The BPP All-Time Dream Project | Baseball: Past and Present

The BPP All-Time Dream Project | Baseball: Past and Present

This was a fun little project in which I participated, one that took an interesting turn as I saw the names of some of the voters, making me feel like I was rubbing shoulders with some big boy sportswriters. The appeal of this for me was multifold tho, letting me reflect on my favorite ballplayers over the years--the ones I saw and read about as a kid through the ones I watch now--, and getting to see the opinions and selection reasoning of so many.

In my mind, the list of greats started here, with this collection from the 1976 Topps set:



This scan of my cards will probably make Sliced Tongue...check that...Who Made the Grade...cringe somewhat when his discriminating eye does its reflexive grading (or, he may offer a better example from his vast collection...). Anyway, the 10 cards have been valued ones to me, stirring up my interest in baseball history as they caused me to read about these players and others across the many decades of our great National Pastime. I've read a bunch of books about some of the old players, talked to my parents about them, and even got to meet a few of them from my days caddying at a Long Island country club, etc.

I only had this set a few years when I realized that one of the players honored, Pie Traynor, may well be eclipsed by one of the stars of my youth--Mike Schmidt. Regarding the others, though, I wasn't so sure if they had real challengers. Now, from this perspective, I don't agree with the 1976 selections entirely.

Anyway, here is who I would field, and who received my vote, for that one magical game.

1st: Lou Gehrig
2nd: Rogers Hornsby
3rd: Mike Schmidt
SS: Honus Wagner
LF: Ted Williams
CF: Willie Mays
RF: Babe Ruth
C: Yogi Berra
P: Walter Johnson

Now, comparing with the winning lineup, I felt pretty good being in such close agreement with the majority. I only missed at catcher, with Johnny Bench winning. It struck me as interesting that some of the really old timers are falling by the wayside, but that others are hanging strong.

My thoughts, by position:

First base--it's hard not to go with the Iron Horse. But, there have been so many good hitters at this position. I only thought for a second about old-time players like George Sisler, Hank Greenberg, Jimmie Foxx, and Willie McCovey. Don Mattingly was my favorite player for a long time, but his career doesn't come close to Gehrig's. Then there is Albert Pujols, who might be worthy of consideration when he retires if he remains on his current trajectory.

Second base--I thought for a few seconds about including Joe Morgan, but those ridiculous batting numbers of Hornsby made him my clear winner--I mean, come on, he averaged over .400 for a five-year stretch.

Third base--As a Yankee fan growing up, watching Nettles was fun, watching Brett was annoying, and seeing glimpses of what Schmidt was doing was exciting. Year after year, it seemed, he was winning home run titles and going to All Star games. As his numbers amassed, I wondered if Topps might have included Schmidt if they redid their list. He got my vote. It was interesting to me, though, to look at the voting and see how history seems to be forgetting Traynor, sinking him well beyond second place.

Shortstop--I saw a Tweet that said something like "If I have Hornsby at second, I want Ozzie Smith's glove over Wagner's bat." That made me consider this as a team, rather than the best individuals at each position. But, fielding purely the best at each position wouldn't really limit this team, would it? There have been a ton of great shortstops over the years, and it is interesting that Wagner is still the frontrunner here. Smith may have been the best fielder, and Cal Ripken earned some consideration from me, but I went with Wagner and his .328 career average.

Left field--My reflexive reaction is Ted Williams. His career and numbers speak for themselves. Bonds? Nah, no juice on this team, please. If Williams has any competition on my ballot, it came from reading where someone thinking about this as a team might go with Rickey Henderson, given his stolen base records, career on-base percentage, and reputation as the best leadoff hitter in history. I mean, really, can you imagine Henderson batting in front of these guys? Wow! That would be splendid. But, there are others in this lineup who would do fine as leadoff hitter, and the Splendid Splinter keeps his spot.

Center field--It's hard not to go with Willie Mays here. Ty Cobb, the all-time hits leader for over half a century gets some consideration, and Mickey Mantle certainly does as well. Cobb got the nod over Mays in the Sporting News Topps cards. Puzzling, for sure. Then, I start thinking about that Sewell quote and how "none of them could carry Tris Speaker's glove". His 448 career putouts are hard to even fathom; couple that with a .344 batting average, and, well, he's worthy of consideration, but, deadball era or not, Mays quintupled his home run total. The only other player I'd seriously wonder about here is Ken Griffey, Jr. Thinking of the numbers he was putting up before injuries robbed him of vast numbers of games, and only he might have eclipsed Mays.

Right field--Ruth, Ruth, Ruth, and Ruth. You can make an argument for Aaron, but Ruth so outdistanced himself from the others of his generation that he's a shoe-in to me. Plus, the Bambino could pitch! Throw in a "I'm gonna hit the ball there" call, being the hero the league needed after the White Sox scandal, and all that, and it's simply Ruth.

Catcher--I also paused here when filling out my ballot, as Bench is certainly a worthy candidate, and almost didn't pick Yogi, partly because I didn't want to feel that I was picking too many from my home team. I went with Yogi because of the MVPs and the World Championships: Yogi>Johnny. But, defensively, Johnny>>Yogi. I'm fine with either of these guys as my catcher, and I understand why Bench was the favorite. I wondered, though, what happened to Cochrane, who made the Sporting News team in 1976. With Traynor, somebody came along and put up better numbers. But, I don't know why Cochrane was picked ahead of Yogi in 1976.

Pitcher--The Big Train. I don't know if it was the nickname or if it was the big numbers he put up that made reading about him a favorite as a kid. We know he finished with over 400 wins, and played on some horrible teams, setting the records for both most wins and losses in 1-0 games. And history paints him as the best during a period when 30-win seasons and all that let more players get to 300 wins and beyond than occurs these days. I wasn't shocked that he came in first in the voting, but I wouldn't have been surprised if someone else came out on top. Christy Mathewson was another favorite, but one who's mere 373 wins seem on their way to being forgotten, as evidenced by his poor showing in this project. Of course, there is also Cy Young and his 500+ wins, but he really pitched in a different era, though that may not justify why he too seems rather overlooked. As for the southpaws, history is being kinder to Koufax than it is to Lefty Grove and his 9 ERA titles. As for relievers, I'll be a shameless homer and go with Mariano Rivera. Not only do I really believe him to be the best closer of all time, but including him lets me have one player from the current century.

This certainly was a fun project to ponder. I have to thank Graham for doing such a nice job orchestrating it all.

Comments

  1. My set of those cards is just as beaten up as yours (along with my Kurt Bevacqua bubble gum blowing champ card).

    Can't argue too much with your picks. I think I struggle most with starting pitchers. My mind gets crowded with Seaver, Maddux, and Pedro, in particular. (I think that what Maddux and Pedro did during an era of, um, enhanced offensive performance is staggering.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ink
    Very Good for this old collection of Pictures and Sharing it threw the blog.. Thanks

    ReplyDelete

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