Recommended Reading

About a year or so ago, one of the readers here, who comments using the screen name “Daryl”, recommended a book to me – – The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski.  I had not read the book, but I love baseball and I love Joe Posnanski’s writing.  So, I did what any normal/rational person would do; I put that book on my Christmas Wish List.  Santa Claus must have had me on the “Nice List” last year because I received 4 books from my list and one of them was The Baseball 100.

Notice that I did not say that Santa left me the book in my Christmas stocking hung by the fireplace.  This book would not fit in a stocking – – not even Sasquatch’s stocking.  It is a large format book measuring 6 inches by 9 inches and it has 827pages plus a few more to provide room for an index and an introduction written by George F. Will.

I want to take this opportunity to recommend this book to anyone and everyone who likes baseball and enjoys the challenge of comparing player performances over the various “eras of the game”.  The Baseball 100 has been called an “instant sports classic” and a “one-of-a-kind work”.  I am not going to try to label it; I simply want baseball fans to get it and read it.

[Aside:  Lest someone wonder why it took until late June for me to finish a book that was so good I am recommending it here, there was another book I got last Christmas that I started first.  That one was “American Prometheus, the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.  That is the book the 3-hour movie “Oppenheimer” was based upon, and it is 599 pages of dense and turgid prose.]

The premise of the book is pretty obvious from its title; included here are the stories of 100 best baseball players in Poznanski’s mind.  As Bob Costas observes in his comments on the book:

“You can quibble with some of Joe Poznanski’s judgments.  And so what?  That’s always been part of the fun for baseball fans.  And Poznanski on baseball has always been fun.”

I first encountered Joe Poznanski as a columnist for the KC Star about 25 years ago.  In the early days of the Internet and the Worldwide Web, I used to check the Star’s web address several times a week because the paper had two columnists that seemed to be polar opposites.  Poznanski seemed able to find goodness and decency in just about anything and he would write about it in an entertaining fashion even if the subject matter was as exciting as dust.  The other columnist there at the time was Jason Whitlock who was – – and still is – – a provocateur.  I would read both men for totally different reasons.

Joe Poznanski has written for Sports Illustrated and The Athletic and  He is a meticulous researcher and has a way of presenting data-rich material in a light and easy manner.  This book obviously contains tons of baseball stats, but they are presented in a way that makes the reader comfortable as they unfold.

For the record, only four currently active players make the list of The Baseball 100:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Mike Trout
  4. Justin Verlander

I was surprised by a few omissions from the list:

  • Larry Doby
  • Whitey Ford
  • Tom Glavine
  • Chuck Klein
  • Don Newcome
  • George Sisler
  • Hack Wilson

Each of the 100 chapters in the book is a short bio and summary of an individual player’s life and career in baseball.  There are a few common threads in and among those stories such as at least a dozen players who were driven to excel in the game by their fathers who had played baseball below the level of the major leagues and who pushed their sons to develop a skill set that would get them into the major leagues.  And at the same time every chapter is different …

There are six Chapters that I found outstanding even though they are embedded in an overall engrossing and wonderful book:

  1. Bob Gibson
  2. Ferguson Jenkins
  3. Sadaharu Oh
  4. Satchel Paige
  5. Cal Ripken, Jr.
  6. Ichiro Suzuki

As I said at the start, if you like baseball, this is a book you should read.  I want to thank “Daryl” for putting me onto the book and now I am following his lead in recommending The Baseball 100 to you.  And if you put it on your Christmas List as I did, be sure to be on the “Nice List” for 2024.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Recommended Reading”

  1. Curmudgeon:

    Thank you for the “Baseball 100” recommendation. Another interesting (but slightly deeper) book on the subject of sports statistics is “Mathletics” (with a long subtitle) by Wayne Winston. It starts with the ‘pythagorean theorem of baseball’ and goes from there (sometimes uphill). I find myself often bewildered by the stats that are thrown out on the news programs. This book solves some of my problems; 123 pages just on baseball, another 123 on football and basketball, and about 80 on gambling, odds, ratings, rankings, etc.

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