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The Casey Award and the Queen City Trilogy

March 7, 2022
Famous trilogies:
  • "The Godfather"
  • "Star Wars" (the original/classic trilogy, that is)
  • "The Lord of the Rings"
  • "Back to the Future"
  • "Austin Powers"
  • "Dan Meets his Literary Heroes in the Queen City"
OK, that last one may not be quite as well known as the others, but it’s awfully meaningful to me. You’ve heard of the famous refrain from Terry Cashman’s "Talkin’ Baseball" – "Willie, Mickey, and the Duke"? Well, I can now counter with "Bill James, Neyer, and the Poz." (say hey, say hey…..)
To recap:
In 2017, I had the pleasure of meeting Bill James in person when he visited Cincinnati to give a speech at Xavier University.   As far as trilogies go, a pretty strong opening act….
Then, in 2019, I was able to meet Rob Neyer when he came to town to accept the prestigious CASEY Award for his book Powerball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game
And, finally, on March 6, 2022, the trilogy was completed as I got a chance to meet Joe Posnanski. As Rob did 3 years ago, Joe was in town to accept the Casey Award. In Joe’s case, the award was for his 2021 opus, The Baseball 100.
By way of background - the CASEY Award has been presented annually since 1983 by Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine to honor the best baseball book of the year. The magazine was founded in 1981 by a couple of baseball aficionados from Covington, Kentucky (just across the Ohio River) and is, as their web site states, "dedicated to poetry, short fiction, prose, art, and book reviews; all devoted to baseball".
A few of the previous CASEY Award winners include such well-known works as:
  • Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers by Peter Golenbock (1984)
  • Good Enough to Dream by Roger Kahn (1985)
  • The Bill James Historical Abstract by Bill James (of course) (1986)
  • The Pitch that Killed by Mike Sowell (1989)
  • Walter Johnson: Baseball’s Big Train by Henry Thomas (1995)
  • Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant (2002)
  • Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis (2003)
  • Pete Rose: An American Dilemma by Kostya Kennedy (2014)
And many others…..
Rob was the winner of the 2018 Casey Award, and now Joe’s book is the latest entry in the list of Casey Award winners (this was actually Joe’s second time winning the award, as he had previously won the 2007 award for The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip through Buck O'Neil's America)
As is the custom for these annual events (at least based on my experience from the couple of times I have attended), the ceremony was held in a small, local sports-themed bar, this time at a place called "Poor Michael’s" in the Mt. Healthy area of town (northwest Cincinnati). It was definitely an appropriate gathering place for a bunch of Cincinnati Reds fans, and the place was certainly packed with those, all there to honor Joe and his fine work.
Joe’s book won the award over 8 other contenders for the 2021 award. Courtesy of Spitball Magazine’s web site, here was the full list:
  • The Baseball 100 (Avid Reader Press) by Joe Posnanski
  • The Bona Fide Legend of Cool Papa Bell: Speed, Grace, and the Negro Leagues (Abrams Press) by Lonnie Wheeler
  • The Bronx Zoom: Inside the New York Yankees' Most Bizarre Season ( Triumph Books) by Bill Hoch
  • Cheated: The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing (Doubleday) by Andy Martino
  • Cobra: A Life of Baseball and Brotherhood (University of Nebraska Press) by Dave Parker and Dave Jordan
  • Escape from Castro's Cuba (University of Nebraska Press) by Tim Wendel
  • Forty Years a Giant: The Life of Horace Stoneham (University of Nebraska Press) by Steven Treder
  • Lights, Camera, Fastball: How the Hollywood Stars Changed Baseball (Rowman & Littlefield) by Dan Taylor
  • Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball (Flatiron Books) by Luke Epplin
The event began, and after some preliminaries and a "Carnac"-inspired baseball-themed comedy bit that yielded a few laughs (but mostly a lot of groans), the host/co-founder/editor-in-chief of Spitball proceeded with the rest of the ceremony. His name is Mike Shannon, although (as he is always quick to point out to everyone that asks) he is not the same person who was the former third baseman/outfielder of the Cardinals from the 1960’s and who also was that team’s radio broadcaster for 50 years.  
The Spitball staff did a rundown of the other nominees for the 2021 CASEY award, and then they introduced Joe to present him with his award (which is an authentic Louisville Slugger bat imprinted with the CASEY Award logo). Joe spoke for a bit about the book and how it evolved, including tracing the roots of the project back nearly a decade to earlier attempts at such a list, finally culminating in the finished product that landed him not only this award, but also earning nation-wide attention. 
Joe walked us through the process, including working with Tom Tango on an approach to help Joe quantify what he values, and he also explained that many of the "rankings" were more of a tribute to the players themselves (Jackie Robinson is #42, Tom Seaver is #41, Joe DiMaggio is #56, etc.) rather than firm sequential rankings, because the ranking order itself wasn’t the most important part to him – it was more of framework within which to tell his stories and present the profiles. 
One other really nice surprise at the event was that the co-authors of the "Cobra" book were in attendance as well – not only Dave Jordan, but "Cobra" himself, Dave Parker. As you may know, Parker (although he was born in Mississippi) grew up in Cincinnati and, as far as I know, still lives in the area. He’s 70 years old now and he suffers from Parkinson’s, but he did get up to speak briefly as his book was recognized as one of the contenders. It was quite the experience seeing him up close. On a personal note, I still hold out hope that he may someday be enshrined in Cooperstown – it’s hard for me to think of the late 1970’s without thinking of Parker, who, for at least a little while there, was in my opinion legitimately in the discussion of the best player in the game. 
In all, the event lasted about two hours, and I did get a chance to speak briefly with Joe and tell him how long I’ve been a reader and how much I enjoy his approach and his style. And I also asked him to say hi to Bill the next time he sees him, as I know he and Bill are pretty close. I also got a chance to meet his wife Margo, who accompanied Joe to the event, and they were both very friendly and gracious.  It was a wonderful event.
So, now what for me? What’s next after one completes a trilogy? A quadrilogy?  Maybe Tom Tango will decide to venture to the Queen City one of these days. One can only hope……
Hope you enjoyed reading.

COMMENTS (8 Comments, most recent shown first)

My only complaint about the Posnanski book is that ihis list is out of order.
6:18 AM Mar 9th
Nice story. Thanks Dan. When I read the title for this article (The Casey Award and the Queen City Trilogy) my first thought was it would involve Sean Casey. I guess I'd never heard of the Casey Award before.
9:38 PM Mar 8th
Dave Parker, 70? I mean, I'm 67 now, but Dave is still this guy to me, throwing out Brian Downing at the plate (Gary Carter) in the 1979 All Star Game:
1:02 PM Mar 8th
Wait a minute! The Posnanski book violates the rule that all baseball book titles must follow the required format

Obscure phrase/colon/long-winded explanation of the obscure phrase

12:54 PM Mar 8th
Thanks Dan. Sounds like a great event. Parkinson's is a bitch. My father had it from late forties on. I saw Parker play just about every home game for the 1972 Salem Pirates. He was so much fun to watch. My friend Steve who was the Pirates' batboy said Parker was a really good guy. I guess he was probably 20 that year.
12:00 PM Mar 8th
Thanks for sharing this, Dan. I feel inspired.
1:50 AM Mar 8th
Thanks, Greg. Great to see you there too!

12:13 AM Mar 8th
Great writeup of the event Dan, great to see you there!
10:28 PM Mar 7th
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