OK now, please hang with me again as this is my representative all time baseball list recently updated to 2015, yet there is still some interesting, yet limited boxing background as you can see early on that greatly affected baseball at the time as the two most popular American sports at the beginning of the 20th century cross pollinated each other all the way up to today. It is little known or appreciated that John L Sullivan used to play some minor league pro ball before boxing made his name iconic, and Jack Johnson played some first base for the storied Philadelphia Giants along side fellow Texan and baseball great Rube Foster in 1904. Several years later Foster would arrange accommodations for the team train that ferried Johnson across the border to Canada to avoid his sentencing and incareration after his notorious Mann Act conviction.
*** This Updated List corrects to Alex Rodriguez’s 2015 updated numbers as well as including the raw stats this Runs Produced % study is based on. Also included are demographic breakdowns of the 120 years of eras, ethnicity/race, batting stances, and speculation as to how certain differences in expectations between so many players could occur. Freshly included are the bitter Met rivals Lenny Dykstra and Darryl Strawberry numbers smackdown, Big Bad Boy Albert Belle, Toy Cannon Jimmy Wynn, the indelible idiocy of Jose Canseco, and several other interesting players including some pitchers for cross referencing hitting and playing abilities across every baseball era. I also include a cross comparison of the great Yankee Players World Series stats, veeerily interesting that one. And what could be better than the All Time Texas team? Well, how about nothing on this planet beats a tribute to the great Jim Thorpe with some of his eye popping athletic achievements including his very underrated baseball stats. Another historically interesting footnote has been included, that of the much belabored Wally Pipp who infamously made the mistake taking a day off because of a headache that he could never ever shake after Iron Man Lou Gehrig took over his 1st base position, in perpetuity as it turned out.
***Also note that this is an edited dupe of my Feb 27th article that I was never able to properly edit because of maddening software glitches. I will delete that article when I’m able.
The Criteria: Baseball Sabremetrics seems to have finally and perhaps permanently taken over the traditionally hamhanded, meat-ax wielding low brow types of owners, commishes, and front office/field managers that ran baseball for more than a hundred years. Ran it into a drunken stupor they did several times over while doing their best to keep their US Congress empowered monopoly dominating the rest of the country. With their control of most all minor leagues and their segregated policies, they killed every attempt to integrate the sport that the people had integrated from the very beginning during the reconstruction period after the Civil War. Whites and blacks both couldn’t get enough of black and white barnstorming teams playing each other, sometimes even in major league parks by the early 20th century.
It was always the players and the fans that kept the game alive that rousted drunken owners and management out of their gutters to right and repair their sinking ships of state. This study is based on the two most important statistics by which players are judged and games are recorded, runs and outs. Runs Produced(RP) measures a player’s ability to produce runs for his team, specifically Runs + Runs Batted In – Homeruns that adjusts double counted runs credited to a player. Outs(O) are the sum total of all outs a player has made, ie ground outs, fly outs, caught stealing, picked off the bag, struck out, ect. Batting averages, slugging averages, on base averages, in short, any tally of bases, they don’t count in this study, but obviously those players having the best averages and/or most bases tend to produce the most runs and fewest outs compared to their more average peers. The more outs you make compared to runs produced, the less chances you give your team to score a run that might win the game. The more runs you produce compared to outs you make, the better chance your team has a chance to win, thus making you a more valued player.
Hence my career Runs Produced Batting Averages = career Runs Produced divided by career Outs to separate the men from the boys more properly expressed as RP/O = RP% per Out.
Outs are the most predominate offensive result that every player has. In this case, they serve to give a fractional percentage much like a batting average, but expressed in runs produced instead of times on base as a superior evaluation. An average of .333 would mean a player scored on average one third of a run for every out made for example. A higher total such as .500 would mean a player scored a one half of a run for every out made, obviously the more prolific offensive player. Baseball is easily the most statistically based sport with some of the most pleasing statistics for the average fan to wrap himself around, better than watching the modern game itself for hard core sabremetricites, especially in view of the way baseball has traditionally watered down the game over the years. Now we’re stuck with insipidly, stupid rules such as designated hitters, fences moved in to artificially boost homeruns, a pancaked strike zone that allows the hitter have a more grooved swing for more homers, and so many other minor monkey shines designed to cheat the opposing teams that doctorate dissertation would only scratch the surface.
This exercise is not a comprehensive list, that’d take a special computer program because of the immense number of players, but rather an informative list of 90 touted players, many of whom were regarded as some of the best at their positions, accolades primarily earned by their prodigious batting abilities.
Other batting/pitching/player stats will be discussed using these common initials:
At Bats is AB, Batting Average is BA, On Base average is OB%, Slugging Average is SA. Pitching Record will be wins-losses, Win Percentage is Win%, Earned Run Average is ERA.
Warning: This list can make no account for the early Negro League Pioneers whose biggest stars would undoubtedly be up there with Major League Baseball’s best. That is entirely another debate that can never be won or lost, but thankfully the baseball HOF finally recognized Satch Paige, Josh Gibson and many others. Also, as this represents the purest, most simple method to measure career player offense, necessarily some seemingly lesser players will rank over some greaters whose worth undoubtedly was enhanced by the media market they played in, and perhaps also by the myriad of other team contributions. As you will also clearly see from the start, it helps to be on a strong offensive team paired closely with a fellow great and you’ll also see some major surprises.
Disclaimer: Since I had to search out and crunch all these numbers in multitudes of separate operations as my project grew, it is possible that some errors may have occured. I’ve double or triple checked most of them and made those few corrections, but I’m only human and a few more may remain…just sayin’.
Since player defense, longevity, and other intangibles also play a big role in evaluating players, I’m including a thumbnail sketch of every player for context. Without further ado, here we go:
#1, Numero Uno, Babe Ruth, batting .638
3673/5758 = .638…Bats Left/pitcher/OF in 6 years of deadball then OF with limited pitching in the liveball era from 1914-1932.
I’m not surprised to see him almost up with his #1 all time career slugging average of .690. The Big Monkey as Lou Gehrig use to call him likely shattered more offensive records than anyone who ever played save possibly Ty Cobb with all his base hits records he kept adding to, doubly impressive considering Babe’s first 6 seasons were in the deadball era as an undefeated, record setting, World Series pitcher of HOF quality. When they talk about great 5 tool players, they never consider that Babe was more like a 10 tool player when combined with his formidable pitching skills, not the fat oaf his critics make him out to be. Over 100 years later Babe is still in the top 10 of modern 20th century pitchers in Win% and Earned Run Average not to mention that he is one of the few career pitchers who never had a losing season. He’d be even higher if his minor league stint in the International League was recognized as the comparable league to the Major League Baseball and Federal League players who are recognized in the record books. MLB had promised that the International League would be upgraded to the 3rd MLB league if they hired good players to combat the newly formed Federal League. That would give Babe 28 more wins and boost his Win % to #2 all time, but as par for their history, MLB reneged on their word, leaving the IL owners no choice but to trade off their best players from their newly formed, high cost, major league ballclubs.
Babe hit the ground running as a nineteen year old freshly signed with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League before being released from his orphanage just after his 19th birthday. Five days later in his first ever professional spring training game in Fayetteville, North Carolina where MLB teams often went for spring training, he played shortstop, hitting a massive HR that easily busted the existing record for the longest homer there set by the immortal Jim Thorpe that locals had talked about for years before Babe came to town. That made HUGE HEADLINES in the Baltimore papers that Babe never relinquished for the next 3 decades. On the very day of his arrival after being traded to the Boston Red Sox, the 19 year old Babe met and flirted with his future wife before starting his very first MLB game, the kind of day that’s hard to top. It was quite instructive as to the innate level of genius already in evidence when he won the game, pitching 7 solid innings before being the relieved by Dutch Leonard who himself only happened to set the all time modern ERA record of 0.96 that season. The Babe quickly immersed himself into his destiny when the first batter singled and went to 2nd on a ground out, making it 1 out with a man in scoring position, yet only due to get far worse when Shoeless Joe Jackson stepped in against the raw rookie. Joe lined a scoring drive to Tris Speaker in Centerfield, though I doubt Babe in his literal innocence from the world while sequestered in the religious orphanage would have known then that these two would be top players in his era and in history. The runner on second rounds third looking to score, but quickly beats a retreat when Speaker, who holds the all time record in outfield assists, fires a strike to the catcher. Babe, seeing all this evolve in a matter of seconds, immediately cuts off the throw to fire the ball to 2nd base, forcing Jackson to retreat to first, just barely beating the 2nd baseman’s throw. The first baseman then fires the ball to homeplate to catch the streaking runner now trying for a quick score in the confusion, so on a typical run scoring single situation, a Ruth cutoff leading to a quick throw around the bases ended with the lead runner being put out to exchange for the less threatening runner on 1st base. That’s two outs in the bag for Babe after 3 at bats, damn fine work, but wait, that’s all she wrote when Babe amazingly picks off Shoeless Joe on first base for the 3rd out, just an outstanding level of the highest form of baseball that can be played in Babe’s debut inning, and he hasn’t even come to bat yet, not that he was able to contribute anything offensively in that game. That would have to come later, but it was only a short wait and well worth it.
In the 40 year old Babe’s last relevant game as a pro in Pittsburgh’s massive Forbes Stadium, he hit 3 homers, the last clearing the top deck, completely out of the park, estimated at more than 600 feet. His wife and friends urged him to retire on that game since by then he had indeed grown fat and had been in poor health and poor form at the start of that season, and he agreed. The problem being that he had been signed for that 1935 year by Boston Braves owner “Judge” Fuchs as vice-president and assistant playing manager with the expected upgrade to the 1936 field manager. The “Judge” desperately needed Babe to play on in anticipation of gate windfalls from all the Babe Ruth appreciation days scheduled. Babe reluctantly met that schedule for a couple of weeks, but then shortly quit in a nasty dispute with that owner over his poor playing health. Going back to his Boston Red Sox days where he was already the biggest thing in baseball, in 1918 he held out in the first of many spring training salary disputes with the owner.
Here’s the big boxing connection. He promptly went into boxing training after being offered a $5000 purse to fight heavyweight contender Gunboat Smith who was one of Jack Johnson’s good friends and sparmates. That fight was canceled after the Red Sox owner came to his senses to coax Babe back by meeting his salary demands, but such nerve the Babe had and he always backed it up in spades.
Jack Dempsey vs Babe Ruth
2. Lou Gehrig batting .618
3390/5489 = .618…Bats Left/1st base in the early liveball era from 1923-1939.
There it is, the original Iron Man Lou batting clean up right behind Babe as it should be with these two. As mentioned in advance, it helps to be on a strong team paired with an analogous slugger, and clearly these top two stand alone in their own category with Gehrig also being the best 1st baseman in this study. They also are in the top ten all time batting averages of modern 20th century players along with slugging and on base percentages and each still hold some baseball records all these years later, most impressively Lou’s all time World Series slugging average of 1.727 set in 1928. I repeat, a slugging average of 1.727, this is not a typo! So, what would be the RP % of such a momentous series you ask? How about a shocking 10/5 = 2.00 RP %. Yes Virginia, it can be said with absolute certainty that there was only one Lou Gehrig ever on this planet. An ironic demographic of these two is they were born with only 120 miles separating them across the Mason-Dixon Line. Both spoke conversational German as well as English if you want to contemplate what that meant in their post reconstruction era they were born in.
3. Ted Williams batting .589
3116/5291 = .589…Bats Left/OF in the middle era of liveball from 1939-1960 with a respected manager value after retirement.
The Kid will always be forever young as the last .400 hitter in baseball history, batting .406 in what would end in such a fateful year when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, circa 1941. Williams was exempt from the war draft, yet took so much stick over it by fans and press that he signed up as a fighter pilot. The rest of his life played out as pure legend in the making. Losing 5 prime years in WW2 and later Korea, amazingly he was able to return almost seamlessly to baseball unlike many others. He was incredibly tall for such high batting averages, yet compensated by tested reports of 20/10 eagle vision, very quick reflexes, and excellent judgement which was why he was chosen to be a fighter pilot to begin with. His was an ungainly form in the outfield and on the bases. Though solid defensively, he was never destined to win defensive accolades, but who but the most miserly Boston fans ever cared about his defense?
In his last game and up for his last at bat, the prickly Boston fans stood up in wave after wave of applause that circled around the stadium for a few minutes before order was restored. The 42 year old Ted never asked for such adulation, but by the end he showed that he had earned every bit of it, turning around even his harshest critics, so how to top that? How about the impossible on an otherwise miserably thick and muggy day for hitters as he showed with no hits and one measly walk in 3 at bats. Perhaps pumped up by all that applause, or perhaps just because he was Ted Williams in his last moment in baseball, he blasted a rocket deep into the Centerfield seats, a lasting memory of Ted Williams for the ages that all the fans got to take home with them, a gift for all of baseball.
4. Jimmy Foxx batting .551
3139/5700 = .551…Bats Right/1st Base/Utility player in the early liveball era from 1925-1945.
Double XX turned pro with muscles on his muscles, quickly muscling into Babe Ruth territory. A rock solid first baseman, it was little known except in baseball circles that he also played a mean 3rd base and could catch in any pinch as needed, a very powerful, understated, underrated, all around utility and overall team player, somewhat forgotten today. Even pitched 10 games mostly in relief for a 1-0 record and an outstanding 1.52 ERA for those 23 innings, so like Babe, he never recorded a losing season. This study shows him as the top ranked righthanded batter for producing runs, mighty damned impressive he was without making it a big deal.
5. Hank Greenburg batting .541
1996/3692 = .541…Bats right/1st base/manager in the middle era of liveball from 1930-1947.
The original Hammerin’ Hank also lost 5 years to WW2 after becoming the first baseball player drafted. Big and strong, but never a natural player, he was such a clumsy oaf that he had to work hard to transform himself, thankfully enabled by his fine intelligence and willpower that saw him continue on in baseball past his playing days as part owner with front office duties. I don’t know of any other Jewish players offhand other than pitcher Sandy Koufax who was as equally devout and public with his faith as Greenburg was. He like to note that most of the prejudice against him came from the baseball front office execs, not the players. Likely not that many Jews in baseball, so Hank represents an outlier type of statistical blurb as a top ten player. These numbers sure ain’t prejudicial, they’re GREAT!
6. Joe DiMaggio batting .539
2566/4760 = .539…Bats Right/Centerfielder in middle era of liveball from 1936-1951.
The Yankee Clipper lost 3 years to WW2, yet never saw any action. He was used to bolster one of the US generals stationed in Hawaii by playing baseball on his team. A luxury gig that kept him sharp, but a little fat as he was eating steak and other delicacies every day without having to put in much effort on the field. A graceful fielder with a good arm, he was hampered by leg and foot injuries through much of his career, yet nonetheless, this study has him as the best centerfielder by RP%, a distinct honor considering the legendary centerfielders below him. As a footnote to such greatness, it must be noted that with his very underrated brothers, Dom and Vince, those would be the best brother combos in MLB history. Dom’s RP% stats are 1577/4183 = .377, outstanding figures for a guy very few today even know played pro ball. Older brother Vince ain’t too shabby either at 950/3038 = .313. All amazingly were centerfielders, but it was Vince with the superior fielding average, so I’d guess Joe and Dom would have to play the right and left fielder had they been on the same team in a perfect world.
