I feel I’m safely in the majority among the online baseball community when I say that I love Joe Posnanski’s writing. If you have had your fill of people pointing out how awesome he is, you may want to just skim the rest of this, because there’s nothing but praise for Joe here.
I will start by saying that I don’t care about the 1975 Reds. They had played and retired by the time I was old enough to follow baseball, I grew up following the Twins in the American League, when they never played the National League Reds. I’ve only ever known Pete Rose as a gambler, and Joe Morgan as an announcer. The only reason I picked up this book was The Soul of Baseball, which is right up there with W.P. Kinsella’s books for my favorite baseball books. I read some of the excerpts posted at Sports Illustrated’s website and decided this was worth a read, just because Posnanski can write baseball so well.
The entire lineup (one of the most famous in baseball history) is discussed, with tidbits and such about each players relationships with each other, with manager Sparky Anderson, and with the media. As you read, you feel like you’re on Joe Poz’s shoulder as he interviews these players for the book. It definitely reads like a memoir, not a documentary – and I think that’s intentional, and a good thing. This is a book about a team that dominated the author’s childhood years. He can’t possibly tell this story objectively, and it’s a better story because he doesn’t even try.
I went to one of Joe Poz’s book signing events here in Kansas City* and when he talked about this book, he talked about how different it was from his other one. Where The Soul of Baseball was a personal story that he felt very deeply about, The Machine was just a fun book that he wanted to write. I think that’s evident upon reading this book. The conflict of Buck O’Neill trying to impress his memories upon the sport that drove the previous book is gone here. This book defines an ‘easy read’ – a really good baseball story written by a really good baseball writer.
* Yes, I got my copy signed. Yes, I had him sign it “Gardy’s a genius!” Yes, he was a great sport, and a generally nice, engaging person.**
** That’s right – a Pozterisk in an entry about Posnanski’s book. How meta is that?