Greatest Nine Players in Baseball History

WILLIE MAYS MAKES "THE CATCH"
WILLIE MAYS MAKES "THE CATCH"

THE BEST BASEBALL PLAYERS IN HISTORY

17,000 men have played Major League Baseball since it began in 1876. Of those, 202 former players have been voted into the Hall of Fame as the best ever. Let's take a look at arguably the nine greatest of those—one at each position. This is not easy to discern as the game is always changing. We cannot rely on statistics alone, though any knowledgeable baseball fan knows that is a chief criteria, because players in different eras were not under the same circumstances. Also, in regard to hitters, defensive skills must be considered, which are more difficult to quantify. There have been many great players whose careers were cut short by injury. So, perhaps a better title might be "the best nine careers in major league baseball history."


WALTER JOHNSON
WALTER JOHNSON

PITCHER

Walter Johnson was 6'1'' 200 lbs. He was born in 1887 and grew up on a farm in Humboldt, Kansas. Walter Johnson pitched for the Washington Senators from 1907 to 1927. He is one of the few pitchers in baseball history with an overpowering fastball who threw sidearm. For his day, he had a fearsome fastball. One of the greatest hitters ever, Ty Cobb, once said, "The thing hissed with danger," and that Johnson had "The most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ballpark." Walter Johnson's career strikeout total stood as the Major League record for 55 years. Still today, he has the second most victories ever, and the most career shutouts: 110. In five seasons he posted the lowest Earned Run Average or ERA (earned runs surrendered per nine innings pitched) of all pitchers in the league; six times won the most games; twelve times struck out the most batters including nine straight seasons. Walter Johnson is remembered as kind, gentle, good-natured man, and a fine example of good sportsmanship and friendly competition. He died of a brain tumor at age 58 in 1946.

BABE RUTH
BABE RUTH

RIGHT FIELD

Babe Ruth was 6'2 215 lbs. His career spanned from 1914 to 1935. Babe Ruth was from Baltimore, where he was born in 1895. He died in 1948 from pneumonia at 53 years old, after battling cancer for two years. The Babe was the best hitter in Major League history, as judged by a statistic that wasn't around in his day, but is generally agreed to be the best measure today: his career OPS of 1.164 (a combination of On Base Percentage [he is 2nd all time] and Slugging Percentage[1st all time]). Babe Ruth led the American League in Slugging Average (SLG) 13 straight years; had the highest On Base Percentage (OBP) 10 times; scored the most runs 8 times; and hit the most Home Runs (HR) in 12 different seasons. Still today, Babe Ruth has, for his career, the 3rd most HR ever in Major League Baseball; ranks 2nd all-time in RBI (Runs Batted In); and 3rd for walks. His single season HR record stood 34 years and more remarkably, was nearly double the nearest player when he retired. Babe Ruth held the record for most HR lifetime for 39 years. As late as 1993, a poll had him tied with boxer Muhammad Ali as the most recognizable sports figure in America. Babe Ruth changed the game of baseball forever with his unprecedented Home Run hitting. Unfortunately, he didn't take care of himself. He was known for gluttony, excessive use of alcohol, and suffered many bouts of venereal disease. All his life he was made fun of for his unusual body and face. He had a very rough childhood as the son of saloon-keeper parents. When he was seven years old, they said he was "incorrigible and vicious" and sent him to live at a reform school. But it was there that a missionary took him under his wing and taught him to play baseball. One of the most unusual facts about Babe Ruth is that he started out as an outstanding pitcher for the Boston Red Sox (94 wins; 46 losses; 2.21 ERA). They "sold" him to the New York Yankees, and the Yankees made him into an outfielder in 1920. That year, Ruth produced more Home Runs than all but one other TEAM. Babe Ruth was the most prodigious of all Home Run hitters in history, as many of his traveled 450-500 feet. The longest HR ever, 575 feet, was hit by Ruth.

WILLIE MAYS
WILLIE MAYS

CENTER FIELD

Willie Mays was born in 1931, near Birmingham, Alabama, where he starred in football and basketball as well. His father was an excellent baseball player.

Willie Mays was 5'11" 180 lbs. as a rookie. He played most of career (1951-1973) with Giants, first in New York (1951-1957) and then after the team relocated, in San Francisco.

Willie Mays is the best living baseball player of all time; a 24 time All Star (tied for most ever). Still today, he ranks 3rd in Total Bases among all players for a career.

Willie Mays was the dream for a baseball team, what they call a 5 tool player—meaning he had all the skills for baseball: He hit for a high average; hit for power (led the league in HR four times; hit 660 in his career); was a speedy runner on the base paths (led the league in Stolen Bases four times); possessed a great throwing arm; and was the best defensive outfielder to ever play the game. He is the only player in history to win 12 straight Gold Glove Awards (voted as the best fielder at his position). And he is renowned for making the single greatest catch in baseball history. His first manager Leo Durocher said, "He lit up a room when he walked in. He was always a joy to be around."

