Since this is a day for Baseball Toaster to discuss top tenbaseball books, I thought I'd drop in my 10 favorite baseball books. I don't know if they qualify as "best" or "essential" or "influential" or perhaps any or all.
Most of the titles have been mentioned before in both of the two links above and they aren't presented in any order except the order I remembered them (this list changes as I see titles on my shelf):
The Southpaw and Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris. Josh Wilker has written about Harris's work much more eloquently than I can over at Cardboard Gods, but the story of Henry Wiggen and Bruce Pearson is something that everyone should read. Even with the stories set in the 1950s, the themes are timeless.
The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter. Ritter lets the history of the Deadball Era speak for itself. Sure some players told some tales, but this is still the most enjoyable and enriching way to learn about baseball before the era of film, radio, and television. The Fred Snodgrass and Chief Meyers chapters are the best.
The Long Season by Jim Brosnan. Before there was Jim Bouton, there was Jim Brosnan and he was told us the story of being a big league relief pitcher in 1959. There aren't tales of players taking greenies or looking up women's skirts, but Brosnan's season is just as fascinating.
Lords of the Realm by John Helyar. Helyar expertly details how baseball's owners took the country's leading legal monopoly and in, paraphrasing Ted Turner, "****** it up."
Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman by Lee Lowenfish. For a 683 page, greatly detailed, and heavily footnoted book, this is a quick read and tells you the good, the bad, and the in between about one of baseball's most influential figures.
Baseball Before We Knew It by David Block. Block turned up historical information on the history of baseball-like games that completely changed how we should view the sport's beginnings. It is an incredible work of scholarship.
Even the Browns by William B. Mead. (Also published as The 10 Worst Years in Baseball). This is picked more for sentimental reasons as Mead writes about the 1944 season in which the St. Louis Browns took advantage of rosters decimated by players sent off to serve in World War II to win their only AL pennant. 1944 was my mom's favorite year to watch baseball as her two hometown teams in St. Louis made it to the World Series.
Strange, but True Baseball Stories by Furman Bisher. This children's book was published in 1966 back when Furman Bisher was just a grouchy old man, unlike now when he is just a grouchy very old man. But it was one of the first baseball books I read over and over and over. I loved the story about how Stan Musial switched from being a pitcher to an outfielder (the story isn't that strange, he hurt his shoulder) or how Gene Rye hit three home runs in an inning in the minor leagues. I just ate stuff up like that. And what is The Griddle now, but a collection of strange, but true baseball stories?