Zola asked an all-star lineup of sportswriting greats—including Gay Talese, Frank Deford, Jane Leavy, and David Remnick—as well as one reigning Cy Young Award winner for their favorite book about the national pastime. Play ball!
The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron
“Even though everyone in the country knows of Aaron, very few, literally, know him. Bryant’s book offers a fascinating, detailed portrait.” —JEFF PEARLMAN, author of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton
A False Spring
“A heartbreaking, profoundly human story by the most underrated sportswriter of the last 50 years. I actually try to read this every couple of years, just to stay sharp.” —WILL LEITCH, author of Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball
The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early…
Lawrence S. Ritter
“Ritter tracked down ballplayers from the early 1900s, recorded their stories, and transcribed them, straight up. To open this book is to step onto the train with men such as Wahoo Sam Crawford, Hans Lobert, Rube Bressler, Chief Meyers, Davy Jones, Rube Marquard, Joe Wood, Lefty O’Doul, Jimmy Austin, Goose Goslin, and Bill Wambsganss, and to eavesdrop on tales that are alternately hilarious, wistful, and charming. This is not only my favorite baseball book, it is one of my favorite works of nonfiction.” —JONATHAN EIG, author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J….
“Deep. Dark. Cosmic. Waugh is an accountant whose being is entirely devoted to a dice baseball game of his own invention. In the course of exploring themes of obsession, godhood, and the perils of creation, Coover also gave birth to the spiritual father of sabermetrics.” —SCOTT RAAB, author of The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James
“Stripped of sentimentality but rich with heart and reporting, Late Innings is my favorite of Roger Angell’s magnificent books. O.K., on some days my favorite is Five Seasons. On alternate Tuesdays it’s Season Ticket. You get the idea: Roger Angell is to baseball what Liebling was to boxing and Tolstoi was to Borodino. His sentences leap off the bat.” —DAVID REMNICK, author of King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero
“It was supposed to be so shocking, but primarily it was just very, very funny and in perfect pitch.” —FRANK DEFORD, author of Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter
Red Smith on Baseball: The Game’s Greatest…
Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith
“Long before Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and Mark Harris took their first hacks at the national pastime, Red Smith was writing baseball. A boy reporter—as he called himself well into the late innings of his career—he wrote brilliant short stories in column form. His 800-word columns for the New York Herald Tribune and later The New York Times were irreducible gems of deadline copy. He dominated the English language the way the Yankees dominated the 1950s. Here is his take on Bobby Thomson and the ‘Shot Heard Round the World’: ‘Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly implausible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.’ He thought it was overwritten. He was the only one.” —JANE LEAVY, author of The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood
The Boys of Summer
“I’m a Yankee fan, and Roger K.’s book is about the Brooklyn Dodgers. But it is not the Dodgers that makes it a great subject to read about: the book is great because it is a human interest story about aspirations rarely met, sadness in defeat, and yet a spirit of perseverance that dominates all else. As I say: I’m a Yankee fan, but I’ve never read a great book about the Yankees. Maybe they’re too great to be captured in prose, although I doubt it.” —GAY TALESE, author of The Silent Season of a Hero: The Sports Writing of Gay Talese
“A fantastic tale of lost potential and ultimate redemption. The narrative is great and the character development superb.” —R.A. DICKEY, author of Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.