Baseball: Past and Present

As founder and editor of this website, it is my pleasure to present the results of the BPP All-Time Dream Project.

Over the past two months, I conducted a project having people vote on nine-player all-time dream teams. The idea was for voters to pick a team to win a one-off, sandlot game, the ultimate cosmic playoff. This wasn’t about a 25-man roster or designated hitters or relievers, just finding nine players to win a game. I received more than 600 votes in all from a mix of baseball figures, fellow writers, and others.

To help with the presentation and do justice to the subject matter, I recruited a number of my favorite baseball writers and hired an illustrator, Sarah Wiener to create trading cards for each player. Like the cards? A complimentary set can be had for the first 100 people who donate $25 to 826 Valencia, a non-profit that teaches journalism to kids. We’re looking to raise $3,000 and, as of press time, we’re about halfway there. If everyone who reads this post donates even a dollar, we’ll shatter the goal. To donate, go here.

All this being said, the nine-player all-time dream lineup is below in defensive order, with full results of voting posted farther down:

P – Walter Johnson, by Diane Firstman of Value Over Replacement Grit

“The Big Train” was a strapping (for his time) six-foot-one, 200-pound righthander from Humboldt, Kansas. Born in 1887, he was blessed with raw talent, a tremendous work ethic, extreme poise and gentle demeanor. Johnson chiseled his maturing body through work on the family farm and later in the oil fields of California. Though he didn’t pick up a baseball till age 16, Johnson knew he had a gift in his right arm.

“From the first time I held a ball,” he explained to an interviewer, “it settled in the palm of my right hand as though it belonged there and, when I threw it, ball, hand and wrist, and arm and shoulder and back seemed to all work together.”

With an unusual delivery, a short windmill-style windup followed by a sweeping sidearm motion, Johnson racked up impressive strikeout totals for the era.  Relying mostly on a nasty fastball during his early career (he didn’t develop a curveball till 1913), he nonetheless led the American League in punchouts twelve times and strikeout-to-walk ratio nine times in his 21 years in the bigs.

From his debut in 1907 through his finale in 1927, Johnson tallied an astonishing 5,914.1 innings pitched, over 1,100 more than anyone else in that span. He completed nearly 80 percent of his 666 lifetime starts. His Washington Senators teams were quite bad for most of his career, which puts his .599 lifetime win percentage into better light against the franchise’s .462 aggregate in games he didn’t start. He was also adept at the plate, with 41 homers and a lifetime .616 OPS.

In the voting for this project, Johnson easily outpointed the two men who finished closest to him, Sandy Koufax and Pedro Martinez, and deservedly so. While Koufax had a higher peak value, his career lasted roughly half as long, and he was only predominately a starting pitcher for nine seasons. Martinez’s 1999-2000 ledgers match anyone else’s two-year run, especially in the context of the steroid era. However, his body betrayed him after age 28, as he only logged 200+ innings twice after that and was ostensibly done at age 33. Johnson’s consistency and longevity give him the nod for the starting pitcher position here.

C – Johnny Bench, by Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk

What would Johnny Bench bring to this team?

He’d bring some freaking common sense, that’s what he’d bring. Because Bench wasn’t just a great catcher, he was smart too: He was the first catcher to wear a batting helmet under that mask as opposed to a wool cap and the first to catch one-handed, keeping his throwing hand behind him. Which leads one to ask whether anyone before him may have been better but for taking a half dozen back swings to the back of the head and countless foul tips off of bare thumbs.

OK, fine, maybe his common sense wouldn’t have been the most important thing. I mean, the team has a manager and stuff. So how about this: durability. People talk about his tremendous power, but this all-time team is not lacking for power. An underrated part of Bench’s game was that he caught all the time, starting over 140 games at catcher for the first ten years of his career, a pace that one simply doesn’t see… ever.  If this team manages to stay together for a long time, sure, we may have some awkwardness as Bench’s eventually creaky knees cause him to ask the skipper to plug him in at third base sometimes, but the first decade or so will be a no brainer. The manager can forego a backup catcher and use the roster spot for a reliever. Not that this team really needs those, of course.

But I guess you don’t care too much about the brains and the durability. You’re probably right not to, because Bench’s calling cards, obviously, were his best-ever defense and crazy boomstick. One doesn’t win two MVP awards and ten gold gloves on grit and savvy alone. One wins those because few runners dared attempt to steal on him — and those who did were rarely successful — even at the height of the stolen base era. One wins those because catchers, especially in the 1970s, simply didn’t hit 40 home runs, drive in 100+ and lead the league in total bases. Yeah, Bench did that once.

Crazy, right?

1B – Lou Gehrig, by Frank Graham Jr., author of A Farewell to Heroes

As I write this, there is an old photograph nearby, hanging on the wall of my office here in Maine. The photo shows a powerful man in pinstripes, hatless, gripping a bat and looking affably at a 12-year-old boy next to him on the dugout steps at Yankee Stadium. The year is 1937. The man is Lou Gehrig and I am the boy, staring back at my hero from under the Yankee cap he has taken off and put on my head.

My father was a sports columnist for the New York Sun. I have no clear recollection of that day 75 years ago when a photographer from the Sun snapped the picture, but other memories of that time will remain with me to the end. Several times a year my father would take me to the stadium so I could watch my favorite player and my favorite team.

We—father and son–would arrive a couple of hours before a game, visit the little office occupied by manager Joe McCarthy, where my father would interview him for his column the next day, and then walk through the dim passageway under the stands to the Yankees’ dugout. There, in a burst of sunlight, were members of one of the great Yankee teams, some sitting on the cushioned bench, others moving on clattering spikes up the wooden steps onto the field for batting practice.

But the unforgettable moment arrived when Gehrig came off the field and sat beside us. He and my father would talk, Gehrig in his mildly hoarse, New Yorker-tinted voice. And when he stood up again he would lay a hand on my shoulder and ask how I was doing. Some of my friends found their heaven in church. And later, listening to the 1937 All-Star Game was pure–, well, joy: Gehrig was the star of stars, driving in four runs with a double and a home run.

That was the final great season. The disease which would kill Gehrig, and which ironically is named for him, slowed him and finally forced the end of his then-record consecutive game streak. On a June night in 1941, I heard over the radio that “the Iron Man” had died. I went upstairs, lay down on my bed, and blubbered a little. I wept not really because I had loved the man who was dead, but because something uniquely mine was gone for good.

Nine years later I went to work in the office of the Brooklyn Dodgers. There, I found myself occupying an alcove next door to the Dodgers’ chief scout–and Lou Gehrig’s only true rival as the greatest first baseman of all time. George Sisler had batted .420 in 1922 and was one of baseball’s immortals, with a plaque in the Hall of Fame to prove it. Spectacled, gray-haired, with a shy, Midwesterner’s smile, he was a lovable man whom I was honored to call my friend.

I believe Lou Gehrig was the greater first basemen, as Graham Womack’s BPP poll confirms. But I was glad to see at least one vote here go to another of my heroes. Both live on clearly in my memory.

2B – Rogers Hornsby, by William Juliano of The Captain’s Blog

Rogers Hornsby was the National League’s answer to Babe Ruth. Like the Bambino, Hornsby was his league’s pre-eminent offensive player, leading the senior circuit in OPS+ in all but one season during the 1920s. The Rajah’s remarkable dominance in the decade also included seven batting titles, two “MVP” awards, and a pair of triple crowns. To this day, Hornsby still ranks as the greatest offensive second baseman by most objective measures, not to mention one of the best right handed hitters to ever play the game.

Hornsby’s offense takes a backseat to no one on the All-Time Dream Project team, and his versatility makes him one of the most valuable components of this historic lineup. However, some critics have suggested that Hornsby’s defense doesn’t meet the standards of an all-time team. Defense is hard enough to evaluate with the benefit of today’s advanced technology and improved record keeping, so even if Hornsby was relatively lacking in this regard, it seems presumptions to suggest that it cancels out his overwhelming offensive advantage.

