Don't take the order too seriously.
Joe Posnanski’s deep and voluminous The Baseball 100 catalogues one hundred of the best baseball players to ever do it. From beloved superstars like Ken Griffey Jr. to unbeloved albeit brilliant ballplayers like Ty Cobb.
However, the lesser-known names on the list represent some of the most interesting characters on the list. Posnanski goes to great lengths to include Negro League greats whose talents were unfairly hidden.
His massive compendium of baseball lore spans across multiple generations and leagues. All sorts of characters and archetypes. Every player reads as a human being with a tasteful dose of legend. Some more than others.
Baseball is a romantic game, the story of which is told with folk tales and scattered memories. Getting lost in the facts probably misses the point. Posnanski hits all the right notes in this one, painting a beautiful image of the game through its greatest contributors.
Posnanski’s prose is entry-level, accessible for a wide variety of readers. Given the ambition of the project Posnanski largely sticks to the point. No page-long digressions describing scenic landscapes or philosophical monologuing.
Parents out there: there are some swear words, but no vulgarity. This is primarily adult reading, but appropriate for a high school reader.
My favorite part.
Barry Bonds’ entry stands out. Instead of attempting to describe Bonds’ legacy from a single perspective, Posnanski splits it up into both general camps: pro-Bonds and anti-Bonds. An interesting exercise. The result is one of the more memorable selections of the 100.
Cheating by listing a second favorite part, likely shared by many: the sheer number of names included on this list I’d never even heard of. And not just the Negro Leaguers. Nap Lajoie, Charlie Gehringer, Cool Papa Bell, Robin Roberts, Monte Irvin, Smokey Joe Williams, to name a few. There were even a couple within Posnanski’s top 30.
What could I possibly not like?
The book might have been titled “My Baseball 100.” No “top”-style rankings list can remain 100% objective. The issue is not how Posnanski orders the players. However, Posnanski will consistently remind you who’s writing this book as you read it.
Every player on this list deserves a full biography. Surely, most of them exist. There ought be no expectation for any writer to cover all the bases in 8-10 pages. However, unless you are an avid Joe Posnanski fan, you may not be interested in Joe Posnanski’s personal experience with Mickey Mantle. But hey, you might.
The Baseball 100 is a wonderful accomplishment. Quibbles aside, this book bursts with substance.
I read this book during the end of the 2022 player lockout, in March of 2022 right before a delayed opening day. Posnanski’s volume reminds us how fun baseball can be. The many characters. The best aren’t always the best in every way. How there are many paths to greatness. And there are many flavors.
The beauty of a timeless work like this is its constant relevance. This book awaits patiently on your shelf for the next wait, who was that guy? moment. Something more substantive than a quick Google search. Certainly some new names will enter the conversation over the next 5-10 years, but this book will remain as a wonderful snapshot in time.
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