Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 21, 1999
BASEBALL: All-Century Team

From an email I wrote in July 1999, formatted for the blog:

Baseball's nominations for the All-Century Team can be found here:

The rules: Balloting for the team begins July 13 through September 10. Fans will be asked to vote for two players at each infield position, two catchers, six pitchers and nine outfielders for a total of 25 players.

After several days of deliberations, here are my selections:

C-Josh Gibson
C-Johnny Bench
1B-Lou Gehrig
1B-Jimmie Foxx
2B-Rogers Hornsby
2B-Joe Morgan
SS-Honus Wagner
SS-Cal Ripken
3B-Mike Schmidt
3B-George Brett
OF-Babe Ruth
OF-Ted Williams
OF-Willie Mays
OF-Mickey Mantle
OF-Ty Cobb
OF-Hank Aaron
OF-Stan Musial
OF-Tris Speaker
OF-Joe DiMaggio
P-Walter Johnson
P-Lefty Grove
P-Satchel Paige
P-Grover Alexander
P-Sandy Koufax
P-Tom Seaver

The easiest call was 1B. Toughest: picking a second shortstop (none seemed quite worthy, since Banks was a 1B half his career; Ripken has been a very similar player to Cronin); leaving Eddie Mathews off at 3B; leaving Frank Robinson and Barry Bonds off the OF, largely on the defensive reputations of DiMaggio and Speaker; picking Bench over Berra; but worst of all were picking a second at 2B and the pitchers. At second, take a very close look at Gehringer some time; he really was amazing. Also, Jackie Robinson was the kind of player who has his best years in his 20s, and he was 28 when he was a rookie, so he may well have been better than Morgan if the war and the color barrier hadn't intervened and he'd been able to break in at, say, age 22 (1941).

As for the pitchers, you could take Mathewson, Clemens, Young, Ford, Maddux and Feller (or Spahn or Carlton, for that matter) and I'm not so sure I'd have a better staff. Clemens or Maddux would probably supplant Seaver in another two years or so.

I'm biased against the modern pitchers like Seaver, Clemens, Maddux, and particularly Ford because they had a smaller impact on the pennant race than did guys who pitched 300 innings every year. Ford, in his prime, often started only 28-33 games a year. On the flip side, Clemens and Maddux work much harder than their contemporaries. Also, one has to factor in outside influences -- Clemens, Maddux, Seaver (and Carlton and Ryan) all lost parts of prime seasons to strikes, Feller lost almost 4 seasons in his prime (albeit probably saving him from an arm injury) to war, Alexander lost almost a season and a half at his 30-wins-a-year peak to war, Ford missed two prime years to military service, Spahn got a late start due to the war, and of course Paige's whole career is in the shadows due to the color line. Young, of course, is hard to evaluate because he was pitching 450 innings a year when the mound was 50 feet away. The edge, as I see it, goes to guys like Grove, Johnson, Alexander, Koufax, and Clemens who totally dominated the league at their peak. I was just blown away when I went back to look carefully at Alexander's numbers from 1914-20 -- he was as dominant as Koufax, pitching in a park that was 257 down the right field line and 270 to right center, where even in the dead ball era there were 3 times as many homers hit in the Phillies' home games. The man threw 28 SHUTOUTS IN TWO YEARS. Take away the war and he would have won about 400 games.

Apologies to some of the Negro League stars, but only Gibson and Paige had reputations so strong that they demanded inclusion. Oscar Charleston was often compared to Cobb and Speaker, but who knows?

I also had some gripes with the nominations. Gary Carter belonged on the list rather than Gabby Hartnett (as did Mike Piazza -- Hartnett was not known as a glove man, so give a break to the best hitter at the position). Why bother with Luis Aparicio, who nobody in their right mind would trade for Alex Rodriguez (too young for the list) or Arky Vaughn? In fact, A-Rod, Jeter and Nomar would be as legitimate candidates at short as Banks, who was moved to 1B at a young age. I like Eddie Murray as much as the next guy, but he and Bill Terry don't have a prayer at 1B, and where's Johnny Mize? Also, Willie Keeler's career is pretty sad in this company if you only count his exploits in the 20th century. Nonetheless, nobody who was left off is really deserving of the final honor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:59 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

great list.....but.......how do we know how good josh gibson was.......were are the stats at....is it because people said he was good? i read in a book that josh gibson hit a ball out of yankee stadium.........and could hit a ball over 700 feet..that is hard to belive. nobody and i mean nobody hit the ball harder and farther than mickey mantle. i have no problem with gibson being a great player.....unfortanatly the negro leagues had very poor if any at all stat keeping. but there is one stat that slipped your mind ten world series rings that is one ring for every finger on your hand. that will never ever happen again in any sport. yogi berra is even above bench on my list. 1b is perfect.2b hornsby is a lock,morgan i dont like very much,jackie robinson for what he did for the game but as you said came late by no fault of his own. you are 100%right 2b is the hardest i dont even know who would be the back up? ss wagner is #1 i loved ripken as a kid but the older i get the farther down the list he goes and i dont know how to explaine that... a-rod is #2.3b thank god you put george brett over brooks. mike schmidt is one of my top players of all time. outfeild is flawless..very glad you have dimaggio on the team...pitchers are good.....alexander might have been able to drink mantle under the table.......unfortantly we have no stats on that either(wade boggs drinking 64 beers on a cross country flight.....ya did they fly from boston to l.a. with 20 layovers!!!!!! and he would have had to sit in the bathroom the whole time to piss it out.) that boggs stat is like gibson 700 ft homerun power......hard to swollow.....or drink....or shoot down the hatch.....steve dalkowski 115 mph fastball.....and took 20 shots of scotch in a row!!!!! that belongs on some list........ok on an ending note my top 5 favorite players of all time in order.. #1mickey mantle(willie mays was nothing compared to mantle) #2mike schmidt(nobody did it better on offense or defense.....in the 70s and 80s nobody was better period)#3pete rose(forget that he gambling garbage i think that adds charecter and he gambeled on the field also but that didnt make him a bad guy it only got him more hits than anybody ever.......ever!!!!!!) #4hank aaron record books beware the hammer was a great hitter...not just homeruns but all around.....awsome#5ted williams(.406 will it ever happen again?hmmmm how about no. and pete rose would have hit in 57 games in 1978 if gene(the garbage man)garber thew him hittable pitches instead of garbage off speed outside junk......and then jump around like a kid in a candy store who just won the world series. but hey now im getting off the subject thank you for reading please email back any comments i would love to hear any feedback and see other peoples lists.....dean

Posted by: dean hagerman at July 6, 2005 12:11 AM

Wade Boggs did drink 64 beers on a cross country flight. This guy is the definition of a man's man!

Posted by: Dan at July 27, 2005 4:20 PM

Ryne Sandberg you jackasses

Posted by: Jason at October 10, 2005 7:30 PM
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