Batter Up

5 Great Books on Baseball Selected by Choice Reviewer W. Terry Lindley

The following books provide an insight into America’s “national pastime.” These writings cover the early years of the game through integration in the late 1940s and 1950s. One can see that baseball often mirrored American society, as during the Great Depression, and sometimes even led the way, as in integration.

Baseballby Harold Seymour. 3v. Oxford, 1960-90
Seymour’s work is the standard history of baseball from its inception through the 1950s, touching all the major issues, prominent teams, and dominant players.

Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacyby Jules Tygiel. 25th anniversary ed. Oxford, 2008.
This is the best study of the integration of baseball, covering the story of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson as well as how the other major league franchises were integrated. Tygiel also points out the impact of baseball integration on society in the South.

Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Eraby Charles C. Alexander. Columbia, 2002.
Alexander chronicles how the Depression impacted baseball, especially regarding the cut in salaries and drop in attendance, and how these things impacted the game. Baseball mirrors much of what was happening in society at large.

Two Pioneers: How Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson Transformed Baseball—and Americaby Robert C. Cottrell. Potomac Books, 2012.
This is the story of two pioneers—Greenberg for Jews and Robinson for African Americans—whose paths crossed in 1947. It vividly recounts the struggles each man went through and their courage in overcoming racial bigotry.

When Baseball Went White: Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Dreams of a National Pastimeby Ryan A. Swanson. Nebraska, 2014.
Did Cap Anson bring segregation to baseball in the late 1800s through his refusal to play against blacks? NO! Through segregation, the author argues, the North hoped to use baseball as a means of reconciliation with the South in the decade after the Civil War.

About the author:

Dr. W. Terry Lindley ( is University Professor of History at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.