Real baseball fans love to discuss the game endlessly. As the old cliché (sort of) says, “Opinions are like posteriors…everybody has one”.
Ask your favorite baseball fanatics who would be the three Outfielders on their all-time team. One may say Ted Williams, Willie Mays & Babe Ruth. Another may question how the player with the highest lifetime Batting Average (Ty Cobb) could be left off. The third might ask about the player with the most popular baseball cards of the post-War era (Mickey Mantle). Then, we’d hear from a Pirate fan about Roberto Clemente. And, as we know, “chicks dig the long ball”, so Hank Aaron & Barry Bonds would get significant support.
This time of year always brings out opinions about the Hall of Fame balloting and no two fans seem to have the exact same list. This year is no exception with controversial players such as Curt Schilling, Bonds & Roger Clemens eligible. How about Omar Vizquel, Scott Rolen & Billy Wagner? Then there’s Gary Sheffield, Todd Helton & Jeff Kent. What about first-time guys…Tim Hudson & Mark Buehrle each won over 200 Games with WAR (Wins Above Replacement) numbers of 59 & 58. Would your ballot include one player, a few players or ten players?
Another really interesting discussion involves great baseball finishes. For many fans, the World Series comes to mind and the names that were captured by our mental snapshots…Bill Mazeroski, Bobby Richardson, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Joe Carter, Luis Gonzalez and so many more. But, of course there were also seemingly unimportant games that provided memorable finishes…the last day of the 1941 season when Ted Williams went 6-for-8, the last day of the 1950 season when the Phillies captured the pennant, Harvey Haddix and his 12-inning “perfect game”. Or, maybe it’s a moment you actually witnessed like George Brett’s 3,000th hit or a Sandy Koufax no-hitter.
Now, there’s a way to enjoy this topic fully in a new book by my friend Howard Peretz. He has developed the BFI (Baseball Finish Index) and ranked each of the top finishes in a fan’s guide to “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Finishes”. It is a great read for both old-school fans and youngsters learning about the game. You will reminisce about many of the entries and also wonder about a few that might surprise you. To tease you a bit, #99 is about a College game, #93 took place in 1905, #79 is about a 15-inning game and #60 stars an 11 year-old.
Howard’s book also has great visuals, as there are over 100 beautiful images of baseball cards that dovetail with the game descriptions. If you’d like more information, the book is available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Just use “peretz” or “saving baseball” in the search engine.