Book Review: The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time


A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a representative of a publishing company, Sourcebooks. The rep said New York Times bestselling author Len Berman has a new book due out this fall, The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. The rep wrote:

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on his list, which include Alex Rodriguez (preposterous if you ask me) and excludes names like Rod Carew, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr. and several other 90’s players that have proven themselves above and beyond many that made the list.

I welcome story ideas, and I’ll write about interesting topics that relate to this site. Berman’s book met those criteria, so I encouraged the rep to send me a copy. He obliged and also included Berman’s bestseller, The Greatest Moments in Sports, which I’ll review in the next few weeks, once I read it.

I finished Berman’s newer book yesterday, and it wasn’t bad. It’s meant for children, similar to many baseball books I had growing up. The book didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know, but it offers good information for children learning the history of the game. The 25 players are mostly fine ambassadors to baseball, offering kids a slice of America’s pastime at its best. In alphabetical order, Berman’s top 25 players are:

  • Hank Aaron
  • Johnny Bench
  • Ty Cobb
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Bob Feller
  • Jimmie Foxx
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Bob Gibson
  • Josh Gibson
  • Rogers Hornsby
  • Walter Johnson
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Christy Matthewson
  • Willie Mays
  • Stan Musial
  • Frank Robinson
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Pete Rose
  • Babe Ruth
  • Mike Schmidt
  • Warren Spahn
  • Honus Wagner
  • Ted Williams
  • Cy Young

(As I’ll make clear before the end of this post, my top 25 differ somewhat.)

Berman, an eight-time Emmy Award-winning sportscaster, determined picks with a Blue Ribbon Panel consisting of Ralph Branca, Frank Deford, Steve Fortunato, Roland Hemond, Jeffrey Lyons, Chris Russo, and Bernie Williams. The panel members apparently voted subjectively on who they considered worthy, with the 25 highest vote recipients making the book. Given how much baseball changes every generation, the panel’s unscientific look might have been the fairest selection method. Still, a quantifiable ranking system may have helped, too.

I have recently begun to pay more attention to one of the latest crazes in the baseball research community, a metric called Wins Above Replacement (WAR.) This rates the number of extra wins a player theoretically provides over an average replacement, incorporating both offense and defense and suggesting a player’s overall worth. Using, I found the 25 best players for career WAR. They are as follows, with players who didn’t make Berman’s list in boldface:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Ty Cobb
  3. Walter Johnson
  4. Honus Wagner
  5. Cy Young
  6. Barry Bonds
  7. Willie Mays
  8. Tris Speaker
  9. Stan Musial
  10. Ted Williams
  11. Hank Aaron
  12. Eddie Collins
  13. Mickey Mantle
  14. Roger Clemens
  15. Rogers Hornsby
  16. Christy Matthewson
  17. Grover Cleveland Alexander
  18. Lou Gehrig
  19. Rickey Henderson
  20. Mel Ott
  21. Frank Robinson
  22. Nap Lajoie
  23. Joe Morgan
  24. Greg Maddux
  25. Tim Keefe

WAR isn’t perfect, and in general, stats often don’t tell the whole story. No metric could fully measure the contributions to baseball of Jackie Robinson, who has an eternal spot in my top 25. Still, looking at WAR and other formulas popular within the Society for American Baseball Research can double-check for worthy old-timers like Speaker and Collins.

Berman notes in his postscript, “Who knows? Maybe this book will turn into a ‘doubleheader.'” That route offers plenty of material. I could list 50 great players who didn’t make the cut including Carew, Ripken and Griffey. I don’t know if they make my top 25, and I think if Rodriguez is on Berman’s list, Bonds should be there as well (personally, I don’t feel like honoring either man or Clemens.)

Here’s my top 25:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Willie Mays
  3. Ted Williams
  4. Ty Cobb
  5. Walter Johnson
  6. Hank Aaron
  7. Satchel Paige
  8. Lou Gehrig
  9. Cy Young
  10. Honus Wagner
  11. Jackie Robinson
  12. Stan Musial
  13. Christy Matthewson
  14. Tris Speaker
  15. Rogers Hornsby
  16. Eddie Collins
  17. Pete Rose
  18. Rickey Henderson
  19. Josh Gibson
  20. Joe DiMaggio
  21. Greg Maddux
  22. Roberto Clemente
  23. Mickey Mantle
  24. Sandy Koufax
  25. Joe Jackson

I encourage anyone who’s interested to post their top 25 in comment form here.

