My Favorite SI Baseball Stories

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Brilliantly conceived and executed. It may be one of the last written hoaxes that fools an increasingly wary society.

2. Sportsmen of the Year, by Tom Verducci, December 6, 2004

Sports are great fun. But when there is a cultural and emotional connection between those who watch and those who play -- when sporting events become mileposts in our own lives -- then you have meaning. The Red Sox's 2004 title may be the most meaningful such title in history.

3. The Left Arm of God, by Tom Verducci, July 12, 1999

Searching for the essence of Sandy Koufax, and finding rock-solid integrity.

4. I Was A Toronto Blue Jay, by Tom Verducci, March 14, 2005

The most fun you can ever have reporting a story.

5. Totally Juiced, by Tom Verducci, June 3, 2002

The lid came off the worst kept secret in baseball.

1. Tricks of the Tradeby Steve Wulf, April 13, 1981

Under the blinding sweetness and light of the national past time -- this is the sport that launched 1,000 poets -- Wulf poked around the dark side of baseball, the black arts of the game. With a deft, light touch, Wulf pulled back the covers on the shenanigans that are basically routine. Too bad he didn't know about the Giants' scoreboard tipping pitches to Bobby Thomson in 1951.

2. A Series to Savor, by Steve Rushin, November 4, 1991

This was the perfect marriage of event and writer: a 1-0, extra-inning classic Game 7, won by Minnesota workhorse Jack Morris over Atlanta, and a young Rushin, full of wonder at the events unfolding in front of his eyes. He had the eye for detail and a proper sense of perspective -- hailing from Minnesota didn't hurt -- that made a tough-to-write story, because of the exigencies of magazines, a gem.

3. Heaven Help Marge Schott, by Rick Reilly, May 20, 1996

For reasons that I still can't fully fathom, Reilly made Schott, well, not a sympathetic figure, but not an outright fool, either, which is how she struck most of the baseball world. In addition to writerly grace, this story was informed by a healthy dose of empathy and a certain degree of nuance that I am not sure to this day that Schott deserved.

4. Sportsmen of the Year,by Tom Verducci, December 6, 2004

Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Red Sox and their curse, Verducci said it simply and movingly. That was a weepy fall in my house. When the Sox won that October night, I called my cousin and we wept for his father, my uncle, a suburban Bostonian who would have enjoyed the Sox victory as much as Terry Francona, my old acquaintance from his playing days in Montreal. True, I didn't cry when I read Verducci's stunning piece, but my eyes welled. Damn Verducci.

5. The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,by George Plimpton, April 1, 1985

Sure, I was sucked in to the fantasy at first. Wasn't everybody? I caught on maybe two pages in, but I went along for the glorious ride provided by one of America's most observant and wisest writers. All of us who love sports want to believe in the Sidd Finch's of the world. Hoax? Sure. But for me, the Plimpton masterpiece was also about hope.

1. The Transistor Kid,by Robert Creamer, May 4, 1964

This rich profile of Vin Scully takes a magical turn when Creamer allows the voice of the Dodgers to recount the time he sat on a stadium roof during a frigid winter to call a football game.

2. Heaven Help Marge Schott, by Rick Reilly, May 20, 1996

A rollicking piece on the Reds owner, this is vintage Reilly -- so vivid that you can smell the vodka on Schott's breath.

3. He Does It By The Numbers, by Daniel Okrent, May 25, 1981

Way before Bill James was famous, Okrent brilliantly gets inside the head of baseball's statistical svengali.

4. Benching of a Legend, by Roger Kahn, September 12, 1960

"Athletes, like chorus girls, are usually the last to admit that age has affected them." So writes Kahn in this elegant piece on Stan Musial in the twilight of his career.

5. The High Price of Hard Living, by Tom Verducci, February 27, 1995

The sad tales of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry are told in a remarkable work of writing and reporting.

1. Game 6, by Peter Gammons, April 6, 1987

This story, a thorough examination of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, remains as interesting and thought-provoking as the game itself. While the game is remembered mostly for its errors -- we're looking at you, Bill Buckner and Bob Stanley -- Gammons' piece detailing the wild twists and turns and debating the strategic questions of one of baseball's most memorable games is a home run.

2. Mr. Rickey and the Game, by Gerald Holland, March 7, 1955

Perhaps the first great baseball story the then-seven-month-old magazine ever ran was mostly a series of long quotes by legendary executive Branch Rickey. In allowing baseball's Mahatma to pontificate at length about the meaning of the national pastime, Holland was content to observe from the shadows, and those obsevations eventually gave the story a weight equal to Rickey's words.