Joe was also a natural like Babe Ruth, seemingly dropped out of tree playing high level ball from the gitgo in his first years of minor league ball with the San Francisco Seals, a 61 game hit streak to start and .398 batting average to finish his last year before the Yankees came calling. A little known irony to nailing down the Yankee gig was his “try out” against a barnstorming team featuring Satchel Page pitching that day. Joe was hitless in his first 3 at bats before blasting a drive up the middle off Satchel’s glove to knock in the winning run, prompting the scout to wire back that Joe was a keeper. “DiMaggio everything we’d hoped he’d be: Hit Satch one for four.”
7. Ty Cobb batting .527
4066/7718 = .527…Bats Left/OF for 14 years of the deadball era transitioning into the liveball era from 1906-1928. Also a Manager for most of his mid career.
The Tyrannosauris Ty had murderous temper, but as he remembered it first coming up as an 18 year old just weeks after burying his father in a tragic family gun accident, “Those old timers made a wildcat out of me.” He was a threat to their jobs, so they sawed up his half dozen specially turned bats he had lovingly crafted in his neighbor’s workshop mixed in with many other brutally efficient hazing techniques designed to knock him down a few pegs. Instead, Cobb thought up new ways to beat them and everyone else on the field. An excellent fielder overall with an average throwing arm, he literally sacrificed the health of his body at his own self created alter by stealing so many bases and raising such havoc that field fights over him inevitably broke out. I reckon he holds the world record for the most baseball related fights and off field fights. He could be civil in the right company, yet like Billy Martin, if anyone dared to flip his switch, they’d find out the hard way you don’t mess around with Mother Nature or Ty Cobb. Also holds the record of 54 stolen home bases for 54 brutally earned runs, more than any 10 or 20 modern players combined. Amazingly Ty played most of his career in the deadball era, so he only got a little boost from the rabbit ball era in his declining years, yet still managed to post the 3rd of his .400 seasons.
8. Rogers Hornsby batting .518
2862/5526 = .518…Bats Right/utility infielder for 5 years of the deadball era to transition to the liveball era from 1915-1937. Also a manager from most of 1920 onward, the majority of his career.
The Rajah was as prickly and surly as any man who ever lived, but oh boy did he light up the lively ball era with Babe Ruth, averaging near .400 batting average for the first 6 of those years that included 3 years well over .400 that includes the all time 20th century batting record of .424. He could also play every infield position, making him invaluable as an infielder even if he finally settled at 2nd base, the best ever in this study at producing runs per outs made. Though his batting average precipitously dropped in 1926 when he took over managing duties of the St Louis Cardinals, he put ’em in the World Series and tagged Babe Ruth for the last out that gave the Cards their first Series title. Not bad for a country boy from Winters, Texas who got his start playing in drag as a ringer on a girls’ barnstorming team.
9. Hack Wilson batting .498
1703/3421 = .498…Bats Right/Centerfielder in the early liveball era from 1923-1934
Hack was built like he came out of a cartoonist’s dream, barely standing 5-6 and packed with a jackhammering 200lbs propelled in Cinderella size 5 1/2 slippers, he was totally preposterous. He didn’t have a long career thanks to his unrepentant drinking, but his peak was so molten hot that it was able to withstand his painful, drunken decline. He was actually a decent centerfielder with an excellent fielding average, but the overwhelming impression of him is in his later years stumbling around drunk and hungover in the field. He was also greatly assisted in homerun friendly Wrigley field if you want to consider how ball parks affect careers.
Hack was a notorious brawler who had a feud going with a vicious crosstown rival, White Sox first baseman named Art Shires. A Chicago boxing promoter signed them for a high publicity big money fight in the off season that immediately sent the besotted baseball czars into a tizzy as they contemplated the marketing stain to their perfect monopoly. The result was the fight was canceled after an immediate ban on any player who chooses to step into the professional boxing ring.
10. Charlie Gehringer batting .481
3017/6278 = .481…Bats Left/2nd base in the liveball era from 1924-1942.
This project has surely yielded some amazing surprises. Charlie was always very highly rated, but here he is running with the elite of the elite in run production %. His nickname was most appropo, The Mechanical Man, a study in how to make near perfection look like a well oiled machine. He was also quiet as a mouse, something that aggravated his gung-ho manager, the great Ty Cobb, who insisted on young Charlie needing to chatter it up in the infield before using Cobb’s ancient bats and Cobb’s style at the plate. As Charlie noted, he dared not get crossed up with Cobb for fear of being shipped to Siberia. In spite of being thusly handicapped those early years, in his rookie year he posted a .462 batting average, .462 on base average, and .462 slugging average, the equanimity of the numbers being near impossible to replicate in anyone’s career. Such a high level RP% has to make Charlie the 2nd best 2nd baseman, certainly not that far behind Rogers Hornsby. That is some excellent company to be in.
11. Mel Ott batting .474
3208/6771 = .474…Bats Left/OF/1st base in the liveball era from 1926-1947. Also manager value.
Now this is truly shocking to see what is undoubtedly one of the smallest and definitely the most underrated player on this list, listed at 5-9, 170 and likely Louisiana’s greatest ball player. Certainly one of the strangest batting styles ever, a high kick forward while driving off the back leg that took complete advantage of short porch in the right field corner of 257′ at the fabled Polo Grounds as the ultimate pull hitter according to reports. Odd that Ott has become somewhat forgotten today when he was the subject of one of the most fabled American lines in history when manager Leo Durocher in response to a reporter noting that he had a “bad guy” image. “See Mel Ott(Giant Manager and his players) over there? Why they’re some of the nicest guys in the world and they’re in last place.” The quote was “transmongrified” by the reporter into “Nice guys finish last.” They certainly broke the mold with Mel Ott and I hope he will regain his just due respect for his abilities as a run producer.
*12. Barry Bonds batting .473*
3476/7313 = .473…Bats Left/OF in the modern liveball era from 1986-2007.
*BALCO* Barry served as the lightning rod of derision heaped on the baseball powers who did nothing to correct the copious Performance Enhancing Drugs being used by big leaguers. He was convicted in the federal investigation of BALCO with several well known miscreants serving sentences, yet he was only confined to his mansion for 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation and 250 hours of community service, a fine example of lax justice for the rich and famous. But wait, he remained free on appeal for years before the conviction was overturned last year after bouncing around the court system, and how many millions on lawyers did he spend to get that ruling? Never a big homerun hitter for his era, nonetheless he had been a talented, steady, solid lock for the HOF from the start, but after a career ending type injury to his achilles tendon in his late 30s, he joined the dark side with the Boys of BALCO to surge hugely over his previous high water marks, spiking his career numbers while ruining his reputation, but, hey, drunks, crooks, and other n’er do wells have always infected baseball and always will. After a 5 year run on the juice, he was sidelined again with a knee injury before returning to his somewhat less juiced averages to pad out his career totals.
Here are his 5 year post prime numbers while on the BALCO cream and the clear compared to his PreBalco prime numbers: PreBALCO batting average of .287 over his first 14 years that included his prime years compared to his BALCO post prime average of .341, near 20% higher. PreBALCO onbase average of .407 compared to BALCO average of .535, over 30% higher. PreBALCO slugging average of .561 compared to BALCO average of .782, a 39% increase. PreBALCO homerun average of 31.8 compared to BALCO average of 51.6, a 62% increase. PreBALCO Runs Produced% of .441 compared to BALCO RP% of .620, a 41% increase. He busted the hell out of all his preBALCO offensive base type totals, ie: It took his first 11 prime years to accumulate 259 homeruns, yet only 5 post prime BALCO years to blast 258. Intuitively, many if not most fans knew they had never before seen such a clear example of PED use boosting performance as this. His .441 PreBALCO RP% would put him 19th on this list, a excellent number, but not the Ruthian all time type great that the father of Sabremetrics, Bill James, touted him as before BALCO revelations. The real shame of this comparison is that BALCO kept *Bonds* from suffering as much from the inevitable injuries and age related declines of every other player in history that likely would have dropped him even lower for his career, probably into the .390s. I shudder to think that by these BALCO numbers he becomes the best black player in this study, so I’ll note that Jackie Robinson represents the best “clean” black player with added defensive value as a key 2nd baseman and ultimate team player. The prevailing image of *Bonds* will be the Giant’s managers having to cudgel players to run out to congratulate him on homeruns as he crossed home plate so as not to further dramatize how little the self inflated, over boosted *Bonds* was thought of in the clubhouse.
13. Shoeless Joe Jackson batting .472
1604/3401 = .472…Bats Left/OF in the deadball era from 1908-1920.
And to think the non-BALCO guzzling Joe was limited to the deadball era after the reigning drunken sociopaths known as baseball owners and commissioner conspired to throw him out of baseball after setting a World Series record for hits and leading all players with a .375 average that would have been even higher had the suits not taken away one of his hits after the series was over. BTW, his RP% for that series he was jacked around in was 10/21 = .476, I dare say one of the highest if not the highest WS total of the deadball era. Joe was an accomplished outfielder with a gun for an arm that held the thrown baseball distance record of some 480 feet. His .408 batting average was a rookie record that will never be broken, however his story is a prime example of how baseball completely mismanaged one of the most naturally developed talents in history, the best pure deadball player in history.
Though he did credit Connie Mack with teaching him the nuances of pro ball, he only logged an unimpressive 10 games in those 3 years with the Athletics due to being ostracized in Philly for being a country bumpkin and so homesick for his young new wife that he’d jump the team for home. In his first year with the Naps, he unofficially won the league batting title with a .387 average when he finally got to play more than a few games. In those first three Naps seasons, he averaged a .401 batting average yielding an RP% of .570, mighty impressive numbers for that era. He impressed the Babe enough to tribute Joe as the best natural hitter he ever saw, even copying his freeswinging style that of course Babe modified later into his massive corkscrew swing. Joe’s last year came after being savaged by baseball and the tabloid press of the day and was absolutely stellar, a .387 batting average yielding an RP% of .563, one helluva a comeback. His reward was to be thrown out of baseball by the freshly appointed tyrant commish, Keneshaw Mountain Landis, no matter that, or more probably because a Chicago jury found the players Not Guilty. Joe was a lover though, not a fighter, so he didn’t lose any sleep over being banned as he had a young, beautiful wife to fall back on. They were already in business for themselves and he remained a legend wherever he went. His legendary Black Betsy bat is the most highly valued baseball bat in history.
Babe and Joe Talk Some Baseball
14. Honus Wagner batting .465
3367/7236 = .465…Bats Right/SS in the deadball era from 1897-1917
The Flying Dutchman was an ungainly, bow legged, simian looking prototype, but he could hit like a howitzer, run like a gazelle, and dominated his shortstop position like no player has ever been able. Always a fan favorite, his early baseball card issued by a tobacco company is the most expensive baseball item ever, last valued at $2.8 million and still rising. All his years were spent in the deadball era, likely the 2nd best player entirely within that era next to Shoeless Joe, a bit of irony to see them bunched together. Proof positive that it don’t take oodles of homeruns to be a top run producer.
15. Tris Speaker batting .463
3294/7119 = .463…Bats Left/Centerfielder for 13 years of the deadball era to transition into the liveball era from 1907-1928. Also manager value for latter half of career.
The Grey Eagle may have had prematurely greying hair, but what a long, storied career he had being a key player on world series teams, later becoming the Cleveland manager where he amazingly peaked in traditional athletic declining years to notch another world series win for his bat. Certainly his career outfield assists record that no outfielder since has ever been able to touch can’t explain his offensive prowess, he was considered a 5th infielder in that regard, but maybe his tops alltime 792 doubles record and ranking 4th alltime in triples might have something to do with his run producing mastery. Not only, but his career 400+ stolen bases tops most any outfielder that came after him, this being primarily the deadball era when playing for a single run was more valuable than in the modern game. With barely 200 career strikeouts, he was one of the ultimate contact hitters that have always been so valued. A little known oddity about Speaker was being thrown off a horse when he was 8 years of age that broke his right arm. It never regained full function, so he learned to throw and bat left handed, absolutely amazing. Later in life Speaker was credited with numerous boxing reforms as the Cleveland Boxing Commissioner in the 30s and 40s, many of them to protect the fighters from predatory management practices and fight fixing.
16. Nap Lajoie batting .459
3021/6579 = .459…Bats Right/2nd base in the deadball era from 1896-1916.
Nap was so popular in Cleveland they named their team after him for a number of years. He actually predates the modern era, starting in 1896, so I wouldn’t include him save for him being in the best ever batting mix as far forward as 1913 before inevitable decline set in. A highly valued 2nd baseman, a very rare player indeed. A seminal boxing connection is that in 1904 in the absence of the 2nd ever World Series being played because of interleague squabbles, he became the featured star when his Cleveland team instead played the Cincinnati Reds in an exhibition touted as the first filmed movie production. That of course ignores the real first ever cinematic blockbuster that predated movies and movie houses, the first ever filmed live boxing match of the legendary James J Corbett vs Bob Fitzsimmons heavyweight title fight filmed by Thomas Edison’s Black Maria staff in 1897 that set the table for the future of Hollywood extravaganzas. Edison had been working with boxing for many years trying to extend filming beyond his one minute shorts. Link of the history of the earliest history of cinematography here:
Thomas Edison Black Maria Studio
17. Mickey Mantle batting .450
2649/5899 = .450…Switch hitter/Centerfielder in the modern liveball era from 1951-1968
Well now, there it is in the most distilled stat possible to settle the raging New York debate in the day, who was the best centerfielder, the Mick, Willie, or Duke? This figure also earns Mantle the best switch hitting batter in baseball. He was clearly a grade above in producing runs for his team, but of course he never could quite reach his defensive potential after suffering the most sickening description of a knee injury as a rookie. How he could ever walk again is miraculous, yet he came back strong enough that Casey Stengal evaluated his potential every year by noting he “should be leading the league in everything every year.” Holds the World Series record for the most homeruns by a long shot, and heck, you could write a trilogy on the infamous escapades of Mickey, Billy, and Whitey, but, hey, that’s X rated stuff for sex and violence!
18. Stan Musial batting .445
3425/7704 = .445…Bats Left/OF in the modern liveball era from 1941-1963.
No surprises here. Stan the Man was probably the steadiest player ever on top of prodigious talents and certainly one of the nicest and most respected. So steady that he totaled the same number of hits in his away games as his home park, 1815 hits each. Played in 24 All Star games, a record he shares with Hank Aaron and Willy Mays. Played on 3 winning World Series teams out of 4 appearances, and then came back 4 years after retirement to manage the 1967 Cardinals all the way to a World Series win before retiring permanently. An odd modern connection with Stan still exists when he played on his Pennsylvania Donora HS team with the future father of Ken Griffey Sr who begot Ken Griffey Jr, proof of at least some level of integration existing in the US before the MLB belatedly got around to it. An odd, herky jerky batting style too, a reminder for typical hamhanded managers not to mess with mother nature.
19. Jeff Bagwell batting .441
2597/5887 = .441…Bats Right/1st Base in the modern liveball era from 1991-2005.
Surprize, surprize, surprize as Gomer use to exclaim to Sargent Carter. Always knew Bags was a very underrated, very valuable player, but I had no idea he would rank so high, but then he did play in a high run producing era. Also stole 200 bases, not shabby for a 1st baseman, so why is he not first ballot in the HOF?
19. Alex Rodriguez batting .441
3370/7725 = .441…Bats Right/SS/3rd Base in the modern liveball era starting in 1994 and still currently active to the completion of 2015 for this article.