Even if he used a glove of iron instead of gold, Hornsby’s prolific bat would still make him a perfect fit on any all-time team. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about his ego. During his long career, Hornsby was prone to butting heads with management and teammates alike, and was never shy about demanding a higher salary. What’s more, he was known to be intolerant of drinking and smoking, which probably wouldn’t go over well with Babe Ruth. Could Hornsby coincide with a team full of egos as big as his? It sure would be a lot of fun to find out.

Despite his personality flaws, Hornsby’s most redeeming quality was his unmitigated love for the game. “I stare out the window and wait for spring,” the second baseman once famously replied when asked about his winter activity. What else would you expect from a man who postponed the burial of his mother until after the 1926 World Series?

3B – Mike Schmidt, by Stacey Gotsulias, senior MLB editor and writer for Aerys Sports

Mike Schmidt would bring one heck of a batting stance to this sandlot game. Described as unusual, Schmidt would stand with his back slightly toward the pitcher, while shaking his butt, waiting for the pitch. That alone would be worth having Schmidt on the team. In a lineup of menacing hitters, Schmidt could distract the opposing sandlot team’s pitcher with his butt.

Course, the best reason to have Mike Schmidt manning third baseman here is that he ranks as one of the greatest players in baseball history, certainly one of the most complete. Countless players are very good at fielding their position but don’t have a strong bat to match and vice versa. Not Schmidt, he was the total package. He hit for power, produced runs, and played sparkling defense. His quick reaction and strong arm helped him win 10 Gold Gloves. Schmidt was also durable, averaging over 140 games a season for the bulk of his 18-year Major League career.

His 548 home runs alone should be enough for the dream lineup, though they’re packaged with three MVP Awards and 12 All Star appearances. Schmidt’s also one of only 15 players in baseball history to hit four home runs in one game– he finished that game with eight RBI, 17 total bases and his fourth home run turned out to be the game winning hit.

Schmidt wasn’t a prototypical bulky slugger, he was lean and most of his power came from his wrists and forearms. Pete Rose once said about Schmidt, “To have his body, I’d trade him mine, my wife’s and I’d throw in some cash.” Schmidt also changed his approach from being a dead pull hitter to one who hit to all fields and that change didn’t diminish his numbers at all. In fact, it helped him lead the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series title in 129 years of existence.

The best thing about Mike Schmidt that’s an asset to any team was that he was quietly good. He didn’t talk a big game; he let his play on the field do the talking for him.

SS – Honus Wagner, by Marty Appel, author of Pinstripe Empire

We like to think of our shortstops as lithe and graceful, sort of like Ozzie Smith or Luis Aparicio or Marty Marion, and yet the blocky body of Honus Wagner, bow-legged and a little clunky looking, keeps getting in the way with those eight batting titles and 723 stolen bases.

More than a century after he arrived on the scene, he still is the default setting on all-time teams, whether chosen by aging traditionalists or new age sabermetricians. Alex Rodriguez gave him a run on this particular poll, but as always, yeah, there were those eight batting titles. History hasn’t been kind to the traditional “all-timers,” be it Pie Traynor at third or Tris Speaker in center. Not even Ty Cobb, with his dozen batting titles, could survive this latest tally. But, the Dutchman did it.

Younger fans may think of Wagner as the guy on the $1 million tobacco card that periodically gets sold, but he was the embodiment of fierce, hard play and not the sort of guy you’d want to challenge with a hard slide. He never led the league in putouts or assists, but by most accounts, he was a sure-handed force in the middle of the diamond.     “It was impossible to place him wrongly on a ballfield,” wrote Ed Barrow, who discovered and signed him in 1897, and later turned Babe Ruth into an outfielder. ”He could play anything and he would have been a great star at any position.

“Wagner is the greatest ballplayer of all time,” Barrow concluded.

Hard to top that, even 62 years after it was written.

LF – Ted Williams, by Josh Wilker, author of Cardboard Gods and the related blog

No one has ever loved anything more than Ted Williams loved hitting. Think of him in the light of that love. Forget the other stuff, the other versions of Ted Williams, the severed head on ice, the beloved golf-cart elder centering a teary moment at the All-Star Game, the world-class fly-fisherman in the wilderness, the thickening yet still sublimely effective superstar in the twilight of his career, the fighter pilot landing a flaming jet, the fierce embattled inflexible prodigy in his prime. Think of him young, slouching in the on-deck circle, bat on his shoulders, nothing but skin and bones and hunger and genius. He’s waiting for his chance to step into the box. We’ve all had that chance, loved that chance. But has anyone loved it more?

No one was harder to get out: he is the all-time leader in on-base percentage. Additionally, he is second only to Babe Ruth in smashing the daylights out of the ball (i.e., slugging percentage). Which slight advantage by either player would suggest superior effectiveness as a hitter? A distillate stat that pulls in data from other statistics, offensive win percentage (the statistic measures, according to Baseball-Reference.com, “the percentage of games a team with nine of this player batting would win”), suggests the players were essentially identical in their near-perfect potency as hitters:

Babe Ruth      .848
Ted Williams .847

The hundredth of a percentage point that separates these two (who tower over everyone else on the list) seems negligible, placing the legends in a virtual tie. Factor into that tie the years Williams lost in his prime serving in the military.

Now, imagine his turn has come. The hungry bone-thin genius walks toward the plate. Think of the unmatched ferocity of his love. No one ever made more of his turn at bat.

CF – Willie Mays, by Rory Paap of Bay City Ball

It might be quicker to say what the “Say Hey Kid” doesn’t bring to a lineup than what he does, but that wouldn’t be much fun. In a sentence that, by itself, won’t come close to doing him justice: he was the greatest defensive center fielder that ever lived and quite possibly the best right-handed batter to pick up a stick. That says nothing of his base running or the grace with which he did everything.

He patrolled the cavernous center fields of the Polo Grounds of Gotham and frigid Candlestick of San Francisco like a skater on ice – with unparalleled skill and a strong & accurate arm (as evidenced by 195 career outfield assists), so brilliantly displayed in “The Catch” from the ’54 Series. They introduced the Rawlings Gold Glove in 1957, an honor – much like the All-Star game – that was fashioned for Mays. He won it that first year and each of the next 11.

From the year of his first Most Valuable Player award in 1954 to ‘65 (when he won his second and last MVP), he accumulated between 113 and 119 WAR according to Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, an average of  nearly 10 wins when eight is considered MVP quality. A typical season during that 12-year span for Mays included 40 home runs, 22 thefts, 118 runs, 109 runs batted in and a slash line of .318/.392/.605, all while he dazzled with some of the most brilliant outfield play the world has ever seen.

Willie also had a flair about him, something special. His first hit in the big leagues was a clout off of none other than Warren Spahn. And as brilliant as Cobb, Speaker and, especially Mantle, were, it wouldn’t be a ball team without Willie out in center and hitting in the middle of the lineup.

RF – Babe Ruth, by Dan Szymborski of ESPN and Baseball Think Factory

It should shock nobody that playing rightfield for BPP’s All-Time Dream Team is George Herman Ruth. What kind of dream team wouldn’t have Babe Ruth, the most famous baseball player that ever lived?

If Babe Ruth weren’t a real person, Major League Baseball would need to make him up. As great a player as Ruth was, the myth surrounding the man and his accomplishments even surpass the actual ones. Thanks to the gambling scandals of the 1910s, with the Black Sox only the latest and most egregious example, baseball as a national sport had hit its nadir. People will point to the various performance-enhancing drug issues of recent years as dangerous to the sport of baseball, but these were only the equivalent of a pinhole, next to the gnawing abyss of scandal at the time. Baseball wasn’t mildly interrupted, but threatened as real sport.

Ruth couldn’t have come at a better time and baseball was lucky to have such a great ambassador at its disposal. Frank Baker may have been given the nickname “Home Run” and Ned Williamson and Roger Connor may have been the home run kings for decades, but it was Ruth that started America’s love affair with the home run. With the mushy balls replaced and spitballers designated for extinction by new rules, baseball had a new ball, a new style of play, and with Ruth, a new life.

