The Essential Baseball Library

NEW! Some of these books can now be purchased through The Field of Dreams Bookstore --an Associate of


NOTE: These were compiled by others (as credited). They were compiled several years ago. There have undoubtably been works published since then that are more than worthy of being added to these lists, but these are NOT my lists.
If you have suggestions for the Recent books section, please email me.


Compiled by Larry Ritter at the request of a SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) publication.

Statistical reference works excluded; listed in alphabetical order by author.

Roger Angell
The Summer Game (1972) Buy this book
Five Seasons (1972) Buy this book
Late Innings (1982) Buy this book
Angell has such deep insights into the game and the people who play it, and writes so well, that he has virtually single-handedly elevated the quality of sportswriting to a new level.

Eliot Asinof
Eight Men Out (1963) Buy this book
Asinof's book about the 1919 Black Sox scandal still stands, a quarter century later, as one of the best jobs of investigative baseball reporting ever written.

Red Barber
The Broadcasters (1970) Buy this book
1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball (1982) Buy this book
Two outstanding books, filled with inside information, by the best baseball play-by-play announcer of all time.

Thomas Boswell
How Life Imitates the World Series (1982) Buy this book
Why Time Begins on Opening Day (1984) Buy this book
One of the few competitors to Angell in terms of elegant and insightful baseball reportage.

Bobbie Bouton & Nancy Marshall
Home Games (1983) Buy this book
A straightforward and honest book that reveals a side of baseball that is rarely ackowledged, much less discussed. Poignant and moving.

Jim Bouton & Leonard Schecter
Ball Four (1970) Buy this book
A pioneer in its day. Considered daring at the time but pretty tame stuff now. Perhaps the funniest baseball writing since Ring Lardner.

Jim Brosnan
The Long Season (1960) Buy this book
Talk about pioneers! As far ahead of his time as Galileo.

Ty Cobb & Al Stump
My Life in Baseball (1961) Buy this book
After you finish the book, then read about Al Stump's experiences writing it (a 3-part article in True Magazine in 1961.)

Bob Creamer
Babe (1974) Buy this book
Stengel: His Life and Times (1984) Buy this book
Creamer writes a well-researched no-nonsense biography. The best in the business at it.

Charles Einstein
The 3 Fireside Books of Baseball (1956, 58, 68)
It is hard to understand how the publisher, Simon & Schuster, could have allowed these classics to go out of print. They should be available in a boxed set.

James T. Farrell
My Baseball Diary (1957) Buy this book
A tender and loving book. As great, in its own way, as the same author's famous Studs Lonigan trilogy.

Gordon Fleming
The Unforgettable Season (1981) Buy this book
A novel and exciting way to relieve a baseball season, in this case 1908 and poor Fred Merkle. The idea is great but I think one book of its type is enough.

Larry Gerlach
The Men in Blue (1980) Buy this book
Interview-type books depend on the interviewer's skill as an interviewer and as a writer. Gerlach is tops on both counts.

Lee Gutkind
Best Seat in the House But You have to Stand ( 1975) Buy this book
Great material, delightfully presented. One of the two best books about umpiring ever written. The other is Gerlach's.

Bill Heward & Dimitri Gat
Some Are Called Clowns (1974) Buy this book
The 1973 season of the barnstorming Indianapolis Clowns. Again wonderful material, top-notch writing.

Art Hill
I Don't Care If I Never Come Back (1980) Buy this book
A warm, wise, and funny book.

Jerry Holzman
No Cheering in the Press Box (1974) Buy this book
Terrific interviews with sportswriters.

Don Honig
Baseball When the Grass Was Real (1975) Buy this book
Baseball Between the Lines (1976) Buy this book
The Man in the Dugout (1977) Buy this book
The October Heroes (1979) Buy this book
The National League (1983) Buy this book
The American League (1983) Buy this book
Baseball America (1985) Buy this book
The first four are wonderful interview books, the next two are pictorial league histories from the turn of the century to date, with hundreds of absolutely superb photographs, and the last is a beautifully written blend of social and baseball history. Fred Lieb used to be the most prolific book-writing baseball author of all time, but Honig has overtaken him and is lengthening his lead with every copyright. In neither case has quantity diminished quality.

Rogers Hornsby & Bill Surface
My War With Baseball (1962)

Bill James
The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (1985) Buy this book
Innovative, stimulating, and great reading, although not quite as good as Crime and Punishment despite what the jacket copy says.

