Saturday, October 23, 2010

Baseball Novels

When I was a kid I loved baseball. Loved playing, loved watching it, and loved reading baseball books, mostly novels. In honor of the Texas Rangers winning the American League pennant last night and going to the World Series for the first time in team history, here are some of my favorite baseball books I read as a kid and a young adult.


The Bronc Burnett series by Wilfred McCormick. High school hero Bronc Burnett (who was a modest, decent guy despite his athletic prowess) played all the major sports, but it’s the books about his baseball exploits that I remember the best. In one of the books, I don’t remember which, Bronc’s high school team plays an exhibition game against the Yankees and beats them.


THE KID WHO BATTED 1.000 by Bob Allison and Frank Ernest Hill. This is one of the books where I bought the Scholastic edition at school.


THE KID COMES BACK by John R. Tunis. I don’t recall much about this one except the climactic scene about a great catch in the first game of the World Series. I need to find a copy of this and read it again.


THE YEAR THE YANKEES LOST THE PENNANT by Douglas Wallop. My junior high library had a copy of this book, which was the source novel for the musical DAMN YANKEES. I thought it was pretty funny and risqué then. Don’t know how it would hold up now.


RHUBARB by H. Allen Smith. The classic about the cat who inherits a baseball team. One of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and another one I need to reread. Made into a decent movie.


THE SOUTHPAW, BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY, and A TICKET FOR A SEAMSTITCH by Mark Harris. I read BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY, the middle book in this trilogy, when the movie based on it came out, then backtracked and read the other two. Great stuff, although A TICKET FOR A SEAMSTITCH is a fairly minor novel, as I recall. The first two are great, though. There may be a fourth book in the series, I can’t recall, but if there is, I’ve never read it.


I’m sure there were other baseball novels I read, but these are the ones that come to mind first. If you have a favorite baseball novel, feel free to mention it in the comments.

18 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Great stuff. I read all of those and a lot of others. At one time I thought John R. Tunis was the Great American Novelist. Another one I read as a kid was THE RED HEADED OUTFIELD, the first Zane Grey book I ever saw. I still have that one.

Randy Johnson said...

I read a lot of sports novels as a kid. Don't remember titles at my advanced age. Baseball titles were my favorite though. I was a bit awkward, athletically speaking, but managed to play baseball in the summers growing up.

Kent Morgan said...

allstar14The fourth Henry Wiggen novel by Mark Harris is It Looked Like For Ever (1979). Andy McCue, who is the current president of the Society for American Baseball Research, produced a terrific book titled Baseball by the Books, a History and Complete Bibliography of Baseball Fiction in 1991. The cover includes art of The Kid Who Batted 1.000, The Southpaw, The Shortstop by Zane Grey, You Know Me, Al by Ring Lardner as well as juveniles by Jackson Scholz, William Heyliger, Burt L. Standish and Clair Bee. While I don't remember much about it, one book I have been hauling around since my youth is thirty-five cent Harlequin copy of Flashing Spikes by Frank O'Rourke.

James Reasoner said...

Kent,
Maybe I did read IT LOOKED LIKE FOREVER. The title sure sounds familiar. If I did, it obviously didn't make much impression on me. I'll look for BASEBALL BY THE BOOKS, too. It sounds great.

Bill,
I think I need to read more John R. Tunis.

Randy,
I was never athletic, either, but I played a ton of sandlot baseball and football when I was a kid.

pattinase (abbott) said...

All of these books sit in my attic, waiting for my grandson. My son just loved them. I miss watching someone read them. BALL FOUR went through several copies. Mark Harris was a big favorite and we all cried through the movie.
And he still reads them. Just read one on Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Scott Cupp said...

I was particularly fond of A PENNANT FOR THE KREMLIN in which the Russians bought the New York Mets back before their first world series. Love THE YEAR THE YANKEES LOST THE PENNANT. And I am surprised you did not mention THE NATURAL or THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL.

James Reasoner said...

Scott,
I haven't read THE NATURAL (saw the movie, though) or THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. Might get to them one of these days. Another one I want to read is IF I NEVER GET BACK.

bish8 said...

Like many others, I've read and loved all the titles you mention and so many others. For some reason, uUnlike other sports, when you start listing great baseball novels the list just goes on and on and on. There is someting about baseball that just seems to lend itself to literary tradition...

Ron Scheer said...

Never got into sports fiction that I can remember, but I loved THE YEAR THE YANKEES LOST THE PENNANT. Probably read it in Reader's Digest Condensed books when I was a kid.

Laurie Powers said...

I haven't read that many baseball novels, but Otto Penzler came out with a mystery anthology a few years ago called MURDERER'S ROW. I've read a few memoirs based on baseball and I think THE BOYS OF SUMMER is one of the best memoirs ever.

Bill Crider said...

The Natural is a fine book, and I enjoyed If I Never Get Back and The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings. Not to mention The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop..

MP said...

Bill already mentioned it, but let me add another vote for my own favorite, Robert Coover's "The Universal Baseball Association...".

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I've read a couple of baseball mysteries, titles and authors forgotten, as usual. I, too, love the game and played it a lot as a kid, but never under adult supervision. The last BB book I read was All My Octobers, by Mickey mantle. It's about all of the World Series games in which he played. Mantle was my hero.

Juri said...

I was going to write that William R. Cox has a baseball novel, but it's a boxing novel (THE 4TH OF JULY KID), and then I remembered that it was Roe Richmond I was thinking of, but his THE BLAZE OF AUTUMN is about football!

I've been thinking about compiling a sports fictionmag, with new stories (in Finnish) and maybe some older ones, too, maybe with a reprint from the golden days of pulp, and I actually got a permission from Stephen Marlowe to use one of his old stories just days before he died.

Kent Morgan said...

Juri:

William R. Cox wrote six baseball novels starting with The Wild Pitch in 1963. I have one titled Chicano Cruz.

James:

Ron Kaplan, who writes about baseball literature on his site titled Baseball Bookshelf, had a link to this one in his Oct. 26 posting.

Todd Mason said...

William Campbell Gault, of course.

As a kid, I was useless in the field, but an excellent batter.

Todd Mason said...

W. P. Kinsella, pinch-hitting, too. Hm. Maybe I read Tunis, if he also wrote short fiction (I've always read a lot of anthologies...).

Todd Mason said...

And, as I mentioned this morning on Bish's post, ELYSIAN FIELDS QUARTERLY...anyone ever give that magazine a spin?