By Dan Schlossberg
Editor’s note: The following is the conclusion of the Best Baseball Books of 2018 two-part series compiled by Dan Schlossberg. Selections 1-25 can be found here.
26. Gehrig & The Babe: The Friendship and the Feud (Triumph, 273 pp., $25.95), by Tony Castro.
Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth no longer hold records for home runs by teammates in a season or in a career but they remain the most legendary 1-2 punch in baseball history. Teammates from 1923-34, they were lefthanded sluggers with nothing in common but the uniforms they wore. Yet they survived Ruth’s carousing, insubordination, and outlandish behavior – including his “called shot” World Series homer of 1932 – plus the death of manager Miller Huggins and a personal feud that offended both stars. Tony Castro does a great job bringing it all to life.
27. Cuba Loves Baseball: A Photographic Journey (Sports Publishing, 144 pp., $27.99), by Ira Block, forewords by Bob Costas and Sigfredo Barros.
Before Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, the Triple-A Havana Sugar Kings played in the aptly-named International League. The baseball-loving island lost the team but not its love for the game, packing the stands for exhibition games by major league players and also supporting its own clubs and leagues. This lavish hardcover looks at Cuba through the lens of baseball.
28. The World Series in the Deadball Era (St. Johann Press, 306 pp., $45), by Steve Steinberg.
Fans of vintage baseball pictures will love this oversized hardcover, produced in conjunction with the Society for American Baseball Research. Written by 21 contributors, including organizing historian Steve Steinberg, it tackles every Fall Classic from the first one, in 1903, to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, and even devotes 10 pages to the 1904 World Series that wasn’t, thanks to a refusal to play by John McGraw’s New York Giants.
29. The Slide: Leyland, Bonds, and the Star-Crossed Pittsburgh Pirates (University of Pittsburgh, 240 pp., $24.95), by Richard Peterson and Stephen Peterson.
A powerful team led by the young Barry Bonds, the Pirates won consecutive NL East titles from 1990-92 but never advanced. In their last game before free agency tore them away, Bonds and Bobby Bonilla watched lumbering ex-Pirate Sid Bream slide home with the pennant-winning run in the NLCS Game 7 ninth inning, capping a three-run Atlanta rally in a game that Pittsburgh had led, 2-0. Twenty losing seasons followed before the Bucs rebounded to reach the playoffs again. This book documents that struggle.
30. Babe Ruth and the Creation of the Celebrity Athlete (McFarland, 286 pp., $35) by Thomas Barthel.
Seventy years after his death, the Babe still seems larger than life. As early as 1915, his name became a cigar brand, leading to other promotions that mushroomed after his transition from Red Sox pitcher to Yankees slugger. Ruth even hired the first sports publicist, Christy Walsh, and crafted a secondary career pushing products from bread to coats. Though paid more than any other Yankee, this book reveals that Ruth was involved in an attempt to form an early Players Association in 1923. Needless to say, it failed.
31.Home of the Braves: The Battle for Baseball in Milwaukee (University of Wisconsin Press, 259 pp., $26.95), by Patrick W. Steele.
Moving from Boston to Milwaukee during 1953 spring training was a master stroke for the Braves, who had been overshadowed by the Red Sox, but the honeymoon proved short-lived. Just 13 years later, the team moved on to Atlanta for a variety of reasons – most of them economic. This well-done hardcover is about a happy baseball marriage that became a bitter divorce when government got in the way.
32. Fenway Park: Images of Modern America (Arcadia, 96 pp., $22.99), by Raymond Sinibaldi.
This paperback picture book presents like The Wizard of Oz: a black-and-white start followed by a discovery of color. Its title is something of a misnomer, since Fenway is more than a century old, but fans of both the Red Sox and baseball history will want to own it as a keepsake. There are photos of fans, fights, and exploits, including “The Impossible Dream” season of 1967, but it’s always a tribute to the venerable Boston ballpark. The included historical shots are terrific.
33. The Four Home Runs Club: Sluggers Who Achieved Baseball’s Rarest Feat (Rowman & Littlefield, 201 pp., $33), by Steven K. Wagner.
Only five of the 18 men who homered four times in a game were good enough to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, most of the four-homer games were a fluke: Mike Cameron collected only four runs batted in, Bob Horner did it in a losing cause, and Joe Adcock (Braves v. Dodgers) returned the favor of Gil Hodges (Dodgers v. Braves). This much-needed book has chapters on each incident, including the latest (J.D. Martinez), plus pictures and life records of the sluggers. Boxscores would have been nicer.
