Ranking the best sports novels
In recent weeks, I’ve ranked my top 10 baseball books and I’ve ranked all the OU football books. Today, sports novels. Here are the top five:
5. Little League Heroes, by Curtis Bishop. A nod to my youth. This book, one in a series about a well-organized Little League in Austin, focused on a player who broke a color line as a 12-year-old. It’s been 35 years since I’ve read those books, and I still can remember characters’ names and positions and plots. Amazing, the power of a book.
4. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., by Robert Croover. Fascinating psychological look at a man who gets lost in the world of a dice game that simulates major-league baseball. Sounds goofy. It is goofy. It also is scary, where the human mind can take us.
3. Bang the Drum Slowly, by Mark Harris. Made into a 1973 movie starring Michael Moriarty and Robert De Niro, this simple novel is drop-dead funny and wonderfully poignant, about a dying catcher and the pitcher who looks out for him.
2. Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella. This book begat “Field of Dreams,” which was a decent movie, but like most books, it beats the film by a tape-measure home run.
1. If I Never Get Back, by Darryl Brock. An absolute gem of a book. What a novel is supposed to do; transform you into another place, in this case, the world of Sam Fowler, a modern character who suddenly finds himself shipped back to 1869, where he hooks on with the Cincinnati Redlegs, the first professional team in baseball history. One of the best books I’ve ever read, any genre. Simply superb. It’s got drama, mystery and romance. You will not soon forget Sam Fowler and those ’69 Reds.
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