The Daily

Ask The Paris Review

Baseball Leaves Me Cold

December 3, 2010 | by

I’m dating an athlete—more problematically, he’s a great watcher of sports. I was raised on football, so I have no problem screaming at the television with him when pass interference doesn't get called, but baseball and basketball leave me cold. Are there any good books on either sport—I do love a weepy sports narrative—that I could read to pique my interest? I’m tired of asking my boyfriend to explain the designated hitter to me—as, I’m sure, is he. —M. K.

Dear M. K.,

We at The Paris Review Daily—okay, I, Lorin—know diddly about sports. So we decided to ... um, bunt? Hand-off? Bring in a couple of pinch hitters? You get the idea: Your question has been referred to our two Paris Review Daily sports correspondents, Will Frears and Louisa Thomas.

Thus Will:

If she wants to understand her boyfriend and the pitiable nature of his condition, she should read A Fan’s Notes, by Frederick Exley, or Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby.

The really good baseball books are The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn; Ball Four, by Jim Bouton; and pretty much anything by Roger Angell. I can’t think of a good basketball book, but for the true weepy sports experience, watch Hoosiers.

If the boyfriend is a soccer fan and she wants to dazzle him with her technical know-how, then Inverting the Pyramid, by Jonathan Wilson, is a must-read.

And Louisa:

Jim Bouton’s Ball Four won’t explain the designated hitter, but it will tell you what “beaver-shooting” is, and it will make you laugh. Gay Talese’s “The Silent Season of a Hero” barely visits a ball field, but it will make you ache for Joe DiMaggio. If your boyfriend is a statshead, read Michael Lewis’s Moneyball to demystify sabermetrics. (Plus, it’s always satisfying to read a story in which the men in charge hadn’t a clue.) John McPhee’s A Sense of Where You Are, about Bill Bradley as a Princeton basketball player, is in awe of its subject, but so am I.

To learn the rules, try Wikipedia.

Have a question for The Paris Review? E-mail us.



  1. Adrian Walker | December 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    “The Breaks of the Fame”, by David Halberstam, is widely considered the greatest basketball book ever written. Honorable mention: “A Season On The Brink” by John Feinstein.

  2. Tali | December 3, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Umm hellooo…how about Plimpton’s “Paper Lion”?!!

  3. Lorin Stein | December 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Hellooo, Tali! I think you may have in mind Out of My League (Paper Lion is about football). But yes. Your point is well taken!

  4. Calvin Reid | December 3, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Read The Southpaw by Mark Harris. It may not make you love baseball, but you’ll very likely love the book.

  5. Stephen Cahaly | December 3, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    A weepy sports narrative? How about The Bible. That explains everything.

  6. D. L. Dearborn | December 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Read “The Great American Novel” by Philip Roth about a mythical baseball team in a mythical baseball league. It’s the ‘Moby Dick’ of baseball books and it’s a riot.

  7. john | December 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    “The Glory of Their Times” by Lawrence S. Ritter – an oral history of early twentieth-century baseball

    “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.” by Robert Coover – a novel that deals with sports obsession and prefigures today’s fantasy leagues by several decades

  8. Adam | December 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    “Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball”by Donald Hall. Funny, this is the second time I’ve posted on here about that book.

    If you don’t want to read whole books on baseball, A. Bartlett Giamatti’s essay, “Green Fields of the Mind,” and John Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” are both brilliant.

  9. growler | December 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    “A False Spring” by Pat Jordan. One of the greatest baseball books _and_ memoirs ever written.

  10. growler | December 4, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Also, “Band the Drum Slowly” is pretty great.

  11. growler | December 4, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    “Bang,” not “Band.” Damned sausage fingers.

  12. Shelley | December 7, 2010 at 11:50 am

    The purpose of sports is (1)to keep participants trim, (2)to release viewers from tension, and (3)to supply metaphors to literature and office politics.

Leave a Comment