Not surprised to see A-Rod highly rated, but he also has excellent defensive value as a 3rd baseman and shortstop. Damn shame he was so stupid that he was picking up his Performance Enhancing Drugs off street drug peddlers. More than a quarter billion dollar baseball talent with 10 cents for brains, but it’s his reputation for better or worse. He is also the highest ranking Latino in this study, maybe in MLB history. Also, this being the first set of tie scores, here’s a disclaimer that these percentage points extended out are exceedingly nominal, so in essence there is no difference in their numerical values. I alphabetized these ties.
21. Pie Traynor hitting .439
2398/5467 = .439…Bats right/3rd base in the early liveball era from 1920-1937.
This should settle the argument over the best “pure” 3rd baseman of any era. Pie was one of the games great defensive whizzes who was also one of the all time great contact hitters. A fantastic counter argument proving homeruns aren’t the only way to skin a cat or man the hot box at the highest level for a player.
22. Jackie Robinson hitting .427
1544/3615 = .427…Bats Right/2nd baseman in the modern liveball era from 1947-56.
Jackie wasn’t considered one of the best black baseball players at the time he was chosen to break the sacred Major League Baseball color barrier by Branch Rickey, yet nobody else could have ever done it in such style with so much contained fury, he was unreal. I see his best year by RP% as 1949 where he was 230/445 = .517, an excellent year for any player who ever existed. For the first few years he agreed to turn the other cheek as his teammates came to realize in their embarrassment over the abuse heaped on him that they had stand up for him, but later after he was well established, he shook his collar off to fight his own battles.
My favorite Jackie Robinson story is one involving a very borish writer who had penned an article claiming a key pitcher who had been struggling was shot and didn’t have it in him anymore. In his next start the pitcher completed a rare masterpiece. Jackie had looked strangely bulky during the game, but with the last out he pulled the offending article out of his pants to sprint to where the writer was sitting, “Why don’t you shove this up your ass?” Though his early career was stifled due to WW2, that turned out to be the lucky charm for black Americans when President Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces, a warning shot across the baseball bow to get their act together or lose their monopoly. In 1956 when the Dodgers traded him to the dark side of baseball, the New York Giants, this ultimate Dodger team player took a hike from baseball rather than compromise his baseball “morals.” Glad to see Jackie up there with the best ever 2nd basemen where he so richly belongs.
23. Eddie Collins batting .420
3074/7319 = .420…Bats Left/2nd baseman with 14 years in the deadball era to transition into the liveball era from 1906-1930. Additional manager value as well.
Collins is definitely in the discussion as one of the best 2nd baseman in history. Played a good portion of his career in the deadball era as an all around, no nonsense, high level offensive and defensive type player that managers love.
23. Jim Thome batting .420
2670/6354 = .420…Bats Left/1st baseman in the modern liveball era from 1991-2012.
Big surprise here to see the brutish Thome ranked so highly over more acclaimed players, but it is what it is, this study being a distillation of the best run producer percentages in baseball. Thome couldn’t help being born as the essence of brute force, but he could and did help himself to voluminous runs batted in and scored.
25. Chipper Jones batting .418
2774/6640 = .418…Switch hitter/3rd baseman in the modern liveball era from 1993-2012.
Yet another surprise to see the ol’ Chipster ranked over more acclaimed players. We all knew he was a keeper from the gitgo, but maybe playing out of the national limelight with such a goofy name allowed him to sneak in under the wire of public perception, but on this list he’s ranked the #2 third baseman and #2 switch hitter.
26. Mark McGwire hitting .417
1998/4797 = .417…Bats Right/1st baseman in modern liveball era from 1986-2001.
The most popular and unassuming player of his era, nobody has fallen so far as Big Mac over the PEDs controversy. While lacking the egregious outrage of Barry Bonds’ BALCO escapades, Big Mac’s homespun honesty with the press and fans took a beating after belatedly making his revelations. I don’t begrudge him being a product of his times when these substances weren’t banned, and to be fair the press started a malicious witchhunt on him early on because he was taking legal over the counter supplements Andro and Creatine, but he still has to take his lumps. However Baseball, the sports media, and the fans are as much at fault for this seedy era by allowing the strike zone to be flattened for grooved batter swings and bringing in the fences. They beat up on the players, yet blindly refuse to accept any responsibility. That they kept each other buried in an unholy chain of their keisters so as not to see the white elephant of steroid use right up their noses speaks volumes about sycophantic collusion and mindless nature of too many American enterprises. Strangely enough Big Mac started early like Babe Ruth as a pitcher, only in College instead of the minors. He was quickly switched over to everyday playing to get his big bat busting down every collegiate homerun record that existed. Blasted by the MLB rookie homerun record like it was a peewee league mark with 49 homers, he was already a mountain of a man before his first season started. He didn’t need the PEDs but the PEDs eventually found him.
27. Albert Belle batting .412
1832/4443 = .412…Bats Right/OF in the modern liveball era from 1989-2000.
A really nasty, notoriously unrepentant bad boy who had a penchant for creating violent headlines that served to negate his obvious hitting talents that are overlooked to this very day. Maybe his signature TV moment on the field was loping down the 2nd baseline in an easy force out situation whereupon he refused to stop or turn away, instead slamming a 240 lb forearm shiver into the jaw of the standing 150 lb infielder that knocked him for a loop and a half in front of millions of TV viewers. He may have the edge on some touted superstars in his run production averages, but it is what it is for better or worse. The individual numbers don’t lie, but definitely not the most sought after teammate to play with. Sometimes in life, we the public will have to deal with heresy as was the case with Belle whose talents were definitely masked by his nasty attitude and baseball’s general incompetence as to rating his hitting prowess.
27. Edgar Martinez batting .412
2171/5159 = .412…Bats Right/Designated Hitter/3rd base in the modern lively ball era from 1987-2004.
Had to get baseball’s first career DH in here, a fine hitter obviously, but likely not such a long career as an injured, error prone 3rd baseman if not for the DH rule in the American league. Unlike his compatriot above, Edgar was highly respected in Seattle for his settled, down home, loyal personality all while pulling in millions in salary. It may be an admirable feel good story, but I’m still against the DH in general because of the way it takes the pitchers out of any offensive contributions or downfalls and pads out League/Player HR totals. What next, DHs for weak hitting Shortstops, Second Basemen, and right handed catchers?
29. Sam Crawford batting .410
2819/6880 = .410…Bats Left/Centerfielder entirely in the deadball era from 1899-1917.
Wahoo Sam played entirely in the deadball era as one of the premier centerfielders in history. Forgotten by modern fans is that he smokes the 20th century baseball records for career triples with 309 and inside the home park homeruns with 51, 12 in one season alone which is also a record. He can play on my team any day and twice on Sundays if he wants.
29. Willie Mays hitting .410
3305/8056 = .410…Bats Left/Centerfielder in the modern liveball era from 1951-1973.
Finally, the Say Hey Kid makes his entry. Willie did lose a season to the Korean War, but otherwise had a very long career, in the end slowly dragging down his averages the last 8 years. I confess being enthralled with he and Willie McCovey as the first baseball stars I ever watched in person back at Colt .45 Stadium for a Little League day circa 1962. Probably near two dozen Little League teams from all over Houston were packed in the left field bleachers, so Willie and Big Stretch easily targeted us against the weak Colt 45 expansion pitching, bombarding us with stupendous blasts, at least four each with about 4-5 of them homeruns that we scrambled to catch with our gloves. Years later a younger friend of mine was a baseball allstar in his first pony league season, thus earning bat boy duty for the visiting Giants in the Astrodome. He brought home a cracked bat from each of them, asking me to repair them. I glued the fractures before gripping them shut and then wrapping several yards of cloth tape tight to keep them set. The next week we played a sandlot game and I selected the longer, heavier McCovey bat first, but being only 15 I couldn’t quite get it around fast enough to hit to my power field although I did hit some stupendous opposite field shots to right that was closed off by my choice. Next up, the Mays bat was shorter and lighter, so I practiced swinging a bit before stepping into the box. ((BooM))…the longest shot of my life rocketed out of the park, landing across the street in the middle of a yard where thankfully it bounced into a hedge before it could bust out the $100 plate glass livingroom window.
I’ve had bragging rights for life with that shot. Had Willie and Hank Aaron been reversed when their franchises relocated, Willie would have more easily broken Babe Ruth’s record in Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. Aaron would have been confined to the 600 mark or less in Candlestick park. Ball parks mean a lot to certain records, but regardless, both remembered well for their contributions and their career averages make them almost identical twins, quite apt since they were born only 40 miles apart from each other in Alabama and have been doubly blessed with long lives to thrill fans with their personal appearance days.
31. Duke Snider batting .409
2185/5345 = .409…Bats Left/Centerfielder in the modern liveball era from 1947-1964.
Amazingly the Duke just edges Aaron thanks to the Brooklyn bandbox he played most of his career in. Like the other top centerfielders of his era, Duke was an excellent fielder and respected player, and like Mays, he struggled when relocated to a more difficult park as their careers were passing prime.
32. Hank Aaron batting .407
3716/9136 = .407…Bats Right/OF in the modern liveball era from 1954-1976.
A bit of a surprise not to see Aaron ranked higher, but this is a good figure nonetheless. After all, he was never a spectacular player, instead being very good and very steady for many years past the primes of most outfielders. He somewhat reduced his averages his last two years as his record setting homerun season was the last good year he had in him. More impressive to me was a Sports Illustrated article researching the best clutch hitters when Aaron was still in his prime. As I recall he stood well over his peers, something like a .550 average driving in tying or winning runs. A special thanks to him gracefully exposing the vicious racism in this country that has no purpose in the laws of the US Constitution. Players like him helped we the people to realize a more noble interpretation.
33. Frank Robinson batting .406
3055/7528 = .406…Bats Right/Centerfielder/Manager in the modern liveball era from 1956-1976.
I am utterly flabbergasted how 4 of the best outfielders of their shared era could end up bunched within 5 points of each other. The baseball gods must have created a special mold for them. Two time triple crown winner, one in each league, Robby was not as laid back as the three above him, instead being a very fiery, aggressive player who gave and took no quarter on the field, in the dugout, or with the owners, so it’s a bit of irony that he became the first black manager in MLB history when he took over the helm in 1975 for the Cleveland Indians as player/manager. So, what did he do next? Why he inserted himself as the designated hitter to homer on his first at bat. Damn hard to top that, but no doubt he had many other such moments in a long career.
33. George Sisler batting .406
2357/5808 = .406…Bats Left/1st baseman 5 years in the deadball era to finish out in the live ball era from 1915-1930.
Not surprised to see this exceedingly talented .400 hitter up with the best, a 5 tool player who almost had a pitching career of note, posting an 5-6 record with a stellar 2.35 ERA. Interesting story about Sisler is that he and Ty Cobb, Christy Matthewson, and Branch Rickey were stationed in France during WW1 at a mustard gas training facility. That’s 4 HOFers that could have been killed in the training accident that almost bunged up Cobb and did greatly affect Matthewson’s lungs, being damaged the rest of his life before succumbing prematurely a few years later of tuberculosis.
35. Frankie Frisch batting .405
2671/6590 = .405…Bats Left/2nd baseman near the beginning of the liveball era from 1919-1937.
Not really surprised to see the Fordham Flash up with the big sluggers above as he was considered a major all around talent in his day with excellent 2nd base defensive value. Manager value as well not to mention being a bit of a hotdog.
36. Yogi Berra hitting .399
2247/5630 = .399…Bats Left/Catcher/Manager in the modern ball era, a player from 1946-1965 and manager from 1964-1985.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Berra must be near 90 years old and still cracking folks up. He and a player were talking about the first time they saw each other when Berra opened the clubhouse door and stood there in his sailor suit acquired on active duty. Yogi tells the guy, “I bet you didn’t think I was a ballplayer then.” The guy pipes up, “Hell, I didn’t even think you were a sailor!” Yogi, another of cartoonists favorite caricatures, a short, dumpy catcher who turned out to be best ever on this list, so of course he had to fit his neanderthal stereotype by also being one of the most notorious bad ball hitters in history, swinging at anything he felt he could reach. Hard to throw a walk ball to him if he didn’t want it, so now proof positive he’s well up in the pantheon as the #1 Catcher on this list, most likely in all of MLB and arguably the best ever World Series player with 14 of them! ***Note: Yogi passed away in September of 2015, age 90…R.I.P.
Satchel & Josh
I figure somewhere around this Yogi Berra level or higher we might have found Negro League great Josh Gibson had he been allowed in the MLB in the 30s. It’s my opinion that Josh actually ended up with more freedom and a higher salary than most MLB players who were then bound by law into egregious monopolistic contracts limiting their salaries and movement to better teams. Gibson learned from Satchel Paige that it pays to become a free agent mercenary in the golden age of Latino baseball and did quite well for himself, thank you. He was clearly a legend wherever he went and is often still regarded as the best catcher ever.
37. Mike Schmidt hitting .393
2553/6490 = .393…Bats Right/3rd baseman entirely in the modern live ball era from 1972-1989.
A bit surprised in that I always thought Schmidt was overrated. I never “got” his odd, crosscuttingly slow bat swing, but there it is, the raw science of run production that he obviously understood by his numbers as the #3 ranked 3rd baseman.
38. Dick Allen batting .391
1867/4772 = .391…Bats right/1st/3rd baseman in modern live ball era from 1963 to 1977.
Richie perhaps partook too much of the heady social consciousness of his fuzzy wuzzy era, always seeming to bounce from one silly controversy to another as he bounced between teams, predominately generated by his lax working habits and independence from the team structure. That infuriated his coaches, teammates, and fans, but as Frank Sinatra use to croon, he did it his way and produced in his fashion over more touted players in spite of his self created hardships.
39. Minnie Minoso hitting .390
1973/5056 = .390…Bats right/Utility player in modern live ball era from 1949-1980.
Yes, that Minnie Minoso was so much better than the funny name they gave him. One of our favorite players as kids, he had a certain ancient, comical look to him that we loved, and we could clearly see he played some good ball. Time for the dopey baseball writers to put him in the Hall of Fame after ignoring him all these years such that he finally passed earlier this year without realizing that dream. More homeruns in half the at bats than Pete Rose with more steals and a better onbase and slugging average. Had he been managed at near the level at which he achieved, he would have been even higher in the pantheon instead of being used in continuing cheap decade stunts that made him a cheap record for the most decades playing ball in the major leagues.
40. Ken Griffey Jr hitting .388
2868/7396 = .388…Bats Left/Center fielder in the modern liveball era from 1989 to 2010.
The Kid set the baseball world afire in his days roaming centerfield at the Seattle Kingdom. Homeruns aplenty powered by his sweet uppercutting swing combined with his spectacular defense to WOW the fans. Alas, it appears the concrete base of the Astroturf did in his legs. Made a horrible decision to move to Cincinnati in the grips of one of the most stupidly insulting owners in history, Marge Schott. Sadly, a long, downward spiral of injuries and low numbers followed that reduced his averages, so lets look at his first 11 years with the Mariners to compare to the Barry Bonds preBALCO RP%.