I periodically review baseball books. For a compilation of my reviews, go here.

66 Replies to “Book Review: The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time”

  1. He lost a lot of games because he was on a lot of mediocre teams. His lifetime ERA would’ve given him many more wins on better teams. And what about the no-hitters?

    1. You take away the strikeouts, the no-hitters and about one win a season and you’ve got Bert Blyleven, who probably wasn’t even top 25 of the people he played with.

      Also, Ryan walked a ton of batters.

  2. Well, you’ve got Jackie Robinson on there–number 86 in lifetime BA. No records that I can think of that he owns, and a ten-year career.
    That said, you can’t take away the no-hitters and the strikeouts, or the one win per season: he done ’em all.

    1. Robinson could have hit .237 lifetime and he’d still make my list. Like I said, he made contributions beyond what any stat could measure.

      Maybe you’re right about Ryan, but I’m still not ready to let him in this group, especially when superior pitchers like Pete Alexander, Lefty Grove, and Steve Carlton didn’t make it.

  3. Robinson’s CAS (Contributions Above Stats) placed him automatically in the Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t automatically place him among the top 25 PLAYERS of all time. That has to be earned on the field. After all, Branch Rickey deserves as much (or more) credit for breaking the color line as does Jackie. He could’ve picked Larry Doby or Don Newcombe to be the first. Robinson was a very good all-around player. But I’d have to be shown why he’s among the top 25 in terms of his playing ability.

  4. Robinson made the majors at 28, due to segregation and World War II service, which probably took six seasons off his career. He made up for lost time by winning the MVP award in 1949 and posting MVP-caliber WAR ratings two out of the next three seasons. In fact, only 23 offensive players have posted higher WAR ratings than Robinson did in 1949 and four of those men have been linked to steroids.

    All of this is irrelevant to my argument, though. Robinson is one of the 25 greatest players of all time because he put up with things while on-field that no other player in the history of the game faced before or since. And unlike Branch Rickey, the only way Robinson could have made all of his contributions was by donning a playing uniform.

  5. I’m not arguing that all the honor in the world should be Robinson’s for being the pioneer that he was. But that is a function of character, which is separate from athletic ability. He also had great athletic ability. But whether he had enough to place him in the top 25 of all time. A lot of guys who were MVPs, or Cy Young Award winners are not on the list.

    1. The Dodgers signed a few other Negro League players around the same time as Robinson, Roy Partlow and John Wright, who never made a dent in the big leagues. Part of the reason Robinson made such an impact was that he played so well, so immediately. He wasn’t just some stoical figure who withstood massive amounts of racism. He was also a hell of a player.

      Like I said though, Robinson could have had all the clout of Don Kessinger, and he probably would still belong on this list so long as he wore a uniform for any measurable period in the bigs.

      I should probably say too that perhaps part of the reason for confusion here is that my list included a mix of players who made it on career-length statistical merit and some I put on for other reasons, like Robinson, Clemente and Koufax. My list probably wouldn’t include any of those three men if we went just based on stats. You’ll note that none of them are in the top 25 list for career WAR that I included in the post. But to get back to our original discussion, Ryan doesn’t rate in the top 25 for WAR either.

  6. I might work on a list of the top nine. But then I’d probably want to do a top nine for each generation, since I don’t really think that it makes any sense to compare Tris Speaker to Barry Bonds. I’ve said before that I don’t think the majority of the players from the late-1950s and early-1960s would make contemporary teams, even though that was my mostly intensely studied and witnessed period. Jackie Robinson and the breaking of the color line increased the size of the pool and greatly enhanced the overall quality of play. Certainly the huge influx of Hispanic players has since done the same again. You can only a judge the excellence of a player against the competition he actually faced. I’ve seen many guys who were superstars in the minors fail to make it in the Bigs. I think that many players who were superstars against the competition of the ‘teens, ‘twenties, ‘thirties, etc. would not be superstars in the ‘seventies, ‘eighties, and ‘nineties, etc.

