Calling All Baseball Fans: Books to Read for Opening Day

Posted on April 1, 2021

by The History Reader

Major League Baseball’s Opening Day has long been a symbol of rebirth for baseball fans, a day where the previous season’s slate is wiped clean as records reset to 0-0. From the first Opening Day on April 22, 1876 to the untraditional July 23 Opening Day experienced during a global pandemic in 2020, there has been plenty of pageantry around the start of the major league season. To celebrate this decades-long tradition, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite baseball histories, biographies, and memoirs. Options to keep you reading through 162 games—perhaps even into October.

Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball

By Luke Epplin

Three months after Jackie Robinson’s 1947 debut into Major League Baseball, Larry Doby joined the Cleveland Indians, becoming the second black player in the majors. After being stuck on the bench for almost a year, he became a superstar on the field and inspired three men to join the organization: Bill Veeck, Bob Feller, and Satchel Paige. The four of them became a close-knit group who shattered stereotypes and stormed the World Series.

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Here’s the Catch: A Memoir of the Miracle Mets and More

By Ron Swoboda

In this funny and insightful memoir, Ron Swoboda recognizes that he was not the best player the Mets ever had. However, he did make the greatest catch in Mets history, which saved the entire game in the 1969 World Series. Swoboda writes about his experience as a “bad” baseball player and a “good” one, discussing his triumphs and failures in a heartwarming but hilarious way. Written 50 years after the World Series, it is clear that Swoboda is just as passionate about baseball as he was when he first started playing.

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24: Life Stories and Lessons from the Say Hey Kid

By Willie Mays and John Shea

Containing 24 chapters as an homage to his iconic uniform number, this inspirational memoir discusses the influences and inspirations that led Willie Mays to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time. 24 gives us a glimpse of Mays’s life outside of baseball, such as his many charitable endeavors aimed to empower children. His success as a baseball legend inspired countless black people around the country, including President Obama, who said: “It’s because of giants like Willie that someone like me could even think about running for President.” 

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108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns, and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game

By Ron Darling

Written by Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and former Mets pitcher Ron Darling, 108 Stitches offers Darling’s anecdotes about almost every player he has reported on. Darling’s experience as both athlete and reporter has tied him to some of the greatest baseball players of all time. Symbolizing the 108 stitches that are on a baseball, Darling shares 108 stories of the likes of Smoky Joe Wood, Willie Mays, Bart Giamatti, Tom Seaver and Mickey Mantle, and even Babe Ruth. 

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Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ‘76

By Dan Epstein

After the two hundredth anniversary of the nation, pop culture experienced a renaissance, and so did baseball. The Summer of 1976 was the most pivotal baseball season of the decade. The Yankees won the World Series for the first time in a dozen years, the Cincinnati Reds cemented a dynasty with their second consecutive World Championship, and people were outraged by team owners such as Bill Veeck, Ted Turner, George Steinbrenner, and Charlie Finley. 1976 brought out both the good and the bad in baseball, and after that, the sport would never be the same.

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The Selling of the Babe: The Deal That Changed Baseball and Created a Legend

By Glenn Stout

In The Selling of the Babe, historian Glenn Stout covers what was singlehandedly the most important player transaction in baseball history: trading Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees in 1919. The trade established the Yankees as a dynasty and made them a household name. Stout also includes brand-new information surrounding Ruth’s trade such as the effects of Prohibition and the lifting of Blue Laws in New York, unexplored documents from Fenway Park, and Ruth’s disruptive influence on the Red Sox. This book shows the evolution of Babe Ruth, from player to legend.

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Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, With Baseball on the Brink

By Kevin Cook

Ten Innings at Wrigley shares Kevin Cook’s vivid account of the dramatic 1979 game between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies. The spectators at Chicago’s Wrigley Field did not expect the game to be anything more than a quick early-season contest, however, that all changed when the Cubs and the Phillies got a combined thirteen runs in the first inning alone. It was the highest-scoring game in a century, and Cook explains how that night made money, muscles, and modern statistics change baseball forever.

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The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team

By Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller offer a mathematical viewpoint of baseball, as they share their story of running the Sonoma Stompers—a minor-league team in California—based solely on the most advanced statistics. The two men built and ran the team through crunching numbers and were about to see if those efforts were enough to make the Stompers champions. Lindbergh and Miller’s story proves that you don’t need a bat or a glove to make a genuine contribution to the game.

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Bonus Reading!

Buddha Takes the Mound: Enlightenment in 9 Innings

By Donald Lopez, Ph.D.

After a Buddhist scroll was discovered in Yankee Stadium in 2010, Dr. Donald Lopez realizes that what he believed was true all along: Buddha created the game of baseball. Dr. Lopez writes this as a love letter to his favorite sport, tying the spirituality of Buddhism to baseball. His belief is that Buddha created baseball to teach us truths about the world, ourselves, and each other. It is a light-hearted story depicting the significance of baseball and includes the profound questions that Buddhism asks.

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