Griffey’s last year with the Mariners eeerily coincides with Bonds’ last PreBalco year, 1999, the perfect peer to peer comparison at their natural bests. I remember the debate over which one was the best back in the day as they entered the front ends of their primes. I studied a few relevant details of their records and concluded Griffey was better which served me well at work after one of the 100 or so guys on the job solicited my opinion on the raging office debate being waged. I sat back in my chair and casually noted that Griffey was hitting more homeruns and was a spectacular defensive centerfielder, giving him greater team value and fan value than his rather bland left fielder peer. Bonds, while stealing a lot of bases, the net effect took something from his fielding and his homerun production. Also this was an era where stolen bases are worth considerably less than they used to be in the deadball era, the reason players stopped stealing so much when the homerun started to dominate. Anyways, the Griffey Mariners RP% is 1817/4321 = .421, very competitive with Bonds PreBalco .441. It was Griffey projected to break the career Homerun record, not Bonds, 445 in his first 11 years compared to Bonds’ 259 in his first 11 years. Keep in mind, technically any player from the 50s forward could have been on steroids, but I doubt seriously any of that junk infected baseball until the weight training gym fad hit baseball. Weight training gyms are great places to be solicited for steroids by trainers, so guys started returning to spring training looking like King Kong after leaving the previous year looking like Walter Mitty. The temptations for money and fame caused too many to cross over to the dark side, yet still Junior is up on these charts based on his early brilliance and was elected to the HOF in the highest % vote total ever, so MAJOR props, many of us still remember the way it was.
41. Jose Canseco batting .385
2131/5528 = .385…Bats Right/OF in the modern liveball era from from 1985-2001.
We’re talkin’ “Jose can you see that fly ball bouncing off your noggin to clear the fence for a homerun,” probably his most indelible TV moment on the field, and it certainly couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy…snicker. Certainly he had the talent as his run production shows, and additionally he was baseball’s first 40-40 man, that’s 40 steals and 40 homeruns if you want to talk about all the meaningless stats that baseball keeps up with to blow smoke up the public keister. He spent most of his energies posing, posturing, clowning, and otherwise cultivating his inner buffoon when not ratting out his teammates, pummeling his women, or being arrested for drugs and auto mishaps. Even got in a single disastrous inning pitching, a no decision disaster heavily weighted with a 27.00 earned run average.
So many times he scraped the bottom of the barrel that it’s hard to choose the most embarrassing moment, but perhaps in an escalating feud, he challenged the 5-9, 190 lb Tongan sportscaster/ex amateur boxer/ex NFL running back Vai Sikahema to a boxing match that saw 6-4, 250 lb Canseco knocked out in the first round, a certified glass jaw. In doing the basic research for this article, I additionally saw tabloid headlines indicating that he was prepping to cross over the sex line to become the first retired female MLB player in history…whatever dude, or would that be dudess or perhaps duchess?
Prelims end at the 3:00 mark before the fight actually starts.
41. Mike Piazza batting .385
1956/5078 = .385…Bats Right/Catcher in the modern live ball era from 1992-2007.
The Leaning Tower of Piazza took a steady barrage for seemingly hidden mannerisms that led to “certain” rumors about him, perhaps predominate in the stranger than fiction broken bat episode with unruly firebrand pitcher Roger Clemens dangerously fielding a broken bat barrel and then throwing it behind Piazza’s back as he was thrown out at first base. Nonetheless, he hit with the best of his era as one of the best catchers ever, 2nd best on this list.
43. Eddie Mathews hitting .378
2450/6478 = .378…Bats Left/3rd baseman in the modern live ball era from 1952-1968
Always thought Eddie didn’t get enough respect for his stellar career, one of my favs in the day when paired with Hank Aaron. After all, he was the athlete chosen from all the sports for the debut of the first edition of Sports Illustrated that went on to become iconic in sports literary history. Eddie from Texas also and looked like such a nice guy, so imagine my surprise to discover he was the team “enforcer” who would be first to protect his pitcher in case the opposing batter bum rushed him. In his many one on one fights, reported as undefeated, his biggest scalps being HOFers Jackie and Frank Robinson and Don Drysdale, big, strong guys who could handle themselves, but Eddie whooped em over easy.
On the eve of his 500th homer, he, the only player who had been with the Braves through all their homes of Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, he wasn’t even informed in advance that the Braves had dumped him on the Houston Astros. Then the Braves wrote him a letter of apology and spelled his given name wrong to further their insulting stupidity. I saw him blast a half dozen boomers that would have been easy homers at Atlanta, yet left to die at the walls in the vast wastelands of the Astrodome. He finally got his 500 and more, but what an insult baseball is to itself in the manner they treat their franchise players.
Eddie Mathews Sports Illustrated Debut
44. George Brett batting .373
2861/7673 = .373…Bats Left/3rd baseman in the modern live ball era from 1973-1993
Pine Tar George could occasionally become ferociously aroused as in the famous pine tar homerun incident, but he was generally one of baseballs gentleman ambassadors for the sport who concentrated on batting averages, the closest of his era to bat .400 with a .390 average one season. He ranks 5th of the run producing 3rd basemen of this list.
45. Sammy Sosa batting .372
2533/6809 = .372…Bats right/OF in the modern liveball era from 1989-2007.
Slammin’ Sammy another example of an ongoing struggle of self improvement from mediocre to one of the stars. It helped to be on a decent team in the cozy confines of Wrigley Field where he set some homerun records.
46. Darryl Strawberry batting .369
1563/4234 = .369…Bats left/OF in the modern live ball era from 1983-1999.
Straw blessed with an abundance of natural talent dragged down by drug use and teammate feuds, yet still he managed to post some good numbers. What could have been never panned out.
47. Wade Boggs batting .367
2409/6566 = .367…Bats left/3rd baseman in the modern live ball era from 1982-1999.
Boggs a low maintenance type of player just showed up every day playing at a consistently high level at the 3rd base hot box. Very underrated, he obviously did his job in spades.
48. Rickey Henderson batting .366
3113/8510 = .366…Bats right/OF in the modern live ball era from 1979 to 2003.
Remember debating the value of Hotdog Rickey on the old AOL boards with the Sabreboys. This is about the level I expected of him, not near the all time great they maintained, but still a fine showing packed with years. Had he concentrated on his hitting over his base stealing, he’d be much higher, but he did it his way to much acclaim.
49. Don Mattingly hitting .365
1884/5159 = .365…Bats left/1st base in the live ball era from 1982-1995.
The Don loyally played for the Yankees his entire career in spite of being reamed out publicly too many times to remember by the sulfurous Yankee owner, the sociopathic George Steinbrenner. He only ever batted very well as we could all see, setting the AL record for consecutive games with a homerun that tied the MLB mark, and was as steady and fine a defensive 1st baseman as any in history, proof that excellence in character and performance is no guarantee from being unjustly pilloried by the ugly jerks of this world. The fans loved him though and he played to the best of his abilities, something that counts for more in the end.
50. Fred McGriff batting .364
2406/6604 = .364…Bats Left/OF in modern live ball era from 1986-2004.
The Crime Dog was a noted big bat in his day, so here it is, proof positive he’s over many more celebrated players to follow.
51. Willie McCovey batting .362
2263/6259 = .362…Bats left/1st base in the modern live ball era from 1959-1980.
Big Stretch one of the more popular franchise players in San Francisco as he piled up some good numbers while battling a bad knee for most of his career. Widely respected in baseball for sure.
52. Roberto Clemente batting .361
2481/6877 = .361…Bats right/OF in modern liveball era from 1955-1972.
The Great Clemente was alternately a spectacular player who also had a surly side brought about by myriad stereotypings of him as a Puerto Rican. He was a consummate humanitarian though, tragically dying in a plane crash while delivering relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua after previous supplies had been hijacked by corrupt officials. He was only 37 years old with a one or two productive years left based on his last season. His legacy was sealed forever, being inducted immediately in to the baseball HOF without the usual 5 year wait.
52. Dave Winfield batting .361
3037/8422 = .361…Bats right in the modern live ball era from 1973-1995.
Mr May was never Mr. October who in turn was never Mr. May. N’er shall the two ever meet for a full season. It was inevitable that they would finally start to show up at the tail end of this chart after all their homers. For all their celebrity, neither could even crack a .500 career mark in slugging due to all their outs, but still, their careers proof that even limited sluggers hitting lots of homers can produced decent run produced totals even as their stints at DH in their elder retirement years dragged them down even further.
54. Derek Jeter hitting .360
2974/8265 = .360…Bats right in the modern live ball era from 1995-2014.
Derek was one of the premiere era shortstops, good enough that when the Yankees brought over ARod in a quarter billion dollar deal, Jeter kept his shortstop position as ARod switched to 3rd. Produced solid numbers in both the regular season and post season that included many World Series appearances. A ball player can ask for no more than to be a part of a Yankee juggernaut.
55. Tony Gwynn batting .358
2386/6662 = .358…Bats left in the modern live ball era from 1982-1998.
Gwynn, one of the more popular players ever, enjoyed even more success with stuck in the misty past sportwriters who were forever cheerleading Gwynn’s attempts to bat .400. T’was never quite meant to be, yet the easy going Gwynn did surprisingly well as a roly poly, potbellied outfielder. A tragic loss to baseball with his sudden, premature demise, R.I.P.
55. Harmon Killebrew hitting .358
2294/6399 = .358…Bats right/1st base/3rd base in modern live ball era from 1954-1975.
The powerful Killer was actually the shy, quiet type, but how he made that ball scream as it rocketed over the walls and sometimes the park. As I remember, and it had to be a world series since we didn’t get Twins broadcasts in my neck of the woods, he stretched waaaaaay out there to pick a low throw out of the dirt from the shortstop. This mighty powerhouse posed perfectly for about 5 stunned seconds in a perfect gymnastic split before slowly keeling over in agony. That was it for him for a year, but, wow, what a player.
55. Roger Maris hitting .358
1401/3915 = .358…Bats Left/OF in modern live ball era from 1957-1968
As we the people can more clearly see, Roger Maris was a very good player as those in baseball already knew. He became an unfortunate magnet for unwarranted fan hatred because he “broke” Babe Ruth’s legendary homerun record that Hank Aaron also had to endure after him, the main difference being the absence of abject racism since Roger was white. Unfortunately for humanity, some of the population seem to have been formed out of some kind of steaming cesspool of brute creation that they use to befoul our fragile civilization. Unlike Aaron who was fortunate to have the wisdom of a long career before the media and catcalls broke over him like a tsunami, Roger was still early in his career when the avalanche broke loose on him. It was a dark and dreary cloud hanging over him for the rest of his career that negatively affected both his play and his personality. Most players would have had a longer career with these kinds of numbers, but maybe like Shoeless Joe Jackson, Roger figured that major baseball was no longer worth enduring. Regardless, he’s on top of many HOF players ranked below him.
58. Eddie Murray batting .355
3040/8570 = .355…Switch hitter/1st base in the modern live ball era from 1977-1997.
While these are still good figures, I’m surprised he’s not further up. I’d open the paper every day to check the box scores and results, and every other day there was Eddie Murray with a game tying or game winning RBI, often both in the same game. One of the best ever clutch hitters.
58. Wally Pipp batting .355
1881/5305 = .355…Bats left in the early dead ball era transitioning to the modern from 1913-1928.
The much maligned Wally Pipp was actually quite well respected in his day. He’s got that funny name to complement his significant place in history as the guy who took a day off due to a headache that Lou Gehrig replaced to start his legendary Iron Man streak. That in turn became the legendary headache that Pipp could never shake until Death finally freed him in the end.
60. Dwight Evans batting .354
2469/6965 = .354…Bats right/OF in the modern live ball era from 1972-1991
Dewey likely hit the quietest near 400 homeruns in history. Never a high batting average or big shot star, he just steadily scored or knocked in a lot of runs over 21 years. Major props for the unsung journeyman player producing over flashier players.
61. Carl Yastrzemski batting .352
3208/9126 = .352…Bats Left/OF in the modern live ball era from 1977-1997.
This puts Yaz just below the very laid back Dwight Evans and just above the high maintenance Reggie Jackson, surely a symbolic placement of some significant interstellar meaning beyond us as mere mortals. My biggest memory of Yaz was him catching a fly out at Boston Green Monster wall during a World Series to throw out the speedy Cardinal runner who had tagged at 3rd with a perfect strike at home plate. One helluva a play and player he was.
62. Reggie Jackson hitting .351
2690/7659 =.351…Bats left/OF/DH in the modern live ball era from 1967-1987
No, Mr. October never came near 62 homers, it’s just that for the few players I’ve chosen for this list, 61 rank over him because of his prodigious out production that dropped his average down in spite of being boosted by his 630 DH at bats. There are many more than that over him, but this list is necessarily limited. He also holds the ignoble all time strikeout record by a fair margin. He tended to let his team carry him to the World Series where he made his biggest mark, a propensity that led to one of the funniest regular season encounters in baseball history when Billy Martin replaced him in right field after he muffed an easy play. Jackson stormed into the dugout screaming while Yogi Berra and Elston Howard restrained Billy to keep him from flattening the hot doggie. Had Dave Kingman been given his opportunities in the Big Apple, maybe nobody would have ever remembered Jackson. He did well on his contract salary which is the only thing that really counts with players for the most part. Like Ty Cobb noted during a holdout, “It’s not about principle, it’s about money.”
62. Joe Morgan batting .351
2515/7174 = .351…Bats right/2nd baseman in the modern live ball era from 1967-1987.
Little Joe wasn’t a big fella, but he played as big as they come. Saw him come up with the Astros as the 2nd best infielder I’d ever seen, the first being shortstop in my Little and Pony Leagues who had the same flashy moves as Joe did before Joe ever came up. I knew Houston wasn’t the place for him, so I was happy he got a new lease on baseball with Cincinnati as a key leader on the storied Big Red Machine. Baseball is much richer for his incredible contributions.
64. Johnny Bench batting .349
2078/5955 = .349…Bats Right/Catcher in the modern liveball era from 1967-1983.
Johnny is often accorded the title of the best measurable catcher both offensively and defensively in spite of being 50 points down from Yogi. Certainly being a key leader of the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati as the proverbial big stick added to his legend. He may well claim the mantle as the best Native American player in baseball history, probably as near a perfect career as any player could have much less a catcher, a position that gets beat up more than any other.
65. Rocky Colovito batting .347
1756/5058 = .347…Bats right/OF in the modern live ball era from 1955-1968.
Rocco had the perfect nickname in those Rocky Marciano dominated heavyweight champion years, and that added to his inquisitive looks and big bat made him one of our favorite players. Mysteriously traded out of Cleveland that infuriated the fans, he proved his worth and popularity by being elected among the 100 best Cleveland players in a big ceremony back in the day that included Shoeless Joe Jackson.
66. Rod Carew batting .342
2347/6857 = .342…Bats Left/1st base in the modern live ball era from 1967-1985
Sir Rodney was kinda stuck up in the sticks there in Minnesota until Free Agency allowed him a bigger salary with the Angels in southern California. A batting champ type of hitter, his best season was a .388 batting average. As a Jew from Panama, he attracted a bit more publicity in Minnesota than the quiet Carew cared for. I was honored to work with a fella who was our building super, also from Panama. He had roomed with Carew for a few years in the minor leagues, and needless to say, he thought quite highly of him anytime we talked baseball as most in baseball always have.
67. Tony Perez hitting .341
2545/7462 = .341…Bats right/1st/3rd base in the modern live ball era from 1964-1986
Had to include one of the most undersung players of the Big Red Machine as cross reference. An exceedingly competitive player, he also was known as a nice guy, disproving Leo Durocher’s observation of nice guys always finishing last. Pretty much a storybook career for the Cuban Kid.
