A quick editor’s note: Author and former Kansas City Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski has written a new book: The Baseball 100. It officially launches Tuesday, and Joe will be at the Unity Temple on the Plaza Wednesday evening for a special appearance with baseball historian and fellow author Bill James. Here, Joe gives us a sneak-peek at the book with a countdown of 13 select players on this august list: thirteen all-time greats with KC ties. With no further adieu, here’s the author himself.
The Baseball 100 was a labor of love.
What could be better than counting down the 100 greatest players in baseball history? And yes, Kansas City, kept coming up again and again.
I was just on a radio show and someone said, “Is the only Kansas City player on the list George Brett?”
And I said: “Hardly.”
No. 98: Carlos Beltran
Obviously. Played for the Royals from 1998-2004. People in Kansas City got to watch Carlos when he was raw and still learning the game and absolutely brilliant. I will always remember after he got traded to Houston he had that postseason for the ages with the Astros, and a couple of reporters came up to me and said: “You didn’t know he was THIS good.” But we did.
No. 92: Bullet Rogan
The Shohei Ohtani of his day, Rogan was a star for the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1920s both as a pitcher and a hitter. It’s hard to say which was he was better at. He was called “Bullet” for his blazing fastball, but Buck O’Neil always said Rogan was one of the best pure hitters he ever saw.
No. 82: Kid Nichols
A Kansas City legend, he began his career in 1887 with the Kansas City Monarchs and then became the most dominant pitcher of the 1890s for the Boston Beaneaters — even more dominant than Cy Young. Settled right back home in Kansas City after he retired and opened a spree of bowling alleys.
No. 68: Gaylord Perry
Finished his career with the Kansas City Royals in 1983 — won his 316th and final game that September with a 6-5 victory at home over Oakland.
No. 65: Ernie Banks
Mr. Cub began his pro career playing ball for Buck O’Neil and the Kansas City Monarchs in 1953. “Playing for the Monarchs,” Banks used to say, “was like my school.”
No. 64: Johnny Mize
Mize was already a legend when he played 26 games for the Kansas City Blues in 1950. But it was assumed that his career basically over. It was not. He played four more years for the Yankees, appearing in four more World Series.
No. 59: Reggie Jackson
Mr. October began his big-league career with the Kansas City Athletics in 1967 and hit his first big-league homer wearing a KC A’s uniform (though he hit the homer in Anaheim). That was the only homer he hit as a Kansas City Athletic; he hit 562 the rest of the way.
No. 42: Jackie Robinson
Robinson famously began his professional baseball career with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. Branch Rickey signed him late that season.
No. 35: George Brett
You might have heard of him.
No. 25: Pop Lloyd
He only played for the Kansas City Monarchs for a few games in 1921, but that’s still something for one of the greatest shortstops in the history of the game. When people compared him and Honus Wagner, it is said that Wagner said, “It’s an honor for me to be compared with him.”
No. 23: Albert Pujols
I’m reaching a little bit here … he has never played professionally in Kansas City. But he did play at Maple Woods Community College and Fort Osage High School, so he gets the full Kansas City seal of approval.
No. 11: Mickey Mantle
Played for the Kansas City Blues in 1951, where he famously considered quitting baseball. His father came up to see him and began packing Mickey’s bags, saying, “I thought I raised a man.” Mantle stayed and become one of the most iconic players in baseball history.
No. 10: Satchel Paige
The greatest Kansas City player of them all, whether it was on Monarchs or on the Kansas City Blues at age 58 (or, more likely, older). In his last game, he held the Boston Red Sox scoreless for three innings. The only hit he allowed was to a pretty fair player named Carl Yastrzemski.
Find The Baseball 100 at Rainy Day Books, Amazon and other retailers.