TED WILLIAMS
TED WILLIAMS

LEFT FIELD

Ted Williams was 6'3" 205 lbs. He played for the Boston Red Sox. He was despised around the league and not popular even in Boston. Ted Williams was not good with the press; possessed a violent temper; was moody and insecure; he could be hateful; lacked respect for authority; and maybe worse: lacked hustle—the one thing baseball fans don't readily forgive. He said he had a miserable childhood. Ted played from 1939 to 1960. He was from San Diego, where he was born in 1918. He died of cardiac arrest in 2002. Any analysis of his career statistics must take into account that he missed nearly all of five seasons in his prime while serving his country as a marine combat pilot, in World War Two, and later in the Korean war. Ted Williams was a 6 time batting champion; posted the best career OBP of all time; held the record for 61 years for the best single season OBP ever (.551). For his career, he ranks 2nd in history in SLG (led the league 9 years); and 2nd in OPS (led league 12 years). There were eight seasons when Ted Williams led the league for most walks; six seasons where he scored the most runs; four with most HRs; and four where he had the most RBIs. He averaged .344 for his career with 521 HRs. Ted Williams was also the last man to hit .400 (.406 1941). His records still stand of reaching base in 84 straight games; and in 16 straight plate appearances. He wrote a book, "The Science of Hitting" in 1986, which is still widely read by baseball players.

HONUS WAGNER
HONUS WAGNER

SHORTSTOP

Honus Wagner was born in 1874, in Pittsburg, where he went on to play baseball for the Pittsburg Pirates from  1897 to 1917.  He died in 1955 at 81 years old.  Honus Wagner stood  5'11" and weighed in at about 200 lbs.   He also served for 20 years as the Pirates hitting coach, and even was their manager for six seasons.   He is considered by most to have been the  greatest fielding shortstop in baseball history.  And they used a tiny glove in those days.  Besides that, he reigned as batting champion eight seasons; six seasons led the league in SLG and Total Bases; five years stole the most bases; and five years drove in the most runs.   He is remembered as a  quiet, modest man; and a clean living, fitness fanatic.

MIKE SCHMIDT
MIKE SCHMIDT

THIRD BASE

Mike Schmidt played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1972 until 1989. He was born in 1949, in Dayton, Ohio. Mike Schmidt is one of only 13 Third Basemen in the Hall of Fame—the least of any position. He also has the distinction of being the player who suffered through the worst rookie season in history who still made into the Hall. He was known for his powerful throwing arm and won 10 Gold Glove Awards. He also holds the all time single season record for a Third Baseman of 404 assists (throwing out a base runner). Mike Schmidt was a feared hitter. Five times he led his league in SLG; eight seasons he was the Home Run champ. He stood 6'2" and weighed 203 lbs.

JOE MORGAN
JOE MORGAN

SECOND BASE

Joe Morgan is today a popular baseball commentator on ESPN. He played the majority of his major League career (1963-1984) for the Cincinnati Reds. He was born in Oakland, California, in 1943. Joe is the smallest player in our survey at 5'7" and 160 lbs. Joe Morgan was also the ultimate 5 tool player. Middle Infielders are generally not great hitters as theirs are primary defensive positions. The same could be said for Catchers; and usually Center Fielders. It is your corner players who most often supply the offensive fireworks for a baseball team. Joe was the exception. His 80% success rate stealing bases (689 career steals) is among the best in history. He is 2nd all time for career HR at his position (the record when he retired); one of the best all around players ever; and was an extremely intelligent player. Joe Morgan was a peerless defender, too, winning five Gold Gloves.

LOU GEHRIG
LOU GEHRIG
LOU GEHRIG SAYS GOODBYE
LOU GEHRIG SAYS GOODBYE

FIRST BASE

Lou Gehrig played from 1923 to 1939 for the New York Yankees. He was 6'0'' 200 lbs. Lou Gehrig was born in 1903, in Manhattan, weighing in at 14 pounds! He died a cruel death of the disease later named after him, in 1941, at only 37 years old. Lou Gehrig holds the all time record for most career grand slams with 23; his 2,130 consecutive games played stood as the most in history for 56 years; He posted a lifetime Batting Average of .340; he owns 3 of the best 6 RBI seasons in history. Many baseball aficionados claim that his season in 1927 is the greatest single season by any batter in the history of the game: hitting .373 with 175 RBIs; and with 3rd most Total Bases in any season ever (447). Lou Gehrig holds the all-time record for the most RBIs in a 3 year period; his 184 RBI in 1931 is the 2nd best for a season in history. He posted over 100 RBI 13 years—something only one other player has ever done; and is the only player to record 5 seasons with over 400 Total Bases. Lou Gehrig has the 3rd highest OPS for his career of any player; 3rd highest SLG; and 5th highest OBP. He stands today with the 5th most RBI in history. He was also a fine gentleman. The movie made about him, "The Pride of the Yankees" in 1942 was nominated for 11 Academy Awards.