34. September 1918: War, Plague, and the World Series(Regnery History, 287 pp., $29.99), by Skip Desjardin.
A baseball book that’s much more, this well-researched history not only recalls Babe Ruth’s early career as a Red Sox pitcher but also American involvement in the First World War and arrival of a virulent European flu bug that was often fatal. In a baseball season shortened because of the war effort, Bostonians could spend 50 cents to watch service teams clash at Boston Arena while collecting World Series updates on the 1918 match on a specially-rigged telegraph message board. But not enough attention was paid to the pending epidemic by local, federal, or military officials – leading to widespread contagion.
35. Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America (University of Chicago, 325 pp., $27.50), by David Rapp.
One of the reasons the Cubs were such a force during the Deadball Era was their famed double-play combination. The club took four NL flags and two world titles from 1906-10 because this trio, inducted to the Hall of Fame together in 1946, put aside territorial and personality differences to play good baseball together. Evers, called “the Human Crab” because of his ornery disposition, had issues with Tinker, also a hothead, but overlooked them on the diamond. Rapp’s well-researched hardcover is a good read.
36. Hawk: I Did It My Way (Triumph, 378 pp., $27.95), by Ken Harrelson with Jeff Snook.
Before he became a beloved White Sox broadcaster, the author was a talented but outspoken player who clashed with everyone from Gil Hodges to Charlie Finley. An accidental free agent, he was also a key figure for the Impossible Dream Red Sox of 1967, who signed him only after Harrelson reneged on a verbal agreement with the Braves.
37. Yankees 1936-39, Baseball’s Greatest Dynasty (Sports Publishing, 291 pp., $24.99), by Stanley Cohen.
Even without Babe Ruth, the Yankees dominated baseball during the last four years of the ’30s. A juggernaut led by a handful of future Hall of Famers, they won World Series, cheering Depression-era Yankee fans but causing a baseball depression for everyone else. Cohen does a masterful job recreating those years and players, including Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.
38. A Franchise On the Rise: The First Twenty Years of the New York Yankees (Sports Publishing, 308 pp., $27.99), by Dom Amore, foreword by John Sterling.
Variously called the Hilltoppers and Highlanders, the Yankees actually began life as the 1901 Baltimore Orioles. Moved to New York in 1903, they were overshadowed by John McGraw’s New York Giants until they obtained Babe Ruth in 1920. A year later, they took their first flag, followed by the construction of Yankee Stadium in 1923 – nine years after the original concept was conceived.
Dom Amore takes readers through that first generation, introducing readers not only to Ruth and Miller Huggins but also to such characters as future football coach George Halas.
39. Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and Our Magical Run to the 1968 WorldSeries (Triumph, 266 pp., $19.95), by Mickey Lolich with Tom Gage.
The former pitcher remembers his own National Guard service in Detroit race riots, the near-miss pennant race of 1967, the 35-5 start and winning the World Series of 1968, and the years beyond, including his trade to the Mets. This easy-to-read paperback includes many surprises, including his naming Billy Martin his favorite manager.
40. The Age of Ruth and Landis: The Economics of Baseball During the Roaring Twenties (University of Nebraska, 402 pp., $45), by David George Surdham and Michael J. Haupert.
Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, hired to clean up the game after the Black Sox Scandal, presided over such larger-than-life legends as Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Walter Johnson, and Ruth while owners improved parks, rid the game of rowdies, and enjoyed prosperity – while keeping black players out and hesitating to try radio or night games. Except for the brightest stars, though, pay for players wasn’t great and the seeds of the first union were sewn. The authors, both economics professors, explain why.
41. Biz Mackey: A Giant Behind the Plate (Temple University, 208 pp., $27.50), by Rich Westcott, forewords by Monte Irvin and Ray C. Mackey III.
If Josh Gibson wasn’t the greatest catcher in the Negro Leagues, Biz Mackey was. Though he never reached the majors, Mackey did tutor Hall of Famer Roy Campanella, whose timing was more fortunate. One of 17 Negro Leagues greats enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, Mackey is also a member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. This is the 26th book written by historian Rich Westcott.
42. Baseball Italian Style: Great Stories Told by Italian American Major Leaguers from Crosetti to Piazza (Sports Publishing, 275 pp., $24.99), by Lawrence Baldassaro.