  7. Going back to an earlier question, compare Jackie Robinson to Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro was 27 or 28 when he started playing MLB; he’s now played ten seasons; he has a lifetime BA of .333

    And he’s not on the list?

    1. No, nor is George Sisler, Tony Gwynn or Rod Carew, other great pure hitters. And Ichiro has a superb glove to go with it. Again, though, Robinson was helped by breaking the color barrier, though it’s not the sole reason he’s in my top 25.

  8. Ichiro is also an excellent baserunner: he’s an all-around player. And, I believe that he has an MVP to match Jackie’s. Suzuki-san (or should I say “Suzuki-sensei”?) does have the disadvantage of playing his whole career tucked away in Seattle, on generally less than stellar teams, rather than for pennant-winners in NYC.

  9. Is there a mathematical constant for the “average replacement” used in the calculation of the WAR? Is there such a number for each position? How was that number calculated?

  10. Ah, never mind. I looked it up again. I’ve seen it (the constants) before. I still don’t get it. My mind just doesnt’ work that way, I guess.

  11. Here we go again…

    We understand in order to sell books you need to hit the target market aka money demographic and “these” people aren’t interested in hearing Mays/Clemente are the two best ever!!!! Clemente is SO outside the Sabr box ’cause he’s the best defensive player ever in a game that doesn’t reward defense like the other major sports.In a game where ‘good pitching beats good hitting’ Roberto has the HIGHEST success against hall of fame pitching…single greatest world series display EVER and hit in all 14 WS games he played. Take a guess who is rated far above everyone if there was NO outfield wall..Clemente’s line drives to ALL fields coupled with a throwing arm letting him play deep enough to hold anything to a single. Should I go on.

    1. Right there with you. Clemente’s in my personal top 25 (which I included in the post), as is Mays. In fact, I rate the Say Hey Kid as the second-best player all time, after Babe Ruth.

  12. We also understand you have to tow the Sabr line with Ruth,after all, you’ve got a mortgage too! In your heart of heart if truth paid the mortgage did the Babe face pitching like Aaron,Mays and Clemente?If MLB wonders why they don’t attract the best African American athletes they need only to look at how Clemente was so conveniently overlooked while he played and is now{40yrs.later) criminally underrated by those who stand to profit$$$ by promoting weaker caucasian favs and other contemporary players. In short, In the movie, Redford turns to Duval and asks: Max, did you ever play the game?

    1. Actually, I don’t have to tow any lines. This is my blog which began almost a year before I joined SABR. I write what I want, when I want. No one pays me to write anything. If so, I wouldn’t struggle to pay rent on my apartment.

      Also, Ruth retired with 714 home runs, hit .342 lifetime and went 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA as a pitcher. He even stole 117 bases and smacked 136 triples, and from what I hear, he was a passable outfielder. There’s no greater all-around player than Ruth in baseball history, though Mays rates a not-terribly-distant second.

  13. Why was Grover Cleveland Alexander left out of this list. He still holds records that won’t be matched:
    1. Most wins as a rookie pitches
    2. Four triple crowns
    3. Most shutouts (90) in the National League
    4. Tied for most wins (373) with Cristy Matthewson, although a scorekeeper found the extra one for Matthewson at only 60 feet from home plate. Still no asterisk after his name for this tie breaking win.

    1. Hi William, thanks for commenting. I wondered about Alexander, too. If I had to hazard a guess for his omission, I’d say it’s because he played long ago and was a notorious alcoholic in his day.

    1. Hello,

      Thanks for commenting. I like Rose, but I can see where people might have other views, for a variety of reasons. Even his supporters acknowledge his weaknesses.

      Joe Posnanski wrote a book on the 1975 Reds a few years ago. Around the time the book debuted, Posnanski gave an interview. In it, he said:

      Pete Rose wasn’t just a great baseball player; he was the very essence of what a baseball player could be with maximum effort. He couldn’t run much, didn’t have power, couldn’t throw, and wasn’t graceful. But he was ever-present, hitting line drives, stretching them into doubles, and it made him inescapable.

      Thanks again for commenting.

