Sports Medley: The Ten Best/Most Influential Baseball Players of All
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
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
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:
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Top Ten pitchers to come in another column.