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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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]
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 Tour, Box 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 Grit, DobberBaseball.com, Domenic Lanza of The Yankee Analysts, Doug Bird of this website, Drew of The Crazy (Good) Eights, 85% 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 Sidelines, Punky 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 Lobby, The Egotists Club, The Nutball Gazette, Tom Thrash of He Knew He Was Right, Warehouse 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