    1. I’ve always thought Ripken was overrated. Robinson may be the greatest fielder of all-time, but his game didn’t have much to it beyond that. Palmer’s a Hall of Famer, no doubt, but I could probably name two dozen pitchers I’d take before him.

  14. It’s always tough comparing different players from different era’s. Ruth is always considered the greatest ballplayer of alltime. However, I always wondered how Ruth would have faired playing against the best ball players in the world, not just the best white players. Mays hit 660 home runs while playing in Candlestick park most of his career. Who knows what he would have done in another ballpark. Mays gets my vote best all around player of all time.

  15. For me the most glaring omission is Bob Feller. Your best addition, Clemente. Feller was a dominating pitcher that threw a 100 mile fast ball. Threw 3 no hitters and even more awesome 12 one hitters. Spent 4 years of his prime serving in WW II. Came home in 1946 and struck out 348 batters with an era of 2.15. most historians agree that if not for his service in WWII he would have compiled 350 victories and way over 3000 SO’s. Feller is a no brainer on this list.

    1. I think I may have discounted Feller because of his low number of career wins, but you might have a point here. Feller’s also notable for being one of the few hurlers who debuted young and didn’t burn out early.

  16. Passed up the minors and went directly to the major leagues where he struck out seventeen in a game being only one of two pitchers in history to strike out their age. The other Kerry Wood at 20. In 1946 he had a pitch clocked at 107.6 mph. Amazing player. As an aside I spoke to some others about Berman’s top 25. To a man were shocked by the Clemente omission. Good job.

  17. I grew up during the Golden Age of baseball but for the life of me never understood why Willie Mays is always rated as a top five, or in your case #2, of all time. Babe Ruth is in a class of his own and certainly deserves to be #1 on anyone’s list. But after Ruth the next logical choice should be Ted Williams. Due to two wars and injuries he missed something like six seasons and some of that while he was in his prime. There is no telling what numbers he would have put up had he played his entire career. Plus, he was a (Korean) war hero to boot.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Ruth and Mays rate as highly as they do because they were both great all-around players. Because of the fact that he could have made the Hall of Fame as a hitter or pitcher, Ruth is #1 to me. I rate Mays second because he offered better defense than Williams and was also one of the greatest hitters of all-time.

      That said, Williams is certainly the greatest hitter and you’re right– without his war service, he probably would have had 700 home runs and 3,000 hits.

  18. Thanks Graham, I guess my problem with Mays is he lingered too long at the punch bowl and never batted over 300 his last eight seasons with some of those really subpar. Williams on the other hand won two batting crowns during his last four seasons. But you are right that in his prime Mays was a pretty darn good all around player – hitting, fielding and stolen bases. A lot of people my age (63) worshipped Williams because when we were becoming aware of baseball in the early to mid 50s our fathers considered Williams (and to a lesser extent Stan Musial) some kind of mythical god.

  19. It’s true that the competition would have been far more fierce if the Babe played in an integrated league. But I think that Babe still would have been at the top at that time or any other time. Graham makes great points about Ruth being a HOF everyday player and a HOF pitcher. Few people realize that his consecutive scoreless innings record lasted longer than his seasonal home run record. Also, one final point is that when Ruth was hitting all those home runs year after year, he was hitting more home runs in those seasons than most whole teams combined. Also, due to films most of us think of the fat Babe, which he was not until later in his career. Ruth despite all the partying was a phenomenal athlete. I agree too that Willie would have to be second. The one disagreement I have with Graham is that Stan Musial is so low on his list. Also Joe Dimaggio. Both men were far better all-round players than the Ted Williams. Joe Dimaggio has what might be the most amazing hitting record in baseball. And that is that in his 13 years Joe D. hit more home runs than he struck out in 7 seasons!! That has to be a remarkable record. I don’t know how many sluggers have even one year like that except for Ted Williams who did it 3 times in 19 years. If we’re thinking about greatest all-round play you have to consider it consistently.

  20. I think I might put Musial a little higher were I to do this list again. The more I find out about him putting up great numbers during off-peak times in baseball history, the more he impresses me.

    I still think DiMaggio’s overrated. Weren’t there less strikeouts in those days?

  21. Jeter off every list? That’s a joke. It would take all day to say why he should be one of the best of all time but looks like this list is batting only.

