By Budd Bailey
You say you received a gift card or some extra money under the tree, and you need something to read?
Buffalo Sports Page is here to help.
I’ve been averaging more than a sports book a week of reading, and most have them have been quite worthwhile. But this is the time of year to do a “best of the best” list. Consider it a public service to see my favorites of 2021 all in one place. For the record, I’ve limited this list to 2021 and 2022 releases. And they aren’t in order, because they all are good. It really was a very good year.
The top 10:
The Baseball 100 – Joe Posnanski – Maybe this is in order of preference, at least at the top, because it was my favorite sports book of the year. This ranking of the top 100 baseball players of all time is a great excuse to tell stories about the players themselves. Call it the book that the talented Posnanski was born to write.
The Big East – Dana O’Neil – This remembrance of the power basketball conference in the 1980s is a great deal of fun, perhaps because the participants are so willing to talk about the good times they had in that era. We lost something when the conference evolved into something different, mostly because of football.
Glory Days – L. Jon Wertheim – Sometime a book about a particular year don’t work too well. This is not an example of that. Wertheim not only brings back a lot of memories about the summer of 1984, but he brings up a lot of anecdotes that almost knew beforehand. That makes it fun and interesting.
Our Team – Luke Epplin – The baseball season of 1948 has a special place in the hearts of Cleveland baseball fans, in part because the Indians won their last World Series. It took a memorable group of characters to collect in one place to make this happen, and Epplin is all over the details in making this book special.
Raise a Fist, Take a Knee – John Feinstein – Politics, race and sports come crashing in off the ocean and hit the waterfront together in this slight departure for Feinstein. His techniques for putting together a book are the same, but the subject matter is much more serious. If it doesn’t open up your eyes along the way, you aren’t paying attention.
Stealing Home – Eric Nusbaum – The Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles continues to fascinate us. While other books have centered on the loss to Brooklyn of the team, this concentrates on the Los Angeles side of the story. No, it’s not just about sports, but it’s worth your time. This noses out “Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised” as one of the best books that deals with sports as something of a tangent to other issues.
Super Bowl Blueprints – Bill Polian and Vic Carucci – This isn’t favoritism toward a couple of guys with major Buffalo connections. The authors talked to a ton of people about what went into some of the great teams of the Super Bowl era, and there is a great deal to enjoy along the way.
Tall Men, Short Shorts – Leigh Montville – It’s never too late to take a trip back in time. The NBA was a different place in 1969, and Montville had a ringside seat at the Finals between the Celtics and Lakers. The youngsters out there should be very interested in how so much has chance in those 52 years.
Wish It Lasted Forever – Dan Shaughnessy – The Boston Globe writer touches on similar territory to Montville’s book here, as he covered a good chunk of Larry Bird’s time in Boston. As he said in a recent interview, the business sure has changed since then – and maybe not for the better. But there’s plenty of insight into a memorable group here.
The Year’s Best Sports Writing 2021 – Edited by Glenn Stout – It was a happy day when word came that this annual series was not dying; it was just getting another publisher. I’ve been buying this and the Baseball Prospectus series every year, fall and spring respectively, for decades. They always have good information within the covers.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)