Vote: The 25 most important people in baseball history

Organized baseball history dates more than 150 years, with more than 17,000 men having played in the majors and countless other individuals having helped in other capacities. Baseball history being what it is, a lot of people have made noteworthy contributions to the sport over the years.

Who then has been most important?

I wrote a post last week offering who I considered to be the 10 most important people in baseball history. My research for the post and subsequent reader response has led me to believe there might be something more worth looking at. In that spirit, I invite anyone interested to vote on the 25 important people in baseball history.

A ballot with 190 of baseball’s most memorable players, executives and other figures can be found here. Please VOTE HERE [anyone who has trouble with the Google Form I’ve created can email me their votes at]

As always with these projects, there are few rules aside from the following:

1) Anyone is eligible to vote. Please feel free to share the link to the ballot with anyone who might be interested.

2) Any person in baseball history is eligible and I welcome write-ins. The ballot includes, but is certainly not limited to, anyone who I felt had a reasonable shot at the top 25.

3) Please use any voting criteria– “most important” is a deliberately subjective term and I’m interested to see what direction people go with it. I’ve included a broad enough range of candidates on the ballot for voters to go in any number of directions. On a related note, I do little to no active campaigning and encourage voters to work independently.

4) Please have all votes in by Sunday, October 26 NOVEMBER 2 at 8 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll unveil results Monday, November 3  NOVEMBER 10.

On a different note, this project also has a charity component. Two years ago, I raised $1,600 for 826 Valencia, a non-profit that teaches journalism to middle schoolers. Now, I’d like to raise $2,000 for the American Brain Tumor Association to help fight glioblastoma multiforme, a malignant type of brain cancer that’s had a noticeable impact on baseball in recent years. For more information and to donate, click here.

19 Replies to “Vote: The 25 most important people in baseball history”

  1. Arnold Rothstein proved baseball’s vulnerability to money and corruption.

    Peter Gammons- developed a style of baseball reporting/journalism 40 years ago, that continues to influence the way the sport is covered today.

  2. Your Lipman Pike description fails to mention he was the first Jewish MLB star; Hank Greenburg’s wrongly states he was.

    1. @Armour– Lip Pike got his start in the 1860s, when baseball wasn’t nationally covered, leagues didn’t exist, and teams weren’t even fully professional. Pike was a good player and a historically important one and he might even belong in Cooperstown. But how many people knew who he was during his career? Was he a national icon like Greenberg? I highly doubt it.

  3. I didn’t read your list before I did mine, but glad to see I got 8 of the same ones as you did. Can’t believe I forgot Al Spalding.

  4. I’m a huge Giants fan, so I’m glad (although I somewhat question)your mentioning Will the Thrill…but you mention Will Clark and not Willy McCovey?? or Juan Marichal?? What?? That really has me doubting your knowledge of baseball.

    1. Hi Tony,

      Will Clark isn’t on the ballot. He’s my all-time favorite player, but it would be ludicrous to suggest he’s even one of the 200 most important people in baseball history.

      I’m not sure where you got the idea Clark’s on the ballot. Are you reading the names on the sidebar of my homepage and assuming that’s the ballot? Those are just people I’ve written about.

      The reference ballot and form to submit your votes are both Google docs. The links are in this post.

      Hope that clears any confusion.


  5. You have numerous factual errors in your description of players-
    7. Allan Roth was hired by the Dodgers in 1947.
    9. The American League was founded in 1894 as the Western League; what happened in 1901 was it became a major league.
    25. Bud Selig didn’t become commissioner until 1998; he was chairman of the owners’ Executive Council 1992-1998.
    28. Anson was no more instrumental in keeping blacks out of the majors than 1000 other people. This and 25 demonstrate the unfortunate tendency people have to attribute to an individual the actions of a group.
    33. Mathewson was not a star before Nap Lajoie or Hans Wagner.
    51. There were deaf players before Hoy; Ed Dundon debuted five years before Hoy.
    56. Lizzie Arlington was the first; she actually played a minor league game in 1898.
    76. Frazee did not sell Ruth to finance “No, No, Nanette”, which he wouldn’t produce for several years. It was to pay off his notes on the Red Sox, and to get rid of a troublemaker.
    78. Chadwick didn’t invent the box score, which was used for cricket first and for baseball at least a decade before Chadwick started covering the game.
    137. The Supreme Court did not grant baseball an anti-trust exemption until the Flood case ( Again, crediting an individual for a group’s action.
    141. Krichell didn’t sign Greenburg, since he was a Yankees scout.
    150. Baseball was popular before Lardner was in long pants.
    151. Please don’t blame Creamer for the unfunny movie “1941”. He wrote “Baseball in 1941”.
    154. Bresnahan introduce shinguards in 1907, not padding, which had long been in use.
    179. There is not sufficient evidence to credit anyone with inventing the hit-and-run play.
    184. Johnson never played for a team called the Senators. He was on Washington which was named the Nationals from 1905-1956.

