Leo Durocher used to devour two books a week. Moe Berg was also a voracious reader. And millions of adult baseball fans collect books the way they collected baseball cards as a kid.
A greater offseason hobby, it’s also a great way to spread holiday cheer — and to cure the baseball blues that all purists suffer between the end of the World Series and the day pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in February.
As an author and fan for more than 50 years, I know the feeling. And I know the feeling of excitement when opening up a new book reminds me of opening a new pack of cards.
There’s plenty to choose from, ranging from Red Barber, Rickey Henderson and Hank Aaron biographies to invaluable research paperbacks from Bill James, Bill Nowlin and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
With a tip of the cap to the jukebox radio Top 40, here’s how the 2022 baseball books stack up for the winter gift-giving season:
1. Unstoppable: the Official Atlanta Braves World Series Championship Commemorative Book (Skybox Press, 128 pp., $40), by Mark Bowman, foreword by Dansby Swanson, introduction by Brian Snitker. An oversized hardcover dominated by handsome color photography, this is the best of a half-dozen volumes that followed Atlanta’s surprise 2021 world championship.
2. The Real Hank Aaron: an Intimate Look at the Life and Legacy of the Home Run King (Triumph, 271 pp., $28), by Terence Moore, foreword by Dusty Baker. The Atlanta-based author not only witnessed Hank Aaron’s successful pursuit of Babe Ruth’s record but knew the slugger well — both on and off the field. It’s a vivid portrait of a true-life rags-to-riches story of a poor Mobile kid who became a hero on the field and humanitarian off it.
3. The Diamondbacks Collection: 50 of the Greatest Cards in Sports Collecting History (Peter E. Randall Publishing, 172 pp., $35), by Tom Zappala & Ellen Zappala with John Molori, foreword by Joe Orlando. A true coffee-table book, this handsome hardcover will please card collectors even more than readers, as it portrays 50 famous cards in full color.
4. Red Barber: the Life and Legacy of a Broadcasting Legend (Nebraska, 496 pp., $36.95), by Judith R. Hiltner and James R. Walker. This hefty, well-crafted biography traces the life of the man who moved from Mississippi to New York, came to accept Jackie Robinson, and served as a broadcast pioneer, as well as a partner to Mel Allen in the Yankees booth.
5. Baseball’s Best Ever: a Half-Century of Covering Hall of Famers (Sports Publishing, 478 pp., $40), by Ira Berkow. The author visited the Hall of Fame so many times, he was practically a commuter. And he spent the better part of 50 years interviewing its occupants. This hardcover has no pictures but prose that paints vivid images of greats from Warren Spahn to Willie Mays, plus nearly a dozen media members. There’s even a section on stars denied entry for gambling, drug abuse or other controversies. The essays are short and the writing is nearly perfect.
6. Whispers of the Gods: Tales from Baseball’s Golden Age, Told By the Men Who Played It (Rowman & Littlefield, 216 pp., $24.95), by Peter Golenbock, foreword by John Thorn. The author of “The Bronx Zoo” reaches back in time again for player anecdotes from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Many are Hall of Famers no longer here, including Ted Williams and Roy Campanella. But there seems to be a dropped word in the title.
7. The Bill James Handbook 2023 (ACTA Sports, $32.95). The most invaluable reference to the season just passed, this information-packed paperback is even more valuable as a guide to the future, with projections, essays and predictions — including hits lost and gained to the shift, home run robberies and fielding awards. Stats, standings, manager tendencies, ballpark advantages and odds against 300 wins are all included — and this book comes out almost as fast as the World Series “quickies.” Don’t miss it!
8. Good as Gold: My Eight Decades in Baseball (Triumph, 273 pp., $28), by Jim Kaat and Doug Lyons, foreword by Bob Costas. Had he written this terrific tome sooner, the pitcher-announcer might have reached Cooperstown more quickly. Underrated as a player, when he won 283 games and 16 Gold Gloves, Kaat also carved a notable career in the booth, extending his baseball career to parts of eight decades. He was even the last original Washington Senator.
9. Lore of the Bambino: 100 Great Babe Ruth Stories (Lyons Press, 206 pp., $21.95), by Jonathan Weeks. Seven decades after he died, Babe Ruth lives as a legend. This illustrated paperback covers his career, his life and especially his adventures – including his piano-playing, carousing and his contentious relationship with Lou Gehrig and Miller Huggins.
