One team in baseball's postseason will win four World Series games this month, so I thought I'd take advantage of that number by naming my four favorite baseball novels.
Interestingly, all four books offer elements of fantasy and/or require suspension of reader belief. Sort of like believing that Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa didn't use pharmaceutical enhancements to smash the home-run records of Hank Aaron and Roger Maris.
Anyway, here's the literary lineup -- starting with the cleanup spot:
4. The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop. A very engaging 1954 book about a middle-age man who sells his soul to the devil to become a great young player for perennial doormats the Washington Senators. The result? Joe Hardy and his teammates finally give the powerful Bronx Bombers some competition, and the hit Broadway musical Damn Yankees is soon born from Wallop's novel. Washington, by the way, was "first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League."
3. Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. This moving 1982 book is about baseball legends, reconnecting with fathers, and spawning an iconic movie -- 1989's Field of Dreams. The novel has references to J.D. Salinger that didn't make the film because of fears the reclusive Catcher in the Rye author would sue. But both the book and movie do feature the ghost of banned Chicago "Black Sox" star Shoeless Joe Jackson, the best hitter ever with that last name (sorry, Reggie).
2. The Natural by Bernard Malamud. Perhaps the most literary baseball novel, this 1952 book chronicles the amazing journey of Roy Hobbs from young phenom pitcher to mythical hitter. (His name is sort of an amalgam of Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby, a pair of racist dudes who had the highest lifetime batting averages -- .367 and .358 -- in Major League history.) The book also includes love interests, a shooting, and more. Made into an excellent 1984 movie starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, and also starring a piece of molded wood as his baseball bat.
1. If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock. Time-traveling Sam Fowler ends up joining the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings -- the first pro baseball team and a squad so successful (65-0) that it made the later 1927 Yankees look like Little Leaguers. Brock's 1990 book also features a mystery, a love story, visits to various cities, shootings, fistfights, Mark Twain appearances, and other catnip for readers. You'll turn the pages faster than a Nolan Ryan pitch!
If you have any time to answer a question while watching the playoffs, what are your favorite baseball novels (on or not on my list)?