The Babe was a character that would have had trouble in a different age. In a time of austerity, Ruth’s antics would have seemed almost decadent, his behavior boorish. In a modern age with every action on camera, Ruth’s actions wouldn’t have been dimmed by the brighter, omnipresent lights of today, but highlighted by them. Ozzie Guillen just got suspended for making a silly off-the-cuff remark about Fidel Castro. What would today’s moralists say about a player that reportedly held his manager, Miller Huggins, out the back of a moving train? Or about a player who refused to learn most of his teammates’ names and would wave his paycheck in their face to taunt them? Barry Bonds sat in a barcalounger and it became an Issue of National Importance.

The times fit a curious character such as Ruth. Relatively speaking, the 1920s were an optimistic time in America, where after the War to End All Wars and the influenza outbreak, the general mood was positive and economic growth was solid. There was the shadow on the horizon of socialism and fascist, but in the US, it generally wasn’t as large a concern as overseas. The 20s introduced jazz, talking pictures, surrealist art, the Art Deco movement, a time where heroes could be welcomed without a trace of irony or complaint of saccharine. Ruth was a character who fit the age, who gave fans what they wanted – a larger-than-life figure who could do anything he wanted on the field.

As the Great Depression started, Ruth’s decline as a player also began. In 5 years, his career was over and in just about another decade, his life ended as well, as Ruth succumbed to throat cancer in 1948, at the age of 53.

On the field, Ruth’s accomplishments still stand as impressive. 714 is still one of the most easily recognized numbers in sports, despite the later prominence of 755 and now 762. Ruth’s profile still contains a ton of “black ink” reflecting his play, 3rd in homers, 1st in slugging percentage, 2nd in on-base percentage, 3rd in walks, 4th in extra-base hits. Sabermetrics has done little to push Ruth aside, with the Babe still 1st in Wins Above Replacement at 190, nearly 20 wins better than 2nd-place. His more than 1000 innings with an ERA+ of 122 almost serve as an afterthought, but his 18 wins above replacement as a pitcher through age 24 already a third of a Hall of Fame-worthy pitching career, providing solid justification for the legend that he could’ve made Cooperstown as a pitcher as well.

People joke that Cobb could have hit home runs if it had occurred to him to do so. Babe Ruth has no “could’ve” next to his name, he really did do everything. The Sultan of Swat is an easy choice for the middle-of-order of our team.

Manager – Casey Stengel, by Graham Womack

I have a confession. Every player listed above made this team by earning the votes. I exerted little influence in the outcome, preferring to let voters work independently and come to their own decisions. One of my few exceptions to this policy was that I personally selected Casey Stengel as manager for this squad. I had an ulterior motive for doing so, which I’ll get to momentarily.

First, let me be clear and say that I think Stengel would make an ideal manager for this team. Over his 25 years as a skipper in the majors, Stengel won 1,905 games and did his best work when surrounded by talent, winning seven World Series and a Pacific Coast League championship. And while he sometimes clashed with the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, I assume Stengel would have the good humor and sense to hold his own piloting a star-studded club. Is Stengel the best manager of all-time, better than John McGraw, Earl Weaver, or Joe Torre? I don’t know, though I think the difference is academic.

That being said, I chose Stengel as manager in part because I wanted his biographer Robert Creamer to write about him here. I interviewed Creamer this winter and have kept in contact with him since. Creamer ultimately was unable to write anything for this project for personal reasons, though he recommended one of his Sports Illustrated colleagues, Walter Bingham. I contacted Bingham, and he provided some vignettes of Stengel, who he covered. Those memories can be read here.

Vote totals

P- Walter Johnson 159, Sandy Koufax 83, Pedro Martinez 72, Bob Gibson 54, Cy Young 34, Nolan Ryan 32, Greg Maddux 30, Randy Johnson 27, Satchel Paige 27, Roger Clemens 23, Tom Seaver 22, Lefty Grove 21, Christy Mathewson 19, “Choose One” 6, Babe Ruth (Write-In) 5, Bob Feller 5, Steve Carlton 5, Warren Spahn 4, Whitey Ford 2, Grover Cleveland Alexander 1, Dave Stewart (Write-In) 1, Jack Morris (Write-In) 1, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Write-In) 1, Ron Guidry (Write-In) 1, Smoky Joe Wood (Write-In) 1, Dizzy Dean 0, Jim Palmer 0

C- Johnny Bench 276, Josh Gibson 123, Yogi Berra 85, Mike Piazza 46, Ivan Rodriguez 27, Roy Campanella 17, Carlton Fisk 15, Mickey Cochrane 10, Gary Carter 10, Thurman Munson 7, “Choose one” 6, Bill Dickey 5, Joe Mauer 4, Roger Bresnahan (Write-In) 1, Dottie from “A League of their Own” (Write-In) 1, Jorge Posada 1, Mike Scioscia 1, Ted Simmons 1, Charlie Bennett 0, Buck Ewing 0, Gabby Hartnett 0, Joe Torre 0, Deacon White 0

1B- Lou Gehrig 369, Albert Pujols 154, Jimmie Foxx 27, Pete Rose 19, Willie McCovey 12, Will Clark 10, Frank Thomas 7, Hank Greenberg 6, Harmon Killebrew 5, Cap Anson 5, Don Mattingly 4, Buck Leonard 3, Mark McGwire 3, Willie Stargell 3, Johnny Mize 2, Eddie Murray 1, Alibi Ike (Write-In 1), Stan Musial (Write-In at first base, appeared on ballot in LF) 1, George Sisler 1, Jeff Bagwell 1, Rafael Palmeiro 1, Sadaharu Oh (Write-In) 1, Bill Terry 0

2B- Rogers Hornsby 242, Joe Morgan 143, Jackie Robinson 89, Roberto Alomar 38, Ryne Sandberg 25, Nap Lajoie 22, Rod Carew 20, Eddie Collins 20, Charlie Gehringer 10, Jeff Kent 4, Robinson Cano 4, Dustin Pedroia 4, Tony Lazzeri 3, Lou Whitaker 3, Bobby Grich 2, Bobby Doerr 1, Chico Escuela (Write-In) 1, “Choose One” 1, Honus Wagner (Write-in at 2B, on ballot at SS) 1, Craig Biggio (Write-In) 1, Newt Allen (Write-In) 1, Steve Sax 1, Ross Barnes 0, Frankie Frisch 0, Frank Grant 0

3B- Mike Schmidt 379, Brooks Robinson 78, George Brett 63, Chipper Jones 22, Wade Boggs 21, Eddie Mathews 19, Pie Traynor 9, Ron Santo 7, Evan Longoria 6, Dick Allen 5, Paul Molitor 5, Alex Rodriguez (Write-In at 3B, on ballot at SS) 4, “Choose one” 4, Frank Baker 3, Graig Nettles 2, Pete Rose (Write-In at 3B, on ballot at 1B) 2, David Wright 2, Ken Boyer 1, Ryan Zimmerman 1, Scott Rolen (Write-In) 1, Ray Dandridge (Write-In) 1, Ed from 1996 Matt LeBlanc film (Write-In) 1, Ron Cey 0, Darrell Evans 0, Stan Hack 0, Ezra Sutton 0

SS- Honus Wagner 313, Alex Rodriguez 106, Cal Ripken Jr. 61, Ernie Banks 48, Ozzie Smith 34, Derek Jeter 29, Troy Tulowitzki 9, Barry Larkin 6, Robin Yount 6, Alan Trammell 4, Pee Wee Reese 4, Nomar Garciaparra 3, “Choose One” 2, Lou Boudreau 2, Omar Vizquel (Write-In) 2, Willie Wells 2, Arky Vaughan 1, Luke Appling 1, Phil Rizzuto 1, Rabbit Maranville 1, Tanner Boyle from “The Bad News Bears” (Write-In) 1, Maury Wills 0, Bill Dahlen 0

LF- Ted Williams 289, Barry Bonds 186, Stan Musial 72, Rickey Henderson 60, Carl Yastrzemski 8, Lou Brock 4, Ryan Braun 4, Ed Delahanty 3, Tim Raines 3, Al Simmons 1, Billy Williams 1, “Choose one” 1, Manny Ramirez 1, Ralph Kiner 1, Turkey Stearnes (Write-In) 1, The angel Michael from “The Great Iowa Baseball Confederacy” (Write-In) 1, Monte Irvin 0, Charley Jones 0, Charlie Keller 0, Joe Medwick 0, Minnie Minoso 0, Jim Rice 0, Zack Wheat 0

CF- Willie Mays 360, Ty Cobb 97, Mickey Mantle 73, Ken Griffey Jr. 39, Joe DiMaggio 29, Oscar Charleston 12, Cool Papa Bell 6, Tris Speaker 4, Jim Edmonds 4, Andre Dawson 3, Duke Snider 3, Josh Hamilton 2, Kenny Lofton 1, Richie Ashburn 1, Lucy from “Peanuts” (Write-In) 1, Barry Bonds (Write-In) 1, Pete Browning 0, Cesar Cedeno 0, Billy Hamilton 0, Lip Pike 0, Spottswood Poles 0, Jimmy Wynn 0

RF- Babe Ruth 433, Hank Aaron 106, Roberto Clemente 41, Joe Jackson 15, Ichiro Suzuki 7, Tony Gwynn 7, Frank Robinson 5, Dwight Evans 4, Mel Ott 3, Reggie Jackson 3, Sammy Sosa 3, Al Kaline 2, Darryl Strawberry 2, Dave Winfield 1, Jose Canseco 1, Les Nessman from “WKRP” (Write-In) 1, Paul Waner 1, The words “Write-In” 1, Elmer Flick 0, Harry Heilmann 0, King Kelly 0, Roger Maris 0

The best of the rest, by Adam Darowski of The Hall of wWAR

Because honoring nine players isn’t enough, let’s take a look at the runners-up and other interesting finishes in the balloting.

Behind the plate, the runner-up wasn’t actually a Major Leaguer. Josh Gibson had the strongest support (by far) of all Negro League stars. Baseball-Reference’s newly released Negro League statistics confirm the legends we’ve been hearing about Gibson for decades. His OPS is listed at 1.026, but it could easily be higher (for example, he is credited with one walk combined in 1931, 1938, 1943—likely the result of incomplete data).

At first base, the runner up was Albert Pujols, the leading vote-getter among active players. Is Pujols deserving of such a ranking yet? He probably is. Lou Gehrig leads all first basemen in WAR with 118.4. Between Gehrig and Pujols are just Cap Anson (99.5) and Jimmie Foxx (94.1). Pujols isn’t far behind with 89.0. Now consider that Pujols is only in his age 32 season and just started a 10-year contract. In his late 30s, he might be preparing to pass Gehrig.

At second, Jackie Robinson finished third behind Rogers Hornsby and Joe Morgan. Those Jackie Robinson votes were not just symbolic ones. Hornsby and Morgan both edge Robinson in WAR (as do several other second basemen). But remember, Robinson only played ten years and didn’t start his career until age 28 (when his prime was likely half over). The fact is, on a rate basis Morgan was worth 6.4 WAR per 700 plate appearances while Robinson was worth 7.6. Hornsby finishes first by both rate and total value. But Robinson is far from a stretch at number two.

Brooks Robinson made an impressive showing on the third base list, finishing behind only behind Mike Schmidt. Eddie Mathews, second all time in WAR among third basemen, managed just 19 votes. Of course, when Schmidt dominates the voting like he did (he finished second to Ruth in voting percentage), you get some great players with low totals, like Wade Boggs with 21.

Alex Rodriguez came in second In the shortstop voting and also finished second in total votes among active players. Sometime in 2013, Rodriguez’s games played at third base will surpass his games played at shortstop. He’ll join Robin Yount and Ernie Banks as Hall of Famers who started at short (and contributed the majority of their career value there) but finished with more time at another position.

In left field, voters went with the pure hitting ability of Ted Williams over the all-around play (and polarizing personality) of Barry Bonds. They were followed by Stan Musial and Rickey Henderson as each of the position’s 110 WAR players finished in the Top 4.

Center field was the position I watched for with the most anticipation. Think of the names—Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio, Ken Griffey, Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, and more. In perhaps the most impressive showing of the whole project, Mays dominated with 360 votes. Tris Speaker—he of 113 WAR and the 10th best weighted WAR of all time at any position—managed just four votes. That’s how tough center field votes were to get.

In right field, Babe Ruth was the top vote getter of the entire project, limiting the incredible Hank Aaron to 106 votes. The pitcher vote was the opposite, as Walter Johnson led the way with just 25% of the vote. After the Big Train, voters opted for hurlers who flamed out, but burned brightly while in their primes—Sandy Koufax and Pedro Martinez. Next was Bob Gibson, followed by an eclectic group of pitchers separated by just eleven votes: Cy Young, Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Satchel Paige, and Roger Clemens. Clemens, second all time in pitcher WAR, took an obvious hit because of his recent issues.

The top player, by WAR, who failed to receive a single vote was pitcher Kid Nichols. The top modern pitcher was Phil Niekro. Among position players, the top non-vote getter was George Davis, who continues to be criminally underrated (even after being inducted into the Hall of Fame). The top modern (post-WWII) position player without a vote was Jim Thome.

A note on the absence of black players

With today being the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, it may deserve some mention that eight of the nine players on this team are white. Creamer certainly noticed as much when I invited him to contribute something here. Creamer couldn’t participate in this project for personal reasons, though he noted:

If I’m telling the cold truth, I don’t feel as bad as I would have if the all-star selection had included more than one black player.  I mean, there have been blacks in the bigs for 66 seasons, and whites-only for 71 seaaons before Jackie.  Yet whites prevail eight to one?  Come on.

It could be a fluke, since non-white players made a stand at almost every position on the ballot. It’s not as if voters here forgot Pedro Martinez or Joe Morgan or Hank Aaron. All the same, the email motivated me to reach out to Dr. Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City to see if there was something deeper at work.

I asked Kendrick if this issue had come up in all-time dream projects before. Kendrick told me people had a tendency to vote for players they knew about or had seen play. It’s difficult to make comparisons, he added, since essentially two major leagues were running prior to integration. I asked him if the incomplete history of Negro League stats was a factor. He said it could leave some doubt for any voter who relies solely on stats.

Kendrick said there was validity behind the numbers, though, that people who played against Josh Gibson, for instance, could attest to his skill. “Great athletes appreciate other great athletes,” Kendrick said. “And the only way you can appreciate how good you are is competing against the best of the best.”

Donors

This project wasn’t just about honoring a bunch of old baseball players. We’ve also been raising money through donations for 826 Valencia, a non-profit that teaches journalism to kids. I set a goal of raising $3,000. We’ve raised about half of that as of press time, and if everyone who reads this post donates $1, we’ll shatter the goal. I’ll list the names in this post of everyone who donates so much as one cent. Every bit helps. Donations can be made here.

Here are the Early Donors, people who donated before press time: myself, Adam Darowski, Albert Lang, Alex Putterman, Bill Miller, Brendan Bingham, Carol Daley, Chip Buck, Dave England, David Wiers, Diane Firstman, hldomingue, Jena Yamada, Joe Guzzardi, Joe McMackin, Julian Levine, Jacob P., Jacob Peterson, Michael Clair, Peter Hartlaub, Praxspop, Scott Willis, Stacey Gotsulias, Victor Dadras, Ryan Frates, Wayne Horiuchi, The Baseball Idiot, Tom, as well as four anonymous donors

More donors: Wendy Thurm, John V, Scott Candage, Andy Wood, Mighty Flynn, NeilinNevada, Mark Aubrey, @athomeplate1, Sean Palmateer, two anonymous donors [YOUR NAME HERE-- names will be added as soon as possible as donations come in]

To donate, visit the page I set up at FirstGiving.com.

Voters

In all, we received 636 votes for this project. A number of people also made donations for charity. Not everyone gave their full name, though the ones I knew are listed below, alphabetized by first name.