10. Charlie Murphy: the Iconoclastic Showman Behind the Chicago Cubs (Nebraska, 376 pp., $36.95), by Jason Cannon. While most fans think the Wrigleys owned the Cubs forever, Murphy was an early though controversial success in the same role. A sportswriter and publicist who bought the team with a loan, he won the 1908 World Series that was the last the Cubs won until 2016, but also was relieved of ownership by National League colleagues because of his unorthodox style. This well-researched hardcover provides an intimate look inside the Dead Ball Era.
11. Farewell to Flatbush: the 1957 Brooklyn Dodgers (McFarland, 228 pp., $35), by Ronnie Joyner. Though best-known as a talented baseball cartoonist, the late author was a Washington resident who also witnessed a team’s sudden relocation, giving him a kinship with the distraught fans of Brooklyn. This paperback features Joyner sketches of the ’57 Dodgers and chronological chapters, including spring training, of the final Brooklyn season.
12. The Voice: Vin Scully is Dodger Baseball (Pediment Publishing, 160 pp., $33.75), by L.A. Times sports staff. A tribute to the late Vin Scully, the poet laureate of the broadcast booth, this oversized, full-color hardcover will grace any coffee table the same way its subject graced the airwaves.
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13. Baseball’s Most Bizarre Plays: a Roster of the Odd, the Improbable and the Downright Confusing in Major League History (McFarland, 193 pp., $29.95), by Alan Hirsch. Twisting the rain rules, base-running blunders, animal interference, and all sorts of other odd things that can happen during the long season. Many are found in this amusing paperback, which details 150 weird plays followed by the author’s comments.
14. Classic Baseball: Timeless Tales, Immortal Moments (Rowman & Littlefield, 176 pp., $32), by John Rosengren. The prize-winning author of Hank Greenberg and Willie Mays biographies, Rosengren offers readers 30 articles that originally appeared elsewhere, from SABR to Sports Illustrated and even his own “The Fight of their Lives” (2014), about the Juan Marichal-John Roseboro brawl. His choices, as well as his own work, are superb and worth re-reading.
15. The Franchise: Boston Red Sox (Triumph, 287 pp., $28), by Sean McAdam, foreword by David Ortiz. This hard-hitting hardcover has separate sections on Red Sox stars, executives, media greats and pennant races — including the four recent championship seasons and three that fell into the category of A.B.N.Q. (almost but not quite). It helps that the author is a Boston-based writer and broadcaster.
16. The Franchise: New York Yankees (Triumph, 388 pp., $28), by Mark Feinsand, foreword by Joe Torre. This hardcover came out a year too soon to include the 62-homer season of Aaron Judge in 2022 but everything else is here, including the Yankees-only careers of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, the machinations of the Reggie Jackson signing, and the home run heroics of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. The rivalry with the Red Sox and the rigors of the races are also included. The only thing missing are photographs; there aren’t any.
17. Loserville: How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta — and How Atlanta Remade Professional Sports (Nebraska, 458 pp., $34.95), by Clayton Trutor. Now that the Braves are thriving, at the turnstiles as well as on the diamond, the timing of this tome is open to question. More pictures would help too. But the author does well dissecting the rise and fall of multiple sports teams, some of whom moved in while others moved out. Hank Aaron’s race for the record and Ted Turner’s ability to save several franchises are highlights of this hefty hardcover, which suggests the Atlanta experience was both a model and a warning for other cities.
18. Baseball Rebels: the Players, People, and Social Movements That Shook Up the Game and Changed America (Nebraska, 370 pp., $36.95), by Peter Dreier and Robert Elias, foreword by Dave Zirin. Finally! A book that details the racism, sexism, homophobia and injustice that teams and leagues have perpetrated since the game began. Everyone is here, from Jackie Robinson to Curt Flood, as well as the flood of females who found their niche as coaches, managers, general managers and umpires. Kudos to the authors, who hit a home run for fairness in a game dominated too long by the Old Boys Club.