Pat Jordan
A False Spring (1975) Buy this book
Another writer in the Angell-Boswell class.

Roger Kahn
The Boys of Summer (1972) Buy this book
Kahn also belongs in the same league, as this classic shows.

Gene Karst & Martin Jones
Who's Who in Professional Baseball (1973) Buy this book
An obvious labor of love that few fans seem to know about. It contains brief but interesting and well-written player biographies.

Leonard Koppett
The Thinking Man's Guide to Baseball (1967)
Now twenty years old and dated, but in its time an eye-opener. Should be revised, updated, and reissued.

Fred Lieb
Baseball As I Have Known It (1977) Buy this book
Absolutely fascinating stories about the old days by one of the best baseball writers ever.

Lee Lowenfish & Tony Lupien
The Imperfect Diamond (1980) Buy this book
An important well-researched history of labor-management relations in baseball. Should be updated and reissued.

Sadaharu Oh & David Falkner
A Zen Way of Baseball (1984) Buy this book
In my opinion, one of the best sports autobiographies ever written.

Daniel Okrent & Harris Lewine
The Ultimate Baseball Book (1979) Buy this book
I don't like all the articles by people like Tom Wicker and George Higgins, I don't care for sepia-tinted photos, and many of the photograph reproductions are too small, but it is still one of the best baseball books ever published.

Robert Peterson
Only the Ball Was White (1970) Buy this book
A lot of research has been done on the Negro Leagues since 1970, but when Peterson's book came out it was pioneering work and it still stands up well today.

Damon Rice
Seasons Past (1976) Buy this book
A warm and wonderful book, with the author's name an obvious psuedonym. Within a fictional framework, covers New York baseball from the 19th century until the Dodgers and Giants went West. Has always been a special favorite of mine.

Jackie Robinson & Charles Dexter
Baseball Has Done It (1964) Buy this book
Powerful stuff, written at the height of the civil rights movement.

Howard Senzel
Baseball and the Cold War (1977) Buy this book
Your political views will probably greatly influence your reaction to this book. Personally, I think it is haunting, original, beautifully written. Also funny. But if you tend to be Conservative by inclination, you won't care for it.

J.G. Taylor Spink
Judge Landis and 25 Years of Baseball (1947) Buy this book
Actually, Fred Lieb wrote this, although Spink's name is on the title page. Informative and frank and pulls surprisingly few punches, given the era in which it was written.

Geoffrey Stokes
Pinstripe Pandemonium (1984) Buy this book
Billy Martin and the New York Yankees during the 1983 season. One of the best behind-the-scenes in-the-clubhouse books ever written about a baseball team.

John Thorn
The Armchair Book of Baseball (1985) Buy this book
A worthy successor to the Fireside Books.

John Thorn & Pete Palmer
The Hidden Game of Baseball (1984) Buy this book
Like Bill James, innovative and stimulating whether or not you agree with their conclusions.

Bill Veeck & Ed Linn
Veeck as in Wreck (1962) Buy this book
Great fun and such a pleasure to read!


This is taken from an old issue of The SABR Review of Books, A Forum for Baseball Literary Opinion. They polled selected members for the books they go back to time after time. The members who were asked to participate are a true blue-ribbon panel of serious baseball writers and researchers. This list was compiled by Paul D. Adomites. The following people were contributors:

Dick Beverage             Alan Blumkin            Bill Borst
Jack Carlson              Jon Daniels             Jay Feldman
Cappy Gagnon              Mark Gallagher          Bob Hoie
Lloyd Johnson             Tom Jozwik              Jack Kavanagh
Phil Lowry                Vern Luse               John Pardon
Frank Phelps              Larry Ritter            Louis Rubin
Leverett T. Smith         Adie Suchsdorf          Jules Tygiel
David Voigt

They requested 50 books. More than 200 books were mentioned, yet the amount of agreement was remarkable. The "library" created has 57 entries. To be listed, a work had to be recommended by more than 3 participants. The two works mentioned most often were The MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia and Lawrence Ritter's The Glory of Their Times. The categories were decided upon afterward just as a way to group the books.


