Football is back, political campaigns are turning in to high gear, leaves are beginning to change color, and the 2014 Major League Baseball playoffs are mere days away. This year’s playoffs are shaping up to be very intriguing with several different exciting plot points. Los Angeles Angels Mickey Mantle-replicate/baseball cyborg Mike Trout will be making the first playoff appearance of his career. After missing the playoffs last season, Bryce Harper and the Nationals will be back in the race to the Fall Classic. Clayton Kershaw will bring his Koufax-esque pitching stats along as the big-spending LA Dodgers make another run at October. Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers will try to atone for their streak of disappointing playoff finishes, and the St. Louis Cardinals will be back as the nearly dynastic team that everyone outside of the Midwest loves to hate.
Although there will be several fresh faces in the playoffs this year, baseball is a game steeped in history. Fans often make sense of new players by comparing them to the stars of the past. Baseball is also (arguably) the major sport that best lends itself to literary works. The following list contains some excellent fiction and non-fiction works in the UGL’s collection that you can read while enjoying the playoffs.
October 1964 by David Halberstam
Halberstam was one of our best chroniclers of American political and cultural history. He was also a damn good sportswriter. This 1994 book covers the 1964 World Series between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Halberstam also explores the complex racial issues of America in the mid-60s through the lens of professional baseball.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
One of the finest sports novels to come out in recent years, The Art of Fielding follows golden gloved college shortstop Henry Skrimshander at the fictional Westish College. Henry approaches the record for most consecutive errorless games by a shortstop, but a tragic accident derails his streak. This nuanced character study is especially recommended for fans of Melville’s Moby Dick.
Underworld by Don DeLillo
Although Don DeLillo’s magnum opus is not entirely about baseball, it opens with a fantastic novella-length section set in the Polo Grounds in 1951 on the day that the New York Giants famously captured the National League pennant on Bobby Thompson’s three run homer (aka The Shot Heard Round the World). In DeLillo’s novel we find out what happened to Thompson’s homerun ball (which in real life remains a mystery). Recommended for fans of baseball history, the Cold War, and postmodern literature.
If you’re not old enough to remember the 1991 series, or if you’d like to refresh your memory, Wendel’s 2014 book covers the utterly bonkers series between the Twins and Braves. To get some context on just how crazy the series was, take a look at the following sentences: 4 games were won on walk-offs. 3 games went into extra innings. Recommended if you like thrillers, Kirby Puckett, and/or John Smoltz.
Although Cubs fans have to suffer through another season of not even sniffing the playoff race, they can take solace in this book. An exploration of the storied history of Wrigley Field with accompanying photographs, the book includes interviews of many famous Cubs fans about their Wrigley experiences (including President Obama). Recommended if you like Chicago, architecture, and/or long suffering fanbases.
The UGL has all these baseball books, as well as many others in its collection on the lower level. If you’re looking for non-fiction baseball books check the GV section of our collection.