Best baseball books
The Good Life guide to the latest on America's favorite pastime.
By Regina Castro, FORTUNE

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) -- This summer, what's the only thing more American than actually playing baseball? Reading about it.

No fewer than five big baseball books are hitting shelves, spanning everything from Babe Ruth to the Negro Leagues to Barry Bonds.


Here's a look at the playing field.

The Only Game in Town

Compiled with first-hand accounts from 10 players, "The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved" offers unique narratives during a time when baseball was undergoing some major changes.

Fay Vincent interviewed such greats as Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky, who reveal what it was like to play during World War II or to bat for the Negro leagues.

Though the players don't always understand the impact of the events they lived through, their passion for the game is what carries this book. (Simon & Schuster, $26)

Shades of Glory

"Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball" highlights a side of the sport that has only recently begun to earn recognition.

Lawrence Hogan integrates narration with personal accounts and rare photos to illustrate how African Americans struggled to gain respect in a white-dominated sport.

Thoroughly researched statistics at the end of the book demonstrate how the Negro league players paralleled -- and at times surpassed -- their white counterparts, yet never got the attention they deserved.

"Shades of Glory" is densely packed with rich history, making it slow moving at times, but definitely a worthwhile read. (National Geographic, $26)

The Big Bam

Many books have been written about Babe Ruth, but "The Big Bam" tries to unravel mysteries behind The Bambino that no one else has been able to solve -- such as his mysterious ancestry and a deeper look into his life outside baseball.

Author Leigh Montville refers to gaps in Babe Ruth's life as "a fog", underscoring how much about him is destined to remain a mystery.

Montville delves deeply into archival material, which makes for a weighty read, but makes this book one of the better and more thorough biographies written about the heavy hitter. (Doubleday, $26.95)


Roberto Clemente was best known for his dedication to community service. And it is that saintly side that David Maraniss highlights in "Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero."

To tell Clemente's story, Maraniss tracks down an impressive number of his contemporaries, unearthing such tidbits as Clemente's hypochondria and his rocky relationship with the media.

Although the reader already knows the end -- Clemente's fatal plane crash on the way to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua -- all of the details that come before provide for a reverent testament of this player's life. (Simon & Schuster, $26)

Love Me Hate Me

"Love Me Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero" portrays the extreme stances that baseball fans take toward the modern day Babe Ruth: record breaker or egotistical playmaker.

But with everything that is discussed about Barry Bonds' homerun quest and steroid controversy, Jeff Pearlman, through interviews with basically anyone that has crossed Bonds' life, digs deeper into the player's untold past and secretive personality and finds the great ability that runs in his family but a lack of humanity and compassion underneath it all.

This book sums up Bonds in a nutshell and dishes on the good, the bad and the truly ugly. (Harper Collins, $25.95) Top of page