Baseball figures and others: Bill Deane, former head of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame; Dr. Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro League Baseball Museum; Christina Kahrl of ESPN; Dan Evans, former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Dan Dibley of KGMZ 95.7 The Game; Josh Wilker, author of Cardboard Gods and the related blog; Danny Peary, co-author of Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero; Len Berman, sportscaster and author of The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time; Joe Williams, chair of the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project, Nineteenth Century Committee, Society for American Baseball Research; Mark Kreidler of ESPN and KGMZ 95.7 The Game; Mark Simon of ESPN New York; Matt Walbeck, former MLB catcher; Matt Welch, editor of Reason Magazine; Rob Neyer, editor of Baseball Nation; Peter Hartlaub, pop culture critic and Big Event blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle; Steve Berthiaume, host of “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN

Bloggers, [A-C]: Myself, Aaron Somers of Blogging From The Bleachers and District on Deck, Adam Darowski of the Hall of wWAR, Albert Lang of h2h Corner, Alex Flores of alexflores.com, Alex Putterman of this website, Andrea Reiher of Zap2it, Andrew of Enlightened Sports Fan, Andrew Martin of The Baseball Historian, Andy of High Heat Stats,  Arne Christensen of Misc. Baseball, Bill of The Platoon Advantage, Bobby Aguilera of Baseball Reality TourBox Score Haiku, Brendan Bingham of this website, Brian Moynahan of Bus Leagues Baseball, Bruce Markusen of The Hardball Times, Bryan O’Connor of Replacement Level Baseball Blog, Charles Beatley of Andre Dawson, Chip Buck of Fire Brand of the American League

Bloggers, [D-G]: Dan McCloskey  of Left Field, Dan Day of The Ball Caps Blog, Daniel Aubain of Full Spectrum Baseball, Daniel Shoptaw of Cardinal70.com, Daniel Stern of National League Theory, Darien Sumner of The Dord of Darien, Dave England of Aerys Sports, David Pinto of Baseball Musings, David Spencer of Squirrels Baseball, Diane Firstman of Value Over Replacement GritDobberBaseball.com, Domenic Lanza of The Yankee Analysts, Doug Bird of this website, Drew of The Crazy (Good) Eights85% Sports, Ernie Nackord of Where Have You Gone Joe?, Geo of …..The Bronx Bomber

Bloggers, [J-P]: Jacob Peterson of JunkStats, Jake Bryan of Baseball Brains Blog, James Smyth of James Smyth, Jason Marlo of sidepoints.com, Jeff Parker of Royally Speaking, Jeff Polman of Mysteryball ’58, Jimmy Leiderman of The New York Clipper, Jimmy of A Second Time through the Order, Joe Guzzardi of this website, Joe McMackin of SportsBlogNet, John Autin of High Heat Stats, John Leary of Green Line Outfit, Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt, Julian Levine of Giants Nirvana, Ken Parker of parkerfilms.net, Kevin Graham of Baseball Revisited, Larry Granillo of Wezen Ball, Lewie Pollis of Wahoo’s on First, Mark A of Mark’s Ephemera, Matt Collins of New England Sports News Blog, Matt Imbrogno of The Yankee Analysts, Matt Weiner of Bucs Dugout, Michael Clair of Old Time Family Baseball, Michael Lortz of Bus Leagues Baseball, Michel Lim of Baseballs Deep, Mike Gianella of Roto Think Tank, Mike Luery of Baseball Between Us, Nick Tavares of nicktavares.com, Nick of Pitchers Hit Eighth, Pat Adair of Dropped Strike Three, Patrick Languzzi of Call to the Hall, Paul Dylan of One for Five, Peter Schiller of Baseball Reflections, P.J. Brown of Roaming The SidelinesPunky G

Bloggers, [R-Z]: Ran Shulman of Major League Truth, Ron Foreman of Seamheads, Ronni Redmond of Garlicfriesandbaseball, Rory Paap of Bay City Ball, Ryan McCrystal of Wahoo’s Warriors, Ryan Sendek of Analysis around the Horn, Satchel Price of Beyond the Box Score, Shawn Weaver of Cincinnati Reds Blog, Silver King, Sky Kalkman of the Hall of Very Good ebook, Stacey Gotsulias of Aerys Sports, Steve Keane of Kranepool Society, Steven Nichols of New England Sports News Blog, Taylor of MLBeef, Ted Paff of Customer LobbyThe Egotists ClubThe Nutball Gazette, Tom Thrash of He Knew He Was RightWarehouse Worthy, William Booth of Technical Slip, William Miller of The On Deck Circle, William Juliano of The Captain’s Blog, William Tasker of The Flagrant Fan

Readers, [A-G]: Aaron Greenberg, Abraham Leiderman, Adam Hardy, Alan Knox, Alex Johnson, Allen Zelt, Alvy Singer, Andrew Johnson, Andrew Milner, Angus Danielson, Armand Mathurin, Barry Melnick, Bart Silberman, Beau Blanchard, Ben Dobbs, Bill Bell, Bill Doucet, Bill Rubinstein, Bob Berman, Bob Brichetto, Bob Rittner, Bob Sohm, Bob Finn, Brad Howerter, Brandon Erickson, Brendan Sullivan, Brett Beeching, Brian Connolly, Brian McArdle, Brian Stuart, Bryan Grosnick, Buddy Carhart, Carol Daley, Cecil Patrick, Chad Blauwkamp, Charles Bauer, Charles Nelson, Charlie Wilson, Chris Ferreira, Chris Heywood, Chuck Taylor, Colby King, Cory Mays, Craig Cornell, Dale Mathurin, Dalton Mack, Dan Foster, Dan O’Connor, Daniel Keck, Danny Torres, Darius Walker, Dave Bristol, Dave Clemons, Dave Foody, Dave Mowers, David James, David Lick, David Lawrence Reed, Dean Hoke, Devin Hedberg, Dick Whitman, Dillon Davis, Don Groves, Ed Lounello, Ed White, Elaine Allen, Eric Brem, Ernest A. Nagy, Farrell Quinlan, Felicia, Frank Ozbun, Fred Collignon, Fred Flagg, Gabriel Schechter, Gary Bateman, Gary Robinson, Gary Stanley, George Haloulakos, George Kurtz, Gregg Volz, Gregg Weiss, Gus Johnson

Readers, [H-K]: Hal Ensrud. Hillel Spielman, Hugh Garretson, Ian Price, Isaac Pingree, Jake Weber, James Beard, Jan Raymond, Jan Rinnooi, Jason Chesshir, Jason Lukehart, Jason Staley, Jason Sterlacci, Jay Nish, Jeff Fleishman, Jeff Davis III, Jeffrey Crohn, Jeffrey Hunter, Jeffrey Paternostro, Jena Yamada, Jim Doyle, Jim Imhoff, JJ Gilbert, Joe Kendall, Joe Smith, Joel Hammerman, Joel Quintanilla, Joel Solis, John Franco, John League, John Robbins, John Robertson, Jonah Sharris, Jonas Hanna, Jonathan Kahan, Jordan Blough, Joseph Passeri, Josh Drew, Josh Margolis, Joshua Mitchell, Justin Ciccotelli, Ken Fenster,  Kevin Shanahan, Kim B. Andres

Readers, [L-P]: Lawrence Azrin, Lee Temanson, Lee Domingue, Lew Berman, Liz Roscher, Lynn Burton, Mark Steven Traub, Matt Aschaffenburg, Matt Davidson,  Matt Stevens, Matt Wilks, Matthew Bultitude, Michael Cook, Michael Farmer, Michael Martin, Michael Moritz, Mike Cravens, Mike Denton. Mike Jones, Mike Lodge, Mike Meares, Mike Mohner, Mike Robinson, Mike Stone, Mike Vance, Nathan Canby, Nathan Horwitz, Nick Sorbello, Owen Wilson, Pat Crowe, Patrick Bowen, Patrick Mackin, Paul Gardner, Paul Hirsch, Phil Haberkorn

Readers, [R-Z]: Richard Coughlin, Richard Nicholson, Rick Walden, Rob Harrison, Robert Allen, Robert Ross, Robert Sawyer, Russ Prentice, Ryan Frates, Scott Taylor, Sean Lahman, Spencer Lamm, Stan Kanter, Stefano Micolitti, Stephen Loftus, Steve Ambrozat, Steve Braccini, Steve Brown, Steve Dakota, Steve Oppenheim, Steven Hobble,  Taylor Owen, Ted Mosby, Ted Rodgers, Tim Deale, Tim Murtaugh, Tim Newey, Tom Bradley, Tom DeCenso, Tom Hanrahan, Tom Howell, Tom Reagan, Travis Dant, Troy Davis, Victor Dadras, Vinnie, Wade Boutilier, Wayne Horiuchi, Whitey Holt, William Perry, Zubin Sumariwalla



43 Comments so far

  1.    Ryan McCrystal on April 15, 2012 9:43 am      

    amazing how much consensus there is. Thousands of ballplayers over the years, and yet we all seem to pretty much agree on who the best one is at each position.

