Baseball Book Recommendations for the Long Offseason

Perfection. (MLB Gifs)

We’re in the offseason and it’s already cold and dreary. It’s dark at 5 p.m. and the days just get shorter from here. There’s no baseball on the immediate horizon. The hot stove is anything but.

Therefore, since you might want to think about baseball without its ubiquitous presence for a few months, here are a few book recommendations related to the game.

Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher

Released in May, Full Count is David Cone’s opportunity to recount his career and impart the lessons he learned from his many years around the game. Cone tells his story with the help of Jack Curry, himself New York Times bestselling author previously who you likely know from the very same YES broadcasts Cone often graces.

If you’re just looking for stories of the late 90s Yankees, there are plenty. Cone reminisces about his back-and-forths with the late George Steinbrenner and, of course, goes in-depth on his immortal accomplishment in 1999, his perfect game against the Expos. One of the funnier moments in the book is his recollection of facing Manny Ramirez.

Yet the book is so much more than just a collection of fun stories. The former Yankee and Met details the humbling process of making the Majors and hands down the wisdom he wishes he’d had at a younger age. Cone tackles his time as a Players Union rep and the 1994 strike.

Cone himself reads the audiobook, if you’re interested in that form. The erstwhile starting pitcher interview for the Yankees’ pitching coach vacancy this week, so this could be giving you a glimpse into the man in the ear of the Bombers’ staff.

Split Season: 1981

This book, written by former Cooperstown mayor Jeff Katz, recounts one of the most peculiar seasons in baseball history. The subtitle to the book — Fernandomania, The Bronx Zoo and the Strike that Saved Baseball — gives you a strong glimpse.

The season on its own is compelling. A strike in the middle of the season led to first half and second half champions and hundreds of games canceled. For Yankees fans, the Bombers feature prominently as they and the Dodgers marched towards the Fall Classic, stopping in the first-ever Division Series along the way.

Yet I’d also recommend it with its relevance to right now. A little more than 40 years after the events of the book, baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire and MLB and the Players Association very well could find their way to another work stoppage. The work of Marvin Miller and players such as Bob Boone to stand up to ownership was admirable, and some of the same issues (free agency, compensation, rich vs. poor teams) still affect the game.

The MVP Machine

The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh joined forces with FiveThirtyEight’s Travis Sawchik on this contemporary story about the forces changing player development in baseball.

If you can stomach a heavy dose of Trevor Bauer, who features prominently into the book, you receive a strong sense of the modern game. The book goes deep on Driveline Baseball, from which the Yankees signed away Sam Briend, as well as some of the development trends within the Astros’ and Red Sox’s organizations.

For a Yankees connection, the book details Adam Ottavino’s makeshift pitching laboratory. However, the Pinstripers, like most teams, weren’t keen on outsiders getting a view at their private process.

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches

If you want to have baseball history woven through the present day, Tyler Kepner is the master. The New York Times’ scribe is a must-read in the paper (or online) and this book is just an extension of his combination of impressive reporting and knowledge.

The book goes through the history of pitching and individual pitchers. Kepner’s passion for the game comes through as he writes about Steve Carlton’s slider or how Madison Bumgarner relates to Ralph Terry.

Shoeless Joe

I distinctly remember this book on the required reading list going into high school and I was the only one in my class that enjoyed the W.P. Kinsella classic. The only fiction book in this post, the novel was eventually adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, and it’s one of my personal favorites.

Figured I’d put this one in both because it’s a personal favorite and the Yankees are going to be playing at the Field of Dreams in August. If you read it, they will come.

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2 Comments

  1. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    And we thank you for the recommendations, Steven. We’ve picked up Coney’s book and can’t wait to read it. He’s just been interviewed for the pitching coach job and needs to be hired immediately. We’ll miss him in the booth but more Buck and Flash is a good thing. We recommend Eight Men Out, Luckiest Man and Wait till next year. So many books so little time to read. And along with human umpires they need to get rid of Daylight Savings Time. Antiquated and nobody likes it.

  2. “The Mick” and “Slick.” Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, respectively. I’m not sure if they are available anymore but they are very enjoyable reads.

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