What Baseball Media Should I Consume This Offseason?

I played baseball for one season in 4th grade, maybe 3rd, and I had no idea how the game of baseball worked. My three primary memories from that season were: 1) Nearly crying after I struck out, 2)  being genuinely surprised when I caught a fly ball in center field, and 3) hating baseball. My first experience was deeply off-putting, and so I “chose” football in the way children take sides because they think side-taking is important. The result of this being that I didn’t come around to baseball for a long time. Of course, I did come around eventually, otherwise why else would I waste 2-6 minutes of your life twice a week writing for NotGraphs.

I was visiting colleges in Boston during the 2004 ALCS/World Series and fell in love (juicily, tenderly, eternally) with that postseason. Shortly thereafter my friend David introduced me to Fire Joe Morgan, and my parents bought me Moneyball for Christmas. In maybe 4 months my opinion on baseball changed from “meh, I’d rather not” to “YES YES PLEASE MORE WHAT IS THIS GLORIOUS MYSTERY.”

The point of all this personal back-story bullshit, besides being my personal outlet for missing baseball and feeling nostalgic about the season and all that bullshit, is to explain to you that for most of my life I missed out on baseball as an American cultural experience. I’ve never seen Bull Durham or Bad News Bears. I’ve never read any baseball books besides Moneyball and some passages from The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Even though I’ve obviously had time to catch up since 2004, there’s always been a steady rush of other media to waste my life on, and I remain a woefully undereducated baseball lover.

This offseason it’s my goal to catch up. Below I’ve made a list of books, films, and other media that I haven’t seen/read/consumed, or that I have consumed but want to re-consume because it’s been too long. What this can be for you, hopefully, is a reminder of some baseball staples that you maybe haven’t munched on yourself. Selfishly, I hope to hear the books, movies, shows, documentaries, etc. that you recommend in the comments.

Ten Baseball Movies/Shows/Documentaries I Want to Watch this Offseason
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns (I’ve only watched Part 1)
Bull Durham
The Natural (I’ve seen it, but I don’t remember much)
Major League I & II (must rewatch)
Eight Men Out
Bad News Bears (1976)
Bang the Drum Slowly
42
The Pride of the Yankees
A League of Their Own

Ten Baseball Books I Want to Read and/or Attempt
Ball Four by Jim Bouton
Game of Shadows by Mark Fainranu-Wada and Lance Williams
The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri
The Book by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, Andrew Dolphin, and Pete Palmer
The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It
Juiced by Jose Canseco
Watching Baseball Smarter by Zack Hample
Drinking with Boileryard Clarke by Dayn Perry (duh)
The Art of Pitching by Tom Seaver
Any other compelling baseball biographies or autobiographies

Yes, I am horribly behind. And there are billions more! Of course there are. It is now your job to tell me what they are in the comments.




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Zach is an egregious malcontent whose life goal is to literally become the London Tube. @itszachreynolds.


42 Responses to “What Baseball Media Should I Consume This Offseason?”

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  1. Roy-Z says:

    Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst. Mostly storytelling, often incredibly sad, very good read.

    Bull Durham is by far the most accurate representation of professional baseball on film. But in a drunken stupor, Summer Catch has plenty of Jessica Biel in clotching that….um, doesn’t fit her properly. If you’re in to that.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      This winter I plan on reading Dirk Hayhurst’s sequel, Out of My League, along with The Summer of ’49 and of course the FanGraphs/Hardball Times Baseball Annual.

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      • Detroit Michael says:

        Out of My League was a good book, but not the same as the Bullpen Gospels. It focuses more on Hayhurst’s relationship with his girlfriend who became his wife and less about his goofy relations with his teammates. Still a good book but the same as Bullpen Gospels.

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  2. dw8 says:

    Two books.

    The Last Best League by Jim Collins

    Lords of the Realm by John Helyar

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  3. Mark Geoffriau says:

    Have you watched “Sugar”? Great baseball movie.