68. Joe Carter batting .339
2219/6551 = .339…Bats right/OF in the modern live ball era from 1983-1998
Mo’Joe a popular player wherever he went, probably because of his easy going style that enabled the most of his abilities unlike many of his more talented peers who were better noted as Major League Pains in the Keister. Carter’s iconic moment is his walk-off home run to win the 1993 World Series for theToronto Blue Jays, the glory that will follow him wherever baseball fans congregate.
69. Jimmy Wynn hitting .335
1778/5513 = .335…Bats right/Centerfield in the modern live ball era from 1963-1977.
I don’t know if all those years roaming the Astrodome’s Astroturf did in his legs to shorten his career, but overall, the very popular Toy Cannon is somewhat forgotten. Hank Aaron edged him out the HR race one season, 39 to 37, but in a classy moment of truth as befits the Hammerin’ Hank, Aaron compared his HR friendly park to the unfriendly HR expanses of the Astrodome to acknowledge Jimbo as the true HR king that year.
70. Don Baylor hitting .334
2174/6510 = .334…Bats right/OF/DH in the modern live ball era from 1970 to 1988.
The Don was a scrambling, hardnosed player who held the very painful record for hit by pitches when he retired that was painfully broken by Craig Biggio a couple decades later. With all the greatest respect to Chief Wilson who holds the triple record that will never be broken, it has never been approached for 110 years, and Willie Wells, the great HOF Negro League shortstop, Baylor was the best MLB player coming out of my neck of the woods.
71. Andre Dawson batting .331
2526/7621 = .331…Bats right/OF in the modern live ball era from 1976-1996.
Can’t say I remember much about Andre other than he was lauded and made an aborted run the 500 homer mark because of leg injuries and being traded around.
72.Craig Biggio hitting .330
2728/8274 = .330…Bats right/2nd base/Centerfielder in the modern live ball era from 1988-2007.
The scrappy Biggio played very hard without being a jerk about it. Never a big slugger, he just got on base a fair amount and figured out how to score by hook or crook, one of the better base runners and base stealers of the era.
72. Carlton Fisk batting .330
2230/6767 = .330…Bats right/Catcher in the modern live ball era from 1969-1993.
Fisk was one of the best catchers in history, additionally blessed with longevity well beyond the norm in a position that gets beat up more than any other. That puts him at a higher value than many of the outfielders over him. And who can ever forget that iconic World Series homerun that caught Fisk jumping up and down on the first base line as he willed his pulled shot fair with flailing arms, just enough funky mojo that guided the wayward ball into hitting the foul pole for the favorable ruling.
72. Ryne Sandberg batting .330
2097/6347 = .330…Bats right/2nd base in the modern live ball era from 1981-1997
Can’t say I have many memories of Sandberg other than conservative political commentator George Will of Chicago always took pride in bigging him up as a premiere 2nd baseman for the Cubs. In spite of his lack of personal pizzazz, Sandberg seems to have taken considerable quiet pride in his work, enough to have put local fans in shock when he suddenly walked away from a multi-million dollar contract. He no longer had the desire and would not cheat his fans and teammates with a poor performance, an honorable man answering to the highest aspirations.
75. Lenny Dykstra hitting .329
1125/3424 = .329…Bats left/Centerfield in the modern live ball era from 1985-1996
The Chew Bacca Kid one of the more notorious players, most famously perhaps that of being so sloppy in his oral tobacco habits as exhibited dribbling down his chin and uniform while being viewed close up and personal on modern TV. The outrage was such that Baseball was forced to accommodate the public to ban those tobacco products from the field. So sloppy in his intoxicated driving habits that he drove drunken teammate Darren Daulton into a big tree, just about killing the two of them. As such, injuries started piling up on him that resulted in him losing the battle for supremacy over his mortal enemy, Darryl Strawberry, an equally star crossed talent. The self inflicted Lenny always seemed to create ever more pain and suffering for himself and others with no end in sight. No HOF for him.
76. Cal Ripken Jr batting .327
2911/8893 = .327…Bats right/SS in the modern live ball era from 1981-1998.
Not surprised to see Ironman Cal at this level as he was a very steady if unspectacular offensive presence. Add on his stellar defensive value at shortstop and team leadership, again, he ranks over all over many with better run production averages. Cal an example of, how to put it, the tabloid herd baseball media voter creep mentality compared to the early decades. His outstanding HOF vote is currently ranked as the #2 player at 98.5%, #4 overall including pitchers.
76. Ivan Rodriguez batting .327
2375/7257 = .327…Bats right/catcher in the modern live ball era from 1991-2011.
Pudge was a modern favorite catcher of mine who always produced in a fashion that I could point out to my kids. Kinda stained his reputation with PED revelations, but he a product of his generation.
78. Casey Stengal hitting .326
1050/3221 = .326…Bats Left/OF spanning the deadball to modern liveball era from 1912-1925 and then a manager well into the 1960s.
Folks forget just how good a player the Ol’ Perfessor was in his youth. He was a star in New York for the Dodgers, Robins, and Giants. Equally forgotten was that Casey was the one who hit the first two World Series homeruns in the new Yankee Stadium that Ruth “built,” not the Babe. He became even more famous as the long time Yankee manager and his incorporation of “Stengalese” into the International world of languages where he’d ramble on for about 5 minutes in interview. Reporters and bystanders were left scratching their noggins before admitting that they came away slightly more informed and greatly refreshed even if they couldn’t quite understand the whole. Everyone got his take on Billy Martin, one of his favorite pupils, “Now you take Ernie Lombardi who’s a big man and has a big nose and you take (Billy) Martin who’s a little man and has a bigger nose. How do you figure it?”
79. Pete Rose batting .321
3319/10,328 = .321…Bats Right/Utility player in the modern live ball era from 1963-1986.
Yes, as a highly aggressive, slap hitting all time hits leader, Rose was well overrated as compared to his actual runs produced%, but he was a helluva a team leader, clutch hitter, and sparkplug during game situations. Shame he didn’t have the ten cents of brains needed to avoid his gambling habit, but if he is as HOF worthy as his admirers maintain, there must be dozens more eligible that get scant notice and did read the posted notices in every clubhouse prohibiting the betting on baseball.
80. Rusty Staub batting .317
2363/7509 = .315…Bats Left/OF/1st base in the modern live ball era from 1963-1985.
Le Grande Orange was a solid 1st baseman and player rep. Very popular and steady presence even if unspectacular.
81. Dave Kingman batting .310
1669/5381 = .310…Bats Right/1st base/OF in the modern live ball era from 1971-1986.
Yeah, that colossus of the tape measure homeruns who was run out of baseball after mailing a live rat to a female sportswriter he was feuding with. One of the higher homerun percentage averages, he ended his final season with 35 homeruns, perfectly poised to break the 500 mark within two years. Just kinda didn’t give a flying flummox what anyone ever thought of him, so they finally gave him the boot.
82. Ichiro Suzuki hitting .294
1973/6717 = .294…Bats Left/center fielder in the modern liveball era from 2001-2015.
Suzuki, a much touted Japanese star, set the MLB season record for base hits with 262, breaking George Sisler’s record that stood for 84 years, quite an accomplishment, just not one of the all time run producing stars. I’d think his lack of walks and power are the culprits since his batting average is well over .300 and he runs well with near 500 stolen bases, an amazing 81% success rate. Made plenty enough money though with a unique, hustling style that draws positive attention from both fans and baseball professionals. Most certainly a surefire bet for the politically correct HOF voters who always know where their bread is buttered in baseball.
83. Chief Wilson hitting .291
1032/3542 = .291…Bats Left/RF/Centerfielder in the deadball era from 1908-1916
The long forgotten Chief is a trivia question of who owns the single season triple record. As it turned out, nobody, not even the Chief himself ever came close to his 1912 season when he rang up 36 triples. Playing National league ball mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates, his two best overall seasons were in 1911 with 12 triples, 72 Runs, 107 RBIs and batting .300, and then in 1912 with 36 triples, 80 Runs, 95 RBIs, and again a .300 average. His RP% for those combined years was 331/826 = .401, an excellent figure for those early deadball years. Though not a long career with only 9 seasons, clearly he was a grade above at the plate compared to many more touted modern players when you consider the low run production in his era compared to high run production today.
84. Brooks Robinson batting .278
2321/8340 = .278…Bats Right/3rd base in the modern live ball era from 1955-1977.
I had to include a couple of primary defensive players in this mix. As a defensive oriented 3rd baseman, Brooks was perhaps unparalleled. He could suck all the confidence and hits out of a team with his stellar play when on form. Pretty fair offensive production to boot, a decent number that served to make him one of the best at his position.
85. Ozzie Smith hitting .269
2022/7528 = .269…Switch hitter/SS in the modern live ball era from 1978-1996
The Wizard of Oz obviously never a big slugger at 150 listed pounds, but he more than made up for it by his spectacular entry onto the field doing back flips and his spectacular fielding like Brooks just above him. Also I remember a spectacular homerun he hit in a World Series game in a clutch situation, no doubt even amazing himself given that he barely cracked more than 2 dozen homeruns in his long career. Just goes to show what can happen when Man and Moment manage to fuse at the right point in time.
86. Billy Martin batting .253
694/2745 = .253…Bats Right/2nd Base in the modern live ball era from 1950-1961 and longtime manager well into the 80s
One of the most notorious players and managers ever, it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s just say he had a short, incredibly scrappy career in a storied Yankee era chock full of storied HOFers and overall talent. Like his sworn enemy, Reggie Jackson, Billy did his best work in the World series. Best buds with Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, the trio did their best to paint New York drunk as patrons and bartenders everywhere feted them at every stop. Then the dozens of fights, perhaps not as prolific on and off the field as Ty Cobb, but Billy probably ranks second in that list with more KOs than Cobb. His reputation was such that he got offers to turn pro in boxing, but I doubt he ever had the discipline to train and the mentality to control his emotions in the ring. So his kind of trouble was foreordained to be blamed and immediately traded by the Yankees in the famed Copacabana incident after a bowling club picked the wrong night to racially heckle Sammy Davis Jr on stage. That resulted in an epic, table clearing, saloon brawl between the Yanks and the bowlers much to the bowler’s painful demise. As it turned out later, Hank Bauer actually threw the punch that flattened the one poor bowling slob that made all the screaming headlines.
Billy finally squeezed his way into management and later on managed the Yankees to a couple of pennants, winning one World Series before hitting the road after a vicious dispute with Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner. Egged on by a reporter in a bar, the drunken Martin asserted, “They deserve each other. One’s a born liar and the other’s convicted,” Jackson being the born liar and Steinbrenner being convicted for illegal donations to the 1972 Richard Nixon election campaign that resulted in Steinbrenner’s suspension from baseball for 15 months, a major thorn in his backside that Martin ripped open for renewed public humiliation. He returned later in a rotating cast of Steinbrenner’s managers until he did indeed flatten a 220 lb marshmallow salesman in a bar fracas that made headlines across the country and earned Billy the Yankee boot.
We couldn’t make up Billy Martin’s life if we tried, it’s so much stranger than fiction. As a scrawny 150 lb alcoholic in his mid 50s managing Oakland, the team got in an brawl on the field that Martin jumped in to cross buttocks lift the beefy 220 lb league Angels homerun leader, Tony Armas, and throw him to the ground to break his collarbone. That knocked poor Armas, in the middle of his best ever season, onto the disabled list . Anyone with an IQ knew not to mess with Billy and all the players knew it, but tempers do flare under his biting criticisms. Martin died in a drunken single car accident on Christmas Day, 1989, just months before he was scheduled to take over Yankee reins again. They broke the mold with Billy Martin for sure.
Pitchers: Believe it or not, there was Once Upon A Time when all pitchers took their places in the batting rotation, this before the idiocy of the Designated Hitter. Many took great pride in their offensive production as they rightly should have in this all around team sport of baseball as it used to be played. Here are four representative pitchers also considered excellent hitters. I don’t include them with the player rankings for obvious reasons, but their runs produced averages may surprise you.
Smokey Joe Wood hitting .379
568/1500 = .379…Bats right/Pitcher/OF in the deadball era from 1908-1922
If Smoky Joe were ranked with the players on this list, he’d be above a couple of dozen HOFers well placed in the top 50 between Mike Piazza and Eddie Mathews. A big World Series hero for the Boston Red Sox in 1912 with an incredible 3-1 record, he is also in the top 10 modern pitchers for Win% and ERA, his 116-57 record yielding a Win% of .671%, and ERA of 2.03. This in spite of hurting his pitching hand midway through his career that dragged his final pitching numbers down as he became more and more limited. Possessing an all time great competitive mentality, he switched to becoming an everyday player to keep his bat in play. Why he ain’t in the HOF is a stain on baseball that they can never erase. He’s dead now after living for 96 years, so the HOF had plenty of time to rectify their ignorance, but they blew it. It’s too late for him to care anymore or for them to show a flickering glimmer of baseball intelligence. A cosmic irony exists between him and Babe Ruth after they had a sillyboy, cartoonish scrap that left some lifetime bad feelings in Babe’s rookie year as a pitcher. They both ended up with the same pitching career winning % @ .671, as close as any blood brothers in perpetuity can ever be possible.
Don Newcombe batting .276
187/678 = .276…Bats left/Pitcher in the modern day liveball era from 1949-1960
Don another HOF worthy pitcher still alive, but again baseball is blowing it since he’ll be 90 years old this June 14th and has to wait out yet another year for the chance he may be inducted. At his age, every year is like living out 7 dog years, so he may not be around to see it. His record of 149-90 yields a .623 winning percentage, in the top 50 of modern pitchers and a solid 3.56 ERA. Part of the class of Negro Leaguers first breaking into MLB in the late 40s, he was the first black pitcher to appear in the World Series, the first black 20 game winner, and in 1956 reached a rare pinnacle in baseball when he won both Most Valuable player and Cy Young among many other accolades. As a point of comparison to these most excellent first two listed pitchers, let us compare to touted HOFer Sandy Koufax who’s pitching record was 165-87, 2.76 ERA with win % of .655, World Series record of 4-3, yet his career hitting was horrid, 53/753 = RP% of 0.069. Unfortunately Newcombe was tagged as a loser because he lost 3 World Series games with no wins. No shame in that as poor World Series performances also dogged a number of highly touted HOF players like Ty Cobb and Ted Williams, but the twisted die of The Fates was cast as he now remains an outcast from the HOF, a terrible stain on baseball.
Bob Lemon hitting .266
258/971 = .266…Bats Left/Pitcher in the modern liveball era from 1942-1958
Ye olde Bobster was a rarity in that he turned pro as a seldom used 3rd baseman/pinch hitter for his first two years before going off to WW2 for 4 years, then amazingly returning as a pitcher. His record is 207-128 for a winning % of .618, again a very good number with a solid ERA of 3.23. Sports 2 World Series wins and stints as a manager, most notably with the Yankees in 1978 when Lemon replaced the detonating Billy Martin after he unloaded his true feelings about Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner to a reporter during a boozy encounter at a bar, ripping open fresh wounds that found Martin hitting the road again. The team rallied around the easy going Lemon to end up beating the Dodgers in a classic world series battle. Lemon is rightly in the HOF.
Walter Johnson batting .255
472/1851 = .255…Bats Right/Pitcher splitting the deadball era with modern liveball from 1908-1927.
