Over the past decade, excellent books on professional sports, high school and college athletics, fitness, and lifestyle sports in Minnesota—covering both the present and the distant past—have diversified the offerings available to interested readers. The range of voices now covered in Minnesota sports literature has broadened, and many center the stories of women and people of color. In no particular order, here are 10 of the best Minnesota sports books of the past 10 years.
By Frank M. White
Published by the Minnesota Historical Society, this gorgeously illustrated book traces a century of Black-organized baseball primarily in the Twin Cities. Author Frank White uses his own father, a standout catcher in the Twin Cities named “Pud” White, as a jumping off point for this elegiac account of clubs that played between the 1880s and the 1970s. White relies on nearly 50 personal interviews with former players to tell this multi-faceted story of perseverance against often ugly racial hostility. They Played for the Love of the Game features a thoughtful forward by Baseball Hall of Famer and Golden Gophers legend Dave Winfield.
By Stew Thornley
Minnesota Twins official scorer and Society for American Baseball Research scholar Stew Thornley has written the definitive history of Minnesota’s big league baseball team. Thornley grounds his story in a rich historical context, which includes the stories of the Twins’ minor league predecessors, arch rivals the St. Paul Saints and Minneapolis Millers, and the club’s 1961 arrival at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. It’s a book about the team’s stars and championship clubs, the three primary venues the Twins have called home, and a base of resilient fans.
By Kevin Kenny
Minnesota’s elite female athletes include Lindsey Vonn, Natalie Darwitz, Lindsay Whalen, Cindy Nelson, and Amy Peterson. But also, Patty Berg—founding member and first president of the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA), winner of a still-record 15 majors, and three-time Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. Kenny’s book traces her career from the Country Clubs of Minnesota to her status as the nation’s top amateur and then professional player before becoming women’s golf’s leading ambassador. Berg overcame barriers not only because of her gender, but also because she played golf in the harsh climate of Minnesota.
Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time (2014)
By Tim Wendel
Minnesotans old enough to remember 1991 remember staying up late all autumn to follow the Twins’ seven-game battle with the Braves. Tim Wendel’s exhilarating account of the ’91 Fall Classic traces the series’ pivotal moments, including Kirby Puckett’s walk-off home run to win Game 6, Jack Morris’ 10-inning Game 7 shutout gem, and utility man Gene Larkin’s series-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning. Along the way, Wendel brings to life the men who made up both the Twins and the Braves.
By Douglas Wood
Amid acclaimed Minnesota naturalist Douglas Wood’s shelves’ worth of books, Deep Woods, Wild Waters could be his finest. Wood’s account of his life in the outdoors, traversing Minnesota’s wilderness, trails, and rapids is a striking enticement to spend time in the state’s Northwoods. Wood’s elegant prose in this collection of essays makes for an engaging brand of nature writing.
By David LaVaque and L.R. Nelson
Another esteemed Minnesota Historical Society book, veteran sports journalists LaVaque and Nelson trace high school hockey from its humble roots after World War II to the tournament’s emergence as an annual dynamo of civic pride in the late 20th century. It is a statewide story, introducing readers to the colorful players, coaches, and fans from Edina to Eveleth, St. Thomas Academy to International Falls. It captures the pressure, excitement, and lifelong memories that the tournament engenders across the state.
By George Schire
Verne Gagne’s Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association (AWA) was one of the nation’s best-drawing wrestling promotions between the early 1960s and the early 1990s. The AWA drew some of the Twin Cities sports’ largest live and television audiences, and featured Gagne and wrestling icons Hulk Hogan, Baron Von Raschke, Ric Flair, Bobby Heenan, and Nick Bockwinkel. Between 1986 and 1990, the AWA aired nationally on ESPN. Wrestling historian Schire covers Minnesota’s professional wrestling history both inside and outside the ring, employing experiences as a young wrestling fan in Oakdale and eventual involvement in the wrestling business. It is beautifully illustrated with photographs and programs from the author’s own collection of wrestling memorabilia.
Strong Is the New Beautiful (2016)
By Lindsey Vonn with Sarah Toland
Olympic skiing legend and Burnsville native Lindsey Vonn authored with Sarah Toland one of this generation’s most influential and iconoclastic fitness books. At its core is the memoir of an athlete detailing how a career of competition, injury, exercise, and diet have shaped and reshaped her body. Vonn’s book argues that a healthy body and a healthy body image must co-exist for both to be sustained. She takes readers through her workout regimens and presents to them her take on the now-fashionable “eating clean,” which is focused on eating minimally processed and nutrient-dense foods.
By Adam Raider
Adam Raider’s history is a moving tribute to a team, a time, and a place. It spans Minnesota’s first NHL franchise’s arrival, a quarter-century of enthusiastic support and success in the Twin Cities, and the ignominious departure in 1993. Raider relies on personal interviews with former North Stars, thorough research of financial history, and a compelling blow-by-blow of the team’s performance. Raider’s book is simultaneously nostalgic and forward-looking, pointing to the degree that the experience of the North Stars shaped the way that fans have responded to their successor franchise, the Minnesota Wild.
By Bud Grant with Jim Bruton
Tough, stoic, and steady, legendary Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant became the face of the football franchise and, in many ways, the embodiment of the virtues that Minnesotans have long ascribed to themselves. (That is, despite the fact that Grant grew up across the bay from Duluth in Superior, Wisconsin.) Grant’s fantastic 2013 memoir covers not only his two decades as the Vikings’ head coach, when his “Purple People Eaters” won the NFC championship on four occasions. He also delves into his unique set of life experiences: a standout University of Minnesota football and basketball career, playing professional football in the U.S. and Canada, a brief NBA run with the world champion Minneapolis Lakers, lifelong friendship with Minnesota sports journalist Sid Hartman, leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to four Canadian Football League titles, and environmental conservation work after his retirement as an NFL head coach.