The best way to describe “The Baseball 100,” Joe Posnanski’s stellar presentation of the 100 best baseball players of all time, is to start with the stats, the numbers. It’s an analytical period for every facet of baseball, with numbers everywhere, numbers and more numbers. Statistics. Analytic. A book on the great old game shouldn’t be any different.
Name: The Baseball 100.
Length: 869 pages.
Weight: 2.75 pounds.
Reading time: 33 hours, 30 minutes on audiobook.
Rest. This is a great book of gymnastics in the jungle.
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There may be fans of the Russian novel, or conquerors of the literary challenges of Mount Everest, who will bring down all 100 chapters in a row, one after another, but I think most readers will zigzag. Each of the book’s chapters, typically around eight pages long, is a self-contained narrative of determination and success, at times mixed with great strangeness and controversy.
The start (# 100, Ichiro Suzuki) is separated from the end (spoiler alert, # 1, Willie Mays) by a parade of curious stories about the most capable men in America’s toughest professional sport. . The reader can choose, come home for dinner, take a nap – heck, take a week off – then just come back and enjoy the fun again.
I started with No.80 Carlton Fisk, a good guy that I covered during his time with the Boston Red Sox. He had a difficult relationship with his father, Cecil, a man who was never satisfied with his son’s accomplishments, no matter how great. I never knew that. I jumped at # 51, Al Kaline, a favorite from my youth from a long time ago. Dignified and gracious, Kaline had some trouble early on with fans and the Detroit Tigers front office. I didn’t know it either. I switched to Pete Rose (60), Babe Ruth (2) and Albert Pujols (23), then to Robin Roberts (72), Josh Gibson (15), Ernie Banks (65) and Yogi Berra (43), followed by Jackie Robinson (42), Tom Seaver, (41), Roberto Clemente (40) and. . . Arky Vaughan, who played shortstop and third base for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1930s and 1940s and is ranked 61st here.
“I have no doubts that, pound for pound, Arky Vaughan is the lesser-known major baseball player,” writes Posnanski. “I say ‘pound for pound’ because there is no reason why it should be so little known. He didn’t play in the black leagues and didn’t play until 1900. He played in the golden age of baseball – in the days of Ruth and Gehrig and Williams and Jimmie Foxx and DiMaggio. . . . Yet no one knows him.
The rankings were all set by Mr. Posnanski, who is the biggest star in contemporary sports writing. He writes with grace and wit, combining a sense of the old style with the mountains of numbers, facts and observations that can be found on the internet. His winding journey as a columnist, blogger, podcast host, writer for Sports Illustrated, Athletic, MLB.com and NBC Sports, and author of non-fictional sports bestsellers is testament to the instability of his profession. . He shone in everything he did.
His choices here are arbitrary, sometimes capricious, always fun. He ranks a lot of players by the number on their uniforms. That’s why Robinson, of course, is 42, Mike Trout is 27, Rickey Henderson is 24, and Frank Robinson and Mike Schmidt are tied at 20, a move that leaves 19 blank, in remembrance of the Black Sox scandal in 1919. Joe DiMaggio is 56 years old, in honor of his hitting streak. Gary Carter is 86 in honor of the New York Mets’ 1986 World Series victory.
The importance of the black leagues is underlined. Thirteen men who performed there are included, some with familiar names, like Hank Aaron, Monte Irvin, and Satchel Paige, others not at all familiar, like Smokey Joe Williams, Pop Lloyd, and Oscar Charleston. Longtime center fielder and manager Charleston (1896-1954) is the biggest surprise on the whole list. He is ranked fifth, one behind Aaron, one ahead of Ted Williams. Charleston found fame in “The Baseball 100”.
“I want this ranking to make you angry,” writes Posnanski, listing several ways the ranking could be debated. An answer that the author anticipates: “How come I never even heard of this guy?”
“This ranking, unlike the others, is an observation and, even more, it is a challenge”, concludes Mr. Posnanski. “Charleston — Charlie, as he was called — is different.” More than any baseball player, he “represents that time in America when African Americans were invisible in much of the country, where baseball was played exclusively by white men, where being black and playing ball was. like howling in the wind “.
While reading “The Baseball 100”, I found a book from my childhood, “Big-Time Baseball” by Harold H. Hart and Ralph Tolleris (1950), hidden for all these years in the deep recesses of various cupboards in the rooms. houses that I owned or rented. Hart and Tolleris have tried in a small way to do what Mr. Posnanski is doing here. A panel of 150 sports journalists and 50 celebrities, ranging from Ernest Hemingway to Alan Ladd to Guy Lombardo, chose an all-time all-star team, adding a second reserve team.
The main voter for votes was Ty Cobb, followed by Ruth. Seven of the nine starters made Mr. Posnanski’s 100, with only wide receiver Bill Dickey and third baseman Pie Traynor missing the cup. (Hemingway, interestingly enough, was the only voter to pick Arky Vaughan over Traynor in third.) Four of the second-team players — Mickey Cochrane, Jimmy Collins, Lou Boudreau, and George Sisler — are also missing from Mr. Posnansky.
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, has 270 members who were players. Eighty-eight of them are included in M. Posnanski’s book. Choose the biggest of the biggest, even with analytical measurements that calculate height, weight, shoe size, hat size, bat size, total mileage for circuits, speed up at first base cumulative strokes, runs, errors, wins versus substitution, spin ratio, numbers to numbers, always comes down to subjective decisions in the end.
What do you think? Opinions may differ. That’s the beauty of exercise.
The back cover of “Big-Time Baseball”, which I found in my closet a long time ago, proclaims that it is “a book for young and old,” a book that “will turn Sonny on and delight Father and Without. no doubt, Mother and Sister will take a good look at it at length too. For baseball has become America’s family sport, spanning all ages, all income strata, and all genders; catch up with everyone in the whirlwind of his excitement, whether he is a baker, a banana merchant or a bank president.
It would also be a nice evaluation of “The Baseball 100”, a book for the moment but also for the library of the future, an old friend who will bring back again and again the old times and the old arguments. Mom will love this book. Dad will love this book. Sonny and Sister will love this book. It will be the same for bakers, banana merchants and bank presidents.
-Sir. Montville is the most recent author of “Tall Men, Short Shorts: The 1969 NBA Finals: Wilt, Russ, Lakers, Celtics, and a Very Young Sports Reporter”.
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