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Best baseball books of 2006 (cont.)

Posted: Friday November 17, 2006 1:52PM; Updated: Friday November 17, 2006 1:52PM
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Black and Blue: The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys and the 1966 World Series That Stunned America, by Tom Adelman
Adelman's account of the 1966 season, which culminated with the underdog Baltimore Orioles sweeping the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, is an entertaining look at the '60s. An ideal companion for the Clemente book, Adelman carefully sets the drama of the '66 season in Baltimore and Los Angeles against the social events of the day. Bars in Baltimore were still segregated in '66 when Frank Robinson led the O's to their first title. Of course, Robinson was traded to the American League by the Reds the previous offseason when the owner of Cincinnati Reds, Bill DeWitt claimed that he was "an old thirty." Robinson only went on to win the Triple Crown and the MVP.

Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe, by Sam Walker
Walker's look at the obsessive, competitive world of fantasy baseball is both dramatic and hilarious. This book is filled with wonderful characters, and it compulsively readable, in part because Walker's self-deprecating style is so winning.

The Last Nine Innings: Inside the Real Game Fans Never See, by Charles Euchner
Euchner's examination of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees, makes for the rare book which covers familiar ground while managing to continually surprise the reader. Though the structure of the book is similar to the one Buster Olney used in The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, Euchner uses Game 7 as a starting point to discuss different aspects of the game, not to write about the Joe Torre Era Yankees. There are fascinating chapters on outfield defense (Steve Finley), starting pitching (Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens), and managerial strategy (Bob Brenly). Euchner even evaluates Derek Jeter's fielding in an objective, even-handed fashion. This is a terrific read for new and old fans alike.

Rob Neyer's Book of Baseball Blunders: A Complete Guide to the Worst Decisions and Stupidest Moments in Baseball History, by Rob Neyer
Neyer at his best -- breezy, provocative and chock-full-of information. Oh, yeah, and a heck of a lot of fun. Neyer details some of the most infamously lousy decisions in baseball history -- from trades to managerial moves. This is the perfect kind of book to have on your night table, to pick-up-and-put-down at leisure. Possibly Neyer's most successful book to date.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City, by Jonathan Mahler
Originally released in 2005, Mahler's compelling story of New York City in 1977 makes the list as the top paperback of the season. Though more than enough books have been written about the Bronx Zoo Yankees over the years, this one stands out as Mahler sets the drama in the Bronx around the tumultuous events that engulfed New York that year: Democratic politics, the blackout and ensuing riots, the escalation of the tabloid wars, the Son of Sam serial murders, and the opening of Studio 54. Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson share center stage with the likes of Ed Koch, Bella Abzug, Rupert Murdoch, and David Berkowitz. The book is being made into an eight-part mini series by ESPN. While I'm not holding my breath in hopes of it being particularly good, the thought of Oliver Platt playing George Steinbrenner is promising. In the meantime, the book is a real winner.

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