Baseball Coffee Table Books
As you might expect, I have a pretty fair collection of baseball books. A few of these I keep on a table in my home office because I look through them time and time again. While my table is probably not quite up to coffee table standards, the books I keep on the table meet, and exceed, any definition of a coffee table book.
Like a bumper sticker, the coffee table books you keep says something about yourself. Each of these books is special to me for different reasons. Some evoke memories of a particular team or era while others focus on collectibles or memorabilia for which I have an interest. The books never grow old and neither do the players and moments that grace their pages.
Here are my favorite Baseball Coffee Table Books. What books would you add to the list?
- Smithsonian Baseball: Inside the World’s Finest Private Collections by Stephen Wong — I stumbled across this book during a visit to the gift shop of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Wong has identified the best baseball memorabilia collections in the world and devoted a chapter to a different memorabilia type each coming from a specific person or family collection. For instance, an entire chapter is devoted to Game Worn Uniforms–all of which are owned by a single family. The family has game-worn jerseys from Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson and others. Another chapter is devoted to World Series Scorecards, again from a single family’s collection. Other chapters are devoted to Stadium Seats (I have a seat from Washington’s Griffith Stadium!), Antique Baseball Games, and Famous Autographs. Twenty-one chapters in all. Like the Smithsonian museum itself, you could spend days in this book!
- Through a Blue Lens by Dennis D’Agonstino and Bonnie Crosby — This book focuses on the Brooklyn Dodgers and contains the work of Dodger photographer Barney Stein during the year’s 1937 to 1957 — the “golden age” of baseball, as they say. The book takes Stein’s beautiful black and white photographs and intermixes them with interviews of Dodgers such as Ralph Branca, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Duke Snyder and others. The book contains pictures of youthful announcer Vin Scully and the agonizing picture of Branca after serving up Bobby Thompson’s “shot heard round the world” in the 1951 playoff game. The wonderful photography and narrative brings back the memories of the Dodgers and the love affair the fans had with their team.
- The T206 Collection by Tom and Ellen Zappala and Lou Blasi — When you pick up a baseball card, do you wonder about the player whose picture is staring back at you? What was he like? What did he do after baseball? This curiosity is especially true with the famous T206, or tobacco, card set, at its 100th year anniversary. The T206 set is arguably the most sought after baseball card set in history. The T206 card set is the subject of this stunningly beautiful and informative book. The book has taken the card series and put together thematic chapters linking together similar cards. For instance, there are separate chapters on the Hall of Famers, Overlooked by Cooperstown, The Bad Boys of Baseball, The Minor Leaguers and the Uncommons. The book’s graphics are beautifully laid out and contain exhaustively-researched stories about many of the players in the set.
- Heart of the Game: The Art of Andy Jurinko– The book focuses on the American league from the mid 1940s to 1960, baseball’s “golden era”. I recently became aware of Jurinko’s artwork and am amazed how his work brings the game from this important era back to life. Each chapter focuses on a single team and contains Jurinko’s painting of key players as well as an Each chapter also contains an excerpted biographical article from Sport magazine from the era. Mantle, Kaline, Killebrew, etc. Baseball writing great Robert Creamer writes the forward to the book., 1946 was a glorious time to be a baseball fan. “The great stars and their memorable teammates who had been in the Armed Forces were back. Ted Williams! Joe D! Stan the Man Musial! Hank Greenberg! Bobby Feller! . . . Fans poured into the ballparks, not just old fans but thousands of new ones attracted by the excitement and the joy.”
- Nationals on Parade by Mark Stang and Phil Wood — This book chronicles the Washington team from its origin in the American league in 1901 until its departure to Texas after the 1971 season. It focuses on the players along with a biography of each. The early years correspond to the players you could see on the T206 cards, Ed Delahanty, Walter Johnson etc. The book chronicles great teams of the 20s, with Johnson, Goslin, Marbury, Judge, Rice, Peckinpaugh, and “Boy Wonder” Bucky Harris as well as the 30s with Cronin, and Manush, Bluege. One constant throughout the book is Clark Griffth, “The Old Fox” as the owner of the Senators. Co-authors Phil Wood, a long-time Washington sports fixture and Mark Stang, an author of 5 “history of” books on baseball teams, have collaborated on a home run of sports books.