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Baseball bookshelf: 12 titles for the new season

"The Comic Book Story of Baseball: The Heroes,

"The Comic Book Story of Baseball: The Heroes, Hustlers, and History-Making Swings (and Misses) of America's National Pastime," by Alex Irvine. Credit: Ten Speed Press

Opening Day brings an increase in the supply and demand of peanuts, Cracker Jack — and baseball books. Recent releases include the untold stories of baseball legends, the inside stories of the 1986 Mets and the back stories of past and future Yankee dynasties.

The first dynasty in the Bronx was engineered by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, whose relationship is explored in Tony Castro’s “Gehrig and the Babe: The Friendship and the Feud” (Triumph Books, $25.95). The book shows that the stars had little in common beyond pinstripes and the ability to hit a baseball well and far. Their differing personalities and a disagreement between the women in their lives — Ruth’s wife and Gehrig’s mother — ultimately led to the two not speaking for years.

Detailing how the 2018 Yankees roster came to include players featuring Ruth-and-Gehrig-like home run power is “The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty” (Diversion Books, $24.99). MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch goes in depth on the Yankees’ process of assembling a team of 20-somethings poised to deliver the team’s next championship. Not rushed or written to capitalize on the moment, Hoch offers insights, access and background often available only to a long-tenured beat reporter.

The autobiographical title of “I’m Keith Hernandez” (Little, Brown and Company, $28) derives from the former Mets first baseman’s famous line during his cameo on “Seinfeld.” The book delves into Hernandez’s career, during which he captured Gold Gloves, World Series titles, batting championships and a co-MVP award; his personal life, including his drug use and infidelity; and his broadcasting, often astute and unfiltered.

“Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond” (Triumph Books, $26.95), written with Erik Sherman, examines Johnson’s life and career, during which he won the World Series as manager of the 1986 Mets, a team whose notorious escapades off the field were nearly as memorable as their accomplishments on it.

Offering new insight into the widely chronicled Ted Williams is “The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team That Helped Win World War II” (Sports Publishing, $26.99). In 1943, Williams and fellow major leaguers serving as fighter pilots suited up for a baseball team at an elite Navy training school in North Carolina. The batboy for the team was the father of the book’s author, Anne R. Keene.

“The Pitcher and the Dictator: Satchel Paige’s Unlikely Season in the Dominican Republic” (University of Nebraska Press, $26.95) by Averell “Ace” Smith centers on a 1937 tournament that Paige, a star in the Negro Leagues at the time, was lured to partake in — only to find himself and his teammates seemingly under the control of the country’s murderous dictator, Rafael Trujillo.

Bill Nowlin’s “Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox” (University of Nebraska Press, $36.95) is timely. Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1932, guided the team back to relevancy and was viewed as a benevolent owner. But with the Red Sox as the last baseball team to integrate, Yawkey has been accused of racism. In February, the Red Sox asked the city of Boston to rename Yawkey Way outside of Fenway Park.

In a potentially painful read for local baby boomers and older fans, Michael Schiavone revisits the Dodgers’ history since leaving Brooklyn in “The Dodgers: 60 Years in Los Angeles” (Sports Publishing, $24.99).

Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith examine Mickey Mantle’s historic Triple Crown 1956 season, portraying Mantle not simply in an adulatory manner but also as a flawed individual at the height of his career, in “A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle” (Basic Books, $28).

Former Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry recounts his career in “Gator: My Life in Pinstripes” (Crown Archetype, $26), written with Andrew Beaton. The dependable ace during the successful but tumultuous “Bronx Zoo” era, Guidry shares his thoughts on Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson and others.

As Major League Baseball attempts to quicken games to appeal to younger fans, Susan Jacoby suggests how to reinvest youth in the National Pastime amid digital distraction in “Why Baseball Matters” (Yale University Press, $26).

In “The Comic Book Story of Baseball: The Heroes, Hustlers, and History-Making Swings (and Misses) of America’s National Pastime” (Ten Speed Press, $18.99), Alex Irvine tells the game’s history through comics. The book, with art by Tomm Coker and C.P. Smith, illustrates the players and moments that shaped the game.

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