My Favorite Baseball BooksSubmitted by Castlebar Asset Management on April 5th, 2015
In honor of opening day, I thought I would share a few of my favorite baseball books. There are two categories of baseball books in my mind; the stories of baseball and the analysis of the game. The stories behind baseball are what bring out the romance in the game. The bond between fathers and their kids and the joys of spending a summer evening watching adults playing a child’s game. The new generation of baseball fans look at the game far differently than I did growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. Bill James revolutionized the game with Sabermetrics and the analysis of baseball keeps evolving. Here are some of my favorites in each category.
The Stories of Baseball
Buck O’Neil was Negro League baseball star who after his playing career scouted for MLB teams. He was the greatest ambassador for the Negro League Museum in Kansas City. Joe Posnanski’s book about Buck’s life is an absolute gem. I am completely biased about both Joe and Buck. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Buck. Hearing his stories and wisdom firsthand about baseball and life always left you yearning for more. Buck past away in 2006 but this captures his voice and stories in a time capsule for generations to remember this baseball idol.
Mickey Mantle is a legend. He had been retired for 20 years or more by the time I came of age as a baseball fan. The way my dad and granddad spoke of his play you could tell they revered him. Mickey was known as much for his excess off the field as his talents on the field. Jane did a terrific job balancing Mickey the man and the athlete. I first discovered this book from a Bill Simmons podcast which is well worth a listen.
Jim’s book was the first book to tear down the curtain of what goes on behind the scenes in baseball. Jim took the code of baseball and brought it to public. This was a groundbreaking book in the 1970’s when it was released. It chronicles his year as a pitcher with the Seattle Pilots, now the Milwaukee Brewers. This book holds a special place for me because of how I came about finding it. I was living in Zurich in the early 2000's and found it in the clearance section of an English bookstore. I was feeling a little home sick at the time and great baseball book was just the cure. Ball Four was the only baseball book I ever saw in the store!
This is a modern day version of Ball Four. It is a conversational and self-deprecating view of life in the minors. Dirk is a terrific writer and eventually made it to the major leagues. This was Dirk’s first book but all of his books are worth reading.
Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy
This book covers the journey of a Yale graduate playing single A baseball in Provo, Utah. It was a favorite of mine because there were a number of former Royals who did time in the minors at this time. It is another perspective on life in the minor leagues like The Bullpen Gospels. Matt writes candidly about the cultural divisions in the clubhouse between college educated 20 something Americans and teenagers from Latin America. Some of the events in this book have been called into question but nonetheless it is worth picking up.
Analysis of Baseball
This was one of my favorite books I read in 2014. Joe Peta translated his experience as an institutional equity trader to building quantitative models to predict baseball records and game outcomes. This book had me when it talked about the holy grail of investing, “uncorrelated returns.” He started a hedge fund to gamble (or invest) on baseball. Yes, I am a finance geek for loving this book!
Astroball: The New Way to Win It All by Ben Reiter
The Astros went from being one of the worst teams in baseball history to the World Series champs. The evolution of the organization was lead by a collaboration of big data analytics and human inputs. Astroball walked through how the team took the best of both worlds to build a process that lead to a championship.
No modern baseball book list can go without having Money Ball. Michael Lewis’ book reshaped the analysis of baseball and so many other industries.