Who's Better, Who's Best in Baseball? Mr. Stats Sets the Record Straight on the Top 75 Players of All Time


Guaranteed to spark debate among baseball diehards with its controversial pick for #1

"Elliott Kalb's work is beyond excellent. He thinks in story lines and uses numbers to make compelling and often original points."?Bob Costas

In the world of major-league sports, Elliott Kalb, a.k.a "Mr. Stats," is the Sultan of Stats, the Tsar of Trivia, and the Final Word in armchair-athlete disputes. Now, hot on the heels of his controversial bestseller ...

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Guaranteed to spark debate among baseball diehards with its controversial pick for #1

"Elliott Kalb's work is beyond excellent. He thinks in story lines and uses numbers to make compelling and often original points."—Bob Costas

In the world of major-league sports, Elliott Kalb, a.k.a "Mr. Stats," is the Sultan of Stats, the Tsar of Trivia, and the Final Word in armchair-athlete disputes. Now, hot on the heels of his controversial bestseller Who's Better, Who's Best in Basketball? comes a book that is guaranteed to raise both hackles and cheers from baseball fans from coast to coast. More than a book of lists, Who's Better, Who's Best in Baseball?:

  • Interweaves numbers, facts, and anecdotes to offer a grand perspective on the entire history of the sport and its 100 all-time greatest of the greats—including players from the Negro Leagues
  • Features interviews with MLB experts, players, and coaches, including Bob Costas, Bud Selig, Vin Scully, Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Johnny Bench, and others
  • Argues the popular debate—what means more, modern training and modern medicine, overall athletics, popularity, or genetics?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071445382
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/31/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Elliott Kalb is "Mr. Stats" at ESPN, TNT, and HBO. Formerly with NBC for 15 years, Kalb is a five-time Emmy-winner and a one-time writer for the greatest play-by-play announcer in baseball history, Vin Scully. Kalb has his own website, www.elliottkalb.com, and writes a weekly column for HBO.com. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and kids.

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Read an Excerpt

Author's Essay

One of the most significant moments in baseball history took place in a hotel ballroom the night before the 1969 All Star Game, when the widow of Babe Ruth walked to the podium to accept an award for the Babe as the game’s all-time greatest. Ruth hadn’t played in 35 years when he was awarded that honor.

It’s been 35 years since then. Is Ruth still the greatest?

It has been my obsession the last few years to find out. I found that many people want to believe that Babe Ruth is still the best.

People want to discredit Barry Bonds, who has taken steroids in the later stages of his brilliant career. But Bonds has been a superlative talent for the better part of two decades before steroids were a topic. Bonds was a great base runner, a great defensive left fielder, a patient as well as powerful home run hitter.

I try to take everything into account. I don’t hold it against Walter Johnson (a star of the early 1900s) that it was impossible to accurately measure his fastball.

I don’t downplay the accomplishments of Negro League players like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, who were barred in the 1920s and 30s from competing against the best.

I believe that Bonds has accomplished--even if we reasonably deduct from his score for cheating--exceeded what the great Babe Ruth and every other player in major-league history has done.

Barry Bonds has always been the picture of health, who pushed himself in the weight room from the very beginning of his career. He pushed himself too much in that direction, obviously. We as baseball fans applaud the natural talents of Mickey Mantle and Ken Griffey, Jr. But Mantle didn’t take care of his body, as he admitted late in his late. Junior never hit the weight room with the intensity of Bonds and others. Were his succession of injuries a possible result? Would Bonds’ place in history been better served by retiring prematurely, or missing hundreds of games with injuries?

These are the issues that fuel Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Baseball?

What I try to also do in the book is to get people to understand these legendary players better by comparing them not only to other players from different eras; but to pop culture figures. I compare Reggie Jackson to racing star A.J. Foyt. I compare Hank Aaron to actor Sidney Poitier. Lou Gehrig is compared to some of the great second-bananas, including Art Carney and an actor from "The Sopranos." Dave Winfield’s analogy is comedian Jay Leno. Willie Mays is NBA-legend Oscar Robertson.

I spoke to dozens of experts, including Commissioner Selig, Tim McCarver, Joe Buck, Johnny Bench, Rick Sutcliffe, Bill White, and others. The book is subjective, but backed up by strong facts.

Ultimately, though, as I read through my notes, this is a book about fathers and sons.

It tells the stories of Barry Bonds helping his father Bobby, in the last days of Bobby’s life. It tells the story of how Willie Mays’ father told his son to go into baseball, despite the fact that Willie was a better football player. Willie’s dad didn’t want his son to hurt his knees.

Ty Cobb became a Detroit Tiger in 1905, just three weeks before Cobb’s mother was arrested for the fatal shooting of his father (Cobb’s dad, a Georgia state senator, attempting to catch his wife in an unfaithful act, climbed through the bedroom window of his home and was shot to death by his wife, who mistook him for an intruder). Do you think that may have been why Cobb played with a chip on his shoulder for his entire career?

The poignant stories of other great baseball players and their fathers, including Mickey Mantle, George Brett, and Jim Palmer, to name three more, are told throughout the book.

Who’s Better, Who’s Best? It’s what we as sports fans argue about, from the time we were young.

I am at an age where my friends and I have sons and daughters that are becoming baseball fans. This book is for them. This book tells our kids about--and puts into context--the careers of the greatest players in history.

This book is so much more than "Barry Bonds is better than Babe Ruth." Although that’s a good starting point for an argument. I hope this book gives ammunition to people to defend the positions that they agree with. I also hope that even if you don’t agree with many of my stances, it will make you pause and consider the counter-arguments.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 24, 2009

    I can't even remember

    This book is a good book to find your favorite player's stats and story; granted your favorite player is one of the top 100 players ever. It can be a tough read because he throws so many stats out there that unless you are looking for the stats and really taking them in this book can be overwhelming. That was really my only problem with it, he still has some interesting stories behind each player so it kept me interested enough to finish. Wouldnt suggest giving to anyone under 15, unless huge baseball freaks. Mr. Kalb truly is Mr. Stats in this book

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