  22. Graham, when you asked, “Weren’t there less strikeouts in those days?” — you need to remember that Joe’s last year was Mickeys first, 1951. This was not the deadball era, but the pre-and post WW2 era that Joe played in. There may have been fewer strike outs in his time. There certainly were not as many free swingers as there were since which started with Mantle and later Reggie and then on to the modern era where 150 strike outs in a year for a slugger is no longer unusual. But consider that for example, in 1941 when Joe D. went on his 56 game hitting streak, he hit 30 home runs– he only struck out 13 times!. He had 84 extra base hits, an amazing .643 slugging percentage and led the league in RBI’s with 125 and total bases with 348. Dimaggio had a big strong swing. He was not a punch and judy hitter. To compile those kind of hitting stats and only strike out 13 times is amazing. We’re talking about 1/10 the amount of times that many sluggers do today. DiMaggio did this 7 times and hit for power and average and was the best centerfielder of his time.

    I am no Joe D. fan. I think he was kind of a jerk and treated his brothers and alot of people like Mickey poorly. But that does not take anything away from his skills. He carried the Yanks on his back more times than not. He was unquestionably the greatest all-round player of his time. Willie Mays and Mantle both stated that. In fact Mantle, despite not liking Joe D. very much, said that Joe was the best all-round player he ever saw. He put Willie Mays second to Joe, and readily admitted that Mays was the better player between himself and Mays.

    I think to minimize the power numbers to strike out ratio is the equivalent of minimizing Babe Ruth’s hitting more homers than whole teams in a season. No matter what era Dimaggio played in his stats and play would have been at the top.

    I don’t know why you think he was overrated and what you’d base it on. I hope it is not because you think he was made greater by the teams he played on. Remember his hitting streak and lofty average in the PCL as a kid, before he joined the Yanks, which was about as good as the pro’s. And aside from the two great years the Lou Gehrig had while he and Joe played together, those Yankee teams were no better than the ones Mantle played for in the 50’s, Reggie played for and the Yank teams of the last 15 years. And the truth was that Joe did carry those teams many, many times. They were made far better by his being there than they made him better.

    This is all objective as you can verify with those who saw him play. And again, I am no fan of the mans. Were my views based on fan favs, I’d be shouting for Clemente, Allen and Oiiva.

  23. I mostly think DiMaggio is overrated because of his name. If he’d been born, say, Mud Thompson, played for the Browns, and put up comparable numbers, would he still have near-deity status?

  24. Graham, I have a good deal of respect for your POV and enjoy so many of your blogs, regardless or whether or not I agree with you. But again, not being a Joe D. fan, I don’t see any logic in your comment here. It just sounds personal and subjective. Name a better all-round contemporary of DiMaggio’s?

    First of all, I never referred to DiMaggio’s stature as near-Deity. I simply cited some amazing and unmatched hitting stats that are rarely referred to, but have never been surpassed, let alone anyone coming close to challenging in any era of the game. I cited some specific testimonies of his greatness by a couple of great players who followed him and whom are considered heirs of his legacy.

    But there is a huge irony and contradiction in your last comment.

    Firstly, had Joe D. played on the Browns, he would have hit many more homeruns. The dimensions in old Yankee Stadium made it tough for righty hitters to hit alot of homeruns. DiMaggio’s slugging percentage was much higher on the road at .610 compared to his home average at .546. Dimaggio hit 65 more home runs on the road than he did at home. Mantle, Ford and other teammates saw DiMaggio lose a lot of home runs in Yankee Stadium. DiMaggio’s away batting average was even much higher at .333 compared to his home average of .315. So, the truth is that were Joe D, on some other team he’d have had a much better offensive career– and may indeed be remembered as well or even better. than he is now– even if his name was Mud Thompson. A man who might have had a .333 lifetime B.A. 430+ homeruns and a .610 lifetime slugging average would have been well-remembered in any league, on any team– at any time. This would have been so even if he was an average fielder as Ted Williams was. But in Mud/Joe’s case we know his other great skills in the field.

    There is no doubt, that a player’s rep is uplifted by playing on great and/or large market teams. Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek are more well-known than say contemporary combo’s like Luis Aparacio and Nellie Fox. But truth is that the latter two are much better players.