The Big Train was aptly named thanks to a natural sidewinder Express Special that ranks with any of the best fastballers in history. Like Nolan Ryan, he later extended out his career by learning the curve and a few other pitches to mix up increasingly younger batters. Always a dangerous hitter because of his size and strength, he unofficially led the league in batting in a one off year past his prime at age 38 with an outstanding .433 batting average, a .455 on base average, and a .577 slugging average that yielded an impressive RP% of 30/62 = .484. He’s 2nd in career wins and complete games for 20th century pitchers, his 417-279 record yielding a .599 winning % and one of the lowest ERAs at 2.17, all accumulated with the congenitally weak Washington Senators. Thus most consider him the best all around pitcher in history and he’s certainly not that far down from Ozzy Smith’s run produced average and above Billy Martin’s.
World Series performances, traditionally baseball’s biggest event that the New York Yankees ruled over these many years, so how about some comparisons between the biggest Yankee names? Order is by eras of course.
Casey Stengel, 3 years: BA .368, OB% .436, SA .564, R 5, RBI 4, HR 2, RP% 7/16 = .438. Casey of course played for the Yankee’s National League New York rivals, the Robins and the Giants, and even more impressively against the Yankees. Manager record of 1905-1842 = .508% with 7 World Series wins and 10 pennants.
Wally Pipp, 3 years: BA .224, OB% .284, SA .254, R 3, RBI 7, HR 0, RP% 10/57 = .175
Babe Ruth, 10 years: BA .326, OB% .467, SA .744, R 37, RBI 33, HR 15, pitching record of 3-0, 0.87 ERA, plus a then record 27 consecutive shutout innings not to mention what is still the longest WS complete game, winning 2-1 over 14 innings, his batting RP% translating to 55/96 = .573
Lou Gehrig, 7 years: BA .361, OB% .477, SA .731, R 30, RBI 35, HR 10, All time World Series slugging record of 1.727, RP% 55/81 = .679
Earl Combs, 4 years: BA .350, OB% .444, SA .450, R 17, RBI 9, HR 1, RP% 25/40 = .625. The Kentucky Colonel the prototypical DiMaggio centerfielder before there was a DiMaggio, his 12 year career RP% being a stellar .438.
Joe DiMaggio, 10 years: BA .271, OB% .338, SA .422, R 27, RBI 30, HR 8, RP% 49/153 = .320
Yogi Berra, 14 years: BA .274, OB% .359, SA .452, R 41, RBI 39, HR 12, RP% 68/196 = .347 and a manager record of 484-444 with some modest success.
Billy Martin, 5 years: BA .333, OB% .371, SA .566, R 15, RBI 19, HR 5, RP% 29/75 = .387 and a manager record of 1253-1013 = .553 with one World Series win.
Mickey Mantle, 12 years: BA .257, OB% .374, SA .535, R 42, RBI 40, HR 18, RP% 64/177 = .362
Brian Doyle, 1 year: BA .438, OB% .438, SA .500, R 4, RBI 2, HR 0, RP% 6/9 = .667…Doyle had the ultimate Walter Mitty rookie season in the 1978 World Series when he stepped in for the injured Willie Randolph at 2nd base. Fielded flawlessly also, a perfect 1.000 fielding record, amazing numbers when considering that he was never more than a project that never panned out during his 4 years as a pro. His weak career BA .161, OB% .201, and SA .191 contrasted to his decent fielding as a 2nd baseman/utility infielder. Even his stolen base record was a scrawny 1-5 for an SB% of .167, arguably the most pitiable career record of any note in baseball. His career RP% was 30/182 = .165, meaning he could barely hit his listed weight in runs as it were. Oh the irony of what an incredible World Series Doyle had compared to poor Dave Winfield who couldn’t produce runs at half his listed weight.
Reggie Jackson, 10 years: BA .357, OB% .457, SA .755, R 21, RBI 24, HR 10, RP% 35/66 = .530
Dave Winfield, 2 years: BA .136, OB% .255, SA .159, R 0, RBI 4, HR 0, RP% 4/39 = .103
Derek Jeter, 7 years: BA .321, OB% .384, SA .449, R 32, RBI 9, HR 3, RP% 38/112 = .339
Alex Rodriguez, 1 year: BA .250, OB% .423, SA .550, R 5, RBI 6, HR 1, RP% 10/15 = .667
Clearly Babe the best World series performer due to his out of this world pitching. Those Boston years held his batting opportunities down, yet he’s still near the top in every batting category. Lou Gehrig next with monstrous Run Production for those 7 World Series years. You’d have to say Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra next, but then again given their overall raw run production over 12 and 14 years respectively, we could also put them at the top of the heap. Then Joe DiMaggio who proves you don’t have to have flashy base averages if you can produce in the clutch over a ten year stretch. Heresy has a case regarding Reggie Jackson with his flashy base averages, yet down on his 10 year total run production, but perhaps could be over Joe by dent of superior RP%. Problem being that unheralded Earl Combs has flashy base averages over a 4 year series with a stellar RP% of .625 that is spectacular by any other measure. Then we have Derek Jeter and Billy Martin, Jeter having longevity of more years and Martin having a higher RP% and a managerial World Series win also. Alex Rodriguez had top shelf RP % his one year, .667, as did the late yet not so great Brian Doyle, but what about Casey Stengel who had flashy base totals and excellent RP% production for his 3 years, .438, so how do the stats boys parse up that disconnect between the number of chances at the plate. How do we parse Stengel’s prodigious post season Pennants and World Series championships won as a manager? Is Stengal the best World Series performer? It’s a shame ARod only had that one year in such a long career whereas Wally Pipp had 3 WS years for a less than mediocre .175 RN%. Nobody doubts that Dave Winfield brings up the rear here, an amazing 75% down from Wally Pipp’s low production, a washerwoman average of .103…WoW.
*** Now, some particulars on Runs Produced and Outs stats:
The career leaders of Runs Produced are respectively, Ty Cobb with 4066, Hank Aaron with 3716, and the Babe with 3673. The top three career Outs leaders are Pete Rose with 10,328, Hank Aaron with 9136, and Carl Yastrezmski with 9126. More specifically to Runs Produced, Lou Gehrig established the season record of 301 in 1931 that has never been seriously challenged. Babe Ruth is 2nd with 289 and Lou is also 10th and 11th all time, the only multi season Runs Produced leader through the top 11 spots. Lou appears 7x in the top 42 as Babe appears 5x in the top 48. Nobody, most especially post WW2 players or those in the modern Homerun friendly era of the past 2 decades come remotely close to Lou and Babe in the top 50, proving that something has been lost in the game with the modern, unholy focus on the homerun at the expense of what managers used to stress, that of bat contact to put the ball in play that reduced out totals by reducing strikeouts while increasing base hits and opposition defensive errors. Babe was often derisively derided as a strikeout artist in his day, yet only ranks a modest 115th all time compared to outrageous modern strikeout numerous players totaling almost twice as many strikeouts, numbers generated by financial rewards for big, strong, loose cannons to always be swinging for the fences.
The cross referencing of demographics between the 12 decades represented with the averages is as follows:
Top Ten Runs Produced Averages consisted of 9 white players and one Jew, 5 being lefties balanced with 5 righties. There were 6 Liveball players and 4 who played both deadball and liveball. Ty Cobb turning pro in 1906 was the earliest player, ranked 7th, and Ted Williams the most modern, 1960 being his last season, ranked 3rd. Ted also the first player appearing who played most of his years in the integrated era though Joe DiMaggio did play his last 4 years at the beginnings of integration. The cream of the top 10 were the top 3, all lefties, all white, and representing an incredible depth of the baseball spectrum with Babe turning pro for the last 6 years in the deadball era, Gehrig playing all his years at the early beginnings of the liveball era, and Williams playing most of his years at the start of integration, a 46 year span from the oldest era to modern era to be exact. Oddly, they also represent in their fashion a steady offensive decline over all in baseball as seen through the general run production figures that have dwindled after them.
Of all the 90 players cited: The racial demographics cannot reflect baseball’s overall historical demographics because these are just my limited selection of notable players that I judged would provide excellent comparisons across the history of baseball. The current US population demographics are 77% White, 17% Latino, 13% Black, 5% Asian, 2% Jewish, 1% Native American Indian, which of course adds up to 115% since these are soft social science based stats politically calculated, not scientifically calculated. Regardless, the 90 players I’ve chosen break down to 58% White, 28% Black, 9% Latino, 2% Native American Indian, 1% Asian, and 2% Jewish. The raw numbers are 52 White, 25 Black, 9 Latino, 2 Native American Indian, 2 Jew, 1 Asian. The 11th – 50th rank breakdown as 24 White, 11 Black, 5 Latino. The 51st to 90th breakdown also includes the 4 unranked pitchers to yield 21 White, 12 Black, 4 Latino, 2 Native American Indian, 1 Jew(I included Rod Carew both as Latino and Jew as my tribute to the soft science of political population demographics!) and 1 Asian.
So, of my necessarily limited selection of noted players, Whites are underrepresented per current US population demographics, blacks are over-represented, and Latinos under represented with the Asian, Jewish, and Native American Indian populations being too statistically small in this study to make a judgement other than they are approximately represented. As I have emphasized, the players were chosen to give a broad sampling of the demographics as a point of comparison.
Batting stance figures breakdown: 47 are Righties, 39 are Lefties, 4 are Switch Hitters. The 11th – 50th rank breakdown is 20 Lefties, 18 Righties, 2 Switch Hitters. The 51st to 90th breakdown also includes the 4 unranked pitchers to yield 24 Righties, 14 lefties, 2 Switch Hitters. Obviously Lefties have always been favored overall in baseball because of their unorthodox spin put upon thrown and hit baseballs plus the fact that they are one step closer to first base than a right handed batter. Their numbers show it in spades. Another factor seldom talked about in media accounts are the number of lefty batters that throw righthanded, perhaps yielding a somewhat superior mixed or ambidextrous coordination that more conventional players lack. Babe Ruth for example bowled as well lefty as he did righty.
Similar advantages for Lefties have been showing up in boxing now that they are allowed to compete using their natural stance. They cause all kinds of problems with their atypical footwork and punch delivery in boxing. Used to be trainers would “convert” Lefties into Orthodox fighters, because otherwise, no manager wanted his fighter to have to look bad against awkward fighting Lefties, leaving Lefties to either convert or drop out of the fight game. Some 40% of pro tennis players today are estimated to be Lefties, and it is claimed that 5 of the last US Presidents have been Lefties not that the public could ever discern such idiosyncrasies on TV. Other notable lefties were Albert Einstein and Leonardo DaVinci not that most of us could ever know. Lefties are estimated to be 12% of the population, so they are well over represented in these top baseball players I’ve chosen.
Era Breakdowns: 7 played in the Deadball era, 9 played both in Deadball and Liveball eras, and 74 played in the Liveball era. The 11th – 50th rank breakdown is 4 in Deadball, 1 in Both Deadball and Liveball, and 35 in Liveball. The 51st to 90th breakdown also includes the 4 unranked pitchers to yield 3 in Deadball, 3 in Both Deadball and Liveball, and 34 in Liveball.
Breakdown by position: Since all the positions are well represented in this study, there is no need to provide a complete breakdown. I was more interested in the top 25 where I expected outfielders who comprise 3 of the traditional 9 positions in baseball and 1st basemen would dominate, but boy did I get a surprise. Outfielders did dominate with 11 places, but the traditionally weak by the numbers 2nd basemen tied with the 1st basemen with 5 apiece with both positions represented in the top ten. Shortstop and 3rd basemen tied with 2 apiece outside of the top 10, so those positions would seem to be the rarest for the kind of top slugging as measured by Run Production%. Of course the most difficult player position given the overall pounding they put on their bodies daily, catcher, is not represented in the top 25 in this study, but as I go into further research, perhaps the all time underrated catcher will emerge.
Breakdown by Leagues: Oh dear, Heresy having a field day running rampant here as the Junior league, the Americans, easily outpace the Senior league, the Nationals, with 8 of the 10 best players to just 2 for the Nationals. And to top off the beleaguered National League misery with a healthy dollop of pity, their two two slots are only good for 8th and 9th, oh my! To be fair, it was generally understood that the American League was supposed to have enforced a different strike zone than the Nationals, but that’s nothing that could be really proven. Most players are affected by changes in ballparks and managers more than they are just changing leagues. Frank Robinson was a triple crown winner in both leagues as an exceptional example.
There are seasons and then there are legendary SEASONS, so let’s take a look at the RP% of the legends’ most legendary seasons.
Few stats get the attentions of fans more than .400 batting averages to start this analysis. Ty Cobb had 3 such seasons, his best being in the deadball era, a .420 BA yielding an RP% of 249/354 = .703, a fine figure by any measure for any 25 year old. Just so happens that 24 year old Shoeless Joe Jackson set the rookie record of .408 that same year, producing a RP% 202/344 = .587 to also lose out on the batting title, but still, a fantastic season for both. Then The Rajah, 28 year old Rogers Hornsby, set the new lively ball era on fire in 1924 with the all time modern batting average of .424 yielding an RP% of 190/334 = .569, excellent, but perhaps not as lively as the era claimed to be, so lets look at his 1921 season, a BA of .401 with his most season homeruns, 42. That made for an RP% of 251/400 = .628, an excellent number, so moving on to his 1925 season of a .403 BA with 39 homeruns, that yields an RP% of 237/320 = .741, deep into the brilliant range. Raj could hit a bit, don’t ya know.
Enter Ted Williams in 1941 as the last .400 hitter in baseball with his .406 average as 23 year old phenom yielding an RP% of .770, well beyond the brilliant range. Alas, unbelievably Ted lost out in the MVP balloting to Joe DiMaggio who set the all time consecutive games with a base hit record, 56, batting .408 during the streak. That 56 game streak yielded an RP% of 96/135 = .711, which of course had dropped by the end of season to a RP% of 217/356 = .610, both clearly well below Ted not to mention Joe’s final .357 batting average also well under, but hey, Joe was the nicer, quieter, New York type of classy hero as compared to the media combative Ted who spake as a god only to rebuke his dowager media critics at every scribble of their poison pens. Looking at Joe’s career batting stats, I judged his 2nd year in 1937 as a 23 year old was clearly his best season, so I ran the RP% to net 272/422 = .645 and I was right, just not in the class of Ted.
Joe always resented Ted for horning in on his American league accolades, but it was never recorded as far as I can find what his reaction was when the Yankees proposed a straight up swap with Boston for Williams. Both could have enhanced their career numbers making for bigger gates for both teams, but Boston wisely insisted on the Yankees throwing in Yogi Berra who was a raw rookie catcher, thereby deprecating Joe’s value in his eyes and queering that deal. Ted also had a triple crown season leading the league in homeruns, batting average, and RBIs in 1942, only to lose out to a 2nd baseman, another Yankee named Joe “Flash” Gordon who was conspicuously well down in those numbers. Let’s compare: Ted batted .356 BA, 30 HR, and 137 RBIs as opposed to Flash’s .322 BA, 18 HR, 103 RBIs. Ted’s RP% was 242/350 = .691 to Flash’s 173/400 = .433, a fine number but well down from Ted. Ted had another Triple Crown 1947 yielding an RP% of 207/359 = .577, yet this third outstanding season was not the charm when he lost the MVP to Joe, yup, DiMaggio again whose RP% being the obvious lesser at 174/380 = .458. Clearly the New York centric press preferred to endlessly gush over the subservient Joe as opposed to getting skewered by the fiery Ted regardless of the numbers.