19. Dodgers! An Informal History from Flatbush to Chavez Ravine (McFarland, 398 pp., $49.95), by Jim Alexander. The author’s various roles as beat writer and columnist shine in this appropriately-named paperback, which includes even such bad guys as Al Campanis and Frank McCourt. Though concentrated on the California years, the book is not just a recap of columns but fresh interviews with erstwhile Dodger icons Don Drysdale, Duke Snider, Dusty Baker and Vin Scully. It’s a great addition to the written history of the game.
20. Gabe Paul: the Long Road to the Bronx Zoo (Sunbury, 242 pp., $19.95), by William A. Cook. Readers who peruse this detailed paperback will wonder why Paul, a visionary who served several major league teams, is not in the Hall of Fame. A visionary who went from batboy and publicist to part-owner, he was twice named Executive of the Year. Paul even survived Frank (Trader) Lane and the equally mercurial George Steinbrenner during seven decades in the game.
21. Rickey: the Life and Legend of an American Original (Mariner Books, 448 pp., $29.99), by Howard Bryant. Hank Aaron’s biographer is back with a totally different subject: the outspoken, outlandish and outstanding base-stealer who ran his way to Cooperstown. Unconventional on the diamond, where he threw left-handed but batted right-handed, Henderson’s style often rattled his teams enough that they were glad to see him leave through a trade or free agency — even though he was the best lead-off man of all time.
22. Baseball Memories and Dreams: Reflections on the National Pastime from the Baseball Hall of Fame (Mango Publishing, 332 pp., $29.95), multiple authors, foreword by Ozzie Smith. Some 60 essays culled from Memories & Dreams, official magazine of the Hall of Fame, fill this late-summer hardcover. Writers range from Joe Torre, Nolan Ryan and other Hall of Famers to authors, newsmen, broadcasters and Hall of Fame staffers. This book is truly a literary hit.
23. The Grandest Stage: a History of the World Series (Doubleday, 336 pp., $30), by Tyler Kepner. Published too soon to include the 2022 Fall Classic, this topic is told well by a man who covered it many times, New York Times sportswriter Tyler Kepner. He touches on the big moments, the big games and the off-the-field events that coincided with them.
24. True: the Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson (St. Martin’s Press, 288 pp., $29.99), by Kostya Kennedy. The best of nearly a dozen Jackie Robinson books, this hard-hitting hardcover spotlights the four most important years in the subject’s life — as a player, pioneer and crusader for human rights. The author, who previously profiled Pete Rose and Joe DiMaggio, presents a biography that is appreciative, unconventional and almost reverent.
25. “The Kid” Blasts a Winner: Ted Williams’ 110 Game–Deciding Home Runs (Summer Game Books, $17.99), by Bill Nowlin. The author’s seventh book on the Red Sox superstar is one of his best. It includes capsule summaries and game scores, in chronological order, of each Williams homer, plus lists of pitchers who yielded them and Boston’s winning pitchers and more. Also included are essays on the two Triple Crowns, 1941 All-Star Game and 1946 AL pennant — the only one Ted Williams experienced.
26. 100 Years of Baseball on St. Petersburg’s Waterfront: How the Game Helped Shape a City (The History Press, 157 pp., $23.99), by Rick Vaughn, foreword by Tim Kurkjian. Although the Tampa Bay Rays put the town on the major-league map, St. Pete has long been a stronghold of Grapefruit League baseball — in fact, it’s the place where it all started. The author, a former publicist for the Rays and Orioles, captures its nine decades of history through anecdotes, game reports and photographs.
27. Major League Rebels: Baseball Battles Over Workers Rights and American Empire (Rowman & Littlefield, 346 pp., $38), by Robert Elias and Peter Dreier, foreword by Bill Lee. Like their book Baseball Rebels, also published this year, the author-professors pay tribute to players who took a stand, risking careers in search of fair pay and playing conditions. They deal with everything from the reserve clause to war protestors, saluting such achievers as Bill Veeck, Jim Bouton and Marvin Miller.
28. Pinnacle on the Mound: Cy Young Award Winners Talk Baseball (Rowman & Littlefield, 207 pp., $32), by Doug Wedge. Ten men who won the coveted pitching award found their way into this hardcover but none were multi-year winners, leaving the reader yearning to hear from Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux and so many more.
