Any player/Any era: Joe Posnanski

What he did: As regulars to this site may know, I had the opportunity last September to interview Posnanski, the baseball blogosphere’s favorite son and Sports Illustrated writer. Gracious as he’s been with many other bloggers, Posnanski spoke with me for almost an hour. I got much more material than I used here, and among the outtakes, I asked Posnanski what other era he’d have liked to have been a sportswriter in. It’s an odd question, granted, but bear with me a minute.

I’ve long had an interest in the history of sports journalism, which dates back formally in America to the late 19th century. I like Fred Lieb’s stories of beginning as a young baseball writer in New York in the early 1910s. I like longtime Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich talking of traveling with ball clubs by train, when maybe three road trips occurred per season, each a multi-week long jag. “There you were with the ballplayers,” Povich remembered years later. “You got to know them. You got to be friendly with those you wanted to be friendly with, and you learned which ballplayers didn’t like baseball writers. A great many!”

So the question is what other era might have best suited Posnanski.

Era he might have thrived in: With the literary flourishes evident in his work, Posnanski might have done well in the 1920s when sportswriters like Grantland Rice published books of poetry in down time. But as a married man with two school age daughters, it seems Posnanski might have a hard time enduring the long train trips. He told me he’d have opted for the 1960s.

Why: I’ll start by relaying what Posnanski told me. He said:

I really like the ’60s. I just think there was so much going on, and there was so much crossover between sports and culture. It was a very trying time, and it was a difficult time, and I just think there were a lot of great stories right then.

There are other reasons Posnanski might have excelled. The ’60s were a time when the arts thrived and took on new life, when the studio system of film production gave way to more independent works, when rock music and Motown came into its own, and when there was perhaps no better time to be a magazine writer. Long before the Internet slammed print revenues, more magazines existed and offered good opportunities. The ’60s also saw the development of New Journalism, and seeing as Posnanski has diverged from many of his contemporaries and embraced blogging and used it to reach more readers, I think he’d have been an innovator.

It’s worth noting that if Posnanski were covering baseball in the 1960s, he’d be doing it ahead of the 1970 publication of Ball Four, the landmark success of which significantly changed the reporting style of the sport, making it acceptable to print risque locker room tales. But considering how gentle Posnanski comes across, I doubt he’d mind milder subject matter. And seeing as he writes often about the likes of Hall of Fame standard bearer Willie Mays and his SI cover subject last August, Stan Musial, I can only imagine Posnanski’s thrill at the chance to cover them in action.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz MaiselGeorge Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr., Lefty O’Doul, Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Wally Bunker, Willie Mays

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