Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best of 2010 loaded with insightful biographies

In baseball literary circles, 2010 will be remembered as the year of the biography. We had noteworthy releases this year on Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Joe Cronin, and Charles Radbourn. Roger Maris fell short of Cooperstown, but the new bio on him ranks right up there with the other greats, as does that of late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who appeared for the first time on the veteran's committee ballot this fall.

We could almost have compiled a top 10 out of nothing but biographies. But that wouldn't be as much fun, so Mays and Cronin, both strong works, will have to settle for near-miss status. Unique releases from Josh Wilker and pitcher-turned-penman Dirk Hayhurst give us some variety. We even have that rare breed, the realistic baseball novel, courtesy of Jeff Gillenkirk. Not all of these titles were big budget releases, for sure. In fact, we found a spot at No. 10 for Lee Panas' self-published guide to sabermetric statistics, the bookshelf's version of a non-drafted free agent who makes it to the big leagues.

Here's the full list:

1. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood, by Jane Leavy
2. The Bullpen Gospels, by Dirk Hayhurst
3. Cardboard Gods, by Josh Wilker
4. The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron, by Howard Bryant
5. Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, by Bill Madden
6. Home, Away: A Novel, by Jeff Gillenkirk
7. Fifty-nine in '84, by Edward Achorn
8. Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero, by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary
9. Final Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1972-2008, by Dean Sullivan
10. Beyond Batting Average, by Lee Panas

For synopses of each book, with links to my full reviews, see the Best of 2010 on

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