October 25, 2017 (last updated January 2023):
These are books I’d recommend about the history of baseball in Washington:
- The Washington Senators by Morris A. Bealle (1947, Columbia Publishing Company), long out of print, subtitled “An 87-year History of the World’s Oldest Baseball Club and Most Incurable Fandom.’’
- The Washington Senators by Shirley Povich (1954, G.P. Putnam’s Sons), subtitled “An informal history,” one of the Putnam series of histories of the 16 major league teams, by Washington’s most famous sports writer, who covered the 1924 championship season. It should be noted that although the team was still officially ”the Nationals,’’ the title of this book makes it clear how the team was commonly known.
- Walter Johnson, Baseball’s Big Train by Henry W. Thomas (1995, Phenom Press), one of the finest baseball biographies, meticulous researched and written by Johnson’s grandson, with a foreword by Shirley Povich.
- Washington’s Expansion Senators (1961-1971) by James R. Hartley (1997, Corduroy Press), has the results of every game the expansion team played, including interviews with many player. Hartley, who died in 2020, edited until 2018 the quarterly Nats News journal of the Washington Baseball Historical Society. Hartley also wrote Baseball at RFK Stadium (2008, Corduroy Press) and Baseball is Back, a book about the Nationals’ 2005 inaugural season.
- The Washington Senators, 1901-1971 by Tom Deveaux (2001, McFarland & Company, Inc.), draws heavily on Povich’s work, but still, a fine and detailed history of the original and expansion teams.
Clark Griffith: The Old Fox of Washington Baseball by Ted Leavengood (2011, McFarland & Company, Inc.), a well-researched biography of the central figure in the history of Washington’s original American League franchise. Leavengood, a frequent contributor the seamheads.com blog and podcasts, also is the author of Ted Williams and the 1969 Washington Senators: The Last Winning Season (2009, McFarland) and The 2005 Washington Nationals: Major League Baseball Returns to the Capital (2006, McFarland)
Sam Rice by Jeff Carroll (2008, McFarland & Company, Inc.), an excellent biography of the Senators’ Hall-of-Fame outfielder. The author graciously gave me a credit. Thank you, Jeff!
- National Pastime by Barry Svrluga (2006, Doubleday), from the Washington Post’s original beat writer for the current Nationals and now a sports columnist at the paper; a detailed account of the maneuvering and politics that led to the Expos’ relocation to D.C. and an extensive history of that 2005 season.
Kiss It Goodbye by Shelby Whitfield (1973, Abelard-Schuman), the Nats radio and TV broadcaster’s inside look at Bob Short’s ownership of the expansion team and his move to Texas.
The Wrecking Crew of ’33: the Washington Senators’ last pennant by Gary A. Sarnoff (2009, McFarland & Co. Inc.), a fellow SABR member and a leading expert of the Griffith-era Senators, he also is the author of a book about the 1920s Yankees and of many biographies, game stories and journal articles for SABR.
The Grind by Barry Svrluga (2015, Blue Rider Press). His look at the 2014 season through the perspectives of eight of those involved. An excellent read.
- You Gotta Have Heart: Washington Baseball from Walter Johnson to the 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals by former Associated Press beat writer Frederic J. Frommer (2020, Taylor Trade Publishing). This is an updated and expanded version of Frommer’s 2006 and 2013 books, the first titled The Washington Nationals 1859 to Today and the second also titled You Gotta Have Heart. Many great vintage photos and interesting interviews by Frommer.
- Washington Senators’ All-Time Greats by C. Norman Willis (2003, Xlibris Corporation), chapters about all the great Washington players, some nice rare photos and a foreword by Frank Howard.
- Beyond the Shadow of the Senators’ by Brad Snyder (2003, The McGraw-Hill Companies), subtitled ”The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball,’’ an engrossing account, meticulously footnoted, about what might have been the best team to regularly play in Griffith Stadium.
- A Whole New Ballgame: The 1969 Washington Senators by Stephen J. Walker (2009, Pocol Press) A 50th anniversary edition was published in 2009. A Kindle edition is available, too. Lots of interviews with members of the only winning season for the expansion Senators, with Ted Williams at the helm.
- They’ve Stolen Our Team!: By David Gough. Subtitled “A chronology and recollection of the 1960 Washington Senators.” Senators broadcaster Bob Wolff wrote the foreward. The paperback edition was published in 1997. Because this book costs $99 nowadays, I don’t have a copy. Perhaps the price will come down.
- Buzz Saw by Jesse Dougherty (2020, Simon & Schuster), subtitled “The improbable story of how the Washington Nationals won the World Series,” the Washington Post‘s 2019 beat writer’s account of the Nats’ run to the championship.
- Fight to the Finish (Triumph Books LLC, Chicago, 2019) chapters by the Washington Post‘s Thomas Boswell, Jesse Dougherty, Barry Svluga, Dave Sheinin and Scott Allen. This is the Post’s account of the 2019 season with excellent photos accompanying first-class writing. I would recommend this over:
- Fight Finished (Skybox Press, 2019) Subtitled “The official championship season commemorative book,” sanctioned by the Nationals. It is mostly photos, which are excellent, with little text other than the forward by Ryan Zimmerman.
- 100 things Nationals fans should know or do before they die by Jake Russell (Triumph Books LLC, Chicago, 2020), each chapter is about a famous moment in Nationals (and Senators) history or about visiting places such as Nationals Park or the Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.
- Baseball in Washington, D.C. (Acadia Publishing, 2002) This small volume, part of the Images of America series, is a collection of nearly 200 wonderful photos and illustrations. Compiled by Frank Ceresi and Mark Rucker with Carol McMains. (www.acadiapublishing.com)
- Baseball in the District 1869 Rise of the Olympics Kevin Flynn (Editor) and Karen Flynn. (2013) The Flynns have written four books, using orignial source material, in a series about 19th Century professional baseball in D.C., available electronically on the Barnes & Noble web site.
- There are a couple of books about Washington baseball, published in the last 20 years, that I would NOT recommend, simply because they are replete with serious factual errors that easily could have been avoided with some basic research. I won’t name them here, but I have read them so that you won’t have to.