This year’s results in the Bronx and Queens notwithstanding, New York baseball teams have dominated baseball history. Teams representing the Big Apple have won nearly a third of the World Series titles, including 27 by the Yankees.
So it should stand to reason that New York would be well represented in any compilation of the sport’s best. Following a similar effort with football last year, Sports Illustrated has published Baseball’s Greatest, a weighty, 288-page coffee table book listing top tens at each position as well as best ballparks, uniforms, franchises and more.
Indeed, New York’s teams and players are found throughout the book, with several earning the best-ever honors. Individually, Lou Gehrig was picked as the top first baseman, Willie Mays as the premier center fielder, Babe Ruth as the #1 right fielder, Mariano Rivera as the best relief pitcher and John McGraw as the pre-eminent manager. The Yankees, with 40 World Series appearances, are listed as the #1 franchise, and Ruth was also picked as the overall top slugger.
The depth of New York stardom is best seen in categories like catcher, where five are in the top 10, including Yogi Berra at #2, Roy Campanella at #3, and Bill Dickey, Mike Piazza and Gary Carter at spots 8-10, respectively. Four N.Y. center fielders rank in the top 10, with Joe DiMaggio (third), Mickey Mantle (fourth) and Duke Snider (seventh) accompanying Mays.
Notably, of the 10 the greatest games according to editor Bill Syken and his team of SI baseball reporters, six have N.Y. teams involved, paced by the #2 selection of the memorable Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Mets and Red Sox.
But just listing the rankings does a disservice to what SI has accomplished: a compendium of the greatest of the great, with matching outstanding photography and brief notes and quotes about each top 10 pick.
Whereas SI’s Football’s Greatest had a more subjective feel (comparing eras in football seems much more difficult), there isn’t a ton to argue about the selections here. Rather, Baseball’s Greatest can be enjoyed more as a celebration of the players, teams and games that fans have loved for more than a century.