For sports fans in Ohio there’s a lot to cheer for, and much to be proud of. Many of the greatest athletes (and most successful coaches) have hailed from the Buckeye State, which gives fans in the state a lot to read about.
Columbus produced arguably the greatest golfer in history (Jack Nicklaus), and basketball’s biggest star is from Akron. The pride of Cincinnati is a controversial ballplayer who had more hits than any player in baseball history. There are many more great athletic Ohioans, too many to list individually here.
But for those of you who want to enjoy the stories of Ohio sports in-depth, we’ve put together a list of outstanding sports books for you. It doesn’t matter which teams you’re most attached to, there’s something here for every Ohio sports nut.
You can consider it the definitive bookshelf for Ohio sports fans.
The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James
By Scott Raab (HarperCollins Publishers, 2012)
Few sportswriters have been as intrepid as Raab, who produced some of the most iconic and controversial sports pieces for Esquire over the years. Recently he’s been featured in the ESPN documentary “The Captain,” which focuses on Derek Jeter and the Yankees. It was Raab who broke the story that revealed snarky comments about Jeter from Alex Rodriguez in the early 2000s.
Raab isn’t just taking on a major athlete in this book on LeBron. He’s a Cleveland sports fan who brings his angst with him to every page. How big a fan is Raab? He once got a tattoo of the Chief Wahoo logo on his arm while he was interviewing Dennis Rodman.
In The Whore of Akron, you learn the complicated motivation behind “The Decision” and James’ calculated media hype surrounding his departure from Cleveland. An updated version of this great book was released with additional copy covering the Cavs’ title in 2016.
Paul Brown’s Ghost: How the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals Are Haunted by the Man Who Created Them
By Jonathan Knight (Sports Publishing, 2018)
Pro football wouldn’t be what it is in Ohio if it hadn’t been for the indomitable will and determination of Paul Brown, a stern coach who founded both the Browns and the Bengals. He’s the answer to why are the Browns brown? And why the Bengals joined the AFL, and even to why Riverfront Stadium was built in Cincinnati.
Anyone interested in the history of professional football should read this book.
Don’t Put Me In, Coach: My Incredible NCAA Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench
By Mark Titus
Who owns the record for being on the roster for the most wins by an Ohio State athlete? It’s author Mark Titus, who was a member of the Buckeyes team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament national championship game in 2007.
Why doesn’t Titus have his own Nike shoe? Why doesn’t Titus have a sequel to this book that discusses an NBA career? Why have you probably never heard of Mark Titus? Well, because Titus was the epitome of a bench warmer. In his four years at OSU, he scored a total of nine points. Nine.
Now the author of a popular blog called ClubTrillion, Titus is an orthopedic surgeon, but still holds the Ohio State record for career wins by a team sport athlete. This book is a fun, engaging look at what it means to be part of a big-time college program. Packed with stories of the seven future NBA players Titus was teammates with, and accounts of his relationships with coaches and others in NCAA college basketball.
The Pitch That Killed: Carl Mays, Ray Chapman and the Pennant Race of 1920
By Mike Sowell
Only once has a big league ballplayer died as a result of a play on the diamond. That fateful event is recounted here by the talented Sowell, as he looks at the death of Ray Chapman, star shortstop of the Indians.
In 1920, Chapman was struck in the temple by a pitch from one of baseball’s best, but most hated, pitchers. The sound of the collision between ball and skull was so sickening, that Babe Ruth, who was playing right field, said “It sounded like a bell was clanged.”
Chapman’s tragic demise isn’t the end of the story: Cleveland went on to win the pennant that season, and with a new (future Hall of Fame) shortstop in the lineup, the team helped heal Clevelanders who were devastated by the tragedy. In the fall, a fantastic World Series triumph made this story one for the ages.
The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a Thirty-Year Slump
By Terry Pluto (Gray and Company, Publishers, 1994)
You cannot build a library about Ohio sports, and particularly Cleveland sports history, without a Terry Pluto title. The author of numerous books about the Indians and Browns and Ohio athletic moments, Pluto is a rarity. He can write laugh-out-loud copy that makes you want to read his work over and over.
Here, Pluto takes a loving and forlorn look at the many years of losing the Cleveland baseball team experienced after it traded star slugger Rocky Colavito. No other athlete may have ever been as beloved in Cleveland as “The Rock,” who was dealt to Detroit on the eve of the 1960 season. The team eventually got the home run champ back but didn’t get to the postseason again for more than three decades. Pluto looks at the trade, the lost decade of the 1960s, and runs all the way up to the 1990s Cleveland teams, which were so popular they set an MLB attendance record.
The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series, The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds
By Joe Posnanski (HarperCollins Publishers, 2010)
As one of the best baseball historians, Posnanski often writes about his formative years as a fan of the Reds in the 1970s. This book is the definitive look at arguably baseball’s greatest dynasty — The Big Red Machine. The Reds of the 1970s had personality coming out of their traditional black shoes — gabby manager Sparky Anderson; handsome country-western singing catcher Johnny Bench; cocky and unyielding Pete Rose; team leader and team prankster Tony Perez; and the heart of the team, the unstoppable Little Joe Morgan.
This book chronicles the birth of The Machine in 1970, its heartbreaking losses in two World Series, and the eventual back-to-back titles when the Reds stamped themselves as one of baseball’s best teams ever.