Hows about record setting homerun seasons starting with the Babe in 1919 when he smashed all the obscure homerun records the press could scour up dating back to before the turn of the century set in bandbox playing fields with flat bats?That was also Babe’s last season as a regular starting pitcher, his 9-5 wins, a .643 winning % and ERA 2.97 being a mighty fine addition to Babe’s 29 record deadball homeruns where his RP% was 188/296 = .635, indubitably the best all around season that any player ever had. Set a couple of more homerun records the next two years by breaking his old homerun marks, but his last record setting season was 1927 as a slightly worn out 32 year old pro settling in the “unbreakable” 60 homerun mark. Of course much later that record was broken in the expanded 162 game season much to the misery of the record breakers, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, and *BALCO Barry Bonds*. Babe produced a brilliant RP% of 262/368 = .712 that 1927 season. Roger Maris incrementally broke that record with one more homerun in the new extended 162 game season, 61 homeruns yielding a RP% of 212/462 = .459, very sweet, his best season ever, but hardly Ruthian. It was the 35 year old Big Mac who shattered the homerun record beyond belief with 70 homeruns in 1998, yielding a RP% of 207/369 = .561, outstanding, but somewhere in time the most essential offensive numbers in baseball that all the good managers instinctively used to evaluate players, Runs Produced as compared to Outs made, has lost out to the monstrosity of modern grooved homerun swings. almost like honing a horizontal version of a vertical golf swing at the tee box. The 37 year old *BALCO Barry* infamously busted Mac’s unbreakable 70 mark in 3 years later in 2001 with 73 homeruns, 24 more than his best ever homerun mark, yet only yielding an RP% of .585, a fine figure for sure but hardly supportive of his record setting slugging average of .863, all far beyond his best prime year averages. Clearly all this just crazy cash grab quest for ever more homeruns.
However, *Bonds* did have his moment of irony in 2004 when he shattered Intentional Base on Balls record with 232 deliberate passes. That led to a new OB% record of .609, yet only cracking a “puny” 45 homeruns that yielded an RP% of 185/247 = .749, finally cracking into Ruthian territory because of his walks, not his homeruns. He was also wisely being rested that season with 16 pinch hit days in between his 132 games started. After all, he was 40 years old now and due for another serious leg injury that would limit him to just 14 games the next season in 2005 as his career was winding down.
OK, another dominant record that likely stands until baseball alters the rules enough to break it is Big Mac’s 49 homerun rookie record set as a 24 year old. He famously ducked out of the last couple of games of the season to be with his wife during childbirth, a modern man in support of his wife and child over baseball records that may have been great feel good press in the day, but couldn’t keep his wife from divorcing him and the press from skewering him later. His RP% was 166/411 = .404, solid numbers just under his career mark, but hardly spectacular. The year Hank Aaron shattered Babe Ruth’s legendary 714 homerun record was the last good year the 39 yr old Aaron had in him, so how good was it? Easy to figure, his RP% being 140/286 = .490, not bad for an ol’ timer and one of his top seasons. Ty Cobb past his prime famously put on a show for the media and fans by announcing he was going strictly for homeruns for the first time of his career after carefully evaluating the warm spring winds blowing out to the short St Louis Browns right field. He was 6 for 6 with 3 HR, 2 singles and 1 double that not only tied the then single game HR mark, but broke the total bases record for a game with 16, a mark that stood for near 90 years not to mention one blast completely cleared the park to land in the street. His slugging average was a HUGE 2.667 and his RP% was 6/0 which is infinity in this formula if a player doesn’t make an out, so I included the next day where he was still going for homers but made 3 outs to calculate his RP%(I added 1 caught stolen out that I cannot prove) as 12/4 = 3.000 for those two games where he cracked 5 total HRs. Damned fine work for a gnarly ol’ man, but he stubbornly went back to his traditional place hitting style knowing he could never duplicate those exact conditions again. And how about 21 year old Ted Williams rookie RP% of 245/394 = .622, a mark that I seriously doubt has ever been exceeded by any touted rookie in MLB history, a record that could be properly recorded if baseball ever got their act together.
We can’t forget Lou Gehrig who holds the all time seasonal Runs Produced record with 301, so what was his RP% that 1931 season? Easy enough to figure, 301/413 = .729 which is brilliant, but what about Hack Wilson setting the all time major league RBI record that has never been challenged, 191 RBI in 1930? I’m thinking that was Hacks best year as he also set the National homerun record with 56 that yielded an RP% of 281/395 = .711, very close to Lou’s mark. What about the Babe who’s 289 mark Lou shattered? That was set in 1921 when the 26 year old Babe also broke his previous homerun records for the 3rd time, blasting 59 over the walls. Better grab your crotch so the family jewels don’t crack open on the pavement, his RP% yielded 289/353 = .819! That may well be the all time seasonal RP% record, but we could never really know without a computer program to automatically calculate all the MLB averages for us.
Perhaps not so legendary but quite popular with media and fans, the two closest players near a .400 batting average season of the past 35 years were George Brett in 1980 with a superb .390 BA and Tony Gwynn in 1994 with a sublime .394 BA. The Brett RP% numbers are 181/298 = .607, an excellent season as it turned out, one of the top seasons since then. The Gwynn RP% numbers are 131/280 = .468, good enough to be well over his career average, but not so gaudy as the greats.
Deadball/Liveball crossover RP% averages: Ty Cobb logged 15 years in the deadball era, his RP% being 2560/4878 = .525, only two points down on his career RP% average of .527, so he seems to have benefited slightly in his declining years with liveball. Tris Speaker logged 13 years in deadball for a RP% yielding 1812/4223 = .429, well down from his career mark of .463, meaning he must have been over the .500 mark during his liveball days, a fantastic improvement. Babe famously a league leading pitcher during his 6 deadball years, yet his RP% was 383/787 = .487, amazingly good enough to be 10th on this list, meaning he was well over his career RP% of .638 during the liveball era which is already tops as far as I can see. What about the Rajah, Rogers Hornsby’s 5 deadball years, an RP% of 512/1434 = .357? Clearly he had to average well over his .518 career mark to raise it that high, more proof that the live ball benefited the free swingers who were still disciplined by the prevailing baseball ethic of putting the ball in play to reduce the number of outs and advance any runners. Ty Cobb never changed his conservative style, so stayed pretty much the same.
The All Time RP% teams: We could have a pretty fair country World Series drafting the #1 and #2 position players if we then threw the dice to swap out 4 player positions with each other and one pitcher from each team to randomly balance the team’s strength. First Team is Babe Ruth/OF, Ted Williams/OF, Joe DiMaggio/Centerfield, Lou Gehrig/1st base, Rogers Hornsby/2nd base, Honus Wagner/SS, Pie Traynor/3rd base, Yogi Berra/Catcher, Smokey Joe Woods/Pitcher, Don Newcombe/Pitcher. That’s 4 Yankees being the greatest at their individual positions folks, an incredible number proving that it helps to be on a strong offensive team. Second Team is Ty Cobb/OF, Mel Ott/OF, Hack Wilson/Centerfield, Jimmy Foxx/1st base, Charlie Gehringer/2nd base, Alex Rodriguez/SS, Chipper Jones/3rd base, Mike Piazza/Catcher, Bob Lemon/P, Walter Johnson/Pitcher. Of course Walter Johnson as good as the other three pitchers combined in career pitching numbers, but prime to prime the other pitchers were quite formidable on the mound, especially Smoky Joe. The strange, unlikely surprises on the 2nd team are Hack Wilson and Chipper Jones, but I can’t help the numbers folks, they were 2nd best at their positions over many more touted HOFers. Same deal with Mike Piazza rated over Johnny Bench, who’d have ever thunk it? Starting this project, I had my general ideas where the players would fall, but now feel quite a bit more educated than before because of the hidden gems of underrated greatness that these numbers opened up. Maybe some day some baseball computer whiz will create the program to calculate the top 1000 like they do at Baseball Almanac for their other offensive stats.
Traditional League to League All Star teams: Picking the best position players by position in this study results in the following teams with their rank in the selection process from 1-20.
AL- Babe Ruth OF #1, Lou Gehrig 1st Base #2, Ted Williams OF #3, Joe DiMaggio Centerfield #4, Charlie Gehringer 2nd Base #7, Alex Rodriguez SS #11, Yogi Berra Catcher #14, Smokey Joe Woods Pitcher #15, George Brett 3rd Base #16, Bob Lemon Pitcher #19.
NL- Rogers Hornsby 2nd Base #5, Hack Wilson Centerfield #6, Mel Ott OF #8, Honus Wagner SS #9, Stan Musial OF #10, Jeff Bagwell 1st Base #11, Pie Traynor 3rd Base #13, Johnny Bench Catcher #17, Don Newcombe Pitcher #18, Greg Maddox Pitcher #20.
AL has the top 4 players by good measure, but the NL quickly starts to fill the middle of the top 10. DiMaggio outperforms Hack anywhere but Wrigley Field where he can match him. Keep in mind these are prime to prime matchups. The 2nd Base, SS, and catcher matchups are competitive, but Gehrig will smash the game Bagwell at 1st Base and Ruth and Williams will pound out Musial and Ott with ease. Traynor has the edge over Brett at 3rd, but the pitchers are fairly evenly matched save the big RP% advantage of the AL.
Also note Bagwell and Rodriguez are tied at #11 because they have the same RP%, so the #12 position is skipped. I put in Musial over Bonds as I could not justify Bonds prime years preBALCO average of .441 over Musial’s .445 which also includes his declining years. Doubt the team would want Bonds either since Musial is one of baseball’s consummate team players whereas Bonds would be sulking in the clubhouse if he couldn’t have his BALCO vitamins.
Just think of the great AL outfielders who didn’t make it like Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe, Tris Speaker, and Mickey Mantle and the great 1st basemen like Jimmy Foxx and Hank Greenburg? And what about the great NL outfielders missing like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron? What can top the outrage of all time great Walter Johnson just losing out by a thread based on his RP%? This RP% study is a savagery of primal baseball numbers that doesn’t necessarily respect legends. Also note I chose the primary positions of the players so as not to stock the Catching position with a Jimmy Foxx type ringer for example. Additionally, this is not a comprehensive study, but rather a selection of representative types of players that luckily turned out to be fairly well balanced demographically save the top 20 racial demographics.
Now for the ALLTIME Wild Card Baseball team representing the Great State of Texas that has bragging rights over all other states: It just so happens that among the greatest HOFers emanating from Texas, an outstanding 8 man team could be fielded for 8 of the positions needed, only needing a catcher and another OFer to complete a ten man team. Eddie Mathews at 3rd base, Joe Morgan at 2nd base, with Rogers Hornsby and Ernie Banks swapping back and forth between SS and 1st base to keep them fresh for the SS position that gets beat up a lot. Tris Speaker would be centerfielder, Frank Robinson OF, and pitchers Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddox. To complete the All Star Texas team, I’d pick the great Negro Leaguer Biz Mackey from Eagle Pass for catcher and Don Baylor from Austin for OF. The great manager Cum Posey who managed both Josh Gibson and Biz thought Biz was the better at actually catching and handling the pitcher. He also hit for a high average, only lacking the monstrous power of Josh. Don Baylor is included on this list at the RP% of .334 that you can read about. I didn’t include 300 game winners Maddox or Ryan on this study because they were more noted for pitching, but the Maddox RP% is 182/1519 = .120 and Ryan 74/839 = .088, so you can see the 4 pitchers I did include in my survey are hugely better batters than are Maddox and Ryan. Nor did I include Mr. Cub, long time HOFer Ernie Banks, but his RP% is 2429/7261 = .335, just barely above Baylor as the most immediate point of comparison at #69.
I’ll flat out state it hard and up front, both Biz and Don are more HOF worth than many HOF players already chosen, but hey, it ain’t their fault they were so much better at what they did than the cloddish writers who make these too often laughable HOF selections that exclude them. I dare say this Texas team could beat every other state in a World Series type format. This team is just that good! No other state comes close to being able to being able to field 8 great HOFers for a complete team than does Texas. Why that is, well, guess you’ll just have to ask the baseball gods who arrange such things.
Dual sport NFL/MLB Numbers Smackdown:
First Bo Jackson and then a few years later Deion Sanders overlapped NFL and MLB careers with Jackson being an exciting premiere running back for a few seasons before a permanent injury knocked him out of football. Sanders was able to keep on going a long time premiere defensive back. Bo played his baseball in the AL league and Deion in the NL league, so how’d that work for them?
The Jackson career RP% numbers are 615/1886 = .327, solid work for his BA of .250, OB% of .309, and SA of .474 over 8 years that include a few years playing with an artificial hip. Sanders played for 9 years total, his RP% being 437/1673 = .261 that represent his career BA of .263, OB% of .319, and SA of .392. My take on these numbers that show Jackson well over Sanders is that Jackson used his superior slugging style to more successfully drive in runners on base. Lets compare best years with Jackson’s 1989 season yielding an PR% of 159/406 = .392, an fine number anyway you slice it where he had his highest runs scored and RBIs in his most at bats, meaning he was at his healthiest and in the lineup the whole season because he was producing so well. Sanders best year was 1992 with career best in AB, BA, OB%, SA, Runs scored and RBIs yielding an RP% of 74/218 = .339, a solid number, yet again his best was well down from the Jackson best.
So there it is with Jackson having the better baseball career and Sanders having the better football career due to his greater longevity, but wow, for those few years Bo Jackson played football, he dominated all the attention as a Heisman Trophy/All Pro type halfback specializing in incredibly long runs. Perhaps his best moment was one of power when at the goal line steaming in for a score, the collegiate defensive player of their shared eras, linebacker Brian Bosworth, hit him square on for the stoppage, fundamental football 101. Alas, an unexpected problem cropped up during that “Boz vs Bo” moment when it turned out Bo had never read that script, ducking his shoulder under Boz to ignominiously dump him like a sack of potatoes into the end zone for the big score.
First and Last players of the integration era:
Technically, Bud Fowler was the first recorded professional black baseball player of any note, starting somewhere around 1872-1874 and playing for many hit and miss years afterwards. Stats, rules, and teams of those early years were too fleeting, too crude, and too evolving to give him any sort of reliable numbers that would mean much in today’s context. What could have meant something had MLB had any honor, was that, contrary to their well debunked “creation” history of baseball by General Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York, MLB could have acknowledged that Fowler was the first black player of note and he did indeed grow up in Cooperstown under his birth name, John W Jackson, the only genuine historical baseball connection to that town. We don’t know why Fowler changed his name, but no matter, he was touted as a stellar 2nd baseman, and, of course, like most players of that era, he could also play most positions including pitcher. This photo shows a very diminutive, cultured looking man, quite literally featured as the centerpiece of the otherwise all white Vermont Keokuk team. Reportedly he also gave running exhibitions and could cover a mile in 4:56, a time few track athletes of the day could do, something I doubt any ball player in history could match much less attempt.