JOHNNY BENCH
JOHNNY BENCH

CATCHER

Johnny Bench was born in Oklahoma  (1947).   He stood 6'1" and weighed 208 pounds;  He played for the Cincinnati Reds.   We can't expect long careers for Catchers, as playing the position is terribly hard on the knees.   Johnny Bench  revolutionized catching with far more athleticism than his predecessors.  He also had huge hands; and a powerful and accurate arm, with which to throw out would be base stealers.   Johnny Bench was the best defensive Catcher ever, winning  10 straight gold gloves.  He was a  14 time All Star; and finished his career with the most Home Runs of any Catcher in history (2nd now).

BIG HANDS BENCH
BIG HANDS BENCH

SUMMARY

I take note of the size similarities of these men. They were all between 5' 11" to 6'3" and between 180 to 215 pounds; except Joe Morgan. Oddly, each of them also grew up where they were born.

I wish to extend my apologies to fans of Yogi Berra; Hank Aaron; Ivan Rodriguez; Stan Musial; Ty Cobb; Mickey Mantle; Lefty Grove; Cy Young and Tom Seaver. Close but no banana. And to the great Negro League stars: Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleson, and Satchel Paige.


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Comments 109 comments

Douglas 7 years ago

What a great anthology James. Thankyou for putting this information together and passing it along. Although I was not much of a baseball fan, It was my dad`s favorite pastime, listening to the games on the radio and later viewing them on the TV.


Lupo profile image

Lupo 7 years ago from Boston Area

Very nicely done. I am sure there could be no end to the arguments about a player at this or that position but I do think you have made a good case for each of your choices.

I enjoyed the hub!


Ande Moore profile image

Ande Moore 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

Good job. Can't argue with your list in any way.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Douglas— I appreciate the applause! Thank you for your support and encouragement. :-)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Lupo— I agree with you that some of these are tough calls. Thank you for reading and leaving your comment. It is nice to hear from you.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Ande Moore— Thank you very much for the affirmation.


quietnessandtrust profile image

quietnessandtrust 7 years ago from Carbon Canyon, California

Way cool dude!!!...I loved the game growing up and living in Orange County Calif. and going to see the Angel's (born the same year I was in 1961) as much as my dad would take me. (hot dogs were .25 cents) Favorite player being one Mr. Jim Fergosi, short stop. (yes I know you know that)...They took 40 years to win a world series...but they own one eh?

He went on to manage 6 teams, the first at a mere 36 years old!!! And led those Angels to they're 1st ever post season appearance in 1979.

He holds the franchise record with 70 career triples; several of his other team records, including career games (1,429), hits (1,408), doubles (219), runs (691) and runs batted in (546)

I used to play ball with a tobacco spiting little tenacious man who's left leg was shorter than the order and could not run in a straight line, named Lenny Dykstra and yes I could keep up with him. I recall coach often pitting us against each other to have the team "watch how it was done"...he went on to The Mets 1987 World Series Team and later The Phillies. I went on to drugs, alcohol and parties!!! (family issues, 28 divorces within it)

I batted .581 one year, no that is not a typo bro...hahahaha

I played every position on the field and loved catcher / 3rd base (Brooks Robinson) the most.

In football I played quarterback, end, receiver, defensive back, kick return, punter, field goal kicker and Captain.

Nice article James,

Shalom


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

Hard to argue with anyone on the list. But that is part of the fun of baseball, arguing of about the great players of every era.

Great article.


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

James...What a great read...As I was scanning down your list I was secretly hoping to see Joe Morgan at 2nd base...what a nice jolt when he appeared there...I met him on a flight out of New York years ago...a nicer or more intelligent gentleman does not exist..Thanks again for this most interesting ( and accurate listing ) Hub...Larry


R Burow profile image

R Burow 7 years ago from Florida, United States

You featured a few of my favorites. Thanks.


Beth100 profile image

Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

You've definitely picked a few of my favorites! I once had a math teacher who had a poster of Babe on his wall. Instead of showing his great stats, it showed how many times he had struck out at bat (it was over 1300 times). Below it was the caption: no matter how many swings you take, you will eventually hit it. Keep trying. I think that's why Babe is one of my favs!


A Texan 7 years ago

I use to love playing baseball but never got into watching it. Our town has a minor league team owned by Nolan Ryan and part of the Houston Astro's club. I met Nolan one day at a convenience store, he was being mobbed by about 10 customers looking for an autograph and took the time to speak to each and every one of us. I was wondering where he would fall on your overall list?