    Although I will say, some of the votes (Jack Morris, Jorge Posada, Craig Biggio, to name a few) make we want to puke.

  2.    jjswol on April 15, 2012 10:26 am      

    Great piece Graham, I enjoyed the article and the drawing of the players, a very nice touch. I have trouble understanding why Eddie Mathews and Rod Carew garnered so few votes. Keep up the good work.

  3.    Graham Womack on April 15, 2012 10:30 am      

    Hey, thanks John.

    I think Eddie Mathews might be one of the more underrated players in baseball history. Maybe he suffers being the lesser star to teammate Hank Aaron or having fewer career home runs than Mike Schmidt, who trounced him here.

    As for Rod Carew, he split his career between first and second, and a lot of players with multiple positions suffered in this project from Stan Musial to Robin Yount to Alex Rodriguez and others. Carew also didn’t have much power, and voters tended to reward players who did.

  4.    Dan Evans on April 15, 2012 11:00 am      

    Congratulations on this project, as it was a lot of fun for me to select an all-time squad. I really enjoyed today’s summary and love your timing of releasing this on Jackie Robinson Day.

  5.    Graham Womack on April 15, 2012 11:01 am      

    Thanks, Dan! I like to celebrate the best in baseball history, and Jackie Robinson is all about that to me.

  6.    Bob B. on April 15, 2012 11:23 am      

    Awesome!
    Very glad to see the results and will need to read this in more detail at a later time, but just wanted to chime in with kudos.

  7.    Bob B. on April 15, 2012 1:20 pm      

    I’ve got a tiny bit more to say now.
    I think I was surprised to see Williams ahead of Bonds, but I probably shouldn’t be because of steroids… Other than that the only position that I was confident in my choice who didn’t win was at catcher, where I had to go with Josh Gibson. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the best catcher in MLB history won the vote.
    Anyway, thanks for doing this Graham!

  8.    Paapfly/Rory on April 15, 2012 7:33 pm      

    Excellent job putting this together, Graham. I am flattered to have been a part of it.

  9.    Bobby S. on April 15, 2012 9:33 pm      

    Loved the article, especially the piece on Gehrig, but the drawings are kind of odd. Most of them don’t even look like the players.

  10.    Steadman_murray on April 15, 2012 10:10 pm      

    Great job on this project. I love all things baseball history, especially the “who’s better” debate. I voted on only players that I saw play (80′s-current), because I think that ability wise, and unless you’re grading on a curve, players today are better than players of the past.

    There is no way to know how fast Walter Johnson actually threw and if he would be as successful today as he was in his time, but I feel certain that he wouldn’t be as good as Pedro Martinez was. In every sport athletes get better and more advanced with each generation. We forget this in baseball because player comparisons (before video or radar guns at least) are based relative to their era, rather than on something controlled.

    No one considers Jesse Owens the greatest sprinter of all time, because we can look at his best times and see that they wouldn’t compare to today’s sprinters. If we didn’t have those records, I bet there would be people claiming that he ran faster than Usain Bolt, just as their are people that claim Bob Feller threw harder than anyone in baseball history.

    I wonder if players of the 1980′s (Whitaker, Raines, Trammell, Morris) that some thought of as borderline Hall of Famers might have gotten in if their careers were based on anecdote and stats without the technology or memory to compare to current players?

    But again, having these arguments is one of the many things I love about baseball. It wouldn’t be as much fun if we could definitively decide who the greatest players were. Great work.

  11.    Alvy on April 15, 2012 10:30 pm      

    Kudo’s to Graham for pulling all of this together from the tallying to gathering such fine writers not only for voting but for writing the bio’s, the art work and making it a charitable event.
    The voting talleys were fascinating to read. I’d be real interested to find out for example who Robert Creamer, Dr. Kendrick and some of the other writers voted for.
    I have a suggestion Graham; if you ever do this again why not have people vote for their top three or five or dare I ask, 10 at each position like the MVP voting awarding points for each placement. It might allow for at least some more inclusiveness for slighted players and create a more interesting competition. I know it would also create a great deal more work, but I’m bet some readers would be glad to help with the grunt work of tallying. I know I would for sure. Just a thought.
    I also wanted to add one comment about Johnny Bench. I believe that we never got to see the real Johnny Bench for his full career. Ironically like another fellow Oklahoman, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench suffered major debilitating injuries for his full career including 17 broken bones, shoulder surgery and major thoracic surgery after the 1972 season when part of his lung was removed. The latter especially began a decline in Bench’s amazing power numbers through the 1972 season. At that time at age 24 Bench had over 150 homers and writers were thinking that Bench if he stayed healthy could eventually challenge the Babe’s career home run record or at least be a shoe in for 500 homers. Both unheard of for a catcher. The cutting into his chest muscles in order to do the surgery had a serious impact on the strength Bench had and he never approached the numbers of seasons like ’70 and ’72, except for one shining moment when he lead the league with 129 RBI’s in ’74. But in a sense we never saw Johnny’s hitting peak.
    Thanks again for creating this wonderful opportunity to be a part of it all.

  12.    Graham Womack on April 15, 2012 11:34 pm      

    @Steadman_murray Interesting stuff. That sounds like an edition of “Any player/Any era” waiting to happen.

    @Alvy Wow, I didn’t know that about Bench. I checked Baseball-Reference, and it appears he’s one of nine players with 150 home runs by age 24. There’s some glitch in my Play Index account on there (I just signed up for the paid version today) so I don’t have much else to offer on the other players, though it’s interesting to wonder what might have been if Bench had had better health.

  13.    Adam Darowski on April 16, 2012 4:18 am      

    Wow, I’m blown away by the illustrations. Great job to Sarah. They work really well with the site and look great as standalone cards. Quite the awesome addition to an awesome project. I’m honored that I was asked to be a part of it!

  14.    Joe Guzzardi on April 16, 2012 5:24 am      

    This is a terrific project and the end result of Graham’s tireless work. There’s a lot of blog fodder for me contained herein which I’ll be getting to promptly including a post on the great and under-appreciated Eddie Mathews.

  15.    Jonathan C. Mitchell on April 16, 2012 7:34 am      

    I agree with Adam, the illustrations are amazing!

    Great post and project. I just wish Wade Boggs got a little more love.

  16.    Lee Russ on April 16, 2012 8:17 am      

    So Jeff Kent, Craig Biggio, and Dustin Pedroia all get more votes than Frankie Frisch. Good grief, and shame on the voters.

  17.    Graham Womack on April 16, 2012 8:20 am      

    Hi Lee, older players in general who aren’t already legends suffered in this project. One of my writers Joe Guzzardi will be starting a column this Friday on forgotten greats. It’ll be for players like Frankie Frisch, Charlie Gehringer, and Eddie Mathews. Hope you’ll read!

  18.    Kris Kulsrud on April 16, 2012 8:33 am      

    I love lists like this and while I am admittedly a homer for the MN Twins, I cannot fathom how a candidate list cannot include Kirby Puckett. Even Josh Hamilton got a couple votes? A guy (Hamilton) who was almost out of baseball a couple of years ago, and if his career ended short because of his drug addiction or alcohol problems wouldn’t even scratch the ballot of the HOF. I respect the majority of writers on this list but wow, the fact that Puckett was excluded from the list and ultimately didn’t receive a vote is just asinine. I do love that Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughan got a vote though!