    1. @Armour — I’m going to address these point-by-point:

      7. My mistake, will correct.
      9. You’re being pedantic. Ban Johnson founded the only rival major league that’s lasted in 1901. That it has roots to 1894 as a minor league isn’t that significant to the historical achievement.
      25. Again, you’re being pedantic. Selig has been at least de facto commissioner since 1992.
      28. This is debatable. Anson did a lot to lead the charge against black players in the 1880s.
      33. Again, debatable. Wagner and Lajoie were statistically stars before Mathewson, but did any player before Matty achieve iconic status?
      51. Who the heck is Ed Dundon? Hoy was the first significant deaf player.
      56. My mistake.
      76. Leigh Montville, among others, has suggested that Ruth’s sale helped finance “No, No, Nanette.”
      78. Chadwick modernized the box score, the one that’s still in use.
      137. Baseball had an informal anti-trust exemption starting in 1922 with Federal Baseball Club v. National League. That it wasn’t formalized until the ’70s is immaterial. MLB used it in the preceding half century to maintain its monopoly.
      141. You’re right, Krichell didn’t sign Greenberg. He scouted him.
      150. It’s debatable but I don’t think baseball was anything close to the national pastime prior to the Deadball Era. People like Lardner and Babe Ruth helped popularize the game on a national level.
      151. Again, you’re being pedantic, though I’ll update the title. Clearly you knew what book I was referring to.
      154. My mistake.
      179. If I’m wrong on this, Bill James is as well.
      184. Again, you’re being pedantic. The Senators may have officially been called the Nationals from 1905-56. So what? Lots of writers and fans referred to them as the Senators during this time.

  6. Graham – I first wrote down all the names I considered possible going through the 189 name ballot. Then I broke it down to categories – the top ten position players, the top 5 pitchers, the 5 players with great contributions to the game, and 5 historical figures.
    just missing were Charles comiskey and casey Stengel. It was hard to leave names like Nolan Ryan and Johnny Bench off, but they did not make my “top of” groups. My most cherished group is the five players with unique of great contributions to the game – Jackie Robinson, Bob Gibson, Ichiro Suzuki, Dummy Hoy, and Roberto Clemente.
    A note on Dummy Hoy’s influence to the game – not only did he introduce signs to the game – they had to use them in every game he played – in all five major leagues of his era plus the newly formed pacific Coast league – in LA! – but he also influenced the great managers of his era – teaching them sign language as well! – Connie Mack – a life long friend, Frank Selee, Charles Comiskey, Clark Griffith, Fielder Jones, Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke – as well as his teammate in Oshkosh – Tommy McCarthy – ( who do you think he hit behind?!)
    A picture in 1937 shows Mack, Griffith and Hoy sitting together catching up – in sign language. they all supported him for the HOF, btw. – including Honus Wagner, who played with him in Louisville.
    anyway – keep the ballots coming!!

  7. Graham, I just listed the names to come off of the topof my head. Haven’t been doing much with baseball history in the last few years until a month ago or so. Worked a job that required6-7 day week and up to 80 hrs a week. I quit when the manager would not approve my vacation in Sept. so I could go to Wrigley Field when the Dodgers were in town. I have been looking into old Western League teams, mostly the Sioux City and Sioux Falls teams. You are right that the Western League was only a minor league until Ban Johnson came along. There is a Western League history book by W.C. Madden worth reading I borrowed from the library. There seems to be some confusion about the two men named Ducky Holmes that played baseball. Baseball Reference shows 1908 stats for Howard”Ducky” Holmes as playing in Sioux City. I have a picture of the 1908 Western League Champion Sioux City Packers and the Ducky Holmes is William Holmes, the old White Sox standing right next to his former White Sox teammate Danny Green. My uncle Robert Tucker played minor league ball and played for the Dayton Ducks in 1941 and his manager was Howard Holmes. Howard Holmes is from Dayton, Ohio and William Holmes is from Truro, Iowa. Also, some web sites list the death of Danny Green as complications from a beaning. I borrwed the book Death at the Ballpark by Robert Gorman from the library and in the book the author states that he has personally talked to a baseball researcher that has seen Green’s death certificate and the cause of death was from syphilis. Danny Green played for the Cubs and jumped to the White Sox for more money when the American League was formed. I have been trying to find out if Howard “Ducky” Holmes was the inspiration for the Howard the Duck comic. The comic creator is from Ohio but has not returned any of my e-mails. Have been looking for team pictures that show my uncle Robert Tucker, have found none yet. His stats are at baseball reference. He has been dead since 2005. Also, Burton Swift is from my town. The two ballfields in the town are named for them. WWll ended the careers of both men. Thanks.

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