11 Sports Books Better Than Ken Burns’s Baseball

Baseball fans rejoice: The new season is here!

While the scoreboard has been wiped clean for 2015, you should still take a look back — not at last season, but at the rich history of our nation’s official pastime.

Don’t know where to start? We rounded up a list of the most compelling sports books — told by legendary journalists and players — about the game that has defined a nation.

Celebrated New Yorker writer and editor Roger Angell’s first book, The Summer Game, is a collection of compelling baseball essays, written not just by a seasoned sportswriter, but a true baseball fan. In Five Seasons and Season Ticket, Angell walks readers through baseball in the 70s and 80s, “the most important half-decade in the history of the game.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49 captures baseball’s fiercest rivalry — between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox — at a time when post-war America lived and breathed baseball. Halberstam’s follow-up October 1964 details the 15-year reign of the New York Yankees and the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The book blends sports writing and cultural history for a captivating account of 1960s America.

In his revealing narrative Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, Robert Creamer, a prolific Sports Illustrated writer, sheds light on Babe Ruth, the legend and the man. Creamer interviews the baseball hero’s friends, family, and teammates to produce an honest portrait and the definitive biography of a baseball giant.

Lou Gehrig is New York Daily News sportswriter Paul Gallico’s heartfelt tribute to an American hero. New York Yankees’ first baseman Gehrig played for 2,130 consecutive games, earning him the nickname “The Iron Horse” and a record that wouldn’t be beat for decades. In addition to this accolade, he was also a World Series champion, All-Star, American League Most Valuable Player, and Triple Crown winner. But what he is best remembered for is his strength and bravery in the face of a debilitating disease that ultimately ended his career.

Mets fans, take heart: It’s unlikely this season will be as bad as the team’s first, when they lost 120 out of 160 games, making them statistically the worst team ever. In Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jimmy Breslin chronicles the spring of 1962, when a new team came to life in a blaze of delightful, awe-inspiring ineptitude.

Join Lee Gutkind, “the godfather behind creative nonfiction,” as he chronicles one season with baseball’s least-recognized members: the umpires in The Best Seat in Baseball, But You Have to Stand! Over the course of the season, Gutkind travels with the a crew of National League umpires, revealing much about the lives of this little known group, including their tireless work ethic, fallibility, and their pride in the face of the “thankless and impossible task of invoking order.”

Jim Piersall signed with The Boston Red Sox in 1948 and quickly rose in prominence. But he soon became notorious for erratic and violent behavior, which the media ate up but infuriated his teammates. Fear Strikes Out is Piersall’s shattering confession of his mental breakdown, battle with biopolar disorder, and his attempt to return to the major leagues.

If you can recall the childhood excitement of opening a fresh pack of baseball cards, then you’ll find a shared experience in Patrick Caraher’s loving tribute to his lifelong passion. Creating moving portraits of some of the sport’s biggest heroes, Caraher breathes life into the statistics behind baseball’s role models and illuminates the national pastime as few other books have in Lessons in Life I Learned From My Baseball Cards.

Originally published at www.feedyourneedtoread.com on March 31, 2015.