29. The Book of Joe: Trying Not to Suck at Baseball & Life (Twelve Books, 369 pp., $30), by Joe Maddon and Tom Verducci. A no-holds-barred account of Maddon’s innovative but controversial 20-year career as manager, this hardcover reveals dissent in the Tampa Bay organization, explains the resurrection of a Cubs team once regarded as lovable losers, and explains how Maddon, like Yogi Berra, had his own special language.
30. Intentional Balk: Baseball’s Thin Line Between Innovation and Cheating (Clyde Hill Publishing, 242 pp., $24.99), by Daniel R. Levitt & Mark Armour. Sign-stealing, steroids, spitballs, scouting shortcuts, corked bats and other shenanigans take center stage in this clever paperback, partially written tongue-in-cheek by a pair of historians. It’s a fun read, entertaining and educational, about a topic teams practice but don’t want to publicize.
31. The Baseball Talmud (Triumph, 306 pp., $28), by Howard Megdal, foreword by Jayson Stark. With more lantzmen to include 13 years after its original edition, Megdal brought this book back with an updated version — even adding the record four Jews who appeared in the 2021 World Series. The bar mitzvah edition is a hardcover that also salutes the stunning success of Team Israel and ranks the best Jewish players by position — a section certain to cause controversy (Alex Bregman over Al Rosen?).
32. A Brand New Ballgame: Branch Rickey, Bill Veeck, Walter O’Malley, and the Transformation of Baseball, 1945-1962 (McFarland, 326 pp., $39.95), by G. Scott Thomas. Radical changes in the game between the end of the war and start of expansion provide plenty of material for the author, who also covers politics. Integration, expansion and labor issues are covered extensively, along with the game’s mighty movers and shakers, in this hefty and heavily-footnoted paperback.
33. The National Baseball Hall of Fame Almanac 2022 (Mango Publishing, 592 pp., $26.99), edited by Andre Christopher and John Veneziano. Biographies, records and photos of the 340 Hall of Famers comprise the bulk of this informative paperback, which also includes a year-by-year listing of inductees and a one-page piece on newly-contributed artifacts. Very definitely worth the price.
34. So You Think You Know Baseball: the Baseball Hall of Fame Trivia Book (Mango Publishing, 246 pp., $16.95). This well-organized paperback could have been longer, since the number of pertinent stumpers keeps growing. There are special sections on record breakers, rookies, famous and not-so-famous firsts, and even baseball in pop culture (why was Elaine Benes kicked out of Yankee Stadium on Seinfeld?) Big print, easy to read, a fun book.
35. Swing and a Hit: Nine Innings of What Baseball Taught Me (Twelve Books, 257 pp., $29), by Paul O’Neill and Jack Curry. A four-time world champion during nine years with the Yankees, O’Neill was a player known for his intensity as well as his play in the outfield. But hitting was his best skill, suggesting he would have made a great batting coach if he weren’t working for the YES Network as an analyst. This book reveals the hitting tips of a man with a retired number and a plaque in Monument Park.
36. The Saga of Sudden Sam: the Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Sam McDowell (Rowman & Littlefield, 200 pp., $26.95), by Marty Gitlin and Sam McDowell, foreword by Steve Garvey. A pitching talent best known as the man traded for Gaylord Perry, McDowell went from phenom to drunk — ruining his career — before returning to the ranks of the sober and saving many others. A special treat is looking at the old vest-type Cleveland uniforms.
37. Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever (Abrams Press, 384 pp., $27), by Dan Good. The author did hundreds of interviews to paint a fair picture of the slugger’s drug-shortened life. It took nearly 10 years to write.
38. Last Time Out: Big-League Farewells of Baseball’s Greats (Lyons Press, 314 pp., $22.95), by John Nogowski. Updated from the original 2004 edition, this paperback now includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter — most of whom went out with a whimper rather than a wallop. Year-by-year stats of the 44 featured stars are included.
39. The Science of Baseball: the Math, Technology, and Data Behind the Great American Pastime (Skyhorse, 188 pp., $14.99), by Will Carroll, foreword by Peter Gammons. There’s a major mistake in this paperback, which claims Phil Niekro was suspended for throwing a scuff ball. Actually, it was brother Joe. The author is best-known for a blog about injuries, which also makes the best chapter in this paperback.
