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on April 21, 2010
Maybe it is because the season is so long, some 162 games stretching over a full six months during which a baseball fan can live and die with his team for three or four hours at least five days a week. Maybe it is because the game attracts the kind of sports fan who loves nothing better than immersing himself in the detailed statistics and history of the game. Whatever the cause, there is just something special about the long-term bond between a baseball fan and his favorite players and team that other sports do not quite seem able to match.

Even though most baseball fans have a favorite all time player, they might find it difficult to explain their choices to other fans because not everyone makes the obvious choice. It would be too easy if everyone chose Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds (unlikely, these days) or one of the game's great pitchers. Choosing a favorite player is a personal thing and many fans choose their favorites as much for what they do off the field as for how those players have affected the record books.

In "Top of the Order," published just in time for the 2010 baseball season, twenty-five journalists, novelists, former players, and entertainers offer short pieces about their own favorite players and how they made those choices. Some of the players chosen are surprising, some not, but the real fun of "Top of the Order "comes from reading how and why these particular players were chosen. Among the more expected choices are players like Tom Seaver, Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera. But among the twenty-five favorites are also players like Steve Dembowski, Michael Jordan, Mookie Wilson, Neifi Perez and fictional catcher Crash Davis. Many readers, I suspect, will be drawn first to the essays on the second group of players out sheer curiosity to find out why a fan holds them in such high regard. As author W.P. Kinsella says in the book's foreword, "Favorites, it seems, come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of talent."

Readers/baseball fans will delight in the relationship between writer (and minor league pitcher) Pat Jordan and his all time favorite player, Tom Seaver. They will be astounded by the unique talent that Steve Dembowski, Jim Bouton's choice, had for getting hit by a pitch almost at will and how he was never given a look by a major league team despite his incredible college career .729 on base percentage. They will perhaps wonder at how Whitney Pastorek could still choose Roger Clemens as his favorite all time player knowing what we know about the man today. And they will enjoy revisiting the careers and personalities of some of the greatest players who have ever played the game.

A portion of one paragraph from Jonathan Eig's remarks on Lou Gehrig, though, says it all for the baseball purists out there who so strongly detest how the steroid-generation of players has corrupted the game and its history: "As a boy, I hadn't cared a bit if my heroes were decent or dreadful people. They were ballplayers, and that was all. Now, with Bonds, one of the greatest ballplayers of all time struck me as one of the lowest pieces of dung ever scraped from the bottom of a shoe. He didn't just kill the notion of ballplayer as hero. He beat it to a bloody, lifeless pulp, and stood over the corpse and sneered."

There is something in "Top of the Order" for everyone, even non-fans of the game, but Eig's words are sure to touch the hearts of those who feel betrayed by what was allowed to happen to the sport for so many years, depriving the true greats of their records and cheapening those very records forever.
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on August 25, 2010
Well worth the $10 for the Kindle edition. Well-written and often humorous profiles of a variety of ballplayers, many of whom are favorites of mine, too. The couple I did not know well were among the best-written pieces that had me doing more research the player. A must for baseball lovers who enjoy good writing.
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on June 11, 2010
Choosing your favorite baseball player of all-time is an interesting assignment. The choice often boils down to some subjective criterion which may or may not correlate to the player's skill levels on the field. Maybe he went out of his way to give you his autograph when he easily could've ignored you among the rest of the gaggle of kids clamoring for that priceless souvenir; or maybe he delivered some big hit in the clutch when you were rooting extra hard for him to come through.

Maybe you liked the way he hustled, or maybe you liked the way he kicked the water cooler in defeat. Whatever the reasons, we all have them for deciding our own "personal number one", and nobody can convince us that our choice is a lame one. Such is the case with an assortment of sports writers and miscellaneous characters from the game of baseball - twenty-five to be exact - and they wrote a series of essays (edited by Sean Manning) explaining why they like a certain player - past, present, or even fictitious. There are no rules here; just an interesting array of thoughts on some of the players who have toiled in big league uniforms, and stand alone as that person's all-time favorite.

