Joe Posnanski



Sportswriter Joe Posnanski talks about how he got his start in writing and the details on his latest book, The Baseball 100. Joe first wrote for the Charlotte Observer, then the Augusta Chronicle, and the Cincinnati Post. He currently blogs on his own substack, Joe Blogs.

Joe grew up in Cleveland as a first-generation American and recalls loving sports at an early age.

“We were still figuring out what it is to be an American and how all of that works. I grew up a big sports fan in Cleveland, which is, as you all know, a very big sports town,” Joe said. “I grew up around very mediocre and bad teams, which I think completely set me up for the future…I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.”

“I never had a single person tell me that I had any talent for writing when I was growing up,” said Joe, who has now published eight books. “I used to write stuff just for myself like journal entries or little sports stories. But I never thought anything of it.”

After dropping out of accounting school, Joe moved back home and sent out inquiry letters to determine his next career move. The most influential letter he wrote was to the sports editor of The Charlotte Observer. Soon, he began covering high school baseball games.

“I went out to my first high school game with a reporter, who showed me how to keep score and how to write what a story. That was all I wanted to do. I was literally completely and utterly hooked at that point,” Joe said. “I had never shown that level of enthusiasm and ambition before. But when you know what you want to do, you are really willing to go do whatever you have to do to make it happen.”

 Joe began his writing career as a stringer while writing personal columns for practice. After leaving The Charlotte Observer, he became an online columnist for NBC Sports where he won two Emmys for his work. 

“I won both of those Emmys as part of the digital coverage of the Olympics. We were in Sochi and in Rio, working with that team, it was tremendous,” Joe said. “So, they’re on my shelf. I like when my daughter’s friends come over, they each get one and take photos with them.”

Joe’s most recent book, The Baseball 100, takes the often-debated question ‘who was the greatest player ever’ and explores it in depth. Joe described this task as “serious but serious fun.”

“We’re arguing about whether Ted Williams was better than Stan Musial. We’re not arguing about other stuff,” said Joe. “I was putting together the 100, I knew the whole thing was gonna be fairly long, but each essay was gonna be very short, just a quick explainer about who they were and what it was about. But then I found I couldn’t do it that way. I found every time I started getting to a player I wanted I wanted to dive deep. I wanted to get into why they were great and what made them great.”

Joe’s list includes baseball players from every era and provides context to their greatness. He notes that the number system he chose is a little different than what others may expect.

“I also had something else in my mind when I did these different numbers. So, Tom Seaver’s 41, which was his jersey number. There are plenty of great players that you might not even remember their number. But Tom Seaver was 41. So for me, putting Tom Seaver at 41 is better than putting him at 36 or 37, or 39, or 34.”

Andy and Joe reminisce about some baseball legends and speculate who may or may not make the cut into the Hall of Fame.

“I think there is an argument to be made that Oscar Charleston is the greatest player who ever lived. And I’m not the only one to say that, many people have said that through the years, including in his own time. Oscar Charleston is fascinating to me…you know, he played the pitch when he was 58 years old.

“We do know a lot about Satchel Paige, of course, he was a legendary figure. He was an unbelievable speaker and writer and all of these other things and a character. He became this larger-than-life figure. He was the one guy playing in the Negro Leagues who was well known. Even Josh Gibson wasn’t as well known as Satchel Paige. Josh Gibson, because of his great power, was called the Black Babe Ruth.”

Joe uses his book as a way to draw attention to potentially forgotten greats. Andy adds that, despite his 40 plus year sports career, he had never heard of Oscar Charleston.

“Could the greatest player ever get lost in history? Is that possible? And, to me, that was what that was all about,” said Joe.

Speaking of greats, Andy and Joe discuss the steroid-use controversy over Hall of Fame hopefuls. 

“This is my mindset at Legends Of Sport, we have decided that we don’t care about that stuff. You cited Barry Bonds and talked about how great he was before steroids…It’s such a multi-layered conversation,” said Andy.

“I think that the Baseball Hall of Fame should have the greatest players in it. And I think there are ways to acknowledge the shortcomings there. There are lots of people with lots of shortcomings in the Hall of Fame,” Joe said. “You can’t write off the greatest players of their era. You can’t just leave them off because the game is broken.”

As of this year, no known steroid user has been elected to the Hall of Fame. Greats like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa have been on the voting ballot for 10 years and their nominations have recently expired.

“Barry Bonds, at some point, became the best player who ever lived. Nobody’s even close to Barry Bonds from 2001 to 2004. He broke the game, he got to a point where managers literally would not pitch to him. He had 120 intentional walks in a single season, which is more than double anybody else,” Joe said.

“How seriously do you take those numbers? Because if you seriously take those numbers, and don’t throw everything out, Barry Bonds was the greatest player ever…I’m not approving of what anybody did. But if Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are two of 73% of baseball players that were using something it’s awfully hard to say that they were doing it against players who were also doing it. It was really a baseball mistake, a baseball issue. Hopefully, they’ve cleaned up most of that. It was not good for the game, no question about that. But I will tell you, Barry Bonds was the greatest hitter I ever saw.”

Hear Joe and Andy share their opinions on baseball legends and the future of sports. 


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