Baseball Fiction

For the Book of the Month in March, I was thinking about writing on some piece of baseball fiction.  Here I ran into a problem.  What should I write about?  Baseball has generated two particularly famous pieces of literature, The Natural by Bernard Malamud and Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella.  Both of those are famous in large measure because of the movies ever so loosely based on the books. Beyond those two, though, what other fiction is there about baseball?

Given the position of sports in American life, I find it strange how little well-known or great fiction it has produced. I can list a series of first-rate sports movies, particularly about baseball and boxing. It seems natural that a visual medium like sports would translate so well to film. Surely it could make good books, too. Outside of the two mentioned above, the other baseball books I can think of are juveniles, things like Dean Hughes‘ and Mike Lupica‘s various baseball series. That is part of the problem.  Sports books are juvenile of necessity, and that keeps the genre from progressing.

Let me focus on the second part of the site’s moniker for a second and leave sports behind. Academics have a rigid hierarchy of things considered valuable and things that are not. If you move into the world of history, good history covers narrow topics and is rarely read. Bad history is the sort of popular work read by millions. In politics, my chosen field, popular work that explain political facts in simple terms for an audience of laymen is denigrated, considered worthless in comparison to the 10,000 study of voting behavior using the same 10 variables that have been used since 1960. I would hope that world of literature takes a slightly broader look at its field of study, but I am sure to be disappointed. Books about sports are, because of the subject matter, not serious fiction and therefore unworthy of being read and discussed. Books ignored by academics can still be popular, but it is tough for them to last. Academics, by their ability to force people to read books they would otherwise ignore, can keep authors and books alive for generations. They have not done that with literature about sports.

The academic explanation is, I fear, a bit too simple. Surely if writers of baseball fiction wrote better books, it would be more likely to attract an academic eye. So let me throw the question open to the audience: What good fiction is there about baseball? What baseball fiction should be more widely read.

Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball, Books

Tags: , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

4 Comments on “Baseball Fiction”

  1. verdun2 Says:

    Start with Mark Harris:
    The Southpaw
    Bang the Drum Slowly
    There are four in the series. The last two aren’t nearly as good as the first two.

  2. Two books immediately come to mind. Neither one, strictly speaking, is a “baseball” book. But in both, famous players are featured that buttress the narrative tone and style in each. Specifically, I am referring to Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” in which the ‘Great DiMaggio’ is mentioned several times by the old man to teach the young boy, who is sailing with him, certain lessons about life. In a much more recent book, “The Given Day,” by Dennis Lehane, Babe Ruth makes a couple of well-timed, spot-on cameos that any baseball fan could appreciate.
    There is also “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” by Stephen King, but I guess that can be considered a children’s book, however. Pretty good read, though. Excellent question! Bill

  3. Ron Kaplan Says:

    There are plenty of other good adult baseball novels out there, but for some reason the ones we hear of most often about are, as you note, The Natural and the works of Kinsella.

    What about the “Southpaw Trilogy” by Mark Harris (“Bang the Drum Slowly,” “Ticket for a Seamstich,” and “The Southpaw”)? What about Philip Roth’s “The Great American Novel”? Or “Brittle Innings” by Micheal Bishop? Or “Play for a Kingdom,” by Thomas Dyja?

    The problem with fiction is, it’s too subjective: one reader’s meat is another’s poison.

  4. I recently published a humorous novel about baseball titled
    ” Strike Five “. Be careful what you wish for you might get it. Chad Smith got it. His dream was to play baseball in the majors but he lacked one ability to qualify. A freak accident provides the talent he needed to play in the majors. His style of play causes a frenzy in the world of baseball. Players,managers and team owners are threatened by his talent. It’s an irreverent wildly imaginative story meant to amuse the reader. If you want to do a book review I would be happy to provbide an Ebook. More information can be seen on Creates Space Preview Gallery. Thanks.
    Aaron T knight

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: