Joe Posnanski Leaves Sports Illustrated (and the Fangirl Emerges)

No, Joe Posanski did not die, and I highly doubt his move from Sports Illustrated to USA Today/MLB Advanced Media means he’ll never write again. However, I’m still sad he’s leaving my favorite magazine, so I’m using his departure as an excuse to re-read what I think are the greatest pieces he wrote for SI and over-analyze why I think they’re so great.

I’m not sure exactly when I determined he was my favorite writer – probably a year and a half ago – but I steadily realized I hadn’t read many other works that made me care so much about the topic at hand. Last summer, I interned in the communications/PR department at SI, and I sort of couldn’t believe Joe Posnanski and I were getting paychecks from the same company. Anyway, history of my fangirl-ness aside, here are a few of my favorites from his time at SI:

Baseball Night In AmericaPosnanski’s post following that crazy final day of the 2011 regular season is the greatest piece of writing (by any author) I’ve read in the last year. I actually cut out the last three paragraphs and taped them above my desk as a reminder of how brilliant writing can be (and yeah, I know that probably makes me sound crazy).

Why is it so great? You have to be a baseball fan to understand. Baseball fans have heard their friends say, “it’s so boring” or “I like going to baseball games, but could never watch it on TV.” I’m the first to admit that I’d rather watch an Oregon football game over a late-August contest between two cellar-dwellers, but on the whole, there’s no comparison. Football games are exciting without fail; you don’t have to work for the entertainment. With baseball, on the other hand – actually, never mind. Just read the last three paragraphs of that story and you’ll see what he means.

Thoughts in a Bookstore -This post from last February is especially meaningful if you’ve read “The Soul of Baseball,” the book he wrote after traveling the country with Buck O’Neil. But either way, it’s a relevant commentary on the decline of print media and one of those satisfying stories that goes in several different directions, but ties them together perfectly in the final paragraph

Before weaving the Buck O’Neil story, he provides hilariously true commentary on bookstore staff recommendations:

I love the section of “Staff Recommendations.” I remember someone in the business once telling me that the big bookstores will fake those recommendations — that they will tell staffers which books to pick. I’ve since been told that this isn’t true. I don’t have an leaning on the subject. I have noticed that the staff recommendations at bookstores across the country tend to be very similar. The recommendations always seem to include one Toni Morrison book, one classic by Steinbeck or Fitzgerald, a Bukowski, Burroughs or Palahniuk (recommended by the store rebel), a recent translation, and an Oprah book club selection. This doesn’t have to be planned. This could be because people who work in bookstores tend to have similar tastes.

I remember at one bookstore — in Arizona, I’m pretty sure –someone on the staff recommended The Bible. I thought that was great, and I wondered if anyone saw that and thought: “Well, I haven’t heard too much about this book, but I’ll buy it based on the recommendation.”

Funny, right? Yes. Now go read the rest.

The Poscast with Bob Costas – Written on the heels of recording his podcast/Poscast with Bob Costas, this post contains a quote I loved enough to put in my “Favorite Quotations” section on Facebook (which, in my world, is a sign of admiration):

The world, I believe, is best enjoyed and most affected by those people who believe in possibility, who strive for it, who shake off the doubters and their own self doubt, who laugh with the critics and keep moving forward, who follow their own curiosities until they are filled, who see themselves accomplishing the best they can imagine.

You have to read the whole post to fully understand where that’s coming from, but he tells a terrific story of an encounter he had with Bob Costas during his early days as a writer.

Happy Pi DayThis was written just a couple weeks ago, on Pi Day/March 14. I love it for the quirky perspective it offers on baseball stats (MLB pitchers whose career ERAs were 3.14), but its true greatness lies in the brief aside about repetitive acronyms. As a proud corrector of friends and family who say “ATM machine,” I felt some small measure of validation knowing that Joe Posnanski recognized the error, as well.

Others worth a read:

The Jeter School of Acting, 9/16/10

Game Six, 10/28/11

Lessons of the Fight Game, from the March 7, 2011 issue of SI

RIP Bob Feller, 12/16/10

If you’re also willing to admit to Posnanski fandom, I’d love to know what your favorite pieces are.

Words That Let Game Six Live On

For the past five minutes, I’ve tried to write an introductory paragraph that would do some justice to Joe Posnanski’s perfect post-Game 6 piece. He’s hands-down my favorite sportswriter, who was blessed with some insane ability to write eight thousand times more profoundly than anyone else.

But I can’t even begin to do it justice. So I’ll let his own words do the talking:

Freese hit the home run that won the game, hit it to straight away center field, a blast that will make every drink free in St. Louis for the rest of his life. And the 10-year-old in me was still shaking with joy. That 10-year-old always believed in comebacks, always, even after I had seen a thousand of them thwarted and smothered. “Next time,” I have always thought because that’s the wonder of sports. And then came this imperfect game, bloated with mistakes and brain-lock and baffling choices, and then, absurdly, miraculously, it became the most wonderful game I can remember.

He describes Game 6 of the World Series in depth, recounting every lead change, the comical fielding errors, the David Freese walk-off heroics.

His piece was equal parts game recap and reflection on the larger-than-life nature of baseball. It was a confirmation that all the heroics of last night really were significant. What we watched was real.

I took the newspaper out of its plastic wrap this morning and found that last night’s epic game had been relegated to a small headline on the top of the front page. Something like “Freese, Cardinals Force Game 7. Sports, C1.” That’s it? All those high-on-baseball tweets last night (many of which were coming from people who normally tweeted about football or the NBA lockout – that’s how you know it’s big) had been boiled down into a sterile headline.

But then we’re reminded of how awesome it was, thanks to pieces like Posnanski’s.

And thanks to pictures like this, of Freese’s teammates preparing to mob him as he reached home in the bottom of the 11th:

This image was the main picture on SI.com directly after the game last night.

And thanks to baseball fans everywhere – some who just became baseball fans last night – who know tonight’s game can’t come soon enough.

(Bonus: It’s a month old by now, but Posnanski’s piece on Day 162 of the 2011 baseball season was maybe the best thing I’ve read all year. Give it a whirl if you have a few minutes.)