  19.    Graham Womack on April 16, 2012 8:36 am      

    Hi Kris, that was my mistake. I put the ballot together, and I neglected to mention a few players: Puckett, Craig Biggio, and Scott Rolen all come to mind.

  20.    Brendan on April 16, 2012 8:51 am      

    Graham: it’s clear that a lot of hard work went into this project; well done! I especially like that you recruited some top-flight baseball writers to do the player profiles. Great job all around!

  21.    Paul Salzgeber on April 16, 2012 8:59 am      

    Another question is what would the batting lineup be for that team? Just my guess…

    CF Mays
    SS Wagner
    RF Ruth
    1B Gehrig
    LF Williams
    2B Hornsby
    3B Schmidt
    C Bench
    P Johnson

  22.    Graham Womack on April 16, 2012 9:02 am      

    That might work. I figured I’d let people debate the batting order in the comment section.

    Hornsby or Williams might make a good second hitter as well. Wagner could hit in a power spot. He led the league in slugging percentage a bunch of times and has a lower home run total because of the Deadball Era.

  23.    Graham Womack on April 16, 2012 9:12 am      

    I posted it just under Casey Stengel’s bio.

  24.    Lawrence Azrin on April 16, 2012 10:29 am      

    Great concept and presentation; the only suggestion for future such ratings would be what Alvy suggested above; a weighted Top-5 at each position (as with the MVP voting), and a Top-dozen for pitchers, should be the minimum number listed, so that the many dozens of all-time greats are fairly represented.

    A “one or none” approach skews the results, especially at positions where there is strong agreement.

  25.    DW on April 16, 2012 11:39 am      

    The problem with “dream team” is it doesnt address the batting order. You cant have all HR hitters 1-9. Pujols needs to be in there too…no way he’d get passed up if hep layed in the 50′s.

    A real dream line up would like this:

    1 – Joe Morgan – 2B
    2 – Ripken/Wager – SS
    3 – Pujols – 1B
    4 – Ruth – DH
    5 – Griffey JR – CF
    6 – Mantle – LF
    7 – Mays – RF
    8 – Schmidt – 3B
    9 – Bench – C
    Pitching: Walter Johnson

  26.    Graham Womack on April 16, 2012 11:49 am      

    Interesting. I don’t know how anyone could have Griffey hit in front of Mantle and Mays. Mays and Mantle seem like ideal second and fifth hitters here. You could also stick Ruth in right field, Mays in center, and have your pick of elite hitters at DH such as Ted Williams.

  27.    Jacob on April 16, 2012 2:32 pm      

    I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with the results. Yes, these are pretty much the agreed upon best players (for each position). But, why even go through all the trouble of collecting 600 votes? I could’ve put this (list of the selected 10) together in like 2 minutes.

  28.    Graham Womack on April 16, 2012 3:10 pm      

    Hi Jacob,

    Thanks for your comment.

    To answer your question, I enjoy getting as many people as I can involved in my projects for a number of reasons.

    Pragmatically, it’s a way to get more people interested in my website and boost my traffic numbers. If 600 people vote, chances are good 600 people will want to read the results. That’s a big traffic day, at least for me. As an independent baseball history blogger, I have to be creative on finding methods to get people here. It’s not easy.

    A large number of voters also creates a much higher level of credibility than if I were to just post a list in two minutes. I’m a 28-year-old blogger with little professional journalistic experience. Who’s going to care what I alone have to say on such an important topic? For what it’s worth, I also enjoy seeing how people vote. It’s fun to see people reflect the eras they came of age in or personal preferences. I get a window into their thinking.

    One last thing: Much as these may have been consensus picks, people have been arguing about them all day, both on this site and elsewhere. There wasn’t anything close to unanimity in our voting, either. Even Babe Ruth only got 68 percent of the votes.

    Anyhow, thanks again for your comment and taking the time to read.

    Best wishes,
    Graham Womack

  29.    David on April 17, 2012 8:21 am      

    Hey Graham!

    Thanks for putting the whole thing together. I’m a little disappointed in one thing, though. I’m worried my votes didn’t get counted. My name doesn’t appear on any of the lists. I was one of the first people to turn in a ballot, and you actually had me re-send it via e-mail. I’m not really complaining or anything – I’m just worried that maybe you missed a few votes. It’s not like it really matters, because all of these were landslides, but I just thought I’d mention it, so you know.

    Also, mad, mad props to Sarah for the artwork, Adam for his comment, and Robert Creamer for his observation. Regarding the observation on lack of players of color, I have a theory. Around the 1950s, people started ranking things. Best this and best that. They came up with answers – in movies, music, baseball, etc. Unless someone is VERY convincing, the “original” winner is pretty tough to overturn. Why are Citizen Kane and Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz still listed among the best movies of all time? They’re old, the dialogue isn’t always great, the acting of their times was way too melodramatic and would be laughed at if it appeared in a movie today… and yet we hear the arguments for those movies over and over. Likewise, the “old answers” in baseball just haven’t been unseated because, well, we have ALWAYS said that the Babe (or Gehrig or Hornsby or whoever) was the best, so we’ll keep saying it. Just a thought.

    Anyway, great project, and thanks for all the hard work!

  30.    Graham Womack on April 17, 2012 8:26 am      

    Hi David, I think your votes got counted. The first 11 people who voted sent in ballots before I added a field asking people to fill in their names. I also generally omitted names in the results of anyone who didn’t list a full name or some identifying detail.

    Anyhow, I will add your name in. If anyone reading voted and also doesn’t see their name, let me know, and I can remedy this.

  31.    wilburke on April 17, 2012 10:52 am      

    Very nice job. The only disturbing thing to me is the votes for pitcher. I can live with Walter Johnson, but having Sandy Koufax in second is just plain weird, and Nolan Ryan doesn’t belong anywhere near the top ten. Grover Cleveland Alexander has to be the most unappreciated and underrated pitcher of all time. I would rank the pitchers: 1) Walter Johnson, 2) Lefty Grove, 3) Greg Maddux, 4) Grover Alexander, 5) Cy Young, 6) Roger Clemens (with appropriate skepticism; he would rank higher if not for steroids), 7) Tom Seaver, 8) Randy Johnson, 9) Christy Matthewson, 10) Pedro Martinez. With apologies to Bob Gibson and Kid Nichols, who may also warrant a spot.

  32.    Alex on April 17, 2012 11:10 am      

    Interesting piece. Thanks to you and all of your contributors!

    It bothers me that the voters totally robbed Barry Bonds. If we could just look at the stats and not the names of the players involved, I don’t think anyone would have picked Williams over Barry.

    Barry (while using PEDs) was the best hitter I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think any player in the history of baseball has been more feared by opposing teams. Since 1955 when they first started tracking the stat, Barry’s 120 intentional bases on balls in 2004 is nearly three times the highest figure for any player not named Barry Bonds (McCovey is the fourth on the single season all time list with 45). Bonds has 6 out of the 10 best seasons for IBBs. McCovey and Pujols are the only other two players in the top ten with 2 seasons each. It is unknown how many IBB Ruth or Williams may have had before that stat was tracked, but looking at total walk numbers should provide some insight into the question. Ruths’ highest single season highest walk rate was 24.4% (170 in 697 plate appearances), and Williams had a 23.4% walk rate (162 in 692 plate appearances). In 2004, Bonds had a 37.6% walk rate (232 walks in 617 plate appearances).

    Bonds had the two best seasons of on-base plus slugging and 4 of the top 10. Ruth (4 times) and Williams (2 times) are the only other two players in the top 10. Your fellow voters seemed to like the offensive win %. Again, Bonds tops out the single season list at .937, Ruth’s best was .921, Williams who got the selection over Bonds had a best of .920. There is not a lot of daylight between these numbers, but again, Bonds appears in the top ten 3 times to Williams’ and Ruth’s 2. Bonds also dominates the top ten list for single season OPS+ with the top three performances (268, 263, 259) Williams topped out at 238. Babe Ruth is the only player with a single season offensive WAR higher than Bonds (13.7 to 13.0, respectively) on baseball reference.