3. End of the Glorious Ordeal,by Ron Fimrite, April 15, 1974

Just as Hank Aaron set a new standard with his 715th home run, so too did Fimrite with his minutes-to-deadline account of the event. For an SI writer, a deadline story can not simply answer who, what, when, where and why. It must also provide a context that will allow it to outlive all the day-after (and now, day of) stories churned out by hundreds of other outlets around the world. While Aaron's mark fell in 2007, Fimrite's piece remains as a gold standard, a monument to a great man, and a great moment.

4. Yogi, by Roy Blount Jr., April 2, 1984

Perhaps Blount's best observation was his most basic: that Yogi Berra, then the Yankees manager but already a Hall of Fame catcher known as much for his twisted malapropisms as his accomplishments on the field, was more akin to a great philosopher than the cartoon character he was -- literally -- made out to be. While exploring many of Berra's most famous quotes, Blount also coaxed some new ones out of one of baseball's most beloved figures, then wove them together with a touch that proved he was smarter than the average writer.

5. Mickey Mantle, by Richard Hoffer, August 21, 1995

As eulogies go, Hoffer's essay marking the death of Mickey Mantle was short, but it's elegant stylings and touching ending ensure that it will live on as long as the memory of Mantle himself.

6. A-Rod Agonistes, by Tom Verducci, September 25, 2006

A-Rod's gargantuan struggles in the summer of 2006 were daily fodder for every newspaper, TV and radio station and website in the country, but Verducci's probing story rose far above them all, offering a fuller, richer examination of the man and his mood than any seen before or after.

1. Worst Baseball Team Ever, by Jimmy Breslin, August 13, 1962

New York's favorite columnist chronicles the ineptitude of the 1962 Mets and conveys the city's affection for manager Casey Stengel and his loveable losers.

2. Going Fishing with the Kid, by John Underwood, August 21, 1967

Few profiles have portrayed the personal side of a Hall of Famer like this one -- which captures Ted Williams battling another nemesis: the tarpon of the Florida Keys.

3. Hand It to Cal, by Richard Hoffer, December 18, 1995

One of the most deserving Sportsmen of the Year in SI's history, and probably SI's best piece on a true legend of the game.

4. At Full Blast, by Jeff Pearlman, December 27, 1999

Arguably SI's most impactful baseball story ever in terms of how it changed the lives of both the subject (John Rocker) and the author.

5. Totally Juiced, by Tom Verducci, June 3, 2002

The story that kicked off an era in sports: SI documented how the use of steroids and other performance enhancers had become rampant in baseball.

1. Mark Fidrych, by Steve Rushin, July 2, 2001

Twenty-five years after The Bird was the word in baseball, Rushin traveled to Northboro, Mass. to catch up with Fidrych on his small family farm. An exquisite piece of writing about one of the sport's memorable comets.

2. The Ripples From Little Lake Nellie,by Gary Smith, July 12, 1993

Heartbreaking to read, even as you marvel at Smith's storytelling and reporting. The writer examined the boating deaths of Indian pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin and the grief that washed over the families. "The children were playing Marco Polo off the dock where the two ballplayers died," Smith wrote. "Their mother was sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest beneath a large pink umbrella on the end of the pier. She gazed across the soft green hills that cup Little Lake Nellie, across the cypress and orange trees and the reeds.





Everything was fine as long as her neighbor kept talking and her rottweiler kept snorting and churning those crazy zigzags in the water."

3. The High Price of Hard Living, by Tom Verducci, Feb. 27, 1995

Verducci at the top of his game. A marvelous piece of journalism about the reckless years of former Mets stars Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, and how their battles with drugs, alcohol and the law cost them their baseball prime.

4. Tom Terrific And His Mystic Talent,by Pat Jordan, July 24, 1972

"Although he is not conscious of it, Seaver shows his disdain for men who he feels have not fulfilled their potential," writes Jordan, in a perfect meeting of writer and subject.

5. Nasty Stuff, by Tom Verducci, March 29, 1999

This remarkable piece holds a special place for me because I served as the reporter on the story. Kevin Brown wasn't known as a reporter-friendly athlete but Verducci got to the center of what made Brown tick: his native McIntyre, Ga., a town of 552 smack in the center of the state, the middle of nowhere.

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