Texas is a football State why don't you make a similar list of football players, I mean if you want! In my picture the guy to willies left is one of the greatest College football coaches ever, its odd he played for the University of Oklahoma. Can you name him?


Nemingha profile image

Nemingha 7 years ago

Baseball isn't a favorite sport Downunder, but I have heard of a few of these players.


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 7 years ago from san diego calif

James as position players go , no doubt these are the cream of the crop . And for me personally Willie Mays Is and will always be the first name In baseball . As pitchers go, Cy Young did have 511 wins . That will never be duplicated .

And Bob Gibson had to be one of the nastiest Intimidators ever plus he almost always finished what he started .


Janetta 7 years ago

James you did great with this one! I'm a Yankees fan at heart and you put two of em on there! Would have loved to have seen Mickey but I think you did pretty good anyway lol


eovery profile image

eovery 7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Great Job,

Keep on Hubbing!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

quietnessandtrust— My apologies for the delay in responding. I went down to Miami to watch the Cubs-Marlins game last night. :-)

I remember watching Fregosi play and manage. He was great at both.

It's amazing that you actually played with Dykstra. And you hit .581?! Makes me proud to know you! I also played baseball up through Babe Ruth league—pretty well—until I gave it up to concentrate on music.

It sounds as if you were a heckuva football player, too. We have a lot in common, bro'. Thanks so much for reading and your commentary.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

bgpappa— I agree, that is part of the fun. Thanks for complimenting my article. It's nice to hear from you again!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

maven101— You are welcome! Thank you for your kind remarks. It wasn't hard to pick Joe. He was a great player and I like him a lot as an announcer, too. Good man.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

R Burow— I am glad to hear it. You are welcome, and thanks for reading and commenting.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Beth100— That is a great poster! Inspiring. I appreciate you for taking the time to check out my Hub and thanks for your insightful comments, too.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

A Texan— I loved playing baseball, too. And later was player/coach for men's softball.

Nolan Ryan was a great pitcher. He was probably one of the 20 best pitchers ever. And he provided perhaps the best baseball highlight reel clip when he put knots on Robin Ventura's head. I am glad to hear he was so gracious to his fans.

I'll guess, Barry Switzer?


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Nemingha— Even though it's not your thing, it was cool that you visiting and left word. Thanks!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

tony0724— Thank you for your perceptive remarks.

I agree, Cy Young could easily occupy that top spot.

Willie is the man. Can't argue with that.

Gibson, I would say along with Seaver, were the best of the game since the last 1960s. Of course, Sandy was great, too, in the early 60s. Of those, I would say Gibson intimidated hitters more than anybody.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Janetta— A case could be made for Mickey, and for Yogi, too. If Mantle hadn't had bad knees, he might have become the greatest ever. Thank you for reading and for the comments. It's nice to see you here.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

eovery— Thanks! I appreciate it.


A Texan 7 years ago

Barry Switzer? Do you think any self respecting Texan would even look at a Picture let alone have a picture of Barry Switzer? No James, Darrel Royal!

Its alright, I'm calm now, Barry Switzer? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

SORRY!!! I thought you meant he coached at Oklahoma! Darell Royal? Way better!!!


A Texan 7 years ago

Its ok, yes way better!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Go Longhorns! :)


A Texan 7 years ago

Thank you sir


David W profile image

David W 7 years ago from Next Door on the Net

Ya know, even if he did die before I was born, I have always been a fan of "The Babe".


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

David W— The Babe was a true American character. I appreciate you swinging by, brother. Thanks for the words.


TamCor profile image

TamCor 7 years ago from Ohio

I was so glad to see that you had two members of the "Big Red Machine" on here! I remember going to several of their games at Riverfront Coliseum in the early 70's, and even getting Joe and Johnny's autographs afterwards...

Thanks for bringing back some fun memories...:)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

TamCor— Wow! If you met Johnny and Joe and got their autographs, you were walking in tall cotton! That was a fantastic team. A marvel to watch with that much talent. I appreciate your visit. You are welcome and thank you!


opinion duck 7 years ago

James,

I agree with Tony about Willie Mays.

The two years that he lost serving in the Army could have put his stats over the top.

When he retired from baseball so did I as a baseball fan.

The baseball parks are not the same, the equipment isn't the same as when these greats made their mark in baseball. How can we compare today and yesterday, certainly not with mere statistics.

That catch he made at the Polo Grounds during the World Series was around 450 feet in Center Field. The Polo Grounds was more or a rectangle than a traditional baseball field. Even at that range in Center Field he could nail it to the infield.

It was interesting that all three New York baseball teams had their power hitters playing in Center Field. Mantle and Snider.

