How deep does baseball beat through the veins of The Sporting News? It was the reason TSN was established in 1886 (more to come soon).
Before there was an American League, which, by the way, TSN played a huge role in founding, The Sporting News covered the National League and the American Association.
TSN was “the Bible of baseball,” keeping the American military overseas informed of their beloved teams as they fought in the world wars, covering countless minor leagues, coast to coast, including the Southern League and the Little Rock Travelers ( my dad was a batboy in the 1930s).
SN 50: The 50 Greatest Singles Seasons of All Time
His father or grandfather or great-grandfather before him probably at some point kept up with baseball by subscribing to The Sporting News.
So when our now fully digital team came up with the idea of the 50 greatest individual seasons in sports history, I knew that baseball would be a key part, especially since it has been around longer than most other North American sports.
So, yes, you will see seasons from the 1913 campaign of Walter Johnson (No. 50 on the list), Sandy Koufax in 1965 (26) and Ted Williams in ’41 (17). There are Bonds’ 2001 (12), The Babe’s 1921 (11) and Bo’s 1989 (7), among others. Let the discussion begin.
In all, 10 baseball seasons landed on the SN50, and The Sporting News has chronicled each of those seasons in great detail, except for Josh Gibson’s 1943 with the Homestead Grays, No. 29 on the list.
Look, that’s the thing about honest history. You cannot choose only the good things. The Sporting News, as Ryan Fagan points out, essentially ignored black baseball players at the time, and yet in TSN’s first mention of Gibson, he was called “the Babe Ruth of the black loop.” Times change, fortunately.
I don’t want to be all James Earl Jones with you, but in fact the only constant over the years, dear reader, has been baseball. America has passed like an army of bulldozers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the moment.
And The Sporting News has marked baseball.
I have worked for or with The Sporting News almost non-stop since 1991. I have written and edited, planned and executed a great deal of MLB coverage in that time, a good deal of it spent in St. Louis, where TSN was founded and He called his home until 2008.
Pedro Martínez’s 2000 season? Incredible.
Bonds’ 2001 season? Incredible.*
And now the 2023 of Shohei Ohtani? Unmatched, as Ryan and senior editor Jason Foster so eloquently argue by placing it on top of the SN50.
– Sports news (@sportingnews) December 22, 2023
Put the list aside for a moment, though, and let me tell you not about a particular season, but about the person who accomplished it: Bob Gibson, who in 1968 posted numbers that led to his year at No. 14 on the SN50. .
I’m old enough to vaguely remember the 1968 Gibson season. I was also fortunate to have chatted with him at the Cardinals spring training in Florida and during the regular season in St. Louis and at the Cardinals Midwinter Banquet, hosted each January by the local BBWAA chapter and starring artists like Gibson and fellow Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Lou Brock.
Gibson and I used to talk little about baseball in general, maybe pitching specifically, but we rarely, if ever, discuss 1968. I’ll be honest on two counts: first, I never got over the glare of this STL baseball Rushmore, Gibby, Stan, Red and Lou and secondly, it was difficult to reconcile these gentle old men who were quick with a joke or a story as the fierce competitors that they were, that they Dyed be, in the field.
SN 50: Remembering Joe Burrow’s record stint at LSU
It’s been a year, but over the course of a few weeks in 2020, we lost both Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. It was a 1-2 blow to St. Louis, a city that reveres its baseball heroes like no other, several former players have told me. Those players learned from these greats in the spring, riding in convertibles on parades with them on Opening Day and occasionally after winning the World Series. “St. Louis is different, believe me,” said a former cardinal who played in several cities.
“The Cardinals players coming in now are going to miss out on some of what we had,” David Eckstein, the 2006 World Series MVP, told me earlier this year. “The members of the Hall of Fame are always there, sharing their knowledge, wanting you to do so well.”
My friend and former TSN colleague Stan McNeal wrote a wonderful article about Gibson for Cardinals Magazine in which friend after friend after friend pointed out that, yes, the terrifying Gibson you saw on the mound during his career was legit, it was he. when launching. But after his career? “We should all aspire to be so nice,” said a friend.
If there’s one thing you get out of this it’s that every athlete in the SN50 is more than that single season and each of them is more than just an athlete, and if we are lucky we occasionally get a chance to witness that, especially once they have enjoyed the luxury of a long life.
The years go by.
Bob Gibson, for all he accomplished with the diamond, was a gem of a human being.
That’s a baseball story that The Sporting News should tell.
Senior Editorial Consultant Bob Hille has worked for or with The Sporting News for more than 25 years.