Claim to fame: Here’s a trivia question: Who is Charles Dryden? How about Heywood Broun? Frank Graham? As an aspiring sportswriter, I’ve read Dryden, Broun, Graham and other long-dead pioneers of my craft. Dryden even had a cool life story, living as a hobo in the 1800s before going to work as a newspaperman. He once described Deadball Era pitcher Ed Walsh as “the only man in the world who could strut standing still.” To most fans, Dryden, Broun, and Graham would be just names. They have one thing, though, that a current, recognizable sportswriter, Joe Posnanski does not: a spot in the writers wing of the Hall of Fame.
Honoring recipients of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing,” the wing is a place that I could get lost in but something most fans wouldn’t care seeing on their Cooperstown visit. Honoring Posnanski could boost interest. As a two-time AP sports columnist of the year, current Sports Illustrated writer, and celebrated blogger, Posnanski might be the best sports journalist today. Certainly, I look up to him, and I enjoyed interviewing him. I’m far from the only person Posnanski’s influenced. That’s a common theme among the greatest writers wing honorees from Grantland Rice to Jim Murray to Peter Gammons.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Posnanski is eligible to win the award, though as he’s in his 40s, it could be awhile. Traditionally, the award has functioned as something of a lifetime achievement honor, given to writers like Murray late in their careers or awarded posthumously. Gammons was one of the youngest honorees when he received the award in 2004 at 59.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Yes, absolutely. I look at Posnanski like I look at Albert Pujols. Each man is so much more skilled than his peers it’s ridiculous, and if either were to retire tomorrow, I would have no problem honoring them. Each has done enough for Cooperstown in my eyes.
Posnanski would have a strong case for the writers wing from his newspaper, Sports Illustrated, and book-writing work, but it’s what he’s done outside his job that seals it for me. Posnanski is a master of the 21st century version of New Journalism, blogging, and as sports writing becomes more and more of an online endeavor, he stands as a great example influencing a generation of young writers. He’s also a great guy, perhaps the best thing of all.
Murray was a role model, too, in his decades with the Los Angeles Times, inspiring countless writers who imitated his witty, acerbic prose. Years before, Graham essentially created the fly-on-the-wall style of sports feature writing. And after Rice died in 1954, Smith wrote, “Perhaps it is not literally true that Grantland Rice put a white collar upon the men of his profession, but not all sportswriters before him were cap-and-sweater guys. He was, however, the sportswriter whose company was sought by presidents and kings.”
At least a few others in the writers wing are, for aspiring writers, little more than good examples of bad examples. I won’t get into names, but they’re the kind of folk who trash blogging, denigrate any kind of different writing really (one less-than-stellar honoree called Ball Four “horseshit,” for instance) and bemoan the decline of newspapers. Every year that they are in the Hall of Fame and Posnanski is not, Cooperstown looks more behind the times.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Jack Morris, Joe Carter, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark