock.
So there we go, plenty to choose from for baseball fans of different levels and interests and there are many more I could have included as well. If you’ve got any other good suggestions for a British baseball fan, please add them in via the comments function below.