Jump to content

Who are the ten most important players from 1900 to now?


Frobby

Recommended Posts

I'm too ignorant of the guys in the 1870's and 1880's who invented equipment and certain strategies, so let's just stick with 1900 onward. Here's my list:

1. Babe Ruth - no doubt he both revolutionized and popularized the game.

2. Jackie Robinson - for the obvious reason.

3. Hank Aaron - broke the game's most revered record under difficult circumstances, always handling himself with grace.

4. Curt Flood - sacrificed his career for the player's union, and though they lost that battle, they won the war and it dramatically changed the sport.

5. Ty Cobb - the greatest practicioner of small ball ever to play, and a revolutionary on the bases.

6. Jose Canseco - I know this pick will be hugely controversial, but he played a big role both in starting the steroids era, and in ending it.

7. Ted Williams - maybe the greatest hitter ever, last guy to hit .400, and the example he set by interrupting his career to go on active combat duty twice.

8. Ichiro Suzuki - proved that Asian players can be great MLB players

9. Roberto Clemente - the biggest hero and shining example to all Latin players.

10. Frank Robinson - both a great player, and the guy who broke the color barrier on the managerial front, which was a huge deal in its day.

It's funny, there's not a single pitcher on my list. That seems wrong, but I can't think of one guy who really stands out the way these guys do.

By the way, if I was making it the top 15, I'm pretty sure Cal would be in there for his Iron Man feat and what that did to repair baseball's image.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 46
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Frobby - really good thread.

To your point about Cal, beyond the streak and "saving baseball," perhaps he was even more important for ushering in the new wave of tall, power-hitting shortstops? He revolutionized the position.

Who else did you have in consideration and just missed the cut?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good list!

From my perspective, I would add Willie Mays. Of course, being from New York, my perspective is biased, but Willie brought the flair, pure athletic skill and showmanship that we see so evident and take for granted nowadays. His 5 tool skill set in the field and at bat brought people out to the ball park to see him hit for power, steal bases, and gracefully glide to balls in the OF, while losing his cap. It made him an icon for my generation. The NY Giants were my first orange and black costumed obsession!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's funny, there's not a single pitcher on my list. That seems wrong, but I can't think of one guy who really stands out the way these guys do.

But Ruth was a pitcher, a very good one. That he became the greatest hitter in the sport's history after spending his first 6 seasons on the mound is an enormous part of his legacy.

Interesting list, Frobby. I'd probably swap Bonds for Canseco, though I appreciate the reasons you listed him.

And off the top of my head, I'd think Hank Greenberg and what he represented to Jewish-Americans is largely analogous to Clemente and Ichiro. He merits consideration.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting list, Frobby. I'd probably swap Bonds for Canseco, though I appreciate the reasons you listed him.

I agree. I think Bond's absurdly ridiculous numbers are what ended the steroid era. Before Bonds you always heard "steroids don't help you hit a baseball". After Bonds, it was nearly impossible to ignore them any longer. Maybe McGwire and Sosa types were enough to eventually sway public opinion, but it certainly didn't feel that way in 1999.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But Ruth was a pitcher, a very good one. That he became the greatest hitter in the sport's history after spending his first 6 seasons on the mound is an enormous part of his legacy.

Interesting list, Frobby. I'd probably swap Bonds for Canseco, though I appreciate the reasons you listed him.

And off the top of my head, I'd think Hank Greenberg and what he represented to Jewish-Americans is largely analogous to Clemente and Ichiro. He merits consideration.

Ruth's World Series record of pitching 29.2 scoreless innings would last for 43 years...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree. I think Bond's absurdly ridiculous numbers are what ended the steroid era. Before Bonds you always heard "steroids don't help you hit a baseball". After Bonds, it was nearly impossible to ignore them any longer. Maybe McGwire and Sosa types were enough to eventually sway public opinion, but it certainly didn't feel that way in 1999.