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  4. War2d2 says:

    “Boys of Summer” by Roger Kahn is, for the first half, the greatest baseball book ever written.

    “Field of Dreams” is only nominally a baseball movie, but I cry like a baby every time I see the last scene.

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  5. The Universal Baseball Association, J. Henry Waugh, Prop. is the greatest baseball book I’ve read in years. It’s criminally underrated. Also, to save Temple some time, I’ll make his suggestion for him: The Kid Who Only Hit Homers.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      An interesting book indeed, particularly for those nerdy types (like me) that invented there own game of dice based fantasy baseball prior to computers. I used to compile leagues using baseball cards as placeholders and tons of fictional record keeping akin to the UBA. I did find the second half of the book difficult to stick with.

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  6. Grace says:

    “Shoeless Joe”?! Come on, it’s a classic. “Juiced” is fascinating but it will piss you off. Shoeless Joe will help you balance that. And please tell me you’ve seen “The Sandlot”! “Baseball in Blue and Gray” is excellent if you want more nonfiction history.

    And thanks for your recommendations.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      Was also going to pimp anything by Kinsella. Shoeless Joe for its classic status. “Thrill of the Grass” for the fun of great short stories.

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    • eckmuhl says:

      “Shoeless Joe” seconded.

      Also enjoyed, “Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers” by Peter Golenbock & “The Pitch That Killed” by Mike Sowell.

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  7. Yeager says:

    Sugar for a good drama based on truth. Pelotero for a documentary style film about a lot of the same subject matter (it will also make you kind of hate the Pirates).

    The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America for books.

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  8. Jake says:

    Check out The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and The Brothers K by David James Duncan, two fantastic (though different) novels with baseball backdrops. The type of books that are stand-alone great, but which baseball aficionados can have a special appreciation for.

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  9. Drew Marshall says:

    Read “Cobb” by Al Stump and thank me later. Enthralling biography about the biggest son of a bitch to ever play the game.

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  10. Ted Rosenholm says:

    October 1964 by David Halberstam is a fabulous book. I highly recommend it in addition to his other baseball book, The Summer of ’49.

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  11. Mark Geoffriau says:

    Has anyone else read Joseph Schuster’s “The Might Have Been”?

    I found it to be a vastly superior baseball novel to the over-hyped “The Art of Fielding”.

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    • Chauncey Gardner says:

      Think “AoF” was mostly a breezy nostalgia trip. Light with little consequence, but I didn’t feel cheated by the end. If you want a page-turner that happens to feature the mental anguish and angst of a potential star short stop, go for it.
      If I had to guess, the ham-fisted Melville stoking might be why it gets a bit more love from the literati than you think it deserves.

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  12. Alexander Nevermind says:

    It Happens Every Spring
    Rhubarb

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  13. Rich Mahogany says:

    The Great American Novel by Philip Roth.

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  14. no1ever says:

    You can skip the Hemple book. Especially if reading Tom Tango. Hemple won’t shed any new light on anything you don’t already know.

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  15. Mark Geoffriau says:

    Also worth reading: Posnanski’s “The Machine”.

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  16. tz says:

    Ted Williams’ “The Science of Hitting”.

    If nothing else, marvel at the strikezone/batting average chart on the cover. The very first Fangraph, long before the PC/internet age.

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  17. Michael Rhyner says:

    ‘Lords of the Realm’ is great for helping you understand how things got to be this way….wander through a spring training minor league clubhouse and you’ll appreciate ‘Sugar’…but the best baseball book i’ve ever read is ‘A False Spring’ by Pat Jordan

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  18. Jamie says:

    I’m not sure how much it taught me about baseball, but reading “Bang The Drum Slowly” made me a better person. I’m still not a good person, but, you know… not quite as bad.

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  19. Detroit Michael says:

    Strike Game of Shadows and Juiced from your list. Why bring yourself down with books that aren’t timeless? Move The Extra 2% to the top of your list. Read The Soul of Baseball for something short and inspirational (and it makes a great gift book for someone else).