.... Thanks for the hub


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

opinion duck— Thank you for your fine insights. "The catch" is one of the more memorable moments in sports history. Though, last year I saw Reed Johnson of the Chicago Cubs make one that was nearly its equal.

The power hitting center fielders gave way to the defensive specialist when the artificial turf and the speed game came into vogue there for a while. It may be making a comeback now.

The parks got pretty ugly there for a while—those round cylinders—but the newest parks are quite beautiful.

Willie is arguably the greatest baseball player ever. He said he was. :D

I appreciate the visitation!


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 7 years ago from Illinois

James, Great article, I like your choices, there's always a but. But comparing athletes of different decades is impossible. I know you tried hard and made excellent points but, but but. Ty Cobb batting against Sandy Koufax, who knows? Drysdale and Gibson would have beaned him.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Harvey Stelman— Drysdale and Gibson were two of the meanest pitchers ever. Scary! Ty Cobb wouldn't have been afraid though. Sandy could beat anybody if his game was on. Simply awesome. Thank you very much for visiting my humble Hub. I do appreciate it.


Joseph 7 years ago

Only one big issue -

Joe Morgan is not even close to the greatest second baseman in history. The only glaring error here - think about Rogers Hornsby.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Joseph— I must agree that a great case can be made for Rogers Hornsby. I cannot argue that point. I had to decide between them and the speed and defense of Morgan put him over by a slim margin for me. But, maybe they could be co-winners?

Thank you for reading and your fine comment.


JaShinYa profile image

JaShinYa 7 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

Incredibly detailed. I loved every bit of it, especially being a huge baseball fan. Looking forward to more!

I do have to say that making this sort of list without considering the dramatic difference between the old days and the modern era can make it somewhat inaccurate. The style of play, the strategies, the players and coaches themselves... it's just evolved too much to not separate the two times of the sport.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

JaShinYa— Thank you for the accolades! I do have a half dozen other Baseball Hubs, three about my beloved Cubbies. :)

I agree that it is difficult to compare. I just looked for who dominated their era more than anybody else dominated their era. Maybe I'll do another one with modern players only.


JaShinYa profile image

JaShinYa 7 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

Oh the Cubs, how they give me entertainment. haha. I do always respect someone who sticks with their team. especially through 100+ years of BS. I have to say that if the Phillies can't take it all, I would cheer for the Cubs just to see them get theirs. The fans deserve it

I'll be sure to check out some more!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

JaShinYa— I've been with the Cubbies since the sixties. Being a Cubs Fan will teach one virtues, such as patience, perseverance and longsuffering. The Phillies have a great ballclub. I was surprised they didn't win the Series again this year. Thanks for coming and leaving your words.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

Hi James, hmm I only heard of Babe Ruth, I think I will like baseball now, thanks for the information, careers indeed, thanks fir the history you shared, you knows it best, a good fan can only knows best what to share...Maita


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago Author

Maita— Baseball is a great game, well worth learning about. It has a bit of everything. My Hub "Baseball in America" explains the game itself better. You are welcome and thank you for your support and encouragement. :-)


Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 6 years ago from Midwest USA

James, This is a great list and, IMO, accurate! Baseball is the greatest game ever; regardless of what the media thinks! Even though you could have placed many modern players on this list, your summary is steeped in history and representative of the players who donned the wool when baseball was truly a game. Who knows how the past 20 years in baseball history will be written? There are quite a few of today's players that still play for the love of the game. My short, yet non-exhaustive list would include: Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, Derek Jeter, and Ivan Rodriguez. Great job! I enjoy your writing which is always professional.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Rob Jundt--- Thank you very much. Baseball is the greatest game ever as far as I am concerned. The last 20 years are going to be hard to sort out for the Hall of Fame and historians of the game. I'm not sure what to make of it myself. And it's too bad because Bonds and Sosa probably would have done enough anyway to make the Hall without the steroids but we'll never know. Pujols and Ivan are shoeins for the Hall. Pujols is the greatest player of the modern era. Thanks for coming and leaving your sharp comments. It's great to hear from a learned fan.


clyde goldsmith 6 years ago

how can u miss TY COBB, the greatest hitter of all great base runner, did it all and played to win. you messed up


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

clyde goldsmith— I did mention Ty Cobb twice in the article. The fact is, I thought Ty and Ted Williams were about a tie and I gave the nod to Ted. Mr. Cobb was certainly one of the greatest ballpalyers of all time.


stars439 profile image

stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

These gentlemen were fascinating. A very enjoyable read. God Bless You.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

stars439— Thank you for visiting my article and leaving your encouraging comments!


Dan Druff profile image

Dan Druff 6 years ago

Disagree with the pitcher selection. I think Nolan Ryan deserves some consideration.

