Guide to Baseball Novels: B
- Bagby, George. See Aaron Marc Stein.
- Bain, Donald. Three Strikes and You're Dead. 2006. New York: Obsidian, 2007. [A Murder, She Wrote Mystery by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain] On vacation in Arizona, writer Jessica Fletcher, astoundingly enough, finds herself trying to clear a friend of a charge of murder -- this time, murder by aluminum baseball bat.
Bain's grandfather Con Daily was a 19th-century major-leaguer, so this book has baseball bloodlines. Most of the murder plot hinges on standard clubhouse intrigues: jealousy, nepotism, drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling.
- Baker, Kevin. Sometimes You See It Coming. New York: Crown, 1993. The life of the greatest player ever to play the game, as told by those who surround him, especially by a teammate who combines elements of Rickey Henderson and Mickey Rivers.
A routine novel, with standard elements of violence, magical-realist irruptions, and Big Game climax. One odd device -- an omniscient scouting computer -- echoes a theme in a 1963 juvenile by Wilfred McCormick.
- Bauer, Brad. Hitting in the Clutch. New York: iUniverse, 2006. Slugger Jack "Clutch" Thompson tells an insider story, profane and salacious, of a fictionalized 2004 Red Sox season.
- Bechard, Gorman. Balls. New York: Plume, 1995. First woman big-leaguer leads club to flag.
This is, believe it or not, the fourth first-woman-big-leaguer novel. It's about the third-best: entertaining and light enough, but stuffed with facts, stats, trivia, and superfluous exposition. See also Rothweiler.
- Beckham, Barry. Runner Mack. New York: Morrow, 1972. Repr. Washington: Howard University Press, 1983. A young ballplayer (ominously named Henry Adams) comes to New York to play in the majors and finds surreal jobs, racism, and disillusionment.
The title character, a revolutionary who goes AWOL from the Army as part of a futile plot to overthrow the government, doesn't appear till 2/3 of the way through the book. The novel uses baseball not as setting but as the wiring of Henry Adams's consciousness; he thinks about everything in terms of the game. Wonderful episodes of work and war abound in this inventive novel.
- Benjamin, Paul. Squeeze Play. See Auster.
- Bennett, James W., and Donald Raycraft. Old Hoss: A Fictional Baseball Biography of Charles Radbourn. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002. The faded life of the legendary old-time hurler comes to light thanks to the researches of a Depression-era journalist.
Dramatic interest is subordinated to a lot of exposition about the life of Old Hoss.
- Bishop, Michael. Brittle Innings. New York: Bantam, 1994. A year in the minors in the 1940s, as a young mute ballplayer learns about love, life, and Frankenstein's monster.
Self-conscious and overwritten, with many gratuitous atmospheric set-pieces, this is a magical realist baseball novel gone over the top, with many scenes of grisly violence.
- Boggs, Johnny D. Camp Ford: A Western Story. 2005. Detroit: Thorndike, 2006. During the 1946 World Series, a 99-year-old veteran of both the Civil War and early professional baseball reflects back on a violent ballgame played between inmates and guards at a Confederate prison in Texas in the spring of 1865.
Mixes several layers of research on baseball history with research on the 1864 Red River campaign and on the historical Camp Ford.
- Bohjalian, Christopher A. Past the Bleachers. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992. A man copes with the death of his young son by coaching a youth-league team and adopting its orphaned star player.
An odd mix of tearjerker and surreal mystery. The novel has well-observed passages, but in the end there's just too much going on for belief or interest.
- Bookbinder, Bernie. Out at the Old Ball Game. Bridgehampton, NY: Bridge Works, 1995. Opportunistic manager assembles an all-gay all-star team and drives them to the pennant.
All the mechanism and scaffolding of the novel of ideas shows here, but they are good, humane ideas.
- Bouton, Jim, and Eliot Asinof. Strike Zone. New York: Viking, 1994. A pitcher and an umpire tell the story of a Big Game in counterpoint: the pitcher is trying to win, and the umpire is trying to throw the game without getting caught.
Readable and suspenseful, with a lot of inside-baseball detail. Would you believe that this one comes down to a bases-loaded, ninth-inning 3-2 pitch in a one-run ballgame? Of course you would.
- Bowen, Michael. Can't Miss. New York: Harper, 1987. Woman athlete goes from a small college baseball team to the major leagues.
- Boyd, Brendan. Blue Ruin. New York: HarperCollins, 1993 repr. of 1991. The Black Sox scandal of 1919, rewritten from the perspective of Sport Sullivan, the gambler who brings together the various elements needed to throw the Series.
Austere, unsentimental look at the scandal, notable for its period language and its recreation of Sullivan as a literate, existentially confused hero.
- Brady, Charles. Seven Games in October. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979. Bankrupt executive hatches plot to kidnap star Dodger's family and fix Series.
Stilted prose and stock characters aside, this yarn develops its own pulpy momentum, at least till the possible plot directions narrow into a twistless bottleneck.
- Brashler, William. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. New York: Harper, 1973. The outrageous adventures of Negro League ballplayers who rebel against their league and form an outlaw barnstorming outfit.
Loosely plotted story based on intensive study of ballplayers' oral histories, still uniquely interesting among baseball novels. Made into a somewhat more glam Hollywood film in 1976. Brashler went on to write a baseball mystery series, with collaborator Reinder Van Til, under the pseudonym Crabbe Evers.
- Brock, Darryl. Havana Heat. New York: Total / Sports Illustrated, 2000. Luther Taylor, deaf star pitcher for the 1905 New York Giants, tries a comeback on the Giants' Cuba tour in 1911--and finds his calling in life even as he loses his pitching arm.
A gentle, warmly written historical novel. Havana Heat covers the same territory as The Celebrant, but uses the lower-key approach of Troy Soos. Admirable for its convincing evocation of a period and place; also an interesting look into Deaf culture.
- Brock, Darryl. If I Never Get Back. New York: Crown, 1990. A journalist passes out in the 1980s and wakes up in 1869, where he plays ball for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, befriends Mark Twain, and falls in love with a mysterious Irishwoman.
Lashings of period detail threaten to overwhelm the novel, but it develops a lot of action as it goes along, and by halfway through qualifies for the overused adjective "rollicking."
- Brock, Darryl. Two in the Field. New York: Plume, 2002. The hero of If I Never Get Back returns to 1875 for more adventures.
Enjoyable sequel, full of action and intrigue.
- Broun, Heywood. The Sun Field. New York: Putnam's, 1923. Sportswriter in love with a socialite takes her to a ballgame and loses her to the animal appeal of the home team's star slugger.
Half comedy, half sophisticated social observation; very much of its time and (upper) class origins, but very interesting as a commentary on them.
- Broun, Hob. Odditorium. New York: Harper & Row, 1983. Rabelaisian adventures of a woman softball star.
The kind of novel common in the 1970s and 80s, where nearly every sentence is a wryly-turned, overbaked observation.
- Burch, Mark H. Road Game: A Summer's Tale. New York: Vanguard, 1986. Exiled academic turned sportswriter suffers through a long minor-league season.