Some of the choices seem logical - from Lou Gehrig to Albert Pujols; and from Jackie Robinson to Brooks Robinson - while others seem nearly bizarre - from Steve Dembowski to Michael Jordan (as a baseball player?); and from Garry Templeton to Crash Davis (Kevin Costner's quirky character in "Bull Durham").

Each essay which tries to explain that particular person's selection is at times humorous; at times poignant; at times illogical; at times perfectly rational. Without a doubt, the reader will come away knowing that there are as many reasons as there are seasons; and the reasons make for an interesting perspective for any fan of the game to enjoy.
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on June 15, 2010
#1... I am a HUGE baseball fan. i collect cards, autographs, memorabilia, and anything to do with baseball history. Its my lifelong passion and especially baseball history itself, because of the characters who play the game. Most stories have been rehashed a bazillion times, but these stories go somewhere completely different... first off, most of the authors are acquaintances of the players they write about, so they have anecdotes and unheard, inside stories, including good ol swear words (which I think enhance the book), but to make a long story short, if you like obscure and in your face baseball facts, knowledge and personal stories, this is on of the best books ever on the subject. Highly recommended.
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on September 20, 2013
Love this book. Have loved baseball since late 60s and this book takes you back to the people we uSed to idolize because they loved to play the game.... Back before it was a money machine and steroiDs and idiots afield
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VINE VOICEon August 15, 2010
All types of writers talk about their personal favorite baseball player....which produces a diverse group of players too! The chapters ranged from informative to inspiring, nostalgic and even damn funny. It is not something you would necessarily need in your permanent library, but it is what my title says....light, fun summer time baseball reading. A great gift for a baseball fan in your life too.
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on March 2, 2013
A very well written and put together book!
The first two stories captivate the reader. I highly recommend this book.
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on August 15, 2010
Twenty five writers, most of whom you have never heard of, write about their favorite baseball players, most of whom you've never heard of. Sure, there's some interesting perpectives, but at the end of the book, you might ask yourself, as I did, "What was the point of this?"

I'm not really sure.

Suggestion: save yourself the time and avoid this book.
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VINE VOICEon May 4, 2014
There are many different reasons why someone picks a baseball player as his or her favorite. Sometimes it has to do with having great statistics, and other times, it has nothing to do with statistics. It could be a chance encounter, a memorable game or play, or just a connection that may be hard to explain.

In "Top of the Order," 25 writers select their favorite players and write about them. The players range from Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Greg Maddux to Neifi Perez and Michael Jordan (yes, that Michael Jordan).

The beauty of the book is that the writers don't use a formula to write about their favorite player. Each writer has a different style, approach and perspective. Every piece is interesting.

Here are what some of the writers had to say about their favorite player:

Rickey Henderson: "Baseball is a game of small inefficiencies and no one ever exploited them as assiduously as Rickey."

Lou Gehrig: "He never wanted to be famous...the true depth of his character became clear when things didn't work out as he planned."

Neifi Perez: "The greatest lousy player I ever saw."

Jackie Robinson: "A hero, strong and indomitable in combat, caring and compassionate after the games were done."

Vic Power: "A charismatic, exciting player with balletic grace and dramatic flair."

Garry Maddox; "His grace in the field matches how he carries himself off of it."

Garry Templeton: "A prime example that one didn't always have to go along with the crowd or take orders."

Greg Maddux: "On his best nights, he controlled the game more thoroughly than any pitcher of his time."

Jim Rice: "In the Bill Jamesian view, Rice was a classically overrated ballplayer."

Pedro Martinez: "Numbers don't capture what it was like to watch him on the mound."

Dave Kingman: "He seemed almost helpless on the baseball field when he wasn't hitting homers."
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on August 19, 2015
The title is a misnomer. It should be called "10 writers share from their heart about their favorite players while 15 try to impress you with their writing skills, snarkiness, highbrow metaphors and irrelevant stories." Probably too long for the jacket, I suppose. I was so delighted to find that the essays were short. It made wading through the irritating and insufferable writing of the 15 more tolerable. Authors, it is supposed to be a book about baseball players, not a treatise for you to try to impress the reader with your education and how many ballplayers you can rip. An aggravating book.
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