The Sports Encyclopedia - Baseball - Neft, Cohen, Deutsch Buy this book
The Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia Buy this book
The Sporting News Baseball Guides & Registers
The Hidden Game of Baseball - Thorn & Palmer Buy this book


Eight Men Out - Eliot Asinof Buy this book
Daguerreotypes - The Sporting News Buy this book
The Unforgettable Season - Gordon Fleming Buy this book
The American League - Donald Honig Buy this book
The National League - Donald Honig Buy this book
Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract Buy this book
The Boys of Summer - Roger Kahn Buy this book
Baseball As I Have Known It - Fred Lieb Buy this book
The Ultimate Baseball Book - Okrent & Lewine, eds Buy this book
Baseball - The Early Years - Harold Seymour Buy this book
Baseball - The Golden Age - Harold Seymour Buy this book
Judge Landis and the Twenty-Five Years of Baseball - J.G. Taylor Spinks Buy this book
American Baseball (vol 1) - David Voigt Buy this book
American Baseball (vol 2) - David Voigt Buy this book
American Baseball (vol 3) - David Voigt Buy this book


Even the Browns - William B. Mead Buy this book
Putnam team histories


The Old Ball Game - Tristram Coffin
Men in Blue - Gerlach Buy this book
Dollar Sign on the Muscle - Kevin Kerrane Buy this book
The Imperfect Diamond - Lowenfish & Lupien Buy this book
The Glory of Their Times - Lawrence Ritter Buy this book


Shoeless Joe - W.P. Kinsella Buy this book
The Natural - Bernard Malamud Buy this book


Bush League - Robert Obojski Buy this book
Minor League Stars I - SABR Buy this book
Minor League Stars II - SABR Buy this book


Ty Cobb - Charles Alexander Buy this book
Ball Four - Jim Bouton Buy this book
The Long Season - Jim Brosnan Buy this book
Pennant Race - Jim Brosnan Buy this book
Babe - Robert L. Creamer Buy this book
Stengel - His Life and Times - Robert L. Creamer Buy this book
Nice Guys Finish Last - Leo Durocher Buy this book
Baseball Between the Lines - Donald Honig Buy this book
Baseball When the Grass Was Real - Donald Honig Buy this book
A False Spring - Pat Jordan Buy this book
Suitors of Spring - Pat Jordan Buy this book
Ban Johnson, Czar of Baseball - Eugene Murdock Buy this book
The Life that Ruth Built - Marshall Smelser Buy this book
Veeck as in Wreck - Bill Veeck Buy this book


The Hot Stove League - Lee Allen Buy this book
Five Seasons - Roger Angell Buy this book
Late Innings - Roger Angell Buy this book
The Summer Game - Roger Angell Buy this book
How Life Imitates the World Series - Thomas Boswell Buy this book
Why Time Begins on Opening Day - Thomas Boswell Buy this book
Insiders Baseball - L. Robert Davids, ed Buy this book
The Fireside Books of Baseball (3 vols) - Charles Einstein, ed
The Baseball Reader (a 1 vol compilation of the 3) - Einstein, ed Buy this book
The Armchair Book of Baseball - John Thorn Buy this book


Voices from the Great Negro Baseball Leagues - John Holway Buy this book
Only the Ball Was White - Robert Peterson Buy this book


Green Cathedrals - Phil Lowry Buy this book
Take Me Out to the Ball Park - Reidenbaugh & Carter, eds Buy this book
Ballparks - Shannon Buy this book


OK, here's my own attempt to list some more recent works that are more than worthy of being added to these lists. (plus a few that are just personal favorites)
If you have recommendations to add, please email me with them.


Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark - Michael Gershman (1993) Buy this book


Baseball By The Rules: Pine Tar, Spitballs, and Midgets - Glenn Waggoner, et al (1987) Buy this book
1939: Baseball's Pivotal Year - Talmadge Boston (1994) Buy this book


Catcher in the Wry - Bob Uecker (1982) Buy this book
...It's Where You Played The Game - M. Ryan & L. Ryan (1996)
Joy in Mudville: The Big Book of Baseball Humor - Dick Schaap & Mort Gerberg (1992) Buy this book
Low and Inside - H. Allen Smith (1949)
Three Men on Third - H. Allen Smith (1951)


El Beisbol: Travels Through the Pan-American Pastime - John Krich (1989) Buy this book
Sugarball: The American Game, The Dominican Dream - Alan M. Klein (1991) Buy this book