    While I recommend The Book to some people, it’s not introductory baseball reading at all. The prose is very dry: move it to your second year of baseball reading if you are still itching for more. If you want something analytical, then Extra Innings is a better place to start, probably followed by the new Hardball Times Annual that is being published this month.

    Ball Four is a bit overrated to me. Going back further in baseball history, I’d recommend The Pitch that Killed or the fairly recent Tris Speaker biography by Timothy Gay instead.

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  20. Seth says:

    2 recommendations, both by Mike Sowell: One Pitch Away-about the 1986 playoffs. He interviews several people that played a huge part in that postseason, also a very detailed story about Donnie Moore, as told by his widow.
    The other is The Pitch That Killed, which is the story about Ray Chapman and the 1920 Indians. It’s currently being made into a movie called Deadball. Supposedly it should be out sometime next year.

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  21. DevilsAdvocate says:

    The Long Season, and/or Pennant Race, by former pitcher Jim Brosnan.

    Progenitors to Ball Four – they were diaries of a baseball season as experienced firsthand by a quirky bullpen pitcher. The Long Season is less directional and more the story of the trials and tribulations of a pre-free-agency baseball career, while Pennant Race is comprised of anecdotes surrounding one of the most out-of-nowhere pennant winning teams in baseball history.

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  22. Sean says:

    Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy. Very well done biography. The chapters alternate between a chapter about his life and a chapter describing an inning of his perfect game in great detail.

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  23. Joseph says:

    Please note that Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural” predates the movie by a number of years, and is probably worth reading in addition to watching the movie (not that I’ve seen the movie).

    Throw in another vote for Shoeless Joe.

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  24. Razor says:

    “Back in the Game.”

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  25. Nevin says:

    Watching:

    Must watch the Ken Burns Baseball series. Awesome. Especially the 7th inning.
    And Bull Durham is just the best.
    “Christ, you don’t need a ‘quadraphonic blaupaunkt’, you need a curveball!”
    “He fucks like he pitches… kinda all over the place”
    “‘Limpid jets of love’… Hey Crash, does that mean what I think it means? ‘Limpid jets of love’?”
    and my favorite, when she’s listening to Edith Piaf: “Hey Annie! Annie, open up, I know you’re in there, I can hear that crazy Mexican singer.”

    Read:

    Veeck As In Wreck, the autobiography of Bill Veeck, owner of the St Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians and Chi Sox.

    Nine Innings, by TIME magazine writer and editor and co-creator of fantasy baseball, Daniel Okrent. Its the story of 1 game in 1982 between the Orioles and the Brewers, but dissects everything about it, from the groundskeepers to the owners to the managers and coaches, the construction of the rosters and relationships and lives of the players, as well as at bat per at bat action on the field. Really enganging.

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  26. Will says:

    The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood by Jane Leavy is an incredibly good, different and (just so you’re ready for it) sad read. He’s been written about a ton, but not like this.

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  27. Illinois glass M. Michael Sheets says:

    Veeck as in Wreck is as entertaining as any (auto)biography out there, baseball or otherwise.

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  28. Dogfish Pride, Bro says:

    Six Good Innings by Mark Kreidler. High stakes Little League baseball.

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  29. J.Henry Waugh says:

    Impressed by suggestions …… Kahn, Veeck, Kinsella, Al Stump, Pat Jordan, Halberstam, Okrent, all super fine authors/books but guess that’s what you’d expect at Fangraphs. Surprised no mention of any of the works of Roger Angell, or Thomas Boswell.. both Boswell’s “Why Time Begins on Opening Day,” or Angell’s “The Summer Game” are superb. Another off beat book ala the Chapman story is Nicolas Dawidoff’s “The Catcher Was a Spy” about Moe Berg’s secret life.
    Possibly the best place to buy old baseball books, many 1st editions at decent prices, is from R.Plapinger Baseball Books. Buying from him for years, first class. Ask for his digital catalog #56 at baseballbooks@opendoor.com Most everything mentioned here I’ve seen at some time over the years in his catalogs.

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