Baseball’s Greatest; a Book of Top Ten List from Sports Illustrated

SIEditors of Sports Illustrated, 2013

288 pages, color and B&W

5 out of 5 stars

A big part of being a baseball fan is debating the nuance of the game from the stands, or at work the day after a game, or during the cold, quiet offseason. Which current players belong in the Hall of Fame? Who was the greatest catcher of all time? Should there be instant replay? What was the single best game ever played? There are hundreds of debates, and each debate has hundreds of opinions. And in the spirit of year-end lists, Sports Illustrated’s Baseball’s Greatest presents a colorful and thought-provoking summary of baseball’s best,  including the top sluggers, pitchers, stadiums, managers and games of all time.

It is the ultimate book of baseball top ten lists, compiled through a collaboration of SI writers and editors, ranking the best players by position but also the best base runners, sluggers, defensive players and baseball movies. Who was the #2 shortstop of all time? Derek Jeter. Who is the #9 center fielder? Kirby Puckett. What was the greatest game ever played? It’s not Jack Morris’s 10-inning shutout during Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. As a Twins fan I’m biased towards that one, but it came in at #3. And isn’t The Natural a better baseball movie than Moneyball? As you can see, there is already plenty to debate. Imagine the opinions, the arguments that a top 10 list in over 20 baseball categories can create!

This is a hefty, significant coffee table book, overflowing with wonderful color photos, and classic shots of the old baseball legends who occupied this earth long before many of us. Ty Cobb (the #2 center fielder of all time), Lefty Grove (the #2 left-handed pitcher), and the Polo Grounds (the 8th best ballpark) all make appearances in giant, vivid black and white.

One thing I liked about the book is that it doesn’t ignore the men who have been tainted by their involvement in steroids or gambling, but judges all players by their performance on their field and the field alone. As a result, great players like Pete Rose, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire are held in the same esteem as Babe Ruth, Jimmy Foxx and Eddie Murray. This is a book of baseball greats, players who contributed significantly to any fan’s enjoyment of the game, and it leaves the debates to the fans.

More controversial are the lists themselves and which players, stadiums and games were chosen and which were left out. How is 1988 World Series Game 1 not in the top 10 best games? Why is 1975 World Series Game 6 the #1? Sure, Fisk waved the ball fair and then jumped for joy after it cleared the monster, but his team went on to lose Game 7 to the Reds the next day. I can understand why Rogers Hornsby is rated as the top second baseman of all time, but why is Joe Morgan #2? Oh, perhaps I’m letting myself be influenced by his broadcasting. Like I said, the book doesn’t fault any player for their behaviors off the field.

I won’t give away much more, but here is how they ranked the greatest ballparks. Feel free to debate these for the rest of your life, as I know you have been anyway, without assistance from this enjoyable book.

Best Ballpark

1. Fenway Park

2. Wrigley Field

3. Yankee Stadium (the old one)

4. Ebbets Field

5. Oriole Park at Camden Yards

6. Tiger Stadium (not Comerica)

7. AT&T Park

8. Polo Grounds

9. Dodger Stadium (the current one in LA)

10. Comisky Park

Are these correct? Did they leave anything out? Can the Polo Grounds be included when it was demolished almost 50 years ago? These are the kind of questions and debates this book can spawn. It’s not only a great coffee table book, not only a great reference book, but it’s a great history book. A tight document of all the greatest things about history’s greatest sport.

Baseball’s Greatest is available from Sports Illustrated, makes a great gift, and you can buy it wherever books are sold.

Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Cigar City Magazine and Germ Warfare. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards.

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