Favorite Sports books?

I am in the mood to read some sports writing. Non Fiction preferably but fiction is welcome if it’s really good. If we can leave out Biographies I would appreciate it.

It’s not a genre that I have really any experience with, but I finally got around to reading Moneyball a couple of months ago and am interested in more.

So what do people like?

(If this is better for the Game Room I understand, but I figured Cafe Society since my interest is in writing with Sports Writing being sort of a sub genre.)

Edit: Dammit! Can’t edit the title after you hit post, huh?

Paper Lion (and its sequel, Mad Ducks and Bears), by George Plimpton. A great look into what life in the NFL is like, or at least, was like in the 1960s.

When Pride Still Mattered, by David Maraniss. Insightful, well-written biography on Vince Lombardi. (On edit, I see that you’re not so interested in biographies, but this is a really excellent book.)

Scorecasting, by Tobias Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim. Freakonomics for sports geeks. Proves (or disproves) various bits of conventional wisdom in sports.

Baseball Between the Numbers, by the Baseball Prospectus staff. Sort of similar to Scorecasting, focuses on sabermetrics and new stats for understanding baseball.


  • To learn the game’s, well, inside baseball: **Pure Baseball by Keith Hernandez **and a ghost writer. Takes a couple of games and walks you through the strategy decisions pitch by pitch, taking time to explain concepts along the way. You think you know baseball or wish you understood it more? This is your book.

  • About the game: **Ball Four, by Jim Bouton **- the first tell-all, the best tell-all. Real laugh-out-loud moments on most pages and deep insight about the game, the business of the game and growing old in the game.

  • About the game: Summer of '49 and October 1964 by David Halberstam. '49 is about the Yankees and Red Sox and Golden Age baseball; 1964 is about the Cardinals and the Yankees representing New School vs. Old School baseball and the emergence of teams led by African Americans…

  • Football - I guess I would go with **North Dallas Forty and/or Semi-Tough **- novels but thought of as highly accurate about pro football back in the day…

All for now…

+1 for Ball Four, Semi-Tough, and North Dallas Forty. Haven’t read any of them in 30 years, so my memory may be a bit fuzzy, but I remember all of them being very plain-spoken on what it was really like to be a pro player in those sports.


The OP has already read Moneyball.

Caesars Palace.

Monday Night Mayhem.very good.

If you’re any kind of baseball fan, you need to read The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America by Joe Posnanski. Joe was a columnist for the Kansas City Star at the time and spent a year traveling with Buck near the end of his life.
sniff I miss old Buck.

I’ll cast another vote for Bouton’s Ball Four, and for similar tales of life in the NFL, try Conrad Dobler’s They Call Me Dirty.

Among those not listed


Veeck as in Wreck - By Bill Veeck w/ Ed Linn

*Why Time Begins on Opening Day *- by Thomas Boswell

The Politics of Glory: Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame - by Bill James


Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer - by Jerry Kramer w/ Dick Schaap

PB: The Paul Brown Story - by Paul Brown

*That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory * by John Eisenberg

Second Wind: The Memoir of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell w/ Taylor Branch

Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto


The Game by Ken Dryden

Semi-Tough, Life Its Ownself, Rude Behavior - The Billy Clyde Puckett trilogy - Dan Jenkins

The Money-Whipped Steer-Job Three-Jack Give-Up Artist, Slim and None, The Franchise Babe - The Bobby Joe Grooves trilogy - Dan Jenkins
You Gotta Play Hurt* - Dan Jenkins
I’m sensing a theme…

For those who enjoyed North Dallas Forty, you need to read The Franchise by the same author.

I agree, it was pretty good. Do you know if they’ll update it?

My favorite is the long out-of-print The Great American Sports Book by George Gipe. A comprehensive look at US sports starting in the 1870s.

Though it’s a children’s book (and also out of print), I still love Porko Von Popbutton (aka Beat the Queen. It’s a delightful and wildly entertaining hockey story.

Jim Brosnan’s The Long Season is still a classic. Brosnan was a pitcher for the Reds who kept a diary of his season; it was the first “warts and all” baseball books, and still one of the best. He wrote a second one, Pennant Race a couple of years later.

Joel Oppenheimer’s The Wrong Season (yes, the title is a nod to Brosnan) is probably the best account ever written about being a fan. Oppenheimer was a well-regarded poet and also kept a diary of following the New York Mets in 1972. You don’t have to be a Mets fan to understand the angst. Also out of print, alas.

I really enjoyed Three Nights In August (though that may reflect my Cardinals bias).

Fantasyland: A Sportswriter’s Obsessive Bid to Win the World’s Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseballby Sam Walker. This guy joins a fantasy league and plays as if he owns a real team. He goes to the winter meetings, hires two statisticians (one of whom previously worked for NASA), awards a weekly MVP trophy, gives jerseys to his players (some of whom wear them) and notifies them when they have been traded (some of whom get really upset). This book made me fall out laughing.

*Win It For… * Before the seventh game of the 2004 ALCS between the Red Sox and the Yankees, a post was created on the “Sons of Sam Horn” message board imploring the Red Sox to win it for Sox’ fans past Sox’ greats including Ted, Yaz and Tony. And what followed was a deluge of responses that went well into the thousands beseeching the Sox to win it for everyone from “Sox fans living in Yankeeland” to a brother lost on 9/11 to a deceased or ailing family member.

The post was eventually inducted into the HOF in Cooperstown and selected postings were used to make this book with all proceeds split between the Jimmy Fund and Curt Schilling’s charity to help Lou Gehrig Disease research.

Of all the books I’ve ever read on the Sox (or baseball) nothing comes close to showing the love, angst, heart broke and most of all, loyalty, of being a fan for a team.

Fever pitch is pretty awesome.

If you liked Moneyball, you should like its soccer equivalent, Soccernomics, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (the original title is Why England Lose).

Other recommendations for soccer are:

The Damned Utd by David Peace and The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinness (yes, that Joe McGinnis).

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis