Baseball’s 100 Most Important People

Yes, he's No. 1.

Yes, he’s No. 1.

This morning Graham Womack, at his fine site Baseball: Past and Present, posted “The 25 most important people in baseball history,” the product of a poll of 262 individuals. I applaud Graham for providing us with great fuel for the hot stove league (http://goo.gl/wIHmh9). An exercise of this sort offers us largely silly but thought-provoking fun: Greg Maddux, George Mitchell, Jerome Holtzman, and I tied for 96th place, each of us getting ten votes to Bill Doak’s one. Such injustices abound, but our outrage is better directed to the newspaper’s front page than to its sports section.

As MLB’s official historian, I declined to vote in Graham’s poll, as 262 estimable individuals did. I think democracy is overrated in such matters–more voters do not assure better results. I also thought it best not to champion anyone, just as I do not take positions on who should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, ten years ago Alan Schwarz and I wrote, in Total Baseball, a longish entry titled “Baseball’s 100 Most Important People.” Obviously we did not include many important figures of recent years, and we did rank high some individuals whom later research revealed to be of lesser consequence (I am thinking here especially of Alexander Cartwright). We also ranked some modern individuals lower in this 2004 article than we would today (Bud Selig and Bill James among them). If you will please keep in mind that our list and accompanying biographies are, like fat ties and wide lapels, a bit out of date, they are not, I venture to say, without interest.

Here goes. First the preamble, then the list, followed by biographies of the two who must top any fan’s list, in whatever order, then ten to twenty per day for the rest of this week. Further comparison with Graham’s list may be an irresistible exercise, but we leave that to you.

Baseball’s 100 Most Important People

Alan Schwarz and John Thorn

Picking the 100 Most Important People in baseball history is an inherently personal—and incendiary—enterprise. “Important” can mean so many things to so many people that 10,000 monkeys at 10,000 typewriters might have an easier time of it, though you can bet even they wouldn’t finish without a good argument over No. 72.

Importance, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. In the realm of baseball history, it can be found in the sheer skill of a player, in the number of home runs he hit and pennant races he influenced. It can lie in the game’s pioneers, the men whose decisions and actions determined how the sport would evolve in its embryonic stages, as well as the more modern executives and innovators who shaped the sport ever since. It can be seen in men like Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, who pried open rosters to new sources of talent but, more enduringly, an entire nation’s reluctant eyes. The candidates go on and on. Heck, to many people, the most important ballplayer ever might be the distant uncle who made the majors—or the hero from their first-ever big-league game, the afternoon when they fell in love with baseball forever.

Any list like this is better for the bouillabaisse. But in panning back and examining more than 150 years of baseball, from the day that Alexander Cartwright scribbled out the first rules to the Florida Marlins’ 2003 World Series championship, we had to set for ourselves some guidelines. They were:

  1. Importance derives from how much baseball, mainly from the fans’ perspective, would have evolved differently had that person not existed. Therefore, executives will often rank much higher than many legendary players. Walter O’Malley couldn’t hit Bob Feller to save his life, but he had more influence on the game.
  2. That influence indeed can come from many directions. While the players serve as the game’s pillars, they would topple without the buttresses of people who make the game possible and accessible. This Top 100 tips our cap to several announcers, one ballpark architect, and the mastermind behind the grandfather of the book you’re holding now, The Baseball Encyclopedia.
  3. Though they are increasingly forgotten by each subsequent generation, 19th- century figures had a tremendous role in shaping the game. There was more at stake in 1870 than 1970; an early nudge in one direction or the other, for good or ill, could have sent baseball on a drastically different course.
  4. The list attempts to sum up what we believe to be educated opinion, but nonetheless represents our own. We made the choices, while an army of other writers penned the biographies.

Now, a word about No. 1. It came down to two people—Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson—who ascended above everyone else for reasons about which you soon will read. But choosing between them for the top spot was an excruciating decision, extending beyond baseball to the United States at large. In fact, it was only after recognizing the breadth of the argument that we finally chose Ruth.

Jackie is No. 2.

Jackie is No. 2.

Babe Ruth, by virtue of his talent and charisma, carried baseball from the depths of the Black Sox scandal into modern eminence; who changed the mindset of the sport from speed to slugging; and who was, lest we forget, baseball’s best all-around talent ever. Jackie Robinson too holds a monumental place in the game’s history, a spectacular player who, by virtue of breaking baseball’s longstanding color barrier and carrying himself with unwavering mettle afterward, receives credit for helping spark the modern civil-rights movement. Robinson was undoubtedly baseball’s most admirable person. We see no shame in his being the second-most important ballplayer to baseball; he remains the most important ballplayer to the United States.

We are loath to allow all this talk of No. 1, No. 2 and all the way down to No. 100 to take away from the accomplishments of each and every person on the list—and the more than 18,000 others that didn’t make it, too. They all deserve their place in our memory, which is of course what fandom is all about.

Without further ado, here are our picks, followed by fairly full profiles of the top 20 and snapshots of the rest. For more information about these and 1900 other worthies, see their entries in the statistical and tabular sections of this volume, as well as The Baseball Biographical Encyclopedia. If you disagree with our selections, or the way they are ordered, we are confident you’ll let us know.

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Jackie Robinson
  3. Alexander Cartwright
  4. Marvin Miller
  5. Branch Rickey
  6. Roberto Clemente
  7. Henry Chadwick
  8. Jim Creighton
  9. Kenesaw Mountain Landis
  10. George Steinbrenner
  11. Joe DiMaggio
  12. Hank Aaron
  13. John McGraw
  14. Connie Mack
  15. Walter O’Malley
  16. John Montgomery Ward
  17. Cal Ripken
  18. Mickey Mantle
  19. Christy Mathewson
  20. Curt Flood
  21. Bud Selig
  22. Jim Bouton
  23. Candy Cummings
  24. Satchel Paige
  25. Willie Mays
  26. Nap Lajoie
  27. Barry Bonds
  28. Harry & George Wright
  29. Ty Cobb
  30. Ted Williams
  31. Walter Johnson
  32. Bruce Sutter
  33. Earl Weaver
  34. Joe Jackson
  35. Judge Bramham
  36. Ray Chapman
  37. Nolan Ryan
  38. Honus Wagner
  39. Alex Rodriguez
  40. Bill James
  41. Sandy Alderson
  42. Sol White
  43. Red Barber
  44. Pete Rose
  45. Larry MacPhail
  46. Rickey Henderson
  47. Greg Maddux
  48. Cy Young
  49. Peter Ueberroth
  50. Tony La Russa
  51. William Hulbert
  52. Ban Johnson
  53. Mark McGwire
  54. Sammy Sosa
  55. Albert Spalding
  56. Ichiro Suzuki
  57. Reggie Jackson
  58. Dan Okrent
  59. Rube Foster
  60. Luis Aparicio
  61. The Spink Family
  62. Ozzie Smith
  63. Jacob Ruppert
  64. Cap Anson
  65. Bill Veeck
  66. Dizzy Dean
  67. Joe Spear
  68. Frank Robinson
  69. Don Fehr
  70. George Weiss
  71. Sadaharu Oh
  72. Abner Doubleday
  73. Lou Gehrig
  74. John Dewan
  75. Bill Doak
  76. Casey Stengel
  77. Rube Waddell
  78. Hank Greenberg
  79. Miles Wolff
  80. King Kelly
  81. Livan Hernandez
  82. Hal Richman
  83. Peter Seitz
  84. Ken Griffey Jr.
  85. Bob Feller
  86. David Neft
  87. John Schuerholz
  88. Minnie Minoso
  89. Harry Caray
  90. Dick Young
  91. Scott Boras
  92. Frank Bancroft
  93. Arch Ward
  94. Martin Dihigo
  95. Roger Kahn
  96. Lefty O’Doul
  97. Ned Hanlon
  98. Whitey Herzog
  99. Carl Hubbell
  100. Mel Allen

1. BABE RUTH

Babe Ruth was not only the greatest baseball player who ever lived, but the most flamboyant. His gargantuan appe­tites and prodigious talents, ensconced in an oversized body with a face like that of a bloated Cupid, made him one of the most recognizable figures in American history. In the 1920s his name appeared in print more often than anyone’s except the president of the United States. In World War II, when American soldiers shouted “To hell with the Emperor!” at their Japanese counterparts, the Japanese hollered back, “To hell with Babe Ruth!”

He was unique.

He was unique.

Ruth revolutionized the game with his unprecedented slugging. At his death in 1948 he owned 56 major league batting records, plus 10 American League marks. His record of 60 home runs in a single season was not sur­passed until Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961. Ruth’s lifetime tally of 714 home runs was not bested until 1974, when Henry Aaron hit No. 715 after nearly 3,000 more at bats than Ruth had needed to accomplish the feat. Ruth’s average of one home run for every 11.76 at bats was for long the best in major league history.

In addition to his remarkable batting feats, Ruth was the best left-handed pitcher of his era, and might have finished up as one of the best hurlers of all time had his hitting not necessitated his change to a position player. Pitching for the Boston Red Sox, he won more than 20 games in both 1917 and 1918; lifetime he was 94–46 for a winning percentage of .671. He led the AL with a 1.75 ERA in 1916; nine of his victories were shutouts, and opponents managed to bat only .201 against him. Over the five-year period from 1915 to 1919 Ruth had a 2.16 ERA. He threw 292/3 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play, another of his records that lasted until 1961.

His legacy went beyond baseball statistics. Because Ruth was well paid by the end of his career, he helped increase salaries for all players. In 1914, as a rookie with Baltimore in the Eastern League, he earned $600, and by 1930 he was up to $80,000. When someone pointed out to Ruth that he was earning $5,000 more than President Herbert Hoover’s annual salary, the Babe supposedly replied, “So what? I had a better year than he did.”

The Babe Ruth who was merely one of baseball’s finest pitchers and the Babe Ruth who would soon become fabled as the game’s greatest slugger began to diverge from one another in 1918. That was the season that Ruth’s teammate Harry Hooper advised Red Sox manager Ed Barrow to move the Babe to the outfield full time. Bar­row’s compromise was to have Ruth pitch in 20 games, and play either the outfield or first base in 72 more. Ruth won 13 games, recorded a 2 22 ERA and tied for the AL’s home-run crown with 11. The experiment was ruled a success. Ruth moved to the outfield for 111 games in 1919 and made only 17 pitching appearances. That year he exploded for 29 home runs, setting a new major-league record. He also led the league in runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, and slugging average.

But the Red Sox finished sixth, and owner Harry Fra­zee, needing money to invest in a Broadway show, sold Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 and a $300,000 loan, collateralized by Fenway Park. It’s been known ever since as the “Curse of the Bambino.” Boston, which had won the World Series with Ruth pitch­ing in 1918 (the franchise’s fifth title since 1903), would not claim another world championship for the rest of the century; the Yankees, who had never captured a pennant prior to Ruth’s arrival, would become the most successful franchise in baseball history.

In 1920 Ruth hit a mind-boggling 54 home runs, scored 158 runs, and drove in 137. He batted .376, and slugged an incredible .847, a single-season record until Barry Bonds topped it in 2001. The Polo Grounds, which the Yankees shared with the New York Giants, was much friendlier to left-handed long-ball hitters than Fenway Park, and Ruth fell in love with the place. In 1921 he ripped 59 homers, drove in 171 runs, and scored 177 times. The Yankees won the pennant for the first of three straight seasons. Still only 26 years old, Ruth hit his 137th career homer, surpassing Roger Connor’s previous lifetime record.

The Real Babe Ruth, by Dan Daniel

The Real Babe Ruth, by Dan Daniel

Ruth ushered in a new era of power in baseball, win­ning back the fans that had been soured by the Black Sox Scandal. But when the Babe tried to capitalize on his fame by organizing an all-star team for a postseason barnstorm­ing tour, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who wanted to establish the World Series as the definitive postseason event, suspended Ruth and teammate Bob Meusel for the first six weeks of the 1922 season. It would prove the first season since 1917 that Ruth did not lead the league in homers; it would happen only once more in the next nine years.

In 1923 Yankee Stadium opened, and sportswriter Fred Lieb dubbed it “The House that Ruth Built.” On Opening Day, before 74,200 fans, Ruth provided the Yankees’ margin of victory with a three-run homer. That season he led the league in runs, homers, RBIs, walks, slugging, and on-base percentage, just as he had in 1920 and 1921. More importantly, in 1923 the Yankees claimed their first world championship, beating the Giants in the Series after los­ing the two previous years.

After missing much of the 1925 season due to what was diagnosed as an “intestinal abscess” and a suspension for carousing, the Bambino bounced back in 1926. Ruth and Lou Gehrig set off on a seven-year tear the likes of which the sport had never seen. During that span the duo aver­aged 84 homers and 303 RBIs a year. In 1927, when Ruth slugged his record 60 home runs, Gehrig added 47; the big first baseman finished second to the Babe in home runs each season from 1927 to 1931.

The Yanks won pennants in 1926, 1927, 1928, and 1932. They swept the World Series in three of those seasons, with Ruth batting .400, .625, and .333 and slug­ging .800, 1.375, and .733. Game 3 of the 1932 World Series witnessed what has become the Babe’s most legendary home run. With the Yankees down, 4-3, in the fifth inning, Ruth came to bat against Cubs pitcher Charlie Root. When Ruth took strike one, he held up one finger to indicate he knew the count. He repeated the gesture on the second strike. With one strike to go, Ruth held up his bat to indicate he had a single strike left—or, depending upon one’s interpreta­tion, he pointed to center field to signal where he would send Root’s next offering. He then proceeded to slam the ball into the bleachers. The allegedly “called shot” has become an indelible part of baseball lore.

The Yankees did not sign Ruth for 1935. Instead, he was offered a contract with the Boston Braves as player, assistant manager and vice president. The last two were a sham: Boston was only trying to beef up attendance by having the overweight, aging legend around. But Ruth’s bat held one more round of fireworks on May 25, 1935, when he homered three times against the Pirates in Pitts­burgh. The third blast, over the right-field roof of Forbes Field, was his final major-league home run, and it was, typically, a monster shot.

Ruth was one of the five charter members inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936. He spent the final years of his life waiting for some club to offer him a managerial position; the closest he got was a coaching position with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938. When Ruth died of throat cancer in 1948, thousands paid their respects to the great slugger as his body lay in state at Yankee Stadium.

2. JACKIE ROBINSON

One of baseball’s most historic moments came in 1947 when Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson became the first African American player to compete in modern major-league baseball. Instead of fanfare, Robinson was greeted with unprecedented hostility, pressure and publicity, but he was buoyed by the knowledge that every one of his fellow African Americans was counting on him to succeed. The stakes were a lot higher than a pennant race or a batting title. “To do what he did has got to be the most tremendous thing I’ve ever seen in sports,” said Brooklyn teammate Pee Wee Reese, whose gesture of acceptance turned the tide for Robinson the rookie.

Robinson had starred in baseball, football, track, and basketball at Pasadena Junior College and later at UCLA. Alongside Kenny Washington, he nearly took UCLA to the Rose Bowl. He was also All-America in basketball, and he broke a national record for the long jump previously set by his brother, Mack. When his athletic eligibility ended, Robinson left UCLA, got a job with the National Youth Administration, and played briefly with the Honolulu Bears football club.

After World War II broke out, Robinson was accepted at the Army’s Officers Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. At Fort Riley, Kansas, he was not allowed to play on either the football or baseball team. When the football team was being formed, Robinson was ordered to go home on leave. When the baseball team held tryouts, he was told to audition for the non-white team, only to discover that the team didn’t exist. Later, after being sent to Fort Hood, Texas, Robinson was court-martialed for violating Jim Crow statutes. Although found innocent, in November 1944 he was given an honorable discharge.

No. 2, but as easily No. 1.

No. 2, but as easily No. 1.

In April 1945 Robinson signed a $450-a-month contract with the Negro American League’s Kansas City Monarchs. But he didn’t enjoy the barnstorming life and segregated facilities and didn’t fit in with his less-educated teammates. Unknown to Robinson, Brooklyn general manager Branch Rickey was hatching a scheme to integrate the major leagues.

The first step of Rickey’s master plan was the formation of the six-team United States Baseball League, an ostensibly new Negro League circuit that was to include a franchise called the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers. This enabled Rickey to dispatch scouts to survey black talent without arousing suspicion.

In April 1945, before Robinson heard from Rickey, he was given a tryout by the Boston Red Sox, who ironically were to become the last major league club to integrate. Robinson and fellow Negro Leaguers Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams were each given a perfunctory trial and a quick brush-off.

On August 27, 1945, Rickey brought Robinson to the Dodgers’ offices at 215 Montague Street in Brooklyn. Robinson, who thought Rickey wanted him for the Brown Dodgers, was shocked to learn that the Brooklyn general manager wanted him to sign with the minor-league Montreal Royals. But before any deal could be completed, Rickey needed to evaluate Robinson’s ability to handle the pressure and abuse that, as a pioneer, he was certain to encounter.

To test Robinson, Rickey observed the ballplayer’s responses to a series of hypothetical scenarios, including one in which a white player hurls offensive racial epithets at Robinson and then punches him in the face. Rickey took a mock swing at Robinson, and hollered, “What do you do now, Jackie? What do you do now?” Robinson replied, “I get it, Mr. Rickey. I’ve got another cheek. I turn the other cheek.” That was the answer Rickey wanted to hear. On October 23 he announced that Robinson had signed a contract with Montreal. (Rickey had intended for others to join Robinson as Brooklyn farmhands but his plan went awry; see “Jackie Robinson’s Signing: The Real, Untold Story” by John Thorn and Jules Tygiel in this volume.)

Robinson’s first appearance in Organized Baseball took place at Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium on April 18, 1946. In front of a packed house, Robinson went 4-for-5 with a homer, four RBIs, four runs, and two stolen bases. In what was to become his trademark, he defiantly danced away from the base, unnerving Jersey City pitchers into committing two balks.

It was a good start, but the resistance that Rickey had feared soon followed. Syracuse fans taunted Robinson, there was a rumored protest by Baltimore players, and Robinson’s two black teammates that year washed out. By the end of the season the exhausted Robinson was a nervous wreck. He was also the International League’s batting champion at .349.

Robinson was clearly ready for the big leagues, but Rickey was still playing his cards close to his vest. He sent Robinson to Havana for Dodgers spring training in 1947, at the same time keeping him on the Montreal roster. Rickey was like a chess master, plotting every move and trying to anticipate every countermove.

One countermove he may not have anticipated was a revolt by some of the Dodgers. A number of players, including Dixie Walker, began circulating a petition to present to Rickey stating their opposition to playing with a black man. But Manager Leo Durocher woke the players up late one night for a team meeting and told them to take their petition and stuff it. Rickey arrived the next day and repeated the message. The mutiny was over before it started.

Rickey was not content, however, to have Robinson’s teammates merely accept him; he wanted them to want Robinson. In an effort to win the players over, he scheduled seven exhibition games between Montreal and Brooklyn, during which Robinson’s .625 batting performance opened a few eyes, to say the least. Still, Robinson’s spot in the Dodgers lineup was not announced until five days before Opening Day. Ironically, the news was overshadowed by Durocher’s year-long suspension for consorting with gamblers.

On April 15, 1947, before 26,623 Ebbets Field fans, the majority of whom were African Americans, Robinson played his first major-league game. The 28-year-old went hitless that day and struggled for the first weeks of the season. The behavior of several other National League teams didn’t help.

Jackie Robinson, 1952.

Jackie Robinson, 1952.

The Phillies, under manager Ben Chapman, were so hostile and vicious that they drove Eddie Stanky, a one-time opponent of Robinson, to defend his teammate publicly. In Cincinnati locals made death threats not only against Robinson but also against Reese, his teammate and supporter. A hush fell over the Cincinnati crowd as Reese walked over to Robinson and signaled his support by putting his arm around him. In May, St. Louis management and National League president Ford Frick quashed a threatened strike by Cardinals players.

In June Rickey brought up pitcher Dan Bankhead to room with Robinson. Meanwhile, Robinson had not only started hitting but also began to shake up the entire league with his brash baserunning, daring pitchers to pick him off. With Robinson leading the charge, the Dodgers won the pennant, and he captured both The Sporting News and the Baseball Writers Association Rookie of the Year honors. Even Walker, an early opponent of Robinson’s signing, admitted, “He is everything Branch Rickey said he was when he came up from Montreal.”

Robinson was the sparkplug of the great Dodgers teams of the era. He batted .300 or better six straight years and led the league in 1949 with a .342 average, winning the Most Valuable Player Award in the process.

Robinson had been an “old” rookie—28 in 1947—and for the last few years of his career he was bothered by knee trouble and had problems with Dodgers management. In late 1956 his playing days ended in a swirl of confusion and controversy. He sold a story to Look magazine for $50,000 in which he announced his intention to retire. He did not, however, officially inform the Dodgers, and in December they traded him to the New York Giants for journeyman pitcher Dick Littlefield and $30,000.

The Giants offered Robinson $60,000 to stay on, and he considered the offer. But when Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi claimed that the Look article had only been a ploy by Robinson to get a bigger contract, Robinson stubbornly decided to prove him wrong. He retired at age 37.

Out of baseball, Robinson busied himself with a variety of interests, including a position with a coffee company and the board chairmanship of Freedom National Bank. In 1962 he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Robinson grew increasingly ill with diabetes, suffered two heart attacks, and died from the second one at his Stamford, Connecticut, home in 1972. In 1987 the National League Rookie of the Year Award was renamed for him. In 1997, in an unprecedented move, Acting Commissioner Bud Selig ordered that his No. 42 be retired by every major-league team.

64 Comments

Barney Dreyfuss deserves to make the Top 100.

Alan and I welcome opposing views.

30 years removed from assisting him with his memoir, I like to think I have a fair and decent appraisal of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. And while all the things you immediately think of him in terms of labor battles gone badly are pretty much true, notable accomplishments were done in the areas of marketing, licensing, (creating both units), expansion, television, (getting 3 networks into the mix), and even admission of Negro Leaguers to the Hall of Fame and fan voting for All Star teams. It’s an imperfect slate of accomplishment – night World Series games, ugh, but on balance, he probably belongs in the top 100. Importance doesn’t have to mean all positive.

Alan and I agree that “important” means “influential,” not necessarily edifying or beneficent. Even under that rubric, Bowie Kuhn doesn’t make our list, though. Thanks, Marty.

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Ken Griffey Jr. over Charlie Finley?

Randy Blair Owner/Operator Pizza Party 1998 Homestead Rd. #101 Santa Clara, Ca 95050 408-248-5680

Jackie Robinson deserves special place in baseball history, but the men who made breaking the color barrier possible – O’Malley and Rickey – deserve an even higher place. Let’s not forget that Robinson was not all that heroic…any of the stars of the Negro Leagues would have jumped at the chance afforded to Robinson. On the field he was slightly better than an average ballplayer. The most generous accolade that can be paid to Robinson regarded the courage and fortitude he displayed while maintaining his vow to Rickey about retalliating to the abuse he was served. Robinson was important to baseball history, but he was not one of the 25 most influential players in the history of the game, nevermind number 2.

We disagree, obviously, with both your ranking and your interpretation of history.

Lefty O’Doul is deserving of inclusion on this list, but he has not been
awarded a plaque at Cooperstown. Ironically, O’Doul is honored in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame..

Baseball’s first 5 Tool player, Willie Mays ushered in the new era of the athletic baseball player a good 25 years before the rest of the baseball world caught up with him. The first modern-era payer be part of the 30-30 club (which he accomplished in consecutive seasons), his catch and throw from centerfield in the ’54 World Series will forever be considered among the greatest plays in World Series history. Sporting News had it right in 1999 by placing Mays as the second greatest professional baseball player ever, and you should too.

If baseball is 90% pitching, then there ought to be a whole lot more pitchers in your top 25.

Lou Gehrig at 73 ? The only player ever to drive in 500 runs over the course of three seasons, all the while batting behind the greatest power hitter ever (I would love to see the stat that shows how many times Gehrig came up after Ruth cleared the bases)…the man who defined the clean-up position and against whom all clean-up batters forever will be compared…and you think there were 72 people more influential to the game than him ?

~and~

From 1936 through 1958, 13 of the 23 World Series were won by teams managed by one of two men : Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel. They were at the helm of the teams that defined dynasty in Major League baseball, surely an influential feat if ever there was one. Yet, you think that Earl Weaver was more infliuential to the game than both of these legends…heck, I don’t even think you included McCarthy !

And while we’re talking about dynasties, where is the man who Stengel credited most for the success of his Yankees…where’s Yogi ???

And speaking of catchers, Johnny Bench revolutionized the way catchers played their position, the first player to develop the art of protecting the throwing hand while catching. In the process he also hit more home runs as a catcher than any other catcher to his time…if that’s not enough to be among the most important 100 people ever in baseball, then perhps the parameters meed to be reviewed.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this is a list of the most IMPORTANT individuals in baseball history, not the greatest players. Did you read the introductory section, in which we made our criteria explicit?

And baseball is not 90% pitching.

At the risk of stating what you should already know, many of the greatest players and managers were the most influential by virtue of their greatness. Every name I have cited in my critiques of your list has been accompanied by a relevant and influential statistic to demonstrate that the man not only was a great player but also exerted a huge influence on the game and its history. Mays, Gehrig, Bench, Berra all were players who were not only great but also influential, because their abilities on the field and in the clubhouse set a standard against which future ballplayers would seek to emulate. And the standards they set resulted in players striving to play like these great men played, resulting in new breeds of ballpayers who gave us performances never seen previously. McCarthy and Stengel taught future managers how to manage teams into perennial winners, and they influenced the way the game would be managed in the future. While I agree that baseball was influenced by men who never played the game, including sportswriters and broadcasters who helped make baseball the national pastime, we should never forget that without the great performances between the lines, there would be no story to write about, no play to run on the video replay, no catbird seat for Red Barber. First and foremost, baseball has and continues to be influenced most by the greatness of its warriors, and we should never think that great ability and influence on the future of the game can ever be separate metrics.

And if you don’t think that baseball is 90% pitching, go ask the Royals what they think of Mr. Bumgarner. Its not a new story…remember Koufax in ’63, Lolich in ’68, Hershheiser in ’88, Johnson and Shilling in 2001…and I am sure the real baseball historians can add many other instances. As any real baseball player will tell you, good hitting beats good pitching only when the pitchers stay home.
😎

Thank you for your spirited views, Roger.

My pleasure…and if I may add, it is an honor to be able to talk baseball with as distinguished an emissary of the game as you ! You would have loved New York baseball in the 1950’s, when there was an historic ongoing debate played out on the field every day regarding who was the best of New York’s three great future hall of fame center fielders. If there’s a real baseball heaven, Mickey, Willie, and the Duke will be platooning every third inning…they won’t even let Joe D on the field, it’ll be payback for what happened in the ’51 Series…

A couple more notes about Babe Ruth and how he was the most influential player ever to play the game :

1) In both 1920 and 1927, Ruth hit more home runs (54 in 1920, 60 in ’27) than the combined season total of all players on any team in the American League in those respective seasons. The Phillies were the only team in baseball in 1920 that had more homers as a team than Ruth had individually…and in 1927, the aggregate total homers of his Yankee teammates were the only group in professional baseball that outslugged the Bambino !

2) It has been written based on accounts of people who knew the Babe that he could read the numbers on car license plates from a distance at which most people could not tell the color of the plates. That explains his tremendous hitting ability…he had great eyesight to see the spin of the pitched ball as it came toward him.

3) It cannot be stated loudly enough how much of an influence Ruth exerted on saving professional baseball after the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Even though firmly entrenched in the post-Victorian era, and notwithstanding the growing set of relaxed societal norms brought about by the influx of Europeans after the Great War, America remained a very religious and moral country when a group of gamblers and ballplayers decided they could fix the World Series in 1919. When the whole story finally broke in the autumn of 1920, fans turned against major league baseball players as though they were carrying the insidious influenza of 1918, and their feelings of disgust towards baseball permeated much of American life. Ticket sales plummeted, and Americans in large numbers stopped including professional baseball as part of the new America that was emerging from the melting pot of changing demographics.

Babe Ruth reversed all that…through this one man and the unique ability he possessed in his day to put a charge into a dead cork baseball, the curiosity to see this man and his feats of hitting in person was the singular most decisive element that brought Americans back to ballparks…holding their nose perhaps as they bought their tickets.

Ruth’s oversized body and the blasts from his likewise-sized bat did not just change the game of baseball…rather, his mighty arms and his indomitable attitude were the bridge of steel incarnate that re-connected the American soul with the game.

Every person who in some way has been able to pursue a dream of playing professional baseball, along with anyone who in some way has been able to feed a family in some way through a direct or even tangential connection with this great game, all owe Babe Ruth their gratitude. For in the final analysis, even if the least we can say is that he was the right guy at the right place in a critical cross-section of American and Baseball History, Babe Ruth was and in some ways still is baseball’s life force.

Legend is not fact. Point 3 above, in particular, is often said yet is demonstrably false, no matter how often people repeat that Ruth saved baseball after the Black Sox Scandal. The scandal broke in late September 1920 so Ruth saved baseball from what? Attendance figures for MLB in 1919, 1920, 1921, respectively: 6.53M (140-game season); 9.12M; 8.61M. White Sox attendance DID drop off the table, though, from 1920 (833K) to 1921 (544K). This accounted almost entirely for the decline in AL attendance in 1921 while the NL held steady.

Where is Stan the Man ?

Musial was an undeniably great player, but not influential by the standards we set. Many other great players, Hall of Famers, are on the sidelines. Was Musial more important to the game (not simply St. Louis) than the little known Joe Spear or Hal Richman? Alan and I don’t think so.

*Dear John, aka Mr. Thorn*,

*After reading your list of 100 I expect that you will receive some comments saying*

*How could you not list a;lfka’peoru’P[WQOFL?*

*Well now I will contribute to that.*

*Where I would place him is not assured.*

*My vote goes to Amos Rusie. If, as has been often noted, he was the reason that the pitching distance went to 60.5’*

*then his influence was great on the game.*

*He has influenced the game in a huge way. I think much more than Minnie MInoso for example.*

*I saw Minnie play in 1948 when he was with Dayton and was the second black player in a Dayton uniform.*

*Jack Carlson*

Thanks for this, Jack. There is some question whether it was Amos Rusie or Cy Young who spurred the move. And the Players League of 1890 had moved its pitching distance from 50 feet to 51.5 feet. Harry Wright advocated, prior to Rusie, moving the pitching distance to the midpoint between home plate and second base. So this good idea has many fathers, it seems. Last, I am wowed that you saw Minnie play in 1948. If he was Dayton’s second black player, who was first?

Yes, that’s an interesting point about the attendance numbers, dropping only a reported 5-6% while writers of the day were reporting a general disgust on the part of the public with the game.

I think its wise to consider that the attendance figures reported in the 1920 era may not be the paid attendance, but rather the number of turnstyle clicks reported at each major league ballpark. It was not unusual throughout baseball’s history to see owners seek to develop interest in their product by giving prospective fans free tastes, and that surely would have been true during the difficult times of early 1921 following the revelations of the previous autumn.

Author Ken Sobol has argued that most fans in 1921 “were more interested in speculating about what the Babe would do for an encore” to his 54 home runs in the 1920 season “than they were interested in rehashing the delinquencies of the White Sox”, indicating that the fan disgust with baseball at the time was either short-lived or held in abeyance while the novelty of Ruth was fully appreciated.

Anecdotal stories (many of which I remember hearing from first-hand sources when I was a young baseball player) are abundant and they all seem to say the same tale : that the mood of the general public towards baseball at that time was palpably disdainful. It seems to be settled history of the matter today that this revulsion was the motivation behind the owners’ move to pre-emptively seek to reverse their fortunes with the public by appointing the game’s first commissioner in 1920 before the entire scandal story was fully revealed to the public.

Regardless of the degree to which the Ruth saved baseball story is entirely true, I think everyone would agree that Ruth endowed baseball with the requisite excitement that breeds progressively larger fan bases over time. In so doing, Ruth was responsible for putting baseball on its legendary path of being one of America’s most enjoyed forms of entertainment.

I would have put Jackie in first place. He was the only athlete on my list of the greatest people of the 20th Century. He changed the game. And here is what Jackie said in 1966 about another player who changed the game: “Maury Wills started a trend with his 104 steals in 1962. . . . Maury is a phenomenon of modern baseball. He is an all-time master at getting on and around the bases on his own momentum.” Jackie Robinson, Sport
Magazine, 1966. Maury’s role as spomeone who changed the game is found in an essay on Maury’s webpage (http://maurywills.com/mw/HallOfFame.aspx):

MAURY WILLS, REVOLUTIONIZER OF BASEBALL
When Maury Wills stole 104 bases in 1962, he revolutionized the game, and made it much more interesting. Incredibly, Maury got caught only 13 times while breaking the record of Cobb who had gotten caught 38 times in stealing 96 bases in 1915! True fans of baseball know its great beauty lies in its inner game of using strategy and skill around the base paths to turn runners into runs. In the fifties, baseball had moved away from this inner game looking to power over speed. Maury brought back to baseball, single-handedly, the beauty of base running. As Sandy Koufax liked to say, “Before Maury it was just a bunch of slow white guys playing.” The following chart shows the total number of stolen bases in the National League from 1950 to 1970. Maury entered the Majors in 1959, and broke the Major League stolen base record in 1962. That is exactly when the stolen base totals of the National League began to spike upwards. The year before Maury entered the Majors, the National League had a total of 388 stolen bases. In 1962, Maury Wills alone stole over 25% of the league total for the year before he made the Majors.

Year SB
1970 1045
1969 817
1968 704
1967 694
1966 737
1965 745
1964 636
1963 684
1962 788 <= Wills breaks record–SB totals explode
1961 468
1960 501
1959 439
1958 388
1957 399
1956 371
1955 377
1954 337
1953 342
1952 396
1951 453
1950 372

Most fans had no knowledge of the black sox until well into the 1921 season. In reading through 1921 newspapers for a social history project, there are news articles on the black sox, but no letters or comments in the short fan bits section, nor did local writers seem to comment on it. (Non major league cities)

Re “Most fans had no knowledge of the black sox until well into the 1921 season,” perhaps if they never read a newspaper. Or talked to anyone. All over America, the Black Sox scandal was frontpage news in late 1919 and for much of 1920, leading up to the 1921 trial. It is inaccurate to say that fans did write letters to the editor re the Black Sox scandal. See Saying It’s So (2003), pp. 51-56. But, yes, in cities without Major League teams, there was less press coverage of this event. Still, in most cases they too covered it, thanks to the wire services.

Pat, thanks for this.

Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with Daniel Nathan’s seminal tome “Saying Its So” regarding the cultural impact of the Black Sox scandal on Americn culture of the time and therefter. From page one, Nathan provides clear evidence of how the scandal permeated American life and disgusted the American populace. “The Black Sox scandal has remained firmly entrenched in American memories and imaginations. In its day it was reported on the front page of virtually EVERY major newspaper in the country. The scandal and its particiapants continue to be the subjects of magazine articles and popular histories, novels, dramas, feature films, television documentaries, and Web sites. Collectively, these and numerous other culturl narratives and texts, according to the paleontologist (and occasional baseball writer) Stephen Jay Gould, “illustrate the continuing hold that the Black Sox scandal has upon the hearts and minds of baseball fansand, more widely, upon anyone fascinated with American history or human drama at its best.” The scandal clearly was a moment of history that deeply affected the soul of the country…the fact that the lords of baseball were willing to part with even a scintilla of their power over the game by appointing the first commissioner to restore public confidence in the game is telling evidence that the event nearly dealt a death blow to the game. It was against this backdrop that the never-before-seen feats of Ruth took center stage, and restored prevented the baby of professional baseball from being thrown out the window of public acceptance with the bath water of the scandal. Along with his incredible performance stats which forever will define the quintessential slugger, it was Ruth’s abilities to bring the American public’s collective conscientiousness and approvals back to the game that make him the most influential player in the history of baseball.

You prefer ex post facto pronouncements by credentialed pundits; I prefer contemporary evidence. Let’s leave it at that, Roger.

I don’t mind being described as “credentialed pundit.” The credentials were hard earned. Contemporary evidence is useful, of course. My book is mostly based on historical evidence, and some contemporary. I’m not quite sure what the argument here is about. That Ruth is given too much credit for “saving” baseball after the Black Sox scandal? Sure. There is evidence to support that claim. Historical evidence.

Hi, Dan. The point is not whether the Black Sox Scandal took hold of the public imagination. It is whether Babe Ruth saved baseball from falling into decrepitude. Apart from the decline in Chicago (AL) attendance, there seems to me little evidence that baseball was at the precipice. That the owners thought so and brought in a czar in Landis is quite another matter.

Not fair to Professor Nathan to characterize his work that way. Research does not become an ex post facto pronouncement simply because you disagree with the findings.

Daniel Nathan asserts that the Black Sox affair “has remained firmly entrenched in American memories and imaginations.” Mostly the latter, I would say. Does Nathan assert that Ruth saved baseball, or that attendance dropped in 1921? I am thinking not–and that was the point here, no? I must drop out of this conversation at this point.

The point is that when the extent of the Black Sox scandal was revealed to the public, it was a pejoratively defining moment for professional baseball, one that could have been lethal to the future of the game. Mr. Rallier asserts above that fans were not affected in the aggregate by the news of the scandal. Your contention is that because attendance did not fall more significantly that 5-6%, the event could not have touched too great a nerve in the consciousness of the baseball fan. Other researchers have penned important works on the subject, and have recognized the seriousness of the event to the health of the game (Nathan) and the substantive importance that Babe Ruth played in saving baseball from the disgust that the scandal wrought in the hearts of the American fans (Sobol). It is exactly because of these divergent views on this matter that I wrote above that “It cannot be stated loudly enough how much of an influence Ruth exerted on saving professional baseball after the Black Sox scandal of 1919.”

Speaking of Maury Wills, who along with Andre Dawson remain as perhaps the two most deserving ballplayers who have yet to been able to munch a ticket to Cooperstown, I don’t think any conversation about base stealing can be complete without a discussion of how Ricky Henderson revolutionized the art the theft. Prior to Henderson, ballplayers were taught the cross-over step as their first step towards the next base. From the standing lead off of a base, the runner was taught to cross the left leg in front of the right, and in so doing, rotating the hips towards the next base. The rotation of the hips provided the momentum to begin the acceleration of the body. Henderson figured out that the process of body momentum and acceleration could be quickened and optimized if the runner simply pivoted the body towards the next base while in the standing lead off the base position, and then proceeded to push with the left foot. In essence, the pivot gained the runner a step relative to the old cross-over step process, and that one step advantage would be the determinant factor in stealing the base. Henderson’s pivot became part of the standard baserunning curriculum for ballplayers from Little League on up, and hence makes Ricky Henderson an even greater influence on baseball than he was from solely his superlative performance numbers.

OK, John. I have never thought nor argued that “Babe Ruth saved baseball from falling into decrepitude.” Lots of people think that, of course. A lot of people think the same about Landis, too. As I’m sure you know: David Quentin Voigt, “The Chicago Black Sox and the Myth Of Baseball’s Single Sin,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society LXII 3 (Autumn 1969): 293-306.

I am not a baseball expert and I overspoke when I said ” no knowledge.” The major stories were the Irish rebellion, attempted revolutions in Germany, the Soviet Union, race riots, short skirts, and jazz.

It is quite difficult now, nearly 100 years removed from the event, to assign a weight of the importance of the Black Sox scandal relative to the other news stories of the day. We know from the voluminous written work that was pubished then and since about the event that it carried a substantive deal of importance to Americans of that time. We might even be able to construct a quick and dirty quantitative frame of reference of the importance of the story. The idea behind this construct is that the degree of importance the 1919 scandal was proportional to the number of players involved. Once we understand that proportion, we can compare it to a similarly calculated proportion of the number major league players ensnared in the steroid scandal of the first decade of the present century. The reason we compare to the steroid scandal is because we have a fairly good understanding of how deeply American society was affected by that scandal, and as such, it can be employed as the standard frame of reference. Thus, the comparison of player involvement in both scandals as a function of total players provides a proxy by which we can gain some understanding of how pervassive the public’s negative feelings toward baseball was as the 1921 season began.

We begin by assuming that every one of the 26 White Sox players who were on the post season roster knew about the scandal even though most did not participate. We make this assumption based on the report that the players all met on September 21 of 1919 at the Ansonia Hotel to discuss the option of fixing the Series. The guilt by association permits us to proceed with the calculation. We also assume that there were approximately 25 players on each of the major league’s 16 teams in 1919. As such, the pervasiveness of the scandal was approximately 6.25% of the league.

In the steroids scandal, approximately 90 players who at one time played in the major leagues were implicated by various investigation. Compared with 25 player on each of 30 major league rosters at the time, the pervasiveness of the steroid scandal was approximately 12% of the league.

Hence, comparing the two scandals and assuming that there is a proportioanate relationship of the pervasiveness of the scandals to the resultant disgust for the game registered across the broad spectrum of American society, we can estimate that the effect on the American public was about one half as great for the Black Sox scandal as for the steroid scandal.

To me, that means that while not strong enough to cause a national obsession, the Black Sox scandal created a mood among the general public towards baseball that was palpably disdainful. This degree of public displeasure would validate the feeling expressed by Ken Sobol that I cited above regarding the role that Ruth played in reversing this negative sentiment towards the game at the time.

Great list, John. Good to see Miller, Flood and Bouton ranked. Actually delighted to see Miller so high; He was the change agent for ending plantation baseball. Looking forward to learning about Judge Bramham, Joe Spear, John Dewan, Miles Wolff, and David Neft. I’m not familiar with those men and looks like I should be. Seeing George listed in the top 10 is concerning. Was that position earned by Good George, Bad George, or both of his personalities, I wonder?

Karl, George Steinbrenner changed the game–love him or hate him, that truth seems to us undeniable.

Alas, there can be only one for the same accomplishment, in our list–which is why we didn’t include Fleet Walker, who, like Doby, was a man of high character and accomplishment.

I notice Jim Bouton’s name, and I am assuming its for his tattle-tale ship of the book Ball Four. Why do you feel that the book was influential to the game, what was it that Bouton wrote that would change the way the game was played, managed, analyzed, or reported on thereafter ?

The game has never been written about in the same old way–of covering up for players–since. In many ways this was the first real book about baseball, with no consideration for public relations. The New York Public Library named it–alone among sports books–as one of the 100 most important books of the 20th century. I sense that you will be unconvinced.

I’ve met many people over the years who said Ball Four was the book that made them fall in love with baseball.

I have read similar explanations and from those descriptions I always felt that the book had more of an influence on sports journalism than on the game of baseball. To the degree that journalists can affect the game, I guerss you could make the point that there Ball Four led to that kind of reporting. I just wonder if Kershaw thinks about what will be written tomorrow as he prepares to pitch the ball tonight…or if Trout could care less about who’s writing what when he decides to try and take the extra base because the leftfielder is a rightie and has to rotate his body to make the trow from the gap to second base. Did the book really influence the way the game is played, managed and analyzed, or did it influence the way the journalists prepare and write about the game ?

I have to say I enjoyed reading the book when it came out, it surely was a different look at the game. Sending a fake paternity suit to Fred Talbot – damn, that was cruel ! I thought Mickey’s response was classic : “Jim Who ?” I got to know Mantle in his later years, mostly by sitting and talking baseball with him at his restaurant. He knew I wasn’t a writer nor would I try to capitalize on our talks, so most times it was like a father to son chat about the game we both loved. He was one of the nicest people I ever have met in this world. Sure, he could have his moments, like almost everyone. But even with his fame and fortune and everything that went along with it, there was always a remnant of that all-American young man from Oklahoma in him. I always came away from our get togethers with my heart a bit torn – what could this fellow have done on a healthy set of knees ?

I admired the fraternity boy pranks that Bouton assigned to Mickey, and I wondered what Bouton would have done had he lived with the pain Mantle lived with most of his life. Heck, Bouton couldn’t even have any confidence in his abilities as a ballplayer without taking pills…can you imagine how much alcohol he would have needed to live with the pain Mickey felt every time he stood up ? I believe that baseball was a better game because of the courage of Mickey Mantle. Its ashame that Bouton couldn’t find anything better to write about that the sordid side of a great sport.

Marty, from John’s post above about George changing the game…you had a front-row seat for many years…aside from changing baseball from a sport happened to be run by a business into a business that happened to run a sport, do you feel that George exerted any other major effects on the game ? Do you feel that he should be in the Hall at some point in the future ?

Aside from “gaming the system” to his advantage after the era of free agency was born (leveraging his local revenues), – and pushing forward the salary scale to all clubs whether they wanted to go there or not – he came to define the role of “activist-owner” (Finley and Veeck had done it in smaller operations) and those who followed him into ownership took their lead from him. The GM used to dominate the headlines. In the end he was the last owner left who pre-dated the free-agency system, and rather than be beaten down by it as eventually all his colleagues were – he thrived. As for Hall of Fame, I’m personally not big on owners going in, but I did always say “first should come Jacob Ruppert.” And now that has happened.

A note about Bruce Sutter and the split finger fastball’s impact on how the game is played and taught. Prior to the advent of the splitter, a cardinal rule of the game for a hitter was the level swing. It was taught to just about every player who donned a Little League uniform right up to the major leagues, because the level swing produced the best hit in baseball : the line drive. Well, unlike any pitch I can think of, the rising ubiquity of the splitter in the major leagues in the 1980’s caused a change in the way professional hitting coaches, and later even college coaches, would teach players the mechanics of hitting.

Because of the way its thrown, the splitter looks just like the fastball as it comes at the batter. The sharp downward break of the wrist by the pitcher as he releases the ball, along with an arm speed equivalent to that used in throwing the fastball, gives the pitch a rotation and velocity just like its cousin the fastball. It also makes the pitch unrecognizable until its about 5-10 feet from the batter. At that point, all of a sudden the bottom falls out and the pitch plunges in its trajectory. Employing a level swing to this pitch ensures that the ball will dip below the bat as the swing progresses. Hence, the development of the downward arching swing – what I like to call the “ground ball swing” – that batters must use in order to have a chance at making contact with the splitter.

Not only did Bruce Sutter introduce a new and very effective pitch to the arsenal of future hurlers, but in so doing and quite unintentionally, he cause profesional batters to change the mechanics of the baseball swing ! Which is why Sutter truly deserved to have his ticket punched for a ride to Cooperstown !

Thanks Marty, that’s a really good look at Steinbrenner’s business tactics that became incorporated into the way owners would operate after George broke the ice.

Was he as difficult a man to work for as many of the movies and books about him and his Yankees portray ? I have read and seen how he was a charitable man and also how he remembered great Yankees after their playing days were over – like offering jobs in the Yankee organization to many of them after their careers ended (i.e., Pepitone and Reggie come to mind quickly). And let’s not forget, combined with their playing abilities, George made a lot of baseball players millionaires….

So its hard for me to reconcile these acts of kindness and Yankee loyalty with the harsh brushstorkes that some have used to describe the character of the man.

He was a complicated person, to be sure. But his greatest attribute in terms of his fan base was putting profits back into the team.

As a New Yorker and a baseball fan, Steinbrenner was great…he restored the Yankees to their former selves, as champions. He made long-time Yankee fans believe that the 1966 season was really just a bad dream. Tommy Lasorda may have bled Dodger-blue (even though he claimed that feat for Billy Buckner), but George Steinbrenner was born with Yankee pinstripes etched into his soul. He gave Yankee fans a new lease on pride in their iconic team, which had been in steady decline for the decade before George’s appearance on the Bronx stage.

However, there is a strong argument that by recognizing and capitalizing on the competitive business advantage that free agency provided large market teams like the Yankees, George actually hurt the game overall…and fans in small market places like Pittsburgh and Kansas City and Cleveland probably spit on the ground when his name is mentioned. But I think that is more an indictment of the collective greed by a majority of the owners (how long was it before they implemented a true revenue sharing program that would keep the major leagues competitive ?), than a fair charge to raise against Steinbrenner.

I also think that George was way ahead of his competition in seeing how cable television would be so influential as a predictable generator of revenue. Cable revenues now provide teams the financial resources to implement sustainable capital expenditure programs that help smaller teams develop young talent, as well as compete for players who can cpmmand longer-term deals. George Steinbrenner provided the template for employing cable to maximum benefit that all other owners learned from.

Roger, that’s a very sweet tribute to George. His monumental achievements came in levels consonant with operating in the most populous and economically powerful market in the States. He believed himself to be above the rules….and above the law. Those are matters of record. Incorrigibly self-centered and glory-bent, he might have been tossed out of the game a third time had he entered ownership earlier in life and thus had the time-line to allow it.

If his monumental achivements had anything to do with him “operating in the most populous and economically powerful market in the States”, I think its more a testament to how the man was able to rise to the occasion and overcome the significant obstacles that this market burdens a business owner with, specially a business owner of such a high-profile enterprise. How many times have we seen really good players wilt under the new York microscope ? It takes a really tough person to make it in New York, and Steinbrenner showed himself to excel in the limelight.

Regarding the two legal issues that got Steinbrenner in hot water with baseball, I think you might be holding him to too hot a fire. The campaign contrinbution issue, which was illegal in 1972, is common practice today through the use of Political Action Committees. Perhaps then, could we not say that as in many other facets of his storied career, George was ahead of his time ?

The second matter regarding Winfield was more troubling. But how was Steinbrenner’s action there any different than most other businesses that become defendants in civil actions ? Do you think Steinbrenner was the first litigant to seek unsavory information against a litigious adversary ? Or the last for that matter ? Granted, his actions put him and baseball to some degree in a bad light. But I would not necessarily look at his actions as anything more than the sour effects that result when people have serious disputes over money.

I did not know the man, but from some of the stories told about him he did appear to the pedestrian bystander to be “incorrigibly self-centered and glory-bent”. I do not believe that he saw himself as above the law, but certainly it does seem like he felt he was entitled to bend the rules. Like many people who have achieved temporal success throughout history, George Steinbrenner does seem to have had self-destructive streak that the ancients identified as the fatal flaw that made their mortal heroes tragic. As I alluded to above, even in the accomplishments that he is most noted for a serious question can be contemplated as to whether he did more harm than good to baseball.

Baseball certainly has had its share of rogue characters in its history, and its institutional hands are not so clean from a number of perspectives. Against that backdrop, Steinbrenner fit right in. But when viewed from another angle, we see that through the good that the man did for so many people, the he was in essence asking for forgiveness and performing his penance in the public square. How much of the critcism launched against him through the years was the result of jealeous individuals who quite well have been his greatest boosters if they shared the same interests and goals, and donned Yankee caps and pinstripes ?

Baseball may not have been left any better because of The Boss, but it sure became more interesting !

I can understand the inclusion of both Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, as both held the single season record for home runs at different times and hit over 500 career home runs (which differentiates them from Maris). But I don’t quite understand why Sammy Sosa is in there. He never held either the single season or lifetime home run record. Is it because he won the National League MVP once, for aside from that I do not know what his influence was on the game ? Now perhaps you thought that he was representative of the steroid-enhanced power hitter of the era, but if that was his influence, why Sosa alone and not Rafael Palmeiro (one of only four players in the 3000 hit/500 home run club) as well ? And now that I’m on First, I am surprised that you did not think that Eddie Murray was one of the one hundred most influential people ever associated with the game ? Aside from being one of the other three members of the 3000 hit/500 home run club, he holds the record for the most rbi’s by a switch-hitter. I wonder how many dads and coaches are teaching their kids and players to switch hit because of Eddie Murray’s influence on them ?

I could see a spot in the top 100 for a person who brought Honus Wagner into MLB, helped to found the American League, introduced concessionaire Harold Stevens into ballparks, moved Babe Ruth to the outfield, managed the Red Sox to their last world championship before 2004, and as a GM, sheparded the Yankees to their first dynasty.

I mean, surely he was more important to the future of baseball than Mel Allen!

Believe you meant Harry M. Stevens, the concessionaire.

I agree. Barrow should have won a spot.

After immensely enjoying this remarkable list, I must say that it shoud include somewhere that great gentleman and baseball scholar named John Thorn! (Even if he didn’t include Maury Wills and Vin Scully on the list.)

What about Louis Perini. He moved the Boston Braves to Milwaukee and started a movement. A movement that led to the many teams and franchises we have today. He didn’t just change the history of Wisconsin and Milwaukee. He changed the history of every single major sport in America.

The first olive out of the jar is the most difficult, but Perini and his two fellow owners cannot claim credit for the inevitable relocations and expansion that followed. They acted out of desperation, and the move to Milwaukee worked spectacularly if briefly.

VIN SCULLY!!!!!!!!

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