    But again in Joe’s case, which contemporary would equal or surpass him in all-round play? That theory just doesn’t wash here. And if you think it does than it also has to apply to other greats from winning teams as well.

    As far as his name, I’m not sure what you mean here? How could a player become overrated simply because of his name, lol? Or how could it be merely the team he was on? Does that mean that Mickey Mantle is overrated too?
    If you follow that logic, than you’d have to say the same about Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax and on and on.

    Name me a lesser known player in DiMaggio’s day who was even equal to him as an all-round player, let alone was better than him?

    Your pov in this case, just doesn’t make sense.

  25. Stan Musial, who I should have ranked higher here, is one player who comes to mind. Like DiMaggio, he’s one of the few hitters to thrive immediately following World War II. He also had better WAR (and maybe better peak WAR, though I don’t have time to check right now); more hits; a higher batting average and OPS+ despite having a much longer career; and he did this all after starting in the minors as a pitcher.

    I could maybe make arguments for Jackie Robinson and Jimmie Foxx as well, but it’s late.

    Maybe I’m being unfair to DiMaggio, but it seems a bit of a stretch to say he was in a class completely by himself. And if we open it up beyond his era, there are many players who compare to him.

  26. Well, what you write here kind of proves my point. The three players you cite are all part of the pantheon of the great among the greats. Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial and Jackie. Kind of like Comparing Hank Aaron to Willie Mays Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente and Frank Robinson don’t you think? It does not diminish the others if one of them seems to stand out a little more.

    I never said that DiMaggio was in a class by himself. I personally agree with you that Babe Ruth is the greatest all-round player. I just think that as the years go by and fewer people remember not just the stats but more importantly fewer people are around who remember these guys, you see DiMaggio, Musial, Foxx and others diminish in the debates over great players. Certain people are remembered in the public eye because of iconic accomplishments like Lou Gehrig or Ted Williams. But too many fall prey to short-term memory, over analysis of stats and no living people around who saw them play.

    I do not rank DiMaggio as a Deity. But do say he belongs higher up on the list. His career accomplishments at a ballpark that was the worst possible choice for him, and playing against teams that always fought extra hard to beat his teams, and the constant injuiries he sustained through a large part of his career that further diminished his accomplishments and shortened his career all point to the fact that despite this he put up some great numbers.

    If we are to sit and ponder about what Mickey Mantle might have been if he were injury-free. Or what Willie Mays would have done had he played in a cozier ball park that did not hinder righty batters– then we need to be as fair and consider that Joe D. was hampered by injury and an airport for righty batters. If you research the statements of peers who saw most of the great ones. They do assert that DiMaggio could do that rare combination of run, hit, field and throw better than almost everyone. Note I saw almost.

  27. Hello all, I wanted to leave a quick comment on this topic as I just came across it. I enjoyed the article and the comments.

    In my opinion, which I am nothing more than a life long baseball fan, college baseball player and high school coach, I feel Stan Musial should never be ranked out of the top 5 All-Time in any list. When he retired he literally owned every offensive record and still ranks in the top 5-10 in most categories. He also had good speed and arm in the outfield.

    It is very sad when I bring up guys like this to the young kids and they have no idea who it is. Guys like Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson, Duke Snider, Al Kaline, Whitey Ford…these are legends who were great but maybe not top 25 great.

    If Stan Musial had been in NY he would be ranked top 3 all time with the numbers he put up throughout his career.


    1. Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your comment. My opinion on Musial has definitely changed since I wrote this post. In fact, next to Willie Mays, he might be the greatest living player, ahead of even Hank Aaron. If Musial had played in Atlanta in the late ’60s, I think he would have hit a lot more home runs. And I wrote recently that Musial could have hit .400 on a number of teams.

      Thanks again for your kind words.


  28. Since when is being black a skill? Since when is being courageous a skill? Since when is simply being first a skill? Robinson belongs in the hall of fame, NOT, NOT, NOT, NOT IN THE TOP 25 PLAYERS OF ALL TIME. And putting him there is putting the color of his skin ahead of his skill. An its NOT courageous.

