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Most "Important" 10

Jul 07 2005 10:07 AM

I hate to steal a topic from the SoSH boards, but I thought this was really interesting

Who would you name as your Top 10 of Most Important Players in the history of the game? Why?
You can define "important" in your own terms, but it must be players... otherwise it all gets too blurry.


Jul 07 2005 10:12 AM

I don't have enough of a sense of the complete history of baseball, so all I can think of are the obvious ones like Jackie Robinson and Curt Flood. I would say Ripken, McGwire and Sosa from a recent standpoint helped bring fans back to the game after the strike.

Jul 07 2005 10:20 AM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Jul 07 2005 11:02 AM

I'll build and edit as I think of 'em and list is subject to change and not in order ...

Jackie Robinson
Babe Ruth
Curt Flood (good thinking Elster)
Hank Aaron
McGwire/Sosa (I'd hate to waste two picks on these junkies)
Greenberg (replacing Koufax)
Ted Williams

Jul 07 2005 10:20 AM

Jackie Robinson and Curt Flood are an excellent starting point.

Babe Ruth - to say that he revolutionized the game would be an understatement.

Yancy Street Gang
Jul 07 2005 10:23 AM

Without having read any other responses:

Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Curt Flood, Andy Messersmith, Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken, Hank Aaron, Christy Mathewson, Roger Bresnahan, Al Spaulding.

The first two were easy. The next two came quickly to mind. The rest I had to stretch for.

Jul 07 2005 10:29 AM

Walter Johnson
Christy Mathewson,
Barry Bonds
Bob Gibson
Ted Williams
Pete Rose

Edgy DC
Jul 07 2005 10:39 AM

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa can take a seat.

I always looked at it by decades.

All of this is debateable, but:

Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson defined the teens.

Babe Ruth defined the twenties.

Lou Gehrig definded the thirties (plus maybe Foxx).

Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio defined the fourties.

Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Duke Snider defined the fifties.

Gibson and Koufax defined the sixties.

Reggie Jackson and Pete Rose defined the seventies.

Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson defined the eighties.

Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey, Jr. defined the nineties.

Of course it's oversimplistic, as decades are an arbitrary way to define time and they nonetheless have more than one theme. Is the story of the deadball teens the gigantic pitchers who carried their teams or the slap-and-run southern boys like Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker who would single-handedly manufacture the few runs there were?

Is the story of the fifties the New York rivlaries that Willie-Mickey-Duke came to encapsulate by myth or was it the blackening of the game that can be represented by none other than Robinson? Clearly both.

I like defining the seventies by two super-ego self-promoting superstars with otherwise very different games, but Flood and Messersmith is a good answer also. So is Sutter and Gossage and Fingers.

Obviously, it's a narrow way to frame the answer, and elevates borderline HoFers like Snider and Raines to the level of demi-gods like Ruth and Gehrig, but I like to look at what the over-arching themes were in different eras. To the extent that McGwire and Sosa have defined an era, it's sure a negative definitition.

Besides, most of the people they allegedly "brought back to the game" were power-crazy saps.

Jul 07 2005 10:45 AM

Hank Greenberg had to be on the list. He faced down prejudice and redefined people's ideas about Jews in sports.

There is also a nice story about Greenberg and Jackie Robinson - Greenberg's final season was Robinson's first, and they met during a game. Greenberg gave some encouragement to Robinson, who later told the newspapers what a great inspiration Greenberg was.

Yancy Street Gang
Jul 07 2005 10:47 AM

I did think of Hank Greenberg. I even thought I had typed his name until I reread my post.

Jul 07 2005 11:24 AM

Here's my list, and some reasons:

Babe Ruth - changed the way the game was played.

Jackie Robinson - his success changed who could play the game. (You might add Larry Doby as an entry here)

Cap Anson - his influence changed who could not play the game.

Shoeless Joe Jackson - his banishment cleaned up the game... even a superstar who looked like he played well wasn't above the law (and with that already established, I can leave Pete Rose off the list).

Hideo Nomo - his success globalized scouting (and I might add, turned scouting into a fad)

Ty Cobb - no particular reason, but he probably influenced the style of play more than anyone until Ruth came along, and may have been of the game's earliest great villains.

Curt Flood- changed the finances of the game and broke the players free from indentured servitude.

Nap Lajoie - legitimized the American League

Bob Gibson. He forced baseball to lower the mound, and as a result, the game was taken away from the pitchers and given back to the batters, ushering in a whole new era. To me, THAT is impact on the game.

Frank Robinson - When he was traded from Cincy to Baltimore, he reminded an entire league how to play baseball.
The AL had settled into a "Wait for the three run homer" kind of league. When Frank joined the O's, he showed them that it was within the rules to go from first to third on a hit to right. He demonstrated that it was also "legal" to break up a double play. And he led by example, something Black players weren't supposed to do, with his fiery nature. He broke stereotypes on the field, that Blacks were "athletes" who only got by on "natural ability".
Then, he showed that a Black man could not only manage a baseball team (and he is still doing that very well), but work in the front office as well. I know I said to limit responses to players only, but Frank's contributions to the game far transcended that. An arguement can be made that he took over where Jackie Robinson led the way and moved the banner farther forward. And for those reasons, he's on my list.

I would have loved to have added Greenberg to my list. But the reasons mentioned above were more societal in nature than strictly baseball related.


EDITS: cleaned up typos