Baseball books go behind the scenes, before the crowds and back in time.
Player, manager, coach. General manager, broadcaster, umpire.

Nearly every baseball point of view – except perhaps that of the hot dog vendor – is represented in at least one of the many new books that cover just about all the bases.

Books about baseball personalities, historic events, and teams that are memorable – for reasons good or bad – take readers onto the field and into the dugout, the front office, the broadcast booth and baseball’s past.

A Hall of Fame outfield is represented in three new books, about “The Kid,” “The Babe” and “The Mick”:

In left field, there’s “Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero” (Doubleday) by Leigh Montville; in right, “Babe Ruth: Launching the Legend” (McGraw-Hill), Jim Reisler’s account of Ruth in 1920, his first season as a Yankee; and patrolling center is “Our Mickey” (Triumph), memories of Mickey Mantle by teammates, opponents, celebrities and admirers, collected by Bill Liederman and Maury Allen.

Another Hall of Fame outfielder has a book in the lineup: “Baseball Forever” (Triumph), a memoir by Ralph Kiner, former Pirates slugger who has been a Mets broadcaster since 1962 – as long as there have been Mets.

For years, Kiner broadcast the exploits of Tug McGraw, the high-spirited lefty reliever for the Mets and Phillies whose memoir “Ya Gotta Believe!” (New American Library) was published shortly after his death in January at 59.

Another former Phillie and a long-gone baseball era are profiled in “Ed Delahanty in the Emerald Age of Baseball” (University of Notre Dame Press). Jerrold Casway’s biography of the 19th-century batting star whose .346 lifetime average is fourth-best also examines Delahanty’s mysterious death at 36.

A double play of scrappy former shortstops is turned by “Larry Bowa: “I Still Hate To Lose”‘ (Sports Publishing), Barry M. Bloom’s biography of the Phillies’ current manager; and “Mr. Red Sox: The Johnny Pesky Story” (Rounder), Bill Nowlin’s biography of the Boston star of the 1940s and ’50s. Pesky has his own book, “Few and Chosen: Defining Red Sox Greatness Across the Eras” (Triumph), in which he selects the all-time best Red Sox players – five at each position and humbly excluding himself.

Dispatches from the front – the front office, that is – are found in “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” by the general manager who led Cardinals and Mets teams to four World Series during the 1960s; and in “Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue,” by the executive whose career began in 1969 as the team’s publicity director (both Sports Publishing).

The impact of one of baseball’s greatest moments – breaking Ruth’s career home run record – is told in “Hank Aaron and the Home Run That Changed America” (Morrow) by Tom Stanton. And the impact of the recent influx of Japanese players into the major leagues is examined in “The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave From Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime” (Warner) by Robert Whiting.

Fans who follow baseball history by the numbers can find scads of stats in “The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball 2004” (St. Martin’s-Griffin), a large-format paperback by David S. Neft et al. that lists the batting and pitching statistics of every player who ever played in the bigs – even if it was only once.

Bosox faithful can relive the “Red Sox Century” (Houghton Mifflin) in Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson’s hefty, illustrated history of the Boston club. This thick paperback version of the 2000 book has been expanded to follow the team through the 2003 offseason and the addition of pitcher Curt Schilling and manager Terry Francona.

The Red Sox haven’t won a World Series since 1918, yet the Florida Marlins have won two since 1997. Their most recent world championship is the subject of “Miracle Over Miami” (Sports Publishing) by Dan Schlossberg with Kevin Baxter, an account of the Marlins’ surprising 2003 season and their unexpected World Series victory against the Yankees.

Bronx Bombers of bygone days are located for “Yankees: Where Have You Gone?” (Sports Publishing) by Maury Allen, in which readers learn what became of Tom Tresh, Horace Clarke, Dooley Womack and 47 other former Yankees after they hung up their pinstripes.

“Tales From the Dodger Dugout: Extra Innings” (Sports Publishing) is an expanded version of the anecdotal history of the team by Carl Erskine, former Dodgers pitcher in Los Angeles and Brooklyn. “The Brooklyn Cyclones” (NYU Press) by Ben Osborne chronicles the first season (2001) of the Mets’ minor league affiliate, whose arrival helped revitalize its long-depressed home turf, Coney Island.

Former major league infielders offer inside information in “Play Baseball the Ripken Way” (Random House) by Cal Ripken Jr. and Bill Ripken; and in “Watching Baseball” (Globe Pequot), a compact paperback by Jerry Remy that helps fans observe the game.

Umpires usually have the last word, as does Dave Phillips in “Center Field on Fire: An Umpire’s Life With Pine Tar Bats, Spitballs, and Corked Personalities” (Triumph).


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