7 no hitters and I believe 8 one-hitters. Walter Johnson pitched in a less talented era so his win total is deceiving.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Dan Druff— You know, of all the comments I've gotten about baseball players, Nolan Ryan is the name that keeps popping up. I loved Nolan Ryan, especially when he put knots on Robin Ventura's noggin at about 40 years old. :D

I will have to reconsider. Thank you for coming by and leaving your comment.


Bob 6 years ago

Hard to argue with most of these picks. However, I do have 2 words for you at second base: ROGERS HORNSBY


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Bob— There is a good case to be made for Rogers Hornsby, to be sure. Thank you for this comment. I appreciate you for reading my article.


10aeinhorn profile image

10aeinhorn 5 years ago from West Chester PA

this is ovb a very tough hub to write.

i am a huge supported of roger clemens and personally think he is the greatest pitcher alive.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

10aeienhorn— Roger Clemens is a buldog. And one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the visit.


4yearstrong profile image

4yearstrong 5 years ago

Another great hub! No love for brooks robinson???


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

4yearstrong— Thank you! I think Brooks was the best defensive player ever at his position. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


Benmox19 profile image

Benmox19 5 years ago from Oneonta

I love to argue baseball with people, but i've sat here for 5 minutes and havnt been able to come up with an argument against any of your picks. Great job Man! Great list!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Benmox19— That is high praise indeed! Thank you for it. I llok forward to reading your Hubs, which I shall do ASAP. Welcome to HubPages!


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 5 years ago from Burlingame, CA

What about Barry Bonds? I can't say I care for him, but his numbers...


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Paul Edmondson— I am honored to have the founder of the marvelous HubPages visit my Hub! Thank you for leaving your comment as well. What a nice surprise!

Yes, Bonds is the best hitter of all times. The steroids thing does leave a taint.


JasonCulley profile image

JasonCulley 5 years ago from Cheyenne, WY

Great article . . . you have given me some inspiration for a future HUB!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

JasonCulley— Thank you! I am pleased to provide inspiration. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


mastershops profile image

mastershops 5 years ago from Branson, Missouri

Great hub. However it is very difficult (and arguable) when you compare different eras in baseball you still make an excellent case for your top 9 picks. Well put together.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

mastershops— Thank you! I appreciate the visit and the compliments. I agree with you that it is difficult to compare different eras. I did the best I could. I love baseball!


starmonth profile image

starmonth 5 years ago


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

starmonth— I did check out your fine article. Welcome to the HubPages Community!


ubanichijioke profile image

ubanichijioke 5 years ago from Lagos

Thanks for this great work in the part of history. Great men of fame who made the difference. Well written hub. Voted useful


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

ubanichijioke— You are most welcome! I appreciate your compliments and the voted useful. Thank you very much for visiting and commenting.


somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Gotta go with Tris Speaker at third, and Rogers Hornsby at second, other wise I agree, of course you could have put Ruth as 'one' of the pitchers as I believe you could then pick a righty and a lefty but it would be hard to leave Walter Johnson out of the equation.

Being an O's fan I could have picked Ripken at Short and it would have been nice to get Mantle a nod but, what an outfield huh Williams, Mays and Ruth.

As good as Morgan was, Hornsby ruled him in hitting.

and picking between Schmidt and Speaker would be tough also, but the greatest glove at third had to be Brooks!

Didn't I see a hub about how to write good hubs by you?


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

I have written a number of Hubs about writing Hubs. The most popular one is here:

http://hubpages.com/community/Advice-for-Success-o...

I have another Hub where I list the best eight hitters in baseball history—a tough and maybe impossible job. On that Hub I included Hornsby, Mantle, Cobb, Foxx, Musial, Aaron, Bonds, and (Frank) Robinson. Here is the link to that one:

http://hubpages.com/sports/Best-Baseball-Hitters-o...

Tris Speaker was a great ballplayer, no doubt. And you are right that Babe Ruth was an outstanding pitcher. Ripken was awesome and I agree that Brooks Robinson would surely make the all-defensive team. Maybe I will do that Hub in the future.

Well, thank you very much for the interesting comments. I appreciate you visiting my article too. Welcome to the HubPages Community!

Shelbyville? Is that the hometown of Buford Pusser?


fireman06 4 years ago

enjoyed your site, but.... being a baseball fan for 45 years.... Mickey mantle has to make this list..... and arguably Joe dimaggio


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

fireman06— Thank you for visiting my site. I am glad you enjoyed my work and I appreciate your thoughtful remarks.

You surely named two great ballplayers, who are personal favorites of mine. I published another Hub that you might be interested in. The link is here:

http://hubpages.com/sports/Best-Baseball-Hitters-o...