    1. nck,

      Being black isn’t a skill. Being courageous isn’t either. But excelling in the face of unbelievable prejudice is something to be noted.

      When Jackie Robinson debuted in 1947, he received death threats, racist jeering from opposing teams and fans alike, and one club, the St. Louis Cardinals, threatened to go on strike if he took the field against them. Some of Robinson’s teammates on the Brooklyn Dodgers circulated a petition amongst themselves for similar purposes, and his general manager, Branch Rickey worried that if he didn’t succeed, chances for blacks in baseball would be set back another 25 years.

      In spite of heavier adversity than probably any player has ever known, Robinson won Rookie of the Year honors in 1947 and was National League Most Valuable Player two years later. His success helped pave the way for countless other black ballplayers who’ve come since. Robinson did all this in a time before schools were desegregated, Southern blacks had the right to vote, or racial equality was anything close to what it is today. One could argue that he did much to help America progress.

      Robinson was a great all-around baseball player and possessed remarkable athletic abilities, having also been a track and football star at UCLA. But that’s not the main season to celebrate his greatness. Robinson isn’t just some footnote on history, some trivia question answer as the first black man in professional baseball since Fleet Walker in the American Association in 1884. To quote the book I reviewed here, “The sport of baseball has seen some amazing players. Most experts will tell you that Babe Ruth changed baseball. But Jackie Robinson changed America. Now that’s a legacy.”

      I wholeheartedly stand by my choice to have Robinson in my top 25.

      Best wishes,
      Graham Womack

  29. I think it is hard to add pitchers and batters together, so I’ll have top 10 batters and pitchers.

    Willie Mays
    Babe Ruth. Walter Johnson
    Ty Cobb. Cy Young
    Rogers Hornsby. Christy Mathewson
    Ted Williams. Sandy Koufax
    Lou Gehrig. Satchel Paige
    Honus Wagner. Nolan Ryan
    Hank Aaron. Greg Maddux
    Pete Rose. Bob Gibson
    Barry bonds Roger Clemons
    Pedro Martinez

  30. There’s one oft-neglected category that might move Mays up into a tie for first with Ruth: base-running. Ty Cobb and Jackie Robinson are probably the two best here, but I would place Willie third. This factor is less tangible and quantifiable than the others. Yes, base-steals can be computed, but there can be no stats for stretching hits — and for terrorizing pitchers with your mere presence on base. Experts know that these things win many ball games. Adding base-running to the broth may, all things considered, make Willie the equal of the Babe.

  31. 25 greatest hitters of all time…its not called “25 best hitters who were also likable and didnt cheat”…that being said, Barry Bonds is number 5 AT LEAST …id say number 2 behind Ruth

  32. I believe that Ty Cobb was the greatest all around player that has yet lived. Remember that the peers of Cobb and Ruth in the 1930’s in the first HOF voting,
    despite Cobbs personal unpopularity, selected Cobb the best. Those “primary
    source” voters are likely most reliable, wouldn’t you think?. Cobbs records are also simply without equal. I challenge anyone to extensively examen the written
    record, as I have, and think otherwise. People need to separate personalized,
    emotional views of Cobb (who clearly was likely mentally disturbed) from professional performance. I enjoyed reading all the opinions. Thanks!

  33. Rogers hornsby should be up higher because he had the best batting average out of all the righties but ty cobb got a higher average but he was a lefty.

  34. I believe, if Babe Ruth had the opportunity to play with African Americans in his day, that he would still be in the Hall of Fame but he and Lou would’ve had more run for their money. Ah to dream…. Still, Babe is the best their ever was in my book! Regardless of class and race. I love that man!

  35. I’m so pleased to see that all three lists above include the player who I think is, hands down, the most under praised superstar in baseball history, Stan Musial. I don’t think even serious baseball fans have a clear picture of just how amazing his career numbers are. The stat of his that blows me away every time I look at it in context is where he stands on the list of career TRIPLES! We kind of know about the batting average and homers, might assume he’s as high on the list of doubles as he is, but I don’t think 1 fan out of 100 would know that he’s in the top 20 all-time in triples and that no player since him has hit more than his 177! Add to it all that he was a 100% class act. Thanks for including him in your list.

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