Hardball: A Season in the Projects - Daniel Coyle (1993) Buy this book
Life Lessons From Little League - Vincent M. Fortanasce (1995) Buy this book
Essential reading for Little League parents and coaches
From the Publisher :
Officially endorsed by the Little League Association, with a foreword from Orel Hershiser, Life Lessons From Little League --is an all-star guidefor Little Leqque parents and coaches who want to teach their children to become not only good players, but also good sports. The new cleats are purchased, the glove is perfectly broken in--you and your kid are all set for Little League, right? Well, maybe. What happens when he strikes out eight times in a row? What if the coach never plays her? Dr. Vince Fortanasce, a neurologist and psychiatrist, as well as a veteran Little League Coach, has lived through all of these experiences and more, and here provides good-natured, sound advice for parents, coaches, and Little Leaguers so that they can all enjoy the season. Life Lessons From Little League is for the 2.5 million children and their parents who flock to the fields as soon as winter's thaw is over. For the coaches, Fortanasce draws on his twelve years of coaching experience and offers constructive tips on building a team's strengths and potential. For the parents, Fortanasce draws on his background as a family doctor and psychiatrist and provides useful information on what they can physically expect from their six- or eight-year-old, and how to keep his spirits up when he lets (another!) grounder slide right through his legs. For all, Fortanasce's seasoned wisdom and wonderful vignettes make us realize that Little League is, in a sense, another classroom where children learn the valuable lessons of right and wrong, perseverance and the honored tradition of sportsmanship. Life Lessons From Little League is destined for the hall of fame.

Little League Confidential - Bill Geist (1992) Buy this book
Journalist Bill Geist, who is familiar to viewers of the CBS Evening News, used to be a Little League coach in New Jersey. And he somehow lived to tell about it. When first published in 1992, Little League Confidential assumed cult status as a baseball classic, though some just considered it one very funny book. Geist reveals the ups and downs (well, mostly downs) of coaching a team sponsored by a local beauty salon. His portraits of players and parents and his thoughts on competition in small town New Jersey are heartfelt and hilarious.

Rules of the Game: Simple Truths Learned from Little League - Kurt Hohenstein (1996) Buy this book
Essential reading for Little League parents and coaches


Good Enough to Dream - Roger Kahn (1985) Buy this book
Minor League Stars III - SABR (1992) Buy this book
Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball's Minor Leagues - David Lamb (1991) Buy this book
Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America's Heartland - Stefan Fatsis (1995) Buy this book


