Welcome to this week’s edition of Friday Book Round-Up. Baseball is heating up, along with the weather, and my thoughts turn to some of my favorite baseball memoirs. This is different from MR N’s all-time favorite baseball books because, well, it’s me, MRS N. I’ve been a HUGE fan of baseball since I was little. I attended every Minnesota Twins game (with my grandparents) in 1987 and saw their miraculous World Series win! So, here are my top baseball memoirs:
The smiling, perpetually upbeat Minnesota Twins center fielder recounts his life on and off the field, including an in-depth discussion of a career that includes two World Series rings, five Gold Glove awards, and many other accolades.
By the award-winning author of Team of Rivals and The Bully Pulpit, Wait Till Next Year is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s touching memoir of growing up in love with her family and baseball.
Set in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s, Wait Till Next Year re-creates the postwar era, when the corner store was a place to share stories and neighborhoods were equally divided between Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans.
We meet the people who most influenced Goodwin’s early life: her mother, who taught her the joy of books but whose debilitating illness left her housebound: and her father, who taught her the joy of baseball and to root for the Dodgers of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, and Gil Hodges. Most important, Goodwin describes with eloquence how the Dodgers’ leaving Brooklyn in 1957, and the death of her mother soon after, marked both the end of an era and, for her, the end of childhood.
Here is Ron Luciano, the funniest ump ever to call balls and strikes, a huge and awesome legend who leaps and spins and shoots players with an index finger while screaming OUTOUTOUT!!!! Now, baseball’s flamboyant fan-on-the-field comes out from behind the mask to call the game as he really sees it.
Our captain and leader has not left us, today, tomorrow, this year, next … Our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him.”
—Honorary plaque to Munson in Yankee Stadium
Thurman Munson is remembered by fans as the fiercely competitive, tough, and—most of all—inspiring Yankee captain and champion from the wild Bronx Zoo years. He is also remembered for his tragic death, at age thirty-two, when the private plane he was piloting crashed in Canton, Ohio, on August 2, 1979.
Munson is the intimate biography of a complex and larger-than-life legend. Written by former Yankees public relations director Marty Appel, who worked closely with Thurman throughout his career, Munson captures the little-known details of the young man from Canton and his meteoric rise to stardom in baseball’s most storied franchise. Appel examines the tumultuous childhood that led Thurman to work feverishly to escape Canton—and also the marriage and cultural roots that continually drew him back.
Appel also opens a fascinating door on the famed Yankees of the 1970s, recounting moments and stories that have never been told before. From the clubhouse and the dugout to the front office and the owner’s box, this thoughtful baseball biography delves into the affectionately gruff captain’s relationships with friends, fans, and teammates such as Lou Piniella, Bobby Murcer, Graig Nettles, and Reggie Jackson, as well as his colorful dealings with manager Billy Martin and his surprisingly close bond with owner George Steinbrenner. Munson paints a revealing portrait of a private Yankee superstar, as well as a nostalgic and revelatory look at the culture—and amazing highs and lows—of the 1970s New York Yankees teams. More than a biography, Munson is the definitive account of a champion who has not been forgotten and of the era he helped define—written with the intimate detail available only to a true insider.
Big first baseman Kent Hrbek was one of the games true characters, a throwback whose personal tastes were every bit as Ruthian as the monstrous homers for which he is remembered. At a time when professional athletes were discovering the benefits of personal trainers and dieticians, he frequently expressed his preference for a diet of junk food and beer. He and teammates like Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, and late Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett played the game with a passion seldom seen in modern sports, and brought fun and humor into the Twins clubhouse. It was a place where a manager had to ban the cleaning of fish in the trainers room, and where practical jokes were more commonplace than scouting reports. It wasnt all fun and games, however. Hrbek and Gaetti became best friends, but had that friendship strained when Gaetti found religion and tried to push his beliefs including no beer onto Hrbek. Finally, late in his career, Hrbek battled serious shoulder injuries before retiring.
“The best biography ever written about an American sports figure.” —Sports Illustrated
Nearly a century has passed since George Herman Ruth made his major league debut, and in that time millions of words have been used to describe baseball’s greatest hero. But for a man like the Babe, for whom the phrase “larger than life” seems to have been coined, those millions of words have created a mythologized legacy. Who was the real Babe Ruth?
Relying on exhaustive research and interviews with teammates, family members, and friends, historian Robert W. Creamer separates fact from fiction and paints an honest and fascinating portrait of the slugger. This is the definitive biography of a man who was, in legend and in truth, the best who ever lived.
The definitive biography of one of baseball’s most enduring and influential characters, from New York Times bestselling author and baseball writer Marty Appel.
As a player, Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel’s contemporaries included Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson . . . and he was the only person in history to wear the uniforms of all four New York teams: the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Mets. As a legendary manager, he formed indelible, complicated relationships with Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Billy Martin. For more than five glorious decades, Stengel was the undisputed, quirky, hilarious, and beloved face of baseball–and along the way he revolutionized the role of manager while winning a spectacular ten pennants and seven World Series Championships.
But for a man who spent so much of his life in the limelight–an astounding fifty-five years in professional baseball–Stengel remains an enigma. Acclaimed New York Yankees’ historian and bestselling author Marty Appel digs into Casey Stengel’s quirks and foibles, unearthing a tremendous trove of baseball stories, perspective, and history. Weaving in never-before-published family documents, Appel creates an intimate portrait of a private man who was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 and named “Baseball’s Greatest Character” by MLB Network’s Prime 9. Casey Stengel is a biography that will be treasured by fans of our national pastime.
Roger Angell’s chronicle of baseball’s most fascinating and unforgettable years
Classic New Yorker sportswriter Roger Angell calls 1972 to 1976 “the most important half-decade in the history of the game.” The early to mid-1970s brought unprecedented changes to America’s ancient pastime: astounding performances by Nolan Ryan and Hank Aaron; the intensity of the “best-ever” 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox; the changes growing from bitter and extended labor strikes and lockouts; and the vast new influence of network television on the game. Angell, always a fan as well as a writer, casts a knowing but noncynical eye on these events, offering a fresh perspective to baseball’s continuing appeal during this brilliant and transformative era.
Have a baseball memoir to recommend? Share in the comments below. Happy Reading!
MRS N, Book Addict