Since April, Major League Baseball (MLB) fans have been eagerly awaiting the 2020 season amid COVID19. They have been wearing their jerseys with pride and religiously checking ESPN for the latest baseball updates, hoping the season will be starting sooner than later. Thankful, just a few weeks ago, despite this dreadful pandemic, the MLB season finally commenced, and this year’s Opening Day was surely one to remember.
Of course, with the pandemic still sweeping the nation, baseball season is quite different this year. The stands are empty – with a couple of stadiums hosting cardboard cutouts of ticket holders behind home plate – and the cheers of the crowd are being automated by noise machines every time a player hits a home run. Many fans, including myself, miss the way baseball used to be, regardless of Major League Baseball’s efforts to normalize the season. In an attempt to enjoy the season more (go Cubs!), I’m drowning myself in my favorite books about baseball to remind myself how magical watching baseball can be.
Here are five of my favorite books on baseball that I invite you to read during this – slightly different – 2020 MLB season. I promise they will help lift your spirits and get you ready for playoffs this October.
Teammate by David Ross with Don Yaeger
Image via Hachette Books
David Ross, the catcher that helped lead the Cubs to a World Series victory during game seven in 2016. His book Teammate recounts him playing thirteen out of fifteen season pro seasons as the backup catcher, before taking the championship back home to Chicago and retiring. Of course, the book’s main focal point is breaking the 108-year curse and winning the World Series, but the book also gets up close and personal with David Ross’s life outside of the ballpark.
Teammate is a short but riveting memoir that exemplifies how Ross’s teammates impacted his life throughout the years. The book truly shows what it takes to become a good teammate while “Grandpa Rossy” pours his heart out onto the book’s pages.
I believe Teammate is the perfect book to pick up this 2020 baseball season, because David Ross is making his return to Major League Baseball as the Cubs manager. He is determined to help his former teammates re-clench that World Series title they won four years ago and do it in the city he once called home – Chicago.
The Boys of Summer By Roger Kahn
Image via Amazon
The Boys of Summer is an American classic, written in 1973. It is a tale that encompasses how baseball was played in the 1930s and 40s, back when Jackie Robinson took the field and the color barrier in baseball was shattered before the world’s very eyes. Even though Jackie Robinson holds the main spotlight in this nostalgic story, his teammates and other Dodgers players are talked about, like Carl Erskin and Pee Wee Reese. Their stories are told in hindsight and what happened to them once their baseball careers ended and they retired.
Overall, The Boys of Summer is a lighthearted story that will warp you back in time to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. It is a book every baseball fan should read, because it will make you fall in love with the game all over again. If you have not read The Boys of Summer, I urge you to pick it up. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Penna
Image via Amazon
Danny doesn’t look athletic at first sight. He is gangly and skinny, but oh man, can this boy throw a fastball! Danny is a diamond in the rough, a gem any team would be lucky to have, and the only problem is, he’s not on any baseball team. He is a practice player; when he gets on the mound, he chokes and that ninety-five mile an hour fastball does not see the light of day. Sadly, nobody expects anything more from Danny on the field because of his half-Mexican heritage, and it messes with Danny’s self-worth as he wonders if he is a good baseball player.
Mexican Whiteboy is a story about baseball. A tale about a boy who is just trying to figure out his place in the world, on and off the pitcher’s mound. If you are a young adult baseball fan, this book is for you, and it is a must-read! De la Penna’s writing style is straightforward, easy to follow, and you will have no trouble getting through this meaningful story about figuring out your identity.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Micheal Lewis
Image via Amazon
With the summer of 2002 fast approaching, Billy Beane encountered an issue. How was he, as the general manager of the Oakland A’s, going to win a World Series with the smallest budget in the entire Major Leagues. He couldn’t afford big-name players with a .300 batting average and an arm that could blow hitters away in the batters’ box. Beane knew that if he had any chance of being a team worthy of watching, he needed to find a crafty way to obtain players, and he did – through sabermetrics. With his team’s help, Billy Beane went on a hunt with his scouting department that summer and gathered a group of unlikely young players to help the Oakland A’s to a successful season.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a true story beloved by fans anywhere. Billy Beane is one of the first people ever to use sabermetrics, and his innovative way of building a baseball team is what urged organizations to start looking beyond RBIs and home runs. Since its debut, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game has been turned into a film and has captured the attention of fans who are not generally interested in baseball. If you are interested in learning more about the behind the scenes of baseball and how Major League teams recruit their players, I suggest Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. I promise you won’t be able to put this book down!
Whatever Life Throws at You By Julie Cross
Image via Goodreads
When Annie Lucas’ Dad gets recruited as the new pitching coach of the Kansas City Royals, she finds herself moving to freezing Missouri and attending an all-girls school. Talk about a shock to her system! On top of that, she has to learn to navigate the exciting world of professional sports, try to win every one of her school’s track meets, and not fall head over heels for the Royals new pitcher, Jason Brody.
Whatever Life Throws at You is a baseball love story that I had to add to this list, it’s that good! As a female baseball fan, it satisfies the inner fantasy of falling in love with a professional baseball player and helping them win a World Series. If you are a baseball fan looking for a fictional take on Major League Baseball, Whatever Life Throws at You is a match made in heaven for you. I guarantee you’ll love it!
Image via Amazon
Mickey Mantle, the Mike Trout before Mike Trout – the legendary player who, despite his knee injury impacting his career, was still one of the best players of all time. Mickey Mantle led the Yankees to seven world championships, was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player three times, and he won the Triple Crown in 1956.
For a young baseball fan like myself, this book was refreshing. I got to experience an era of baseball that I was not unfortunately around to see, and Jane Leavy elegantly tells Mickey Mantle’s story. The information she weaves into the texts, coming from The Mick’s mouth himself from when Leavy got to interview him in Atlantic City in 1983.
Even if you are not a huge Mickey Mantle fan, like me, I still urge you to read The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood. It will give you a better look and understanding of the game during The Mick’s era. I will also show you that not all baseball players are perfect when Leavy offers readers a snapshot into Mickey Mantle’s world to see the light, the dark, and everything in between.
Featured image via Amazon