Summer ‘24 Baseball Book Club

Every summer, a new slate of baseball tomes are released—fitting for a sport called “the greatest conversation piece ever invented”. These are the ones I’ve read—perhaps good for whiling away the upcoming All-Star Break:

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies

A complicated legacy, to say the least
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

After the gambling/embezzlement story surrounding Shohei Ohtani and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, this was a perfect time for a Pete Rose retrospective—which is exactly what Keith O’Brien provides. No new evidence or breaking revelations—rather a comprehensive review of Rose’s career from earliest days to gambling scandals and where it has left him today.

This was all happening when I was a toddler, so I appreciated the re-examination from a modern lens. No, I still do not think Charlie Hustle should be escorted into Cooperstown.

Chicago Cubs v. Cincinnati Reds

Perhaps baseball’s preeminent wordsmith
Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The late Vin Scully deserves every attribute that could possible be given him—which is basically what Tom Hoffath collates in this short-tribute collection. Folks from all walks of life (not just baseball) give their thoughts on The Man With The Golden Voice.

Truth be told, the only reason I can’t give this one the full five stars is because after a point, all the tributes eventually take the same shape: Scully was a tremendous broadcaster—but somehow even a better individual, colleague, or friend. Not necessarily the best for exciting reading—but this book has to exist to even begin to memorialize Vin’s legacy.

Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Dodgers

Currently on the injury comeback trail
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw is part of the last cohort of dominant MLB starting pitchers—along with Max Scherzer & Justin Verlander—who viewed 7+ innings as their goal every five days. Andy McCullough chronicles how the Los Angeles ace cultivated such a mindset from his earliest days on the diamond through his extreme, routine-driven MLB regimen. The four days after a start: he’s an affable, well-spoken, prank-loving family man. But that fifth day: the orneriest SOB to ever step between the white lines.

McCullough muses on some extremely interesting ideas regarding how that mindset may have actually hurt Clayton come October, and how the same extreme persistence which drove him to greatness also may have—on numerous occasions—prevented him from adapting to his changing skill-set as quickly as he could or should have.

Gary Cooper and Lou Gehrig

Gary Cooper gets some pointers from the Babe on the Pride of the Yankees set
Photo by: Universal Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Talk about a tome tailor-made for me—the collision of baseball and film! Noah Gittell makes a compelling case that baseball—like boxing—is uniquely well-positioned for the big screen with its batter-vs-pitcher confrontation. Beginning with Pride of the Yankees—the first flick that showed baseball box-office draw—all the way through Moneyball, Gittell examines the different eras of baseball movies and why they evolved as they did. Yes—there is a pretty substantial section devoted to Little Big League!

Does the commentary get a little socio-political for some tastes? At times yes—and Gittell certainly has strong opinions about certain flicks that others may consider all-time classics. But overall it is a fun jaunt through baseball at the cinema!

Waite Hoyt 1921 WS

Someone had to pitch for those dominant 1920s Yankees squads too
Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

You know those stories about a baseball card found in an attic and sold for thousands of dollars? Well, that’s basically what happened to Tim Manners—who stumbled upon Waite Hoyt’s unpublished autobiography manuscript! A star pitcher on the 1920s New York Yankees dynasty, Hoyt overflows with stories about the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Wagner, and other Dead Ball Era compatriots.

The hallmark of this edited manuscript is Hoyt’s forthright, everyman narrative to his life. He is far more eloquent—hence the Schoolboy nickname—than one might expect of baseball’s early crew and speaks extremely candidly about his struggles coping with hazing, the temptations of life on the road, and alcoholism. Though all the pictures of Hoyt are black-and-white, this autobiography is as colorful and relevant as they come.

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