I was listening to Hank Aaron on MLB Home Plate a couple of days ago and he said (I paraphrase) "Some of the big home run numbers couldn't have been done without PEDs." He was referring to Bonds, McGwire and Sosa, I'm sure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10) Felipe Alou

First on the list is a surprise, and someone even I didn't expect until I actually went looking for the first Dominican players to play major-league baseball. Alou was the second Dominican, but arguably the first great player from a nation that has since supplied more than twice as many players as any nation other than the United States.

9) Ichiro Suzuki

There had been Japanese major-leaguers before, ten in fact, including some great players like Hideo Nomo and Kazuhiro Sasaki. But Ichiro was the first to have the chance at becoming an all-time legend in both Japanese and American baseball. He has more than 2000 hits in just nine major-league seasons after spending nine seasons in Japan.

8) Napoleon Lajoie

Unless you really look at turn-of-the-last-century baseball, it's easy to forget Nap Lajoie. He was one of the biggest stars of the National League, and one of the biggest coups for the American League when he jumped from the Philadelphia Phillies to the crosstown upstart Athletics in 1901. In addition to being one of the few players to have a court injunction against them preventing them from playing (he was moved to Cleveland, as the court decision was applicable only in Pennsylvania), he was the most notable of the disagreements that led to the 1903 National Agreement setting up the basis for the two-league system that has dominated the sport ever since.

7) Hank Aaron

One of the greatest players and people to ever play the game. Broke the all-time home run record while facing some of the most vile racism since Jackie Robinson. Was also the last regular major-league player to have played in the Negro Leagues.

6) Joe DiMaggio

One could argue whether he was worth the hype that he received; whether he was the best player during his era, and even whether he was the best player to play his position for his team. However, there have been few figures in the history of sports to cross over into the popular consciousness like DiMaggio, whether it was marrying Marilyn Monroe or being a significant part of the plot of The Old Man of the Sea or having his whereabouts requested by Paul Simon.

5) Cal Ripken, Jr.

After the 1994 strike, baseball as a whole was reeling with significant attendance drops and intense media criticism. They needed a player who the average person could identify with, and who was willing to give his time to the fans. And if that player was going for one of the unbreakable records in sports, that would be even better. A lot of people believe baseball didn't truly recover until the great home run chases later in the decade, but coming so soon after the low point in baseball history Ripken likely put the sport in the position to recover.

4) Roberto Clemente

The first Hispanic superstar, and one of the first notable Hispanic players of African decent. Received a lot of media criticism for embracing his heritage, famously demanding that he not be referred to as "Bob". One of the legendary defensive players in baseball history, a 12-time Gold Glove winner and 1966 MVP. Got his 3000th hit in his final at-bat before dying in a plane crash flying supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake.

3) Curt Flood

His refusal to accept a trade from St. Louis to Philadelphia and the subsequent lawsuit become the most serious challenge to Major League Baseball's anti-trust exemption since the 1920s. Was willing to sacrifice his career in order try and increase the rights of the players, and his fight became a polarizing issue in sports and helped lead to the advent of the Players Association as a force and to free agency.

2) Jackie Robinson

The first black player in the Major Leagues since the 1880s and unofficially-official segregation. His performance on and off the field led to the legitimization of black athletes within major professional sports. Everyone knows all of this already, though.

1) Babe Ruth

Robinson was a close second, because there was a chance of someone else doing what he did. There was no chance of someone being Babe Ruth, whether in overall baseball skills or in timing or in personality. He changed the game more than any player in the history of the sport by introducing power as a legitimate weapon more than an occasional oddity. He was the first professional athlete to cross over into the popular culture. Plus, he was the base for everything that came after for the most dominant franchise in sports history, the Yankees, as well as the starting point for one of the longest stretches of futility, the Red Sox.

So...any thoughts?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Frobby - Great list!

I would be tempted to switch out Ripken for Canseco but you make a good case for Canseco's inclusion. Jose, however, is more a placeholder for a generation of players who were doing the same thing.

