Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Required Reading

Anyone who's read this blog knows that I'm a huge fan of Bronx Banter. I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time with Alex Belth on Monday, as well as his fellow Banterer extraordinaire, Emma Span, my Baseball Prospectus friends Joe Sheehan, Jay Jaffe and Steve Goldman, and Kevin Baker, who is one of the contributors to the Anatomy of Baseball compilation.

It was a great joy being at a table where I was clearly the worst-read person there. At one point we basically became a baseball version of the McLoughlin Group, going around the table for opinions on books, the end of Yankee Stadium, Joe Girardi's shaky start as Yankee manager, Will Leitch (and sports blogging along with him) getting pilloried on Bob Costas Now.

Speaking of books (and Bronx Banter), I got to participate in Alex's Essential Baseball Books project, nominating my top ten books. I restricted myself to non-fiction works, and worked off the top of my head (sadly, my apartment doesn't have space for all my books, so there were a few favorites, like Ball Four, that I missed solely because they're in storage rather than on my bookshelf). You can find the Essentials series at these links: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

From Part III, here's my tardy list:

Bill James, Politics of Glory -- Wonderful exercise in applied sabermetrics: James takes a dash of numbers, a huge dollop of historical research, and systematically ticks off the problems with baseball's most revered institution.

Steve Goldman, Forging Genius -- Has all the things you'd expect in a bio--fun anecdotes, character sketches, historical details--and throws in a strong dose of logic on top of it, to explain how Casey Stengel became the guy that led the Yankees to all those pennants. I suspect it would be interesting to read this back-to-back with the next book, because the authors' styles are so different.

David Halberstam, Summer of '49 -- It's like the movie Apollo 13: even if you know exactly how the 1949 pennant race ended, you still probably won't be immune to the suspense that Halberstam builds up in this book. Essential read for Yankee fans.

Alan Schwarz, The Numbers Game -- Great history of the game, told through the eyes of statheads from era to era.

Bill James, Historical Baseball Abstract -- It's a bit like Disneyland, huge and easy to get lost in. There are maybe three great books' worth of work in there.

Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Between the Numbers -- Excellent primer on a broad range of stathead topics.

Michael Lewis, Moneyball -- Cliche? Maybe. A bit dated, just five years after it was published? Sure. Doesn't matter. Moneyball drags you into the collective mind of a MLB front office better than any book I've ever read.

Peter Gollenbock and Sparky Lyle, The Bronx Zoo -- Sentimental pick. I was still a kid with illusions to shatter when I read Gollenbock's story of what really happened with the 1978 World Champs. You never get your innocence back.

William Goldman and Mike Lupica, Wait Till Next Year -- Can you remember when Mike Lupica actually liked baseball? I think this book was the beginning of the end of that. The NFL and NBA, peek in here, but Goldman (of Princess Bride fame) and Lupica mainly focus on the 1987 Mets with a decent side helping of Yankees stories. The essential parts for baseball fans are Goldman's humor, and Lupica's glimpses into how sports journalism works.

Rob Neyer and Bill James, The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers -- Probably the most unique baseball reference book out there--I mean, how many times do you think of a pitcher, but can't quite remember all the pitches he threw, or what his best pitch was?

More book talk later, I hope

No comments: