For me Baseball has always been about two things – Family and Books. I grew up in a baseball-loving family, my parents got married because yes, they loved each other but I will always believe that they knew neither of them would ever find a bigger RED SOX fan to spend the rest of their lives with. It was a match made in Boston.
When we were kids we were lucky enough to go to quite a few RED SOX games with Mom and Dad, we learned to shell peanuts, keep score, what a 6-4-3 double play was and a grand slam home run was a sight to behold, we even learned the true meaning of a “rain check” on more than one occasion. We learned about Pennant Fever in 1967, and that “there’s always next year”. For Red Sox fans there were a lot of “next years” between World Series wins in 1918 and 2004 – but it did happen and the true fans never lost hope.
I once heard that baseball is the second most written about sport (topped only by books about golf). Baseball is analyzed, fictionalized and romanticized year after year as a new crop of books comes around, whether it’s the new edition of the Bill James Baseball Abstract, any number of how to books, biographies of favorite players and of course the much loved Ken Burns BASEBALL (companion to the PBS series)—I live and work in children’s publishing and bookselling and here are a few of my picks for the best of baseball for kids:
You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? By Jonah Winter, illustrated by Andre Carrilho – Sandy Koufax was a major talent, a reluctant hero and a mystery to fans. A perfect book for the young fan, and grownups too.
Ball Park Mysteries by David Kelly – ages 7+ Chapter Books, Mysteries set in baseball parks around the US: The Fenway Foul-up /The Pinstripe Ghost – volumes 1&2, Volume 3 The L.A. Dodger is due in stores 7/26/11
Two Hot Dogs with Everything by Paul Haven – A great baseball story with a superstitious fan and a clever mystery to solve. Age 10+
No Cream Puffs by Karen Day – What do you do when you’re a girl who is dealing with the normal growing up and family stuff but you’re also talented enough to be asked to play on the boys baseball team? Smart , funny and real. Age 10+
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane – A poignant story of a talented pitcher who is also a girl coping with the loss of her Dad who finds out how to be herself, heal from her loss and not leave the important parts and people behind. Age 12+
Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta – What’s Roy to do when he loves baseball and it’s been raining in his town of Moundville for longer than he’s been alive? Yup, it’s been raining for 22 years ever since the last unfinished game between rival towns. Maybe it’s time for a rematch.
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger – The title says it all. An absolutely delightful teen novel, but really it’s for everyone, I’m still smiling thinking about this and I read it 2 years ago. Read it and share it. For readers 12+.
For a historical look at baseball check out author Alan Gratz’s Samurai Shortstop – Tokyo, 1890, family loyalty and baseball. Cultures collide. Gratz is also the author of The Brooklyn Nine in which he skillfully blends history and baseball in a collection of short stories about one family and their love of baseball and each other.
Baseball books can be about real life heroes like Jim Morris’ The Rookie: The Incredible True Story of a Man Who Never Gave Up on His Dream, or fictional stories of mythic proportions like W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, or The Natural by Bernard Malamud (all 3 made into terrific movies).
To make this a true family affair I invited my siblings to contribute their favorite baseball books,
My brother Mike recommends:
Senior year by Dan Shaughnessy – His son’s experience in HS baseball and college recruiting.
The Road to Omaha by Ryan McGee – Story about the 2008 College World Series.
Odd Man Out by Matt McCarty – A minor league pitcher’s year in basball.
And my sister Betsy recommends:
You Know Me Al (a busher’s letters) novel about pre-World War I baseball – a classic.
Late Innings and Season Ticket by Roger Angell
The Heart of the Order by Tom Boswell
Nine Sides of the Diamond by David Falkner (defensive views of each position)
Nine Innings by Daniel Okrent (one game as a lens into everything about every game)
AND, OF COURSE, The Red Sox Reader, edited by Dan Riley (includes “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” by John Updike)
This week brings another Opening Day for baseball fans – it’s time to get out and cheer for your team, catch a mild case of Pennant Fever and hope for the best, whether you’re looking for a win for the pros, your son or daughter’s team or just having a pickup game for fun. And when the lights go out at the park, or maybe during the rain delay don’t forget that you have lots of baseball books to choose from and be inspired by too. Play ball!
Please share your favorites with us in the comments section!