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Sports Medley: The Ten Best/Most Influential Baseball Players of All time

by Tony Medley

Recently somebody sent me an article written by Joe somebody and it was so cockamamie it made me realize that the record had to be set straight. His list included names like Mickey Mantle and Roger Clemens. Mantle was my favorite player when I was growing up, but thereís no way he was one of the 10 best players of all time. As far as Iím concerned Clemens was a drug cheat and his name should be expunged from the record books, along with Barry Bonds (also on Joe bstflkís list) and all the other players who couldnít compete on their own ability and did their best to destroy the integrity and mystique of the game, of which records used to be hallowed.

First, everyday players cannot be compared with pitchers, because what they do is completely different. So I have two lists. The first is everyday players, and the second is pitchers.

Second, players who played during the steroid, or PED era (approximately 1980-2005), do not qualify for my list. Those who juiced up are, in my opinion, selfish scumbags who do not belong on any list but a list of miscreants.

Third, the question that arises is whether to base judgment on an entire career or just a few years. This question arises because Sandy Koufax was the best pitcher Iíve ever seen and is listed on everyone's list of best pitchers. Sandy played between 1955 and 1966, when he retired early. But from 1955 to 1960, he was just a guy with a fastball he couldnít control. However, thanks to Norm Sherry, he became a different pitcher in 1961 and from 1962 through 1966 thereís never been a pitcher as dominant as he. Most people pick Koufax as one of the greatest ever off of those five years. If thatís true, then, why not allow other players who had spectacular five-year stints to qualify as the greatest. So thatís what Iíve done here. Hereís my list:

  1. Babe Ruth: There is no discussion or explanation needed here. Ruth was one of the best pitchers of his generation and then became the defining figure in the game as an outfielder, single-handedly changing the game. A .342 lifetime batting average, and 714 home runs (in only 15 years as a regular player); 94-46 five year lifetime pitching record with a 2.28 era! This includes 5 games he pitched for the Yankees 1920-34, and he won all five, the last two, in 1930 and 1933, complete games.
  2. Jackie Robinson: Like Ruth, Robinson was a trailblazer. What he went through was agony, but he endured that, literally changed America, and still finished with a .311 lifetime batting average, even though he was 28 years old when he broke in in 1947, and was a great baserunner. During his ten year tenure the Dodgers won 6 pennants, finished in a tie in 1951, losing a three game playoff to the Giants in the bottom of the ninth inning, and lost the pennant in the tenth inning on the last day of the season in 1950 to the Phillies. So with a little luck the Dodgers could have won 8 pennants in Jackieís ten years.
  3. Lou Gehrig: The cleanup hitter behind the Babe, little need be said of him either, .340 lifetime Batting Average with 493 home runs in 14 years with seven World Series Championships, playing in 2,130 consecutive games.
  4. Stan Musial: Stan the Man was the best hitter Iíve seen, .331 lifetime batting average, 3,630 hits, once hit five home runs in a double header.
  5. Joe DiMaggio: The best defensive outfielder of his generation, DiMag was the model of consistency. Not only does he hold the record for most consecutive games with a hit, 56 in 1941, he is the only power hitter whose strikeouts (369) did not far outpace his home runs (361). In his first six years (1936 Ė 1941) his batting average was .345. What would arguably have been his best years were taken from him by World War II. He was still a great player when he returned but a shadow of his former self and he ended with a lifetime batting average of.325. In his first six years the Yankees won five World Series championships.
  6. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker: It was a different game when they played, mostly before 1920 when Ruth changed the game. But Speaker was generally recognized as the greatest defensive centerfielder of his time and had a .345 lifetime batting average, to boot. Cobbís .366 lifetime batting average boggles the mind, and he continued hitting after the ball was livened in 1920.
  7. Willie Mays: Many consider Willie the greatest all-around player. After he won the batting title in 1954, he concentrated on home runs (hitting 51 in 1955 as his batting average dove from .345 to .319 to .296). He ended up with a lifetime batting average barely over .300, .302. A great fielder and charismatic player, his six best consecutive years donít compare with Joltiní Joe.
  8. Henry Aaron & Roberto Clemente: Clemente was as good a defensive right fielder who ever played with fine speed and a rifle arm. An astonishingly consistent hitter, he had a lifetime batting average of .317, won four batting titles and garnered 3,000 hits. Although Aaronís lifetime batting average is only .305, he was a great all-around player. Mostly known for breaking Babe Ruthís lifetime home run record, in fact he never hit more than 47 in any one season. But he was consistent, a very good fielder, and he played at a high level a long time without resort to drugs. Like Willie Mays, his six best consecutive years donít come anywhere near DiMaggioís.
  9. Ted Williams: Maybe the best pure hitter of them all, he had a lifetime batting average of .344 and missed five of his best years to wartime service in WWII and Korea. Not a great fielder, all Ted could do was hit, but that was enough.
  10. Maury Wills: Iím sure mine is the only list upon which Maury will appear, but Maury is here in large part because he is one of two people who changed the way baseball is played. Babe Ruth changed it by converting the game from a dead ball, slap hitting singles, base-stealing era to a game of power and home runs. Maury Wills changed it by returning the stolen base to the game. Before Maury broke Ty Cobbís hallowed 1915 record of 96 steals in a season in 1962 by stealing 104, the league stolen base champions averaged between 25 to 40 steals a year. In 1948, just 14 years before Maury broke the record, Dom DiMaggio led the American League with only 15. Maury came up to the Dodgers in 1959 and sparked them to four pennants and three World Series victories in eight years. Complimenting pitchers Koufax and Don Drysdale, he was the heart and soul of that team. That he is not in the Hall of Fame is a disgrace to MLB.

Top Ten pitchers to come in another column.