In that article I do have a profile of Mickey Mantle and I name Joe DiMaggio as an honorable mention.


steveamy profile image

steveamy 4 years ago from Florida

Nice job with Mays....had he played in more hitter friendly ballparks he would easily be the career leader in HR's. Think Polo Grounds and Candlestick -- not good hitters parks; if he had been able to hit at Fenway or Wrigley 800 HR's would not have been out of the question...and no PED's


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

steveamy— Thank you. I agree with you that Mays never had a good home park to hit in and if he had, Wow! His numbers surely would have been even more impressive.

Thank you for visiting my Hub. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Welcome to HubPages!


Fullerman5000 profile image

Fullerman5000 4 years ago from Louisiana, USA

I always enjoy your hubs especially the ones on baseball. Great work, i know this was a hard list to composite. always enjoyable.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Fulerman5000— I am well pleased that you enjoy my baseball Hubs, my friend. Thank you for coming by to visit. I appreciate your comments.


proudtobeadad profile image

proudtobeadad 4 years ago

Intriguing. I can't have a list without Bob Gibson, though. What makes yours interesting is you list each player by position. If I had a top 9, I think I would just list the greatest players - period. But intriguing nonetheless.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

proudtobeadad-- Thank you ever much for checking out my baseball Hubs. These articles are close to my heart as I am a BIG baseball fan. :)

As I said in my opening salvo, over 17,000 men have played baseball in the Major Leagues. Just over 200 have been elected to the Hall of Fame. I think these are the best nine by position who have ever played the game. Of course, that is just my opinion.

I sincerely appreciate your thoughtful remarks.


FreddyM profile image

FreddyM 4 years ago from Everywhere USA

I was a kid in Cincy in the 70's and the Big Red Machine was incredible. Johnny Bench was definitely the best catcher ever. Nobody can compare to him when he was in his prime. Joe Morgan is debatable but I'll take him too on the list.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

FreddyM— Thank you for visiting my Hub. I enjoyed reading your thoughtful remarks. I agree with you that the Big Red Machine was one of a kind in its extraordinary excellence. Welcome to the HubPages Community! Enjoy your trip. :)


Jeff Schult 4 years ago

Great list.

You need a quick edit though. Willie Mays, for all that he's about my favorite player of all time, emphatically did NOT "hit over 50 HR 11 straight years."


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Jeff Schult— Thank you for the compliment and even more so thank you for the correction. I have fixed the error that you noticed and kindly brought to my attention.


catfish33 profile image

catfish33 3 years ago from Maryland

I enjoyed your article.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 3 years ago from Chicago Author

catfish33--- Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D

Welcome to the HubPages Community!


elfego slaughter 2 years ago

Roberto Clemente is the very best hitter in history vs. hall of fame pitching and the strongest throwing arm ever. Physicists say if they hadn't put up the outfield walls(an artificial device)his frightening line drives coupled with his incomparable throwing arm would easily make him the most valuable player of all time. Ruth, was simply ahead of HIS time but not ALL TIME!


Harris 2 years ago

Correction: Joe Morgan was born in 1943, not 1949.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 2 years ago from Chicago Author

Thank you Harris! I have corrected the mistake. I appreciate you pointing it out to me.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 2 years ago from Pennsylvania

Great hub. Maybe you can do a second-tier greats one.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 2 years ago from Chicago Author


jbennett3112 profile image

jbennett3112 2 years ago from Illinois

I'm not sure how one can say Mays was a better center fielder than Ty Cobb. He hit more home runs, sure, but Cobb was a much better all-around player. Also, Barry Bonds is probably the greatest player ever, let alone the greatest left fielder. Finally, there should be no question that Rogers Hornsby is the greatest second baseman of all time.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 2 years ago from Chicago Author

jbennett3112—Thank you for your excellent comments and welcome to the HubPages Community. You made some good calls there. I will add that Bonds, Cobb, and Hornsby—all three—were included in the brother Hub to this one: The Greatest HITTERS in Baseball History. http://hubpages.com/sports/Best-Baseball-Hitters-o...


Gaarf Rosewell profile image

Gaarf Rosewell 2 years ago

James,

A great list with which I mostly agree. i was surprised with your 2nd baseman, though.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 2 years ago from Chicago Author

Thank you for taking the time to read my Hub. I appreciate your kind compliments, too.


Wayne 2 years ago

Great read on Willie Mays. He was one of ten greatest. I enjoyed your list. I caught willie mays 559th in 1967. Still have it and it's signed


James King 32 2 years ago from Madison, WI.

I would agree except for two positions.

I see you probably used some of Bill James thinking building your theory of statistics to arrive at your conclusions. It is a very good way to reason. I also use many of his theories. The only thing that I disagree with you and Bill James on is at the second base position.

It is so hard to tell who is really better because you have to even out all of the variables in the two very different era's.

