If you think Nebraska is all about football fandom, you haven’t seen what the University of Nebraska Press offers baseball fans.
Scan any list of must-read books on baseball, and you’ll typically find multiple offerings from the university’s press, one of the nation’s major publishers of baseball books. The general interest books focus primarily on history and biographies.
“The authors are holding a mirror onto the larger culture in which the game is played or how the sport has evolved,” said marketing manager Mark Heineke, citing topics such as desegregation, the game-changing 1920s and the golden years of the 1960s.
UNP’s baseball expertise began in the 1990s, when then-director Daniel Ross reprinted several books that trade publishers had dropped. The books’ success helped revive a readership in baseball history. By the 2000s, Nebraska was publishing original books, cementing its national reputation.
“It got to a critical mass and, not just baseball, but sports publishing became one of the categories the press is known for,” said Rob Taylor, senior acquisitions editor in charge of sports.
Today, Taylor oversees as many as 16 baseball books a year.
A recent highlight is Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player by Jeremy Beer. Published in 2019, the book won the prestigious 2020 Seymour Medal for the best baseball book of history or biography, UNP’s 10th win. The book also won the 2019 CASEY Award for the best baseball book of the year.
It’s one of many award-winning and popular books in the press’ bullpen.
Taylor and Heineke credit the nonprofit publisher’s ability to take chances on authors and topics that trade publishers won’t. “We’re pushing the boundaries of thought and debate,” Heineke said. “We’re not recycling the same old, same old here, whether it’s a book on history or a collection of poetry or a baseball book. It’s woven into our DNA.
“The cachet of the baseball list really sets the table for the rest of the list,” Heineke added, noting the attention it brings UNP with reviewers and booksellers. “It’s our calling card.”
UNP’s Hall of Fame Baseball Titles
Recent University of Nebraska Press baseball titles have earned critical acclaim.
SABR Baseball Research Award
- 2021: Rob K. Fitts, Issei Baseball: The Story of the First Japanese American Ballplayers.
- 2020: Roberta J. Newman, Here’s the Pitch: The Amazing, True, New, and Improved Story of Baseball and Advertising; César Brioso, Last Seasons in Havana: The Castro Revolution and the End of Professional Baseball in Cuba.
- 2019: Bill Nowlin, Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox.
SABR Larry Ritter Book Award
- 2020: Jeremy Beer, Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player; Charles DeMotte, James T. Farrell and Baseball: Dreams and Realism on Chicago’s South Side.
- 2018: Jim Leeke, From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball During the Great War.
- Brad Balukjian, The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife, Los Angeles Times monthly bestseller list and NPR’s Book Concierge Rest Reads of 2020.