Joe Posnansky’s New Book, The Baseball 100, Is a Win


Basically a ranking of the 100 best players in baseball history, Joe Posnanski’s new book is much more than that.

Debating who is better and who is the best is something that sports fans almost obviously do. However, these conversations often reveal more about the person arguing about the player’s defense – a fun exercise that illuminates nothing. Joe Posnansky’s new book, baseball 100, Which counts the 100 greatest players in the history of the sport is an exception to this general rule.

From notorious to little known (Arki Vaughn, Robin Roberts, And Eddie Collins All the names were new to me, at least), Posnansky sheds new light in each chapter of his groundbreaking new book. In its more than 800 pages, baseball 100 Has firmly and repeatedly established itself as one of the best baseball books of recent years—perhaps one of the best.

While this book is clearly a ranking of the 100 best players of the game of all time, it is more exploratory than argumentative. There’s a general arc from really good to all-time great as the book progresses, but the number of players involved isn’t really the point. In fact, with some players their ranking has less to do with their overall achievements than a significant part of their legacy. for example, Joe DiMaggio ranked 56th and Jackie Robinson is at 42. Ultimately, it is an unconventional and non-chronological history of baseball as much as it is a ranking of players – a chance to trace the development of the game through the lives and careers of its great players.

Baseball 100 turns the idea of ​​historical rankings on its head

Despite its length, the book flies and is compulsively readable. One can easily find themselves telling “just another chapter” over and over again as they realize that a section dedicated to one of their favorite players is imminent. In each essay, Posnanski is more concerned with giving the reader an experience for the player, capturing their essence by honing in on a particular feature of their game or personality, or a moment in time that defines them. This means that for many chapters, the knowledgeable reader will be able to guess what they are about to read. However, each topic is addressed in such a way that even the best of the ground can be looked at anew.

In light of this focus, statistics are relatively rarely used for a book that claims to rank the 100 best players in baseball history. But when they are used, they are used in very interesting ways: not to argue for a player’s greatness, but to show a story about what makes them unique.

To give an example, one of the book’s most amusing moments is when it spends a page displaying absurd leads. nolan ryan There are many career statistics, both good and bad. Yes, this is proof that trying to rank him is a tedious and futile effort. But more than that, it showed how adamant and outspoken he was. Posnanski writes of Ryan, “He is incomparable. Whatever a pitcher could do, he did better. Whatever a pitcher could do, he did worse… The other pitches were going for their point.” Nolan Ryan was going for his point.” This is a brilliant use of numbers from which other writers can learn a lot.

Posnanski also honors the many players whose best years came in the Negro Leagues, or never played in Major League Baseball because of isolation. It is a necessary and much appreciated corrective that acknowledges that these guys were not only great black ballplayers, but great players full stop.

As he notes, if players like hank aaron, billy williams, And Willie McCovey Born two decades earlier, they would have all played their prime seasons in the Negro Leagues, “and their stories would be told as legend.” Peculiar stories will be circulated about his greatness and many fans today, will hesitate to admit him. However, having seen them in Majors, we know that such stories will not be beyond myths, but reality, which calls into question the way we think about players. Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and anecdotes about Pop Lloyd and his greatness. This is a compelling, and convincing argument. He writes, “I would not worry about people overrated Negro Leaguers. I would worry about people underreporting them.”

While the book is, of course, about baseball players, it is ultimately about 100 different men, men who succeeded in their craft in various ways, becoming myths, legends, and symbols in the process. Even as someone who hasn’t watched a full baseball game in over a decade, I ate this book. And it’s easy for me to imagine people who love the game and enjoy it even more. baseball 100 That may not have converted me into a fan, but while reading its 800 pages, it made me momentarily wish I were one.

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