Cal, on the other hand, almost single handedly restored baseball to its pre-strike prominence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10) Felipe Alou

First on the list is a surprise, and someone even I didn't expect until I actually went looking for the first Dominican players to play major-league baseball. Alou was the second Dominican, but arguably the first great player from a nation that has since supplied more than twice as many players as any nation other than the United States.

8) Napoleon Lajoie

Unless you really look at turn-of-the-last-century baseball, it's easy to forget Nap Lajoie. He was one of the biggest stars of the National League, and one of the biggest coups for the American League when he jumped from the Philadelphia Phillies to the crosstown upstart Athletics in 1901. In addition to being one of the few players to have a court injunction against them preventing them from playing (he was moved to Cleveland, as the court decision was applicable only in Pennsylvania), he was the most notable of the disagreements that led to the 1903 National Agreement setting up the basis for the two-league system that has dominated the sport ever since.

These suggestions are rep-worthy. Neither of them would have occurred to me. I'm still not sure I would put them in my top 10, but you make a good case why they are very important historical players.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's funny, there's not a single pitcher on my list. That seems wrong, but I can't think of one guy who really stands out the way these guys do.

If it was "most valuable" then it would be different (e.g., Koufax). But for "most important", I can't think of anybody. Now, if there was 1 guy who invented the curveball or something, that would be different. But I can't think of any P who belongs on the "most important" list either... unless you wanna blame Bob Gibson for MLB declaring war on P's, but it wasn't just him, it's just that they did it right after his super-amazing year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

These suggestions are rep-worthy. Neither of them would have occurred to me. I'm still not sure I would put them in my top 10, but you make a good case why they are very important historical players.

Funny you should say that, because I was actually coming in to consider replacing Alou with Juan Marachal, whom I blanked on earlier but was around the same time and definitely the greater player. I think maybe it could be a tie, since one was a batter who also went on to a significant managing career while the other was a pitcher.

There's a lot of guys who could go on a list like this, especially interchanging near the bottom.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great thread and I love the Alou reference.

I might suggest Tommy John, for being willing to undergo an experimental surgery that had not previously been successful.

I understand Frobby's rooting interest, but I don't see Frank Robinson on the list, either as a player or as the first black manager. That was overdue when it happened, but it also didn't have the sweeping impact that Jackie Robinson's arrival did.

I would have Cal on the list for his overall impact and mainstream appeal.

The steroid era has had a huge impact on the game, but I'm not sure that Canseco's part in it had a decisive effect. It could be argued that Bond's preposterous numbers and changing physical appearance were as much a wakeup call.

Apart from those, I would have no quibble with Frobby's list.

If it was "most valuable" then it would be different (e.g., Koufax). But for "most important", I can't think of anybody. Now, if there was 1 guy who invented the curveball or something, that would be different. But I can't think of any P who belongs on the "most important" list either... unless you wanna blame Bob Gibson for MLB declaring war on P's, but it wasn't just him, it's just that they did it right after his super-amazing year.

I'm sure that there were others, but Candy Cummings made a pretty good case for having done it early on. In a long and entertaining article in 1908, he wrote that he started experimenting as a schoolboy during the Civil War, trying to do with a ball what he sometimes did with clamshells, making them curve in different directions. He said that he experimented for four years, trying different grips and windups, before he finally felt that he could get a reliable break:

It was during the Harvard game that I became finally convinced that I had succeeded in doing what all these years I had been striving to do. The batters were missing a lot of balls; I began to watch the flight of the ball through the air, and I distinctly saw it curve.

A surge of joy flooded over me that I shall never forget. I felt like shouting out that I had made a ball curve; I wanted to tell everybody; it was too good to keep to myself....

I get a great deal of pleasure now in my old age of going to games and watching the curves, thinking that it was through my blind efforts that all of this was possible.

Whether he was the first will probably never be known, but the sincerity of his account makes me believe that it did happen the way he claimed, and 1867 is pretty early in the evolution of the game.

Just FWIW.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.


×
×
  • Create New...