Then you have to put the weight of reason on some action/reaction statistic that changes, such as: people, times, equipment, coaching, mixed with idea's and perspectives that are changing constantly causing an infinite number of action/reaction cause effect scenarios. All governed by human emotion controlling the thinking aspect of the game. Making crucial decisions to bring about different outcomes that are judged at long distances to make contact at precise times.

So what thought do you weigh more to conclude Morgan is better than Collins. Whatever it is you may be right. That's why stats do not and cannot predict Baseball or any other human decision when it is this close.

For my intents and purposes I would put Eddie Collins ahead. Reason being, he did all of the things Mogan did with a MUCH higher batting average. I use the difference in time periods along with the higher batting average to prove my point. Pitching was dominant in the 60's up to mid seventies when Morgan played. Morgan walked more but he also struck out more.

If you follow the James statistical analysis Morgan accounted for more bases because he hit for more power (more extra base hits) and drew many more walks (366 more than Collins).

I would say that he would be right if the players went one base on each hit as he does on a walk, but if you have a runner on base and you get a hit, there is a fifty percent chance of moving that runner more than one base with a base hit. So Collins moved more runners along as he got nearly 800 more hits and 200 more Runs Batted In.

If their BA's where anywhere near each other I might consider Morgan. Morgan hit .271 lifetime, Collins hit .333 You can't really compare power stats because Mogan played in "modern" era and Collins played in the "deadball" era. But saying that ; Collins actually has a better Slugging percentage .429-.427 playing in the deadball era. They stole about the same number of bases. They were both the best fielders at their position in their time.

The other thing I disagree with you on is catching. As much as I love Johnny Bench as a catcher He doesn't compare with Josh Gibson. Also, I would pick Yogi Berra in second positional ranking.

Agreeing with Bill James on this one.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 18 months ago from Chicago Author

elf ego slaughter---You may be right. Either way, I certainly appreciate you visiting my Hub and leaving your insightful comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 18 months ago from Chicago Author

Wayne!! You caught the 559th home run ever hit in the big leagues by Willie Mays!!?? That is amazing!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 18 months ago from Chicago Author

James King 32~ You have a keen eye, sir, because I did indeed use "some of Bill James thinking building your theory of statistics to arrive at your conclusions." I would say Eddie Collins and Joe Morgan are about a tie, in the end, for the best second baseman in history. Your analysis is deep, I must add. I really enjoyed reading your insightful comments and it is always a pleasure to meet another real baseball fan. I may have been more subjective on my ranking of Johnny Bench, I should confess. I am a big fan of his.


James King 32 18 months ago

Anybody that has seen Johnny Bench play and knows the game would agree. Johnny Bench was the best in his era bar none. I have just read Satchel Paiges autobiography and have a heart for the Negro League players. Gibson by legend was Babe Ruth at the plate and a superb backstop. Nobody comes close to him offensively and in the top tier defensively.

Yogi might not have been the best at anything but 2 or three in all things and 1 in intangibles. Everybody loved him and he kept that group together and coherant.


James King 32 18 months ago from Madison, WI.

James A W.

I see we have kindred Spirit. Love all of your stuff. 95% of your writings peak my interest. Baseball history is one of my favorites. As a player/ or coach I used as much of my body, mind, and spirit. I love players who think that way ( with purpose as well as perform). I played that way to get on field, if a player has talent they can excel to heights beyond the talent given them.

That to me is Yogi Berra, Pete Rose, Greg Maddox.

In other sports:

Can anyone say Larry Bird, Michael Jordan Majic Johnson, Jerry Lucas, Bill Russell, Phil Jackson?

Players that waste talent :

Richie Allen, Carlos Zambrano, Todd Hundley. In my opinion these guys could have been great players not just good.

What the great players have is they play with body, soul, and spirit along with God given talent. Plus the ability to translate "their moment in time" to their legacy of greatness.


wayne 13 months ago

Hi Mr. Watkins:

Yes, late August 1967 I was with my dad and we went to Candlestick Park. Dodgers vs Giants bottom of the 7th inning 0-2 fastball, I caught Willies 559th home run in left center field. 48 years later it looks brand new with his signature on it and he also wrote the home run number on the ball.

Thank you for your excellent writing

Wayne


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 9 months ago from Chicago Author

James King 32~ Thank you for your outstanding commentary. I certainly agree with you about Yogi. What a guy.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 9 months ago from Chicago Author

James King 32~ I love your last comments, especially this that you wrote: "What the great players have is they play with body, soul, and spirit along with God-given talent." AMEN! I also love the Reagan quote on your profile page. Thanks for the keen conversation.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 9 months ago from Chicago Author

Wayne~ You are most welcome. I appreciate your gracious compliments and you sharing that awesome story.

James

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