I’d think that if anyone deserves to be in Cooperstown, it might be one of the earliest residents of that town who just so happened to be a superior ballplayer and athlete in a raw, uncertain era. He was an early pioneer who might actually clean up the poor baseball history a bit with his own exhibit and acknowledgement that some of those old timers were quite prescient in their views on racial inclusion before the segregated, dual league MLB was ever birthed. Yeah, I know, that’s asking a lot of the herd of grazing baseball scribes who primarily paint baseball in languid, pastoral terms, now sprinkled with dubious sabremetric stats derived from complex formulas given catchy names, the net result being that a quantum mechanics professor would be scratching his noggin trying to figure out what in the Sam Hill is this Rube Goldberg gobbledygook all about? Ain’t gonna happen now, but maybe in the future Bud ascends to his proper place in the pantheon if we can stop the current de-evolution regression currently gripping the world and get back to the proper ascension of mankind.
Bud Fowler as Centerpiece of Vermont Keokuks
Later, an unlikely named pair of highly educated brothers, Moses Fleetwood and Weldy Wilberforce Walker, along with several other notable black players were in the pro baseball mix up until around 1888 when opportunities were starting to dry up. Black players were later unofficially barred from Major League Baseball in 1903 when the brand new “outlaw” American League and the long established National League held their first talks to discuss a merger of sorts. The first interleague tournament that would become known as the World Series was proposed. They also came to a consensus “gentlemen’s agreement” whereby they put a padlock on the “back” door black players had been using to work their way on the field. It is seldom acknowledged or appreciated that it was that slap in the face that generated an adaptation that became the stuff of legend, legions of black barnstorming teams that grew into the formation of the raucous Negro baseball leagues. Even as early as the Tinker to Evers to Chance era for example, Chicago White Sox star Johnny Evers was playing for or against them during exhibitions in Chicago ballparks, and why was that? Easy answer was that he got paid very well because these black teams were drawing multitudes of fans who wanted to see not only black baseball teams, but white players going against black players. Occasionally an enterprising MLB manager like John McGraw or owner like Bill Veeck would make an under the table move to sign a black player, only to end up getting sniffed out by other owners or the tyrant commish of that segregation era, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and thus to be quickly shot down.
So, fast forward>>>> and we already know of the first black player of the modern MLB era, Jackie Robinson of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers who ranks very high in this study with an RP% of .427, but few remember the last major league team to integrate was the Boston Red Sox, a shameful 13 years later. Even more shameful was this was 3 years AFTER Jackie Robinson had retired, yet no shame can be cast on that player chosen, Pumpsie Green. No doubt the reasons for the delay were a myriad of problems unique to that era that also saw some other teams also delay the inevitable. Whatever the reasons, quite literally unrelated to any baseball logic, Pumpsie was suddenly bumrushed out of the minor leagues into the Red Sox lineup as “The Chosen One” in 1959. Oh, I’d guess that with his laughable, comical name, it was felt that he would take some of the edge off the expected negative feedback. We can say with certainty that Pumpsie was never a really good player, nor a spectacular one, yet he was plenty good enough to make the team. He seems to have been possessed of a good natured, mature intelligence and ability to roll with the slings and slurs hurled his way, attributes that always help anyone in any difficult endeavor as is proven by his advanced years as he still hangs with us to this very day. He makes sure in his recollections to note the Red Sox team, including owner Tom Yawkey, were very welcoming, and most especially Ted Williams, not nearly the initial mutinous Dodger situation that Jackie Robinson faced his first season, so much progress had already been made in baseball. Ted was winding down his career and hardly needed to bother with a rookie like Pumpsie other than he was Ted Williams, a very popular, supportive team player, and that team now included Pumpsie.
So, how did Pumpsie fare in terms of RP%”
The Pumpsie career RP% is 180/635 = .284 in a limited, 5 year career playing 2nd base, SS, and 3rd base, a very serviceable number over a few HOFers bringing up the rear of my study. Pumpsie’s biggest problem as a player was that he was a natural at 2nd base with his fielding average suffering by ever increasing errors the closer he moved to 3rd base where he really suffered. In that vein, 1/8th of his at bats were as a pinch hitter, perhaps an acknowledgement to his understated batting prowess, a mediocre BA of .246, a good OB% of .357, and a weak SA of .364, his OB% in this case boosting his runs scored to make him more desirable for pinch hitting duties. His first year yielded a RP% of 39/139 = .281, an excellent start for any unheralded rookie. His 3rd year was his most prolific even if still limited in games with highs in most every positive offensive category that yielded an RP% of 54/171 = .316, way to go Pumpsie! Even his last year after he was traded to the newly formed NY Mets for his most limited opportunities to play, and worse, shackled down to his most dreaded position, 3rd base, his RP% yielded 13/42 = .310, so Pumpsie was game for a good hard go from his first to his last fateful 5th year.
Perhaps had hetried to hang on, he could’ve eventually found a team that really was desperate for a 2nd baseman to settle in for a longer career, but he seems to lost his taste for the brutal high handedness in the way baseball management operated and the incessant media attentions as “the chosen one” picked to do the impossible, that of publicly representing an entire race of people. He successfully transitioned to civilian life, yet seems to have retained a certain popularity with Boston fans and players. An odd family disconnect with him was that his much more acclaimed brother was given a more respected, intellectual type name of Cornell, as in Cornell Green, the all pro defensive back for that storied Dallas Cowboy football era in the 60s and 70s. I doubt few fans of sport ever connected those dots, but there it is.
One great story about Pumpsie is when he and 6-8 Red Sox pitcher Gene Conley abandoned the team bus stuck in New York City traffic to find a nearby bar to hoist more than a few beers. Technically, the unwritten rules of the day for white and black players would have them go their separate ways off the field, but these were two free spirits not so confined to silly unwritten rules. It had been a bad day at the park for both, so in their beery haze they hatched a brilliant idea to ditch everything and fly to Israel, probably to go live on an idyllic kibbutz to raise oranges the size of pumpkins, no matter that neither was Jewish nor even had a passport. They obviously failed in the attempt, but the headlines they got over their hijinks became the stuff of baseball lore. BTW, Conley went on to be the only athlete to ever play for a winning World series team and NBA championship team, the storied 1957 Milwaukee Braves with Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, and the Boston Celtics for an amazing half dozen NBA titles, that was one helluva an era in sports being played out.
I do hope somehow by hook or crook Pumpsie gets a chance to read this section of my study so he can see how much better he was than he was given credit for. He did his part in his own inimitable way to kick that can a little further down the road.
Now for my comments on the demographics of the numbers and modern changes:
As to the reasons so many old timers rank so much higher, some will talk about pitching differences, specifically the rise of all the different levels of relief pitching specialists, defensive differences, integration, cultural changes, but lets be clear here on one major point, the oldtimers faced a much fresher crop of pitchers with incredibly strong arms and a wealth of knowledge drawn from the cream of the national population since baseball’s only competition for players was boxing, a truly vast talent pool to draft from with few MLB teams to stock. Also modern batters seldom had to face the arsenal of trick pitches like the spitter, cut and scraped balls, ect that survived until around 1930 when those grandfathered pitchers finally retired. Even after they had all retired, it wasn’t until 1944 when the first pitcher was thrown out of a game for using the spitter, so baseball enforcement of regulations had a significant lag. Another factor during the Mantle/Mays/Aaron/Snider/Robinson era for example was that the pitcher’s mound had been raised some 6 inches for the 1963-1968 years. That added some speed and extra trajectory to pitches resulting in lowered batting and RP averages during that 5 year time frame. Still, in spite of his injuries, Mantle did make it to 17th on the list, very commendable and commensurate with the potential folks saw in him.
Also noteworthy, the stat GIDP, ie Grounded Into Double Play, it was not regularly recorded until the 1930s, but given the huge lead most oldtimers have in my Run Produced % averages, I doubt GIDP figures would lower them that much given that they were usually putting the ball over the infielders. Also caught stealing stats were not reliably recorded until around 1920 where Babe Ruth’s CS stat is first recorded, but he only had 13 steals prior to that, so that’s not a lot of outs missed. It would only really affect the big base stealers, perhaps not even that much for Ty Cobb since his caught stolen stats for some reason started in the 1912 season, still posting overwhelming success on the base paths for example. Ted Williams is thoroughly modern with a full career of recorded GIDP and Caught Stealing stats in addition to having his career interrupted by fighter pilot duty in 3 separate tours of military duty, so by conventional wisdom he shouldn’t rank 3rd, an outstanding figure well over those below him. He surely must have had the ability to rank much higher had he not lost near 5 years over 3 separate deployments, yet he was so naturally talented that he still ranks damned high in spite of the daunting obstacles that few players ever had to overcome. I ascertain the top 3 that included Babe and Lou just so happen to have some extraordinary vision, reflexes, timing, and competitiveness not to mention knowledge of opposition pitchers and a pure unadulterated love for the game that put them over the top when so combined.
Additionally, Cobb and Hornsby got dragged down on their averages from tedious manager duties though Tris Speaker seems to have flowered with the added responsibilities that fully engaged his considerable intellect for the first time. Baseball was also more an unadorned man’s game then than it is now, today’s batters being girded in armored gear and the pitchers in the AL unable to bat their turn at the plate because of the DH rule. Back then every player/pitcher’s pride and job tended to be on the line every day, so he simply had to make good ball contact near every play or pitch well while being overworked, any failures leading to being benched, traded, or sent packing back to the farm since there was a plethora of fresh players to replace the average player with no loss in skills and run production. Looking around today, much of the population have many more athletic endeavors than baseball or boxing to chose from, or they can go into various entertainment or financial options that can be just as financially rewarding, perhaps even more so.
Today is a soft population compared to the bleak agricultural/industrial background and backdrop that the greatest players came from. Every Podunk Town in America had at least one semi-pro baseball team working up to dozens upon dozens in the big cities where these kids first cut their teeth. I never see kids even play pick up baseball down at the empty public parks any more like my generation and the oldtimers use to do when baseball was the peoples choice of recreation. Today it’s usually soccer being played by the kids in the parks, or basketball on the open courts, truly great recreational and competitive sports, but soccer and basketball don’t breed great baseball players if you know what I mean.
Most of the baseball players today come from Latino countries or from the American Little League system, that while generally a noble organization devoted to kids and baseball, somewhat stifles the free form nature of the way baseball used to be played by kids who oversaw their own umpiring and settled their own disputed plays. In short, Americans produce less “natural” players that now come under heavy adult management in their youth as baseball slowly became just another work project managed by a bank of computers, field generals, and a dizzying support staff instead of a joy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The Immortal Jim Thorpe~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jim Thorpe was The Greatest Athlete who ever stalked this earth as we know it today, in part due to playing some very underrated pro baseball as it applies to this study. His baseball stats will be discussed at the end of this tribute. As such, there is no need to rank him since he greatly surpasses all by the sheer sum of his accomplishments in track and field, pro baseball, pro football, pro basketball, and also excelling at Lacrosse, working with horses, and hunting as might be expected from his rural Indian background. Modern types may contest the absolute Greatest with their local sports heroes, but they contest it so poorly that they can never dim the “Bright Path” as Thorpe’s Indian name translates as witnessed by the incredible gift of the purest form athleticism that he gave to mankind. Alas, as those who run the mankind show have shown us too many times in our history, no good deed shall go unpunished. So like the heroic Hercules, Thorpe was never immune from capricious punitive judgments of those high and mighty business and political demi-gods in the International community and the good ol’ US of A, a country that is supposed to stand up for Americans, not kowtow to malevolent Assholeos who ignore true justice by proscribing needless harsh punishments.
The Backdrop: Young James was raised on Sak and Fox tribe reservations as the son of a mixed Sak and Fox/Irish father whose male Y gene he inherited from his Irish father, Jim’s grandfather. His Potawatomi/French mother endowed him with her mother’s Potawatomi X gene for the perfect athletic XY male genetic combination. Born in 1887, this was the aftermath of massive military wars against isolated native tribes that set off tragic forced mass migrations to distant uninhabited and often uninhabitable lands. Untold hundreds of thousands or more died, decimating the population by some 80%, even wiping out some tribes completely. Thorpe grew up in a country too often of the persuasion that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” with family tragedies going back generations for sustenance. Worse, there was always The Drunken Indian too falling down drunk to be any good to anyone in the background who was always good for the amusement of the ever increasing new settlers arriving to add pressure to local tribes.
Jim was fortunate to have a loving father and mother not to mention always having the sympathetic ear of a rough and tumble ready to rumble buddy, his twin brother Charlie. We can only imagine the wonderful mischief those two little scamps were into everyday, but all that tragically ended when Charlie passed at 9 years old from a severe bout of pneumonia, and then a few years later his mother passed in childbirth, horrendous tragedies that triggered Jim’s rebellious years against his father. Continually running away from school and home, he finally straightened up to enter the Carlisle Indian Academy in Pennsylvania where he must have finally given the old man some great pride with his athletic acclaim. Yet as in any epic saga, The Fates had not finished sticking pins into Jim yet, so they snatched away his father, leaving Jim as a certified orphan at a very dangerous age for any young man, a mere 17 years of sand having passed through his life.
Fortunately he had a strong male figure in the legendary Pop Warner who guided Thorpe in his athletic endeavors and life’s big and little lessons. Still, he was restless and would sometimes take leave, and on two such occasions rather than his usual summer work on a ranch or farm to earn his keep, he played some Class D minor league baseball in the East Carolina League where he was renown locally as an entertaining raw slugger. Finally he settled in for the last of his considerable track and football accomplishments at Carlisle before the 1912 Olympic trials came calling. Despite having almost no training in many of the field events, Jim placed well enough to be invited to Stockholm for the big show. He promptly won the Pentathlon, basically a half decathlon, and then the decathlon too, also placing 4th in the individual high jump and 7th in the individual long jump. That’s two Olympic Gold Medals that have never been duplicated by any other decathlete in history who have never won more than one gold medal in a year. In spite of the grueling schedule of competing in 4 individual competitions, he notably won 4 of the 5 Pentathlon events, never once losing his lead over his competition, and 4 of the 10 decathlon events, taking over the lead after the 3rd event that he never relinquished for his 2nd Gold Medal, a type of domination never seen before. In spite of having to endure two grueling 1500 meter runs in such a packed schedule, his decathlon 1500 meter time of 4 minutes and 40 sec has only been surpassed once that I know of in the 100 years since. He was only off 0.4 sec off the winning 100 meter medalist time, and 0.06 meter off the winning high jump medalist mark. What’s more, he did it on a cinder track in two mismatched, ill fitting track shoes lifted out of a pile of garbage after his were stolen. I can’t think of any athlete having to overcome so many obstacles in his life prior to such a brilliant athletic display. Jim Thorpe may be turning 129 years old this year, yet he still competes with the best decathletes in the world in so many regards. We can only imagine the wreck he would have made of his competition today had he a year to actually train for the events he was unfamiliar with on modern track and fields with modern equipment and modern Olympic “vitamins.”
Olympic Jim Thorpe 1912
This poor Indian orphan wasn’t done yet though. After being the toast of King Gustav in Sweden, he came home to a huge ticker tape parade as only New Yorkers know how to throw. His biggest problem was that employment opportunities for Gold Medal Decathletes were few and far between. Worse, breaking their own high and mighty rules, some 6 months later the Olympic committee stripped him of his medals and amateur status after enterprising, sniveling snitches did some poking around and found the dreaded professional smoking gun, Jim’s brief boyhood record with the East Carolina Class D minor league team. The HEADLINES were HUGE again, but not nearly so complimentary this go round, yet somehow he managed to find that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that sometimes burst out after such a huge storm.
His old minor league baseball team had disbanded, making him the most internationally famous free agent Major League Baseball had ever seen. At the beