Books: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

The 2018 home opener for the Chicago Cubs didn’t go as expected. Too much snow on the field April 9 caused a one-day game postponement. Just a few miles south, the Chicago White Sox home opener didn’t go as hoped. Having a bit less snow to content with, they went ahead with their game on the very same day, but lost. Inclement weather, scandals, and rivalries may come and go, but America’s national pastime is here to stay.

If you just can’t get enough baseball, there are plenty of books to keep you in a baseball state of mind. Check out this selection of nonfiction and fiction classics.

Sox Fan? Try:
Sox and the City by Richard Roeper

In this account of what it was like to grow up a White Sox fan in a Cubs nation, Roeper covers the recent history of the organization, from the heartbreak of 1967 and the South-Side Hit Men to the disco demolition and the magical 2005 season when they became world champions. Encapsulating what it means to be a baseball fan, root for the same sorry team no matter what, and find vindication, this history of the White Sox is flavored with trivia; anecdotes about players, owners, and broadcasters; plus Roeper’s own humorous and personal reminiscences.

 

 

Cubs Fan? Try:
Try Not to Suck by Bill Chastain

With his irreverent personality, laid-back approach, and penchant for the unexpected, Joe Maddon is a singular presence among Major League Baseball managers. In Try Not to Suck, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and MLB.com’s Bill Chastain fully explore Maddon’s life and career, delving behind the scenes and dissecting that mystique which makes Maddon so popular with players and analysts alike. Packed with insight, anecdotes, and little-known facts, this is the definitive account of the curse-breaker and trailblazer at the helm of the Cubs’ new era.

 

Just love a good baseball book? Then you might like:

The Great American Novel by Philip Roth

Gil Gamesh, the only pitcher who ever literally tried to kill the umpire. The ex-con first baseman, John Baal, “The Babe Ruth of the Big House,” who never hit a home run sober. If you’ve never heard of them—or of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history—it’s because of the Communist plot, and the capitalist scandal, that expunged the entire Patriot League from baseball memory.

 

The Art of Fielding by Chard Harbach

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended. Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future.

 

The Natural by Bernard Malamud

The Natural, Bernard Malamud’s first novel, published in 1952, is also the first—and some would say still the best—novel ever written about baseball. In it Malamud, usually appreciated for his unerring portrayals of postwar Jewish life, took on very different material—the story of a superbly gifted “natural” at play in the fields of the old daylight baseball era—and invested it with the hardscrabble poetry, at once grand and altogether believable, that runs through all his best work. Four decades later, Alfred Kazin’s comment still holds true: “Malamud has done something which—now that he has done it!—looks as if we have been waiting for it all our lives. He has really raised the whole passion and craziness and fanaticism of baseball as a popular spectacle to its ordained place in mythology.”