Armchair Book of Baseball II - John Thorn (1987) Buy this book
Banana Bats and Ding-Dong Balls: A Century of Unique Baseball Inventions - Dan Gutman (1995) Buy this book
Baseball By The Books: A History and Complete Bibliography of Baseball Fiction - Andy McCue (1991) Buy this book
Baseball Diamonds: Tales, Traces, Visions & Voodoo from a National American Rite - Richard Grossinger & Kevin Kerrane (1980)
Baseball Games: Home Versions of the National Pastime - Mark Cooper & Douglas Congdon-Martin (1995) Buy this book
Baseball's Greatest Quotations - Paul Dickson, ed. (1991) Buy this book
Baseball I Gave You All The Best Years of My Life - Richard Grossinger & Lisa Conrad (1992) Buy this book
The Dickson Baseball Dictionary - Paul Dickson, ed. (1989) Buy this book
Fodor's Ballpark Vacations - Bruce Adams & Margaret Engel (1997) Buy this book
The Fourth Fireside Book of Baseball - Charles Einstein, ed. (1987)
A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti - A. Bartlett Giamatti & Kenneth Robson (1998) Buy this book
Inside Baseball - Dell Bethel (1980) Buy this book
Into the Temple of Baseball - Richard Grossinger & Kevin Kerrane (1990) Buy this book
The Joy of Keeping Score - Paul Dickson, ed. (1996) Buy this book
The Last Magic Summer - Peter Gent (1996) Buy this book
An account of the author's involvement with his son, Carter, in the amateur ""Connie Mack"" league baseball of Bangor, Michigan, celebrates the redemptive power of sports and chronicles the turning point in a father-son relationship. By the author of North Dallas Forty.
From Booklist , 06/01/96:
Gent, a former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver and author of North Dallas Forty (1984), saw his professional and personal lives run aground after that fast start: there were subsequent books, though none as successful as the first, and his marriage ended in divorce and a bitter custody battle. By the early 1990s, in financial and physical tatters (his ex-NFL body aged before its time), Gent took solace in coaching his son Carter's summer-league baseball team. This account of that experience is more than another father-and-son-bond-with-baseball story. Painfully aware that his future is a smaller measure of time than his past, Gent places his life in a parental rather than vocational context, reflecting sensitively on the divorce and the fact that Carter was the innocent victim. This book will reach far beyond sports fans: anyone who has ever suffered the pain of divorce--as a parent or a child--will identify with the Gents and wish them a satisfying future. Copyright© 1996, American Library Association. All rights reserved
From Kirkus Reviews , 04/01/96:
This poignant if occasionally rambling memoir is a curious departure for Gent, who is known primarily for his rowdy novels of sporting world disclosure (North Dallas Forty, 1973; North Dallas After Forty, 1989; etc.). Until the early '80s, former pro footballer Gent admittedly had it all: a successful writing career, a stately Texas ranch, a lovely wife and adorable, perceptive six-year-old son named Carter. One day in 1983, however, that all changed when Gent's wife (whom the author refers to only as ``she'' or ``Carter's mother'') announced she was leaving and taking everything--joint accounts, cars, house, and property. The separation, divorce, and ensuing custody battle (which Gent won) are recounted in excruciating detail. Now destitute, Gent moved back home to the rust belt agrarian hamlet of Bangor, Mich., a town where ``the Fonz woulda got his ass stomped by every farm kid.'' Carter grew into an accomplished athlete. And Gent reached for ``the only analgesia . . . to mitigate the damage'' caused by his troubles: supporting and sharing his son's love for baseball. Coaching Carter's AABC Connie Mack league team (age group 1618), Gent became both reacquainted with his sporting career--a bittersweet reconciliation, given that his body, battered by football, was constantly racked with pain-- and better acquainted with his son. But despite the frequent depictions of both Carter's childhood antics and his ball club's valiant struggles against better-funded, more talented opposition, this folksy and dour book is essentially Gent's mid-life memoir. Frequently touching, this is too often hamstrung by sentimental and self-conscious commentary, a curious and somewhat hollow story coming from a middle-age man best known for his ``take-no-prisoners'' approach to sports writing, who, like many before him, is forced at once to take stock of his life and confront mortality. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

The Louisville Slugger Ultimate Book of Hitting - John Monteleone & Mark Gola (1997) Buy this book
The New Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball - Leonard Koppett (1991) Buy this book
Out of My League - George Plimpton (1961) Buy this book
The Physics of Baseball - Robert K. Adair (1990) Buy this book
Pure Baseball - Keith Hernandez & Mike Bryan (1994) Buy this book
The Tao of Baseball - Go (1991) Buy this book
The Temple of Baseball - Richard Grossinger (1985) Buy this book
The Way Baseball Works - Dan Gutman & Tim McCarver (1996) Buy this book


Josh Gibson: A Life in the Negro Leagues - William Brashler (1978) Buy this book
The Kansas City Monarchs: Champions of Black Baseball - Janet Bruce (1985) Buy this book


Dynasty: The New York Yankees 1949-1964 - Peter Golenbock (1975) Buy this book
The Greatest of All: The 1927 New York Yankees - John Mosedak (1974) Buy this book
Murderer's Row: The 1927 New York Yankees - T. Fleming (1985)
Sports Illustrated Presents Mantle Remembered - Robert W. Creamer (1995) Buy this book
Sweet Seasons: Recollections of the 1955-1964 N.Y. Yankees - Dom Forker (1990) Buy this book
Whitey and Mickey: An Autobiography of the Yankee Years - Whitey Ford & Mickey Mantle (1977) Buy this book
The Yankee Encyclopedia - Mark Gallagher (1982) Buy this book


Essential Baseball - Norm Hitzges & Dave Lawson (1994) Buy this book
Percentage Baseball - E. Cook (1966)
Total Baseball - John Thorn, et al (1997) Buy this book


Me and DiMaggio: A Baseball Fan Goes in Search of His Gods - Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (1986) Buy this book
The Pittsburgh Crawfords: The Lives & Times of Black Baseball's Most Exciting Team! - James Bankes (1991) Buy this book
Professional Baseball Franchises: From the Abbeville Athletics to the Zanesville Indians - Peter Filichia (1993) Buy this book
Slide, Kelly, Slide - Marty Appel (1996) Buy this book


Girls of Summer: In Their Own league - Lois Browne (1992) Buy this book

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Last modified: Mon Mar 23, 1998 - dan

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