Thousands of sports books have been written over the years. Some have been absolute shit and most are mediocre at best, but there are a few that remain deeply ingrained in our memories as classics. Below is my Top 5 of all time. Some popular books are missing, either because I don’t think it’s as good as the others or because I haven’t read it.
5. Foul Ball, by Jim Bouton – Button takes an honest look at a corrupt sports city. All he wants to do is keep a classic stadium alive, but local businesses and politicians oppose him for selfish reasons. They will do what is right for their business regardless of the effects on the community. Beyond sports, their actions are also detrimental to the health and well-being of those who live there. It’s amazing how greedy and selfish some people can be … and Bouton exposes them ALL.
4. Eight Men Out, by Eliot Asinof – This was a very, very interesting read and that’s why I rate it so well. I am absolutely obsessed with the unnerving depth of this scandal. However, Asinof presents a TON of evidence about the scandal, so much so that it can be a bit overwhelming. You will probably have to go back and read it again to understand the whole story. Sounds a lot like a good Black Sox history book.
3. Friday Night Lights, by HG Bissinger – One of the things that drives me crazy about Odessa is that HG Bissinger wrote a very fair observation of the current state of their city and they treat it like the devil to this day. Rather than acknowledge that perhaps they shouldn’t put so much pressure on their young athletes and that perhaps they needed to re-evaluate what is really important to them, they chose to shoot the messenger. Maybe people shouldn’t be taught that the most important thing in the world is a high school football game. I applaud Bissinger for his efforts.
2. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis – This is an absolutely amazing success story. The book is much more than baseball: it shows the value of statistical analysis on the leveling and uneven playing field. As the cover says, it teaches the ‘Art of Winning an Unfair Game’. I can’t stand narrow-minded baseball purists who don’t see the value in what Billy Beane does. The man succeeds despite the almost insurmountable odds. Who couldn’t learn something from him?
1. Four Ball, by Jim Bouton – This is one of the most entertaining books I have read. Who wouldn’t enjoy reading stories about Mickey Mantle and his crazy adventures? Bouton’s stories were so controversial that he was expelled from the Yankee community for a long time. He’s so honest and down-to-earth that at the end of the book it looks like Bouton is one of your friends. All sports fans MUST read this.