    Pre-PED Bonds even placed second on Baseball-Reference’s ranking of single season defensive WAR (3.9 in 1989). For perspective on this, Willie Mays’s highest single season score ties him for 203rd place with 2.1 in 1954. Bond’s is 6th on the all time list with 20.4, Ruth is tied at 140 with 7.4, Williams had -2.0 over his career. Williams stole no more than 4 bases in a season (it wasn’t really his thing, 24 total in his career), whereas Bonds topped out at 52 in 1990.

    Seems like the stats tell a pretty clear story hear. Bonds was a better batter, base-runner, and fielder than Williams.

  33.    Shping on April 18, 2012 12:08 am      

    Maybe the stats were slightly better, but Bonds played in a better hitting era and it’s hard to be objective about the jerk.

    Apparently Williams could be a jerk, too, but maybe he was fortunate to play before media scrutiny and steroid-use increased.

  34.    Lawrence on April 18, 2012 6:52 pm      

    What an excellent project! My hats off to everyone involved. I do admit that I had the same thought as Mr. Creamer when I saw the final list…only one black player? However, I do realize that one could redo this project and come up with many different lineups. I would only make two changes. Hank Aaron is a must in any lineup and if you consider dominant pitching during the highest points of the “live ball” and “PHD” eras, the best pitcher of all time is Greg Maddux.

  35.    Chris on April 18, 2012 7:21 pm      

    This was a great article. It reminded me of playing a video game growing up called Earl Weaver Baseball. Schmidt was too modern to be in that game, but the rest of the team was there.

    1. Wagner (put some speed on base to wreak havoc ahead of the rest)
    2. Hornsby (hits for average as well as anyone on this team)
    3. Williams (combo of power and OBP ahead of the big guy)
    4. Ruth (who else do you want at clean up?)
    5. Gehrig (RBI machine)
    6. Mays (debated switching him with Williams in the 3 spot)
    7. Schmidt
    8. Bench
    9. Johnson

  36.    Brian on April 19, 2012 8:16 am      

    I want to address the notion that we can’t credit pre-integration stats. Obviously, the exclusion of Black and Latino players was a terrible injustice, and the game is much better for their presence. But at least in the case of Babe Ruth, we have some idea of how he would have fared in integrated baseball, since he played in so many exhibition games against Negro League teams. According to Bill Jenkinson, Ruth had 55 contemporaneously-documented (in either the regular presss or the so-called Negro papers) at bats against Negro League team. He was 25 for 55, with 12 home runs.

    By any measure, Babe Ruth is the greatest player of all time.

  37.    Max on April 20, 2012 1:28 pm      

    I am not a statistician, but maybe the absence of nonwhite players is because of the following: Voters in this poll have lived through some or all of the integrated era and split their votes among the many superstar nonwhite players, but some of the voters who think the old-timer lists have been available for such a long time those lists must have some validity and the voters therefore relied more on those sacred lists. Just a thought. I agree with the many comments lauding the project.

  38.    jonathan davis on April 20, 2012 2:23 pm      

    hi just wanted to say that i really really enjoyed this article and am glad you included all players receiving votes. At 32 i still consider myself young when it comes to the history of baseball but do enjoy everything about it. i think a fun project may be voting on the dream team of a newer generation say the last 50 years. while i realize this would include some players who played on both sides of the 50 year mark it still would be fun. thanks for your post and i will be looking forward to more.

  39.    robert sawyer on April 21, 2012 10:49 am      

    In a situation like this, voting support depends on competition at the position
    and on the mix of skills involved. Mike Schmidt had all the offensive skills that Eddie Mathews had plus greater defensive ability. Hence anyone who might regard George Brett or Wade Boggs as better than Schmidt will almost certianly regard then as likewise better than Mathews. Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth? Same deal. Ruth had even more power than Hammering Hank, In their primes they were both terrific outfielders. They hit for comparable adjusted batting averages but Ruth walked a lot more. Both had long carreers and more than a dozen superb seasons. To prefer Aaron over Ruth
    one has to believe that the overall quality of ball in the 1960s was a LOT better than the 1920s.
    Maybe it was. However the basis for comparing baseball statistics is the general belief that from season to season the game remains
    much the same. This accounts for the voter’s preference for Wagner over
    A-Rod. I don’t know for a fact that if A-Rod had played in the 1900′s he would not have matched Wagners numbers, but its improbable that he would have.
    At the same time I believe that Wagner’s numbers today would not match A-Rod’s (Wagner was more of Vlad Guerrero/Bob Clemente impatient hitter.) BUT given how dominant Wagner was and how dominant A-Rod was, there is a case for my vote.
    An analogy from Basketball might be comparing Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Isaih Thomas, Tony Parker, and John Stockton. My vote would go to the Big O, even though I am not at all convinced that that he could do today what he could do in the 1960s.

  40.    Benjamin Raucher on April 21, 2012 7:12 pm      

    Can’t argue at all with this dream team. I am a great Willie Mays fan. Always felt that all-in-all (hitting and fielding) he is one of the 10 ten greatest.

    BENJAMIN RAUCHER

  41.    Tim Deale on April 29, 2012 11:32 am      

    This was so much fun. I did some research before I cast my votes just to be sure I was making the right decisions. With the some of the positions, it really was difficult to pick one HOF player over another. Plus I checked as much as I could on the Negro League stats before voting. This ended up being fun and educational. I had several names that made the team and I threw a twist in there that I thought was worth mentioning.

    I agree that Walter Johnson is the greatest pitcher. However, since this is a team of nine players that are playing one game, I wanted to have a little advantage. Instead of Walter Johnson as the pitcher, imagine having Babe Ruth as the pitcher. Now you have nine unbelievable hitters plus Ruth was a great pitcher.

  42.    Bob Sawyer on April 29, 2013 12:06 pm      

    Ten Slots, One Black. Is that reasonable? Well first of all, it is absolutely normal, at least statistically speaking. If you have a much larger population of whites than non whites and look for the very best in ten specific, it is extremely unlikely that more than four of them would be non-whites. The most likely result would be that the percentage of Black selections would be either 10% or 20%.
    Given the relative obscurity of Ray Dandridge and that ALex Rodriguez was listed at SS, third base was a lock for some white ball player. Hank Aaron is in direct competition with Babe Ruth so actually only 8 spots could plausibly be given to a black or latino. One of these eight selections WAS a minority and so was the second place finisher at 1B, 2B, SS, and Left Field.
    If we hold this same election 20 years from now, Albert Pujols might well win at 1B,
    and the voters might ignore steriod abuses and give Lf and SS to Bonds and A-ROD. but there would remain strong arguments for Ted Williams and Hans Wagner.
    The real objection to the voting is at Centerfield and Catcher. Many who played against him and the surviving statistics indicate that if Oscar Charleston was not the greatest Greatest player ever, he was at least the most complete centerfielder of all time.
    Joss Gibson was Frank Thomas at the plate, but with fielding skills more like Carlton FIsk.
    Johny bench was a hell of hitter and possibly the greatest ever fielder at catcher, but
    he wasn’t nearly as good a hitter as mike Piazza, let alone Frank Thomas. The statiscal record to PROVE these claims is lost. and that is an injustice of the white Press but also
    a sad commentary on the organization skills of the Negro league owners, Nobody really tried to keep statistics, they just played to amuse the crowds and make some money.

  43.    Bob Sawyer on April 29, 2013 12:26 pm      

    My post was re-write after a crash and so Explaination#1 got left out.
    Mariano Rivera was ruled out by Graham’s no relievers criteria.
    Mo Rivera is a clear number one choice. That makes 10 catagories with 2 being won by blacks and one going to a latino. At that point any startistical hint of bias is effectively eliminated.
    The Real “problem” is that Johnson, Ruth, Hornsby, and Wagner were SO MUCH better than their all-white contemporaries that it is hard to make a case for more recent players at their positions. When Barry Bonds steriod use ruled him out at left field that
    made 5 positions at which Minority candidates had little chance, and third base made six.
    Had Graham asked for the 10 best ballplayers regardeless of position, then
    Hank Aaron and Rivera might conceivably both have won spots. Voters would not have been choosing between Morgan and Hornsby or between A-rod and Wagner. Different
    rules. Different results

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