Joe Posnanski has had a recurring joke on his podcast (or “PosCast”) with “The Good Place” creator Michael Schur: He mentions that he has written a new book on baseball; Schur pretends to be confused, since Posnanski released a nearly 900-page book titled “The Baseball 100” in 2021; and then Posnanski clarifies that, no, he wrote another book on the sport, “Why We Love Baseball.”
Clearly, there was a demand for it: Much like “The Baseball 100,” “Why We Love Baseball” is a New York Times bestseller, debuting at No. 2 on the hardcover nonfiction list earlier this month. While the former is a collection of essays on 100 of the greatest baseball players of all time, the latter — which, it should be noted, is only 400 pages long — looks back at 50 of the most significant moments in the game’s history.
Despite its title, “Why We Love Baseball” isn’t intended solely for readers who love baseball. It obviously caters to the die-hard fan who has fond memories of, say, Kirk Gibson hitting a game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series on two injured legs. But there are also stories that will engage the more casual fan or even nonfan, written in the informative-but-conversational style that Posnanski is known for. Take, for example, the essay on whether Geena Davis' Dottie dropped the ball on purpose in “A League of Their Own.”
“(I) certainly wanted real hardcore baseball fans to find new things in here and be surprised and delighted by some of the stories in here. But there are a lot of stories in here that I thought about my mother, for example, who is not a baseball fan, but I wanted her to read this and really enjoy it,” Posnanski explains in an interview with TODAY.com.
The release of “Why We Love Baseball” comes during a fascinating time in the major leagues, when the introduction of a pitch clock has significantly reduced the length of games; the playoffs, which will feature 12 teams thanks to the revamping of the format last year, are just around the corner; and Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani is poised to win the American League MVP award after performing at a level as both a pitcher and as a hitter that has never been seen before in the majors, not even from Babe Ruth, before his season was cut short due to injury.
Posnanski devotes a chapter in his new book to Ohtani’s magnificent run as a two-way player, and for good reason.
“Every time he goes out, it feels like he’s breaking some kind of record. And it is joyous. It really just brings so much happiness, watching him hit or pitch, because he’s not only great at both of those things, he’s also exciting,” Posnanski says. “He’s not the sort of pitcher who just kind of works his way through and throws strikes and gets outs. I mean, he throws about as hard as anybody. And he’s not just a good hitter. He’s the guy who can hit the ball 500 feet at any point. He’s so thrilling for both sides of the game.”
Sharing a passion with others
For many fans, their love of baseball traces back to childhood, a way to bond with a parent over a game of catch, a la “Field of Dreams.” It was no different for Posnanski.
“I’m a first-generation American. My father moved to the United States just before I was born. And for him, it was very important to raise a baseball fan,” Posnanski recalls. “Like, for him, part of being an American was liking baseball, and he had no knowledge of baseball whatsoever when he came. But he learned to like the game because he thought he should raise his sons as baseball fans. So, from that perspective, it was always incredibly important to me to like baseball and also just to be connected with my father and baseball.”
Now, Posnanski, who has been named National Sportswriter of the Year by five different organizations during his career, shares his joy for the game through various platforms, including his books, a Substack newsletter and his podcast. The newsletter in particular allows him the opportunity to not only discuss baseball and other sports, but also various topics that happen to interest him, from family life to the “Succession” finale.
The pride he takes in his newsletter is evident.
“In the newsletter, you’re really writing for people who are passionate about the same things that you’re passionate about, at least to some degree. And that’s a very fun kind of writing. It really builds communities, I think, in incredibly cool ways,” he says.
For those who are eager to share their own passions with others, he says, “There are new ways to connect that are much more personal, I think, than ever before. And I think that’s really cool. And that’s what I would recommend to anybody and have recommended to everybody who’s ever asked me — it’s like, if you have a passion, there’s an outlet for you that’s free and powerful, and you can really build on that.”
About Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce …
In July, Posnanski wrote an essay in his newsletter about his emotional experience as a dad taking his younger daughter (he has two daughters, ages 22 and 18) to a Taylor Swift concert at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
You may be aware that Swift has since returned to that stadium, for a very different reason. She attended the Kansas City Chiefs’ home game against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 24 and had social media in a tizzy as she supported her maybe-new-love interest Travis Kelce.
TODAY.com asked Posnanski to help make sense of the situation, as a former columnist for the Kansas City Star and as a proud Swiftie.
“The great thing is in my family — we’ve lived in Kansas City, both my daughters were born there — my older daughter is a gigantic, gigantic Chiefs fan. Huge, huge Chiefs fan, loves Travis, loves Patrick Mahomes, mainly. My younger daughter is an enormous world-class Swiftie. Like, she lives and breathes Taylor Swift. So (Sunday) was quite the day for both of them as (the Chiefs) destroyed the Bears, and my younger daughter freaking out about the apparent relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce,” Posnanski says.
If Swift and Kelce really are dating, Posnanski is completely on board with it. (A source close to Swift told NBC News the two are hanging out; a representative for the singer did not respond to a request for comment.)
“I mean, it seems clear now that they’re dating. … I leave it to my younger daughter, Katie, who has said, ‘I totally ship them. I think they’re, like — they’re perfect for each other.’ So I’m going to go with that. I love it.”