40 An Outside Chance: Essays on Sport
BY THOMAS MCGUANE (1980)
The contemplative hunting essay "The Heart of the Game" is the highlight of this collection of off-center pieces so packed with vivid ironies as to choke you up when you're not laughing out loud. A shrewd, eccentric book about hunting and fishing and poaching golf balls from water hazards.
41 The Unforgettable Season
BY GORDON H. FLEMING (1981)
A literature professor re-creates the scintillating 1908 Cubs-Giants-Pirates pennant race (of Merkle's Boner fame) entirely through excerpts of the era's florid sportswriting—which means runners aren't merely thrown out at the plate, they're "massacred at the fourth bag.[Out of print]
42 The Celebrant
BY ERIC ROLFE GREENBERG (1983)
An oft-overlooked novel that blends fact and fiction to create a charming turn-of-the-century tale about the intertwined lives of New York Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson and the family of a young Jewish immigrant who makes his World Series rings.
43 Big Red of Meadow Stable
BY WILLIAM NACK (1975)
The breathtaking description of Secretariat's 31-length Belmont victory is the highlight here, but Nack's book (reissued as Secretariat: The Making of a Champion) is also memorable for the way it traces the great horse's bloodlines through racing history.
44 The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
BY BILL JAMES (1985)
James, recently hired by the Red Sox as a senior adviser, weaves together thoughtful essays and lists, often turning traditional wisdom on its ear with analysis that goes far beyond the numbers—and all without taking himself (or the game) too seriously.[ New York Times best-seller]
45 End Zone
BY DON DELILLO (1972)
This shrewd and funny novel, set against a Cold War backdrop, explores the football-as-war metaphor through the life of a college running back. "I reject the notion of football as warfare," one angst-ridden character says. "We don't need substitutes because we've got the real thing."
46 Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story
BY DAVID WOLF (1972)
Wolf's understated prose is equal to his fascinating subject: a Brooklyn playground legend expelled from the University of Iowa for allegedly conspiring with gamblers. The charges were disproved, but the great Hawk didn't reach the NBA until he was 27 and hobbled by bad knees.[Out of print]
47 Shoeless Joe
BY W.P. KINSELLA (1982)
The same richness as Field of Dreams, the movie it inspired, but on a wider canvas. The novel has plot twists and fascinating characters not in the screenplay, most notably author J.D. Salinger and Eddie (Kid) Scissons, who claims to be the oldest living Cub.[ New York Times best-seller][Made into a movie][Authors with other list-worthy books]
48 Into Thin Air
BY JON KRAKAUER (1997)
An accomplished climber, the author was sent to Mount Everest by Outside magazine to report on the growing commercialization of the world's most famous peak. What he came back with was a suspenseful account of a catastrophic season in which 12 climbers were killed.[ New York Times best-seller]
49 Eight Men Out
BY ELIOT ASINOF (1963)
The final word on the controversial 1919 Black Sox scandal, a critical event in sports history. Former minor leaguer Asinof persuasively argues that the only participant worthy of exoneration is not Shoeless Joe Jackson but third baseman Buck Weaver.[Made into a movie]