40. In Scoring Position: 40 Years of a Baseball Love Affair (Triumph, 445 pp., $28), by Bob Ryan and Bill Chuck, foreword by Jayson Stark. Ironies and oddities abound in this clever hardcover, chronologically presenting a selection of the 1,400 scorecards Ryan kept during four decades in the press box. Each is printed, followed by the individual, often tongue-in-cheek comments of the two author-historians.
Remarkable Ballparks (Pavilion Books, 224 pp., $40), by Dan Mansfield
America’s Classic Ballparks: Celebrating Parks Past and Present (becker + mayer, 208 pp., $17.49), by James Buckley
Ballparks: Baseball’s Stadiums: Home to America’s National Pastime (Publications International, 144 pp., $17.98), assorted authors
The Lineup: Ten Books That Changed Baseball (McFarland, 229 pp., $29.95), by Paul Aron
Before Brooklyn: the Unsung Heroes Who Helped Break Baseball’s Color Barrier (Lyons Press, 212 pp., $28.59), by Ted Reinstein
Bases Loaded: Inside Stories About Eli, Cro, Cy, Terminator and the Expos (Scoop Press, 241 pp., $18), by Danny Gallagher
Yadi (Triumph, 144 pp., $18.95), by St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff
Sho-Time: the Inside Story of Shohei Ohtani and the Greatest Baseball Season Ever Played (Diversion, 256 pp., $27.99), by Jeff Fletcher, foreword by Joe Maddon
George Mitrovich’s Baseball Notes: the Informed Opinions of an Elegant Gentleman (Red Hawk Publications, 265 pp., $17.92), edited by Tim Peeler and Timothy Mitrovich
Baseball Generations (Summer Game Books, 386 pp., $27.99), by David J. Gordon
The Ultimate New York Yankees Time Machine Book (Lyons Press, 214 pp., $18.95), by Martin Gitlin
The 50 Greatest Players in Philadelphia Phillies History (Lyons Press, 380 pp., $28.95), by Robert W. Cohen
Comfortably Zoned in a Vat ’o Pine Tar (520 pp., $25), by Ralph Zig Tyko & George Grimm, forewords by Peter Golenbock and Mark Littell
Lasorda University: a Recollection of My Summer of ’68 with Tommy Lasorda and the Ogden Dodgers (222 pp., $21.95), by Zack Minasian
Victory on Two Fronts: the Cleveland Indians and Baseball Through the World War 2 Era (Ohio University Press, 296 pp., $24.95), by Scott H. Longert
Baseball America 2023 Almanac (Baseball America, 578 pp., $25.95), assorted authors
The New Book of Baseball Trivia: More than 500 Questions for Avid Fans (Sports Publishing, 180 pp., $17.99), by Wayne Stewart
Deadball Trailblazers: Single-Season Records of the Modern Era (Sunbury Press, 304 pp., $19.95), by Ronald T. Waldo
Long Schott: Building Homes, Dreams, and Baseball Team (Triumph Books, 254 pp., $28), Steve Schott with John Shea, foreword by Paul DePodesta
Stumbling Around the Bases: the American League’s Mismanagement in the Expansion Era (Nebraska, 189 pp., $29.95), by Andy McCue
Covey: a Stone’s Throw from a Coal Mine to the Hall of Fame (Sunbury, 218 pp., $19.95), by Harry J. Deitz, Jr.
Get Up, Baby: My Seven Decades With the St. Louis Cardinals (Triumph, 240 pp., $30), by Mike Shannon with Rick Hummel, foreword by Bob Costas
Lefty & Tim: How Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver Became Baseball’s Best Battery (Nebraska, 337 pp., $34.95), by William C. Kashatus, foreword by Larry Christenson
The Ultimate New York Yankees Time Machine Book (Lyons Press, 214 pp., $18.95), by Martin Gitlin
The 50 Greatest Players in Philadelphia Phillies History (Lyons Press, 380 pp., $28.95), by Robert W. Cohen
The Umpire Is Out: Calling the Game and Living My True Self (Nebraska, 275 pp., $34.95), by Dale Scott With Rob Neyer, foreword by Billy Bean
Intelligent Influence in Baseball: Amazing Stories of Influence, Success, and Failure (Mentor Books, 376 pp., $24.95), by Dr. Dale G. Caldwell and Robert V. Hurte, Jr.
— Long-time SCD columnist Dan Schlossberg, a baseball author himself, covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and Here’s The Pitch. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.