JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The Five Best Sports Books I’ve Ever Read

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Yesterday evening I finished the best sports book I’ve ever read. It’s called “A False Spring,” by Pat Jordan, and chronicles the author’s brief career as a minor league pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I’ve long known of Jordan, but I never paid much attention to his work. Well, this book is, in a word, beautiful. Literary, fascinating, reeking of a supposedly innocent time period that I’ve long been fascinated by.

With that point being made, here’s my list of the five best sports books I’ve ever read:

1. A False Spring, Pat Jordan—I’m in awe, but also jealous. I simply don’t have to chops to match this sort of writing. As introspective a sports book as I’ve ever seen.

2. Namath, Mark Kriegel—Mark’s a friend, but this comes without bias. Namath is a fascinating dude, and Mark digs inside his head. Wonderfully written.

3. Ted Williams, Leigh Montville—I couldn’t put this one down. Montville might be the best sportswriter of our generation. The insight into Williams is insane.

4. The Bronx Zoo, Sparky Lyle w/ Peter Golenbock—More about the information than the writing. Diary format, really, really funny, chronicles Lyle’s 1978 season with the Yankees. Can’t stop laughing.

5. Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life, Richard Ben Cramer—An all-time classic. Painful, for those who love DiMaggio. But Cramer does exactly what a biographer should—he pulls no punches. The final days of Joe’s life are
some of the most gripping.