In a year that features books about Jewish Major Leaguers and Negro Leagues stars, this creative hardcover fits right in. The author, an Italian professor emeritus in Wisconsin, profiles Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre, and other Hall of Famers and gets them to open up about their family histories. Even Italian athletes from the ’30s are included.
43. Ty Cobb Unleashed: The Definitive Counter-Biography of the Chastened Racist (Tile Books, 544 pp., $32), by Howard W. Rosenberg.
Contradicting several earlier Cobb biographies, the author bases this thick volume on 56 articles, 90 books, and 155 letters, plus various audio and video interviews. He concludes that The Georgia Peach was indeed a racist for much of his life, though he eventually moderated his views. Rosenberg, who previously profiled Cap Anson and King Kelly, makes excellent use of anecdotes, quotes, and notes in this fine self-published book.
44. Warren Spahn: A Biography of the Legendary Lefty (Sports Publishing, 360 pp., $24.99), by Lew Freedman.
More than legendary, Spahn was the premier lefthanded pitcher in baseball history. He won 363 games, more than any other lefty and more than any other pitcher of the post-war era. He also hit 35 home runs, still an NL record for a pitcher; homered for the Braves in 17 consecutive seasons; and had 13 – that’s right, 13 – 20-win seasons. The only man to start an All-Star Game in three different decades, the high-kicking southpaw teamed with Lew Burdette, who also belongs in the Hall of Fame, to form a formidable 1-2 pitching punch. Kudos to Lew Freedman for telling his story.
45. The New York Yankees Home Run Almanac: The Bronx Bombers’ Most Historic, Unusual, and Titanic Dingers (Sports Publishing, 180 pp., $14.99), by Douglas B. Lyons, foreword by Marty Appel.
Home runs for and against the Yankees, organized in a month-by-month format, are featured in this creative little paperback. The author, a historian with an eye for irony, includes the Jeffrey Maier home run, the Pine Tar Game, and an inside-the-park grand slam by pitcher Mel Stottlemyre. Not surprisingly, Babe Ruth gets most of the mentions.
46. Hurricane Season: The Unforgettable Story of the 2017 Houston Astros and the Resilience of a City (Hachette Books, 272 pp., $13.99), by Joe Holley.
Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston but the Astros not only survived in their domed ballpark but gave the sunken city a real indication that a rebirth was possible.
47. Baseball Nicknames: A Dictionary of Origins and Meanings (McFarland, 398 pp., $29.95), by James K. Skipper, Jr.
Great idea but not thoroughly executed: the newest Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones, is missing, even though his name rhymes with the author’s.
48. Winning Ugly: A Visual History of the Most Bizarre Baseball Uniforms Ever Worn (Sports Publishing, 176 pp., $24.99), by Todd Raborn.
Bill Veeck outfitted his White Sox in short pants and shirts with collars. The Houston Astros wore so many colors their outfits looked like sleepwear. And Charlie Finley dressed his A’s in kelly green and Fort Knox gold – or so he said. With the notable exception of the tradition-oriented Yankees, the full color spectrum has replaced the home whites and road grays. I enjoyed this illustrated look at the evolution of the uniform.
49. Being Ted Williams: Growing Up With a Baseball Idol(Sports Publishing, 153 pp., $24.99), by Dick Enberg with Tom Clavin.
As fan, friend, and broadcaster, Dick Enberg enjoyed the performance and company of the long-time Red Sox legend. “I enjoyed every minute I spent with Ted,” wrote Enberg in this very personal and easy-to-read memoir before he passed away last year.
50. The Rest is History: Boston Red Sox, 2018 World Series Champions (Triumph Books, 128 pp., $14.95).
The best of a half-dozen quickie books published immediately after Boston beat the Dodgers in the Fall Classic, this full-color paperback features large, close-up shots of the five-game affair, including the marathon game the lasted well into the wee hours. Readers can decide whether Steve Pearce deserved the World Series MVP award over David Price. Similar titles include Relentless: 119 Wins and Another Red Sox Championship and a Sports Illustrated special issue called Boston’s Best.
An October to Remember 1968: The Tigers-Cardinals World Series as Told by the Men Who Played In It (Sports Publishing, 311 pp., $24.99), by Brendan Donley.
Wee Willie Sherdel: The Cardinals’ Winningest Lefthander (Friesen Press, 188 pp.), by JohnG. Coulson with John T. Sherdel.
Pinstripe Nation: The New York Yankees in American Culture (Rowman & Littlefield, 314 pp.), by Will Bishop.
Baseball and the Bottom Line in World War II (McFarland, 240 pp., $29.95), by Jeff Obermeyer, foreword by Michael S. Neiberg.
The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season(Rowman & Littlefield, 307 pp., $36), by K.P. Wee.
Baseball Rowdies of the 19th Century: Brawlers, Drinkers, Pranksters, and Cheats in the Early Days of the Major Leagues (McFarland, 233 pp., $29.95), by Eddie Mitchell.
Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier (Rowman & Littlefield, 233 pp., $35), by Gaylon H. White.
Baseball Beyond Our Borders (University of Nebraska, 495 pp., $24.95), edited by George Gmelch and Daniel A. Nathan.
Dick Bosman on Pitching: Lessons from the Life of a Major League Ballplayer and Pitching Coach (Rowman & Littlefield, 256 pp.), by Ted Leavengood and Dick Bosman.
The Integration of the Pacific Coast League: Race and Baseball on the West Coast (University of Nebraska, 162 pp., $19.95), by Amy Essington.
Cap in Hand: How Salary Caps are Killing Pro Sports and Why the Free Market Could Save Them (ECW Press, 231 pp, $26.95), by Bruce Dowbiggin with Ryan Gauther.
Insight Pitch: My Life as a Major League Closer (Sports Publishing, 229 pp., $19.99), by Skip Lockwood, foreword by Fergie Jenkins.
Baseball Team Names (McFarland, 416 pp., $55), by Richard Worth.
Aaron Judge: The Incredible Story of the New York Yankees’ Home Run Hitting Phenom (Sports Publishing, 131 pp., $19.99), by David Fischer, foreword by Buster Olney.
Wrigley Field’s Amazing Vendors (Arcadia, 96 pp., $23.99), by Lloyd Rutzky and Joel Levin.
The Call to the Hall: When Baseball’s Highest Honors Came to 31 Legends of the Sport (McFarland, 236 pp., $29.95), by Kevin Warneke and David C. Ogden, foreword by Marty Appel.
Miracle Moments in New York Mets History: The Turning Points, the Memorable Games, the Incredible Records(Sports Publishing, 153 pp., $24.99), by Brett Topel.
Mets in 10s: Best and Worst of an Amazin’ History (History Press, 288 pp., $21.99), by Brian Wright, foreword by Jerry Koosman.
Baseball Greatness: Top Players and Teams According to Wins Above Average, 1901-2017 (McFarland, 250 pp., $35), by David Kaiser.
Ninety Per Cent Mental: An All-Star Player Turned Mental Skills Coach Reveals the Hidden Game of Baseball (DaCapo Press, 256 pp., $27), by Bob Tewskbury and Scott Miller.
Something Magic: The Baltimore Orioles 1979-1983 (McFarland, 212 pp., $35), by Charles Kupfer.
Mexican American Baseball in the San Gabriel Valley (Arcadia, 128 pp., $23.99) and Mexican American Baseball in Kansas City (Arcadia, 128 pp., $21.99), multiple authors.
Baseball in Alabama: Tales of Hardball in the Heart of Dixie(History Press, 224 pp., $22.99), by Doug Wedge, foreword by Hal Baird.
Fidel Castro and Baseball (Rowman & Littlefield, 400 pp., $38), by Peter C. Bjarkman.
The Curt Flood Story: The Man Behind the Myth (University of Missouri, 253 pp., $24.95), by StuartL. Weiss.
A Game of Moments: Baseball Greats Remember Highlights of Their Careers (McFarland, 194 pp., $35), by Ron Gerrard.
Koufax Throws a Curve: The Los Angeles Dodgers at the End of an Era 1964-66(McFarland, 215 pp., $35), by Brian M. Endsley.
Motor City Champs: Mickey Cochrane and the 1934-35 Detroit Tigers (McFarland, 264 pp., $29.95), by Scott Ferkovich.
Whitey Herzog Builds a Winner: The St. Louis Cardinals 1979-82 (McFarland, 267 pp., $29.95), by Doug Feldmann, foreword by John Stuper.
Forbes.com national baseball writer Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, New Jersey is a longtime Sports Collectors Digest columnist and is the author of 38 baseball books. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.