If you consider grabbing a book (or the device that holds the electronic version) and kicking back in a comfortable spot part of what makes for a great summer, we’ve got a summer reading list for sports fans and collectors. It’s the time of year when some terrific baseball books are usually issued and there are also some new or re-issued editions, too.
Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty: Don’t believe everything you read about Ty Cobb says author Charles Leerhsen. He traveled to Georgia and Detroit, and “re-traced Cobb’s journey, from the shy son of a professor and state senator who was progressive on race for his time, to America’s first true sports celebrity”. This has been one of the most popular and successful sports-related books of the year.
Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius: Never shy about expressing an opinion, Martin was brash but generous. Feisty but gentle. A study in contrasts, he was more than just the guy who got fired and re-hired a bunch of times by George Steinbrenner. Sports was more exciting when Billy was around.
The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes: We’ve written about this one already, a book with remarkable art that appeals to both collectors and fans who love unknown or seldom told stories about players from the distant past. The “baseball card” illustrations of Gary Cieradkowski are terrific. It, too, is getting a lot of positive press.
The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray, and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII. A great read for those who love the Greatest Generation. The story of the sacrifices made by players but also how the game survived during war time.
Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox: This brand new SABR publication promises to shed new light on the 1919 Chicago ‘Black Sox’. Written by baseball fans for baseball fans, you can bet on some interesting information coming out of their meticulous research.
The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball’s Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy: You can pre-order this one. It’s due out next month. Anyone who is of a certain age remembers a crazed George Brett running out of the dugout to confront the umpires who ruled him out for having too much pine tar on his bat. The book delves deep into the story of one of the 1970s’ most famous games and a memorable season.
100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball: A celebratory book that showcases the annual publication’s 100 iconic covers in full color along informative accounts of the baseball history tied to each year’s issue. From baseball’s deadball era to the present, “100 Years” presents a wonderful illustrated history of the game through one of its longest running publications.
Strangers in the Bronx: DiMaggio, Mantle, and the Changing of the Yankee Guard: It’s about time someone wrote a book about the year when Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle played on the same team. Their paths crossed after Mantle was called up to the majors in 1951 and the two couldn’t have been more different. Just released.
On the Clock: The Story of the NFL Draft: We had to sneak at least one book from another sport in this list and the chronicle of how a quiet event became a huge deal promises to be well worth a few hours of your time.
The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading And Bubblegum Book: “The Spinal Tap Of Baseball Books”: A classic written in 1973, this book probably did as much to regenerate interest in cards among adults than anything. It’s now finally available on Kindle. Look for more on the book on our website in the coming days.
The Golden Game: The Story of California Baseball: Kevin Nelson, who wrote Operation Bullpen and has contributed to this website in the past, has written a terrific history of baseball in California and while you may not live there, you will find it fascinating, especially the early days. We loved it. Out of print for a few years, it’s back and that’s great news for anyone who loves baseball history.
Collecting Publications and Lighter Reading
Nickel A Pack: It was issued a few months ago and offers a nice, light summer read, especially if you grew up when cards came with bubble gum.
Author Jim Worsley’s decade was the 1960s and he weaves some fun memories into this 144-page book that’s gotten some nice customer feedback. You’ll enjoy his tales about getting autographs and meeting players in the 60s, when there wasn’t a massive gathering around the team hotel.
Hockey Card Stories: True Tales from Your Favorite Players: Broadcaster Ken Reid picked 59 former players out of his collection and interviewed them about their cards. Everyone from superstars like Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin, and Phil Esposito to the likes of Bill Armstrong who played only one game in the NHL — chime in.
Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards & Collectibles 2015: The newest edition of this reference book for modern and vintage cards arrives soon and you can pre-order now. It puts all kinds of information at your fingertips.
Beckett Graded Card Price Guide: The new edition is due out this week. While eBay and other websites may offer a lot of information, this book puts it in your hands and includes hundreds of sets and a massive price checklist for individual cards. Graded baseball cards can be worth a lot more than non-graded cards and this book will illustrate that difference.
101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out: Planning a baseball-oriented vacation? This book will help you choose where to go…a sort of ‘bucket list’ for baseball fans. We assume Cooperstown is on the list. Produced a few years ago, this is a fresh edition.
There are several books that have been released over the last ten years or so that should be on your collectors’ reading list.
Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession chronicles the history of baseball card collecting. Author Dave Jamieson does a very nice job hitting the highs, the lows and delves into important events that drove the hobby to where it is now.
The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card is what most feel is the definitive history of the T206 Honus Wagner card. New York Daily News reporters Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson spent a lot of time interviewing those who’ve bought and sold Wagner cards including the controversial PSA 8 example.
Operation Bullpen: Nelson’s well-researched rundown of the infamous forgery scheme that generated international headlines in the 1990s and early 2000s. The book is a frightening, but fascinating look at how some skilled forgers created a huge business that thrived until the FBI worked to bring it down. Excerpts and some follow-up stories that include information not in the book can be found here.
The Bubble Gum Card War: The Great Bowman & Topps Sets from 1948 to 1955: This little book won’t take long to read but if you want to know about what happened in the late 1940s and early 50s when Topps and Bowman squared off for sports card supremacy, it’s a good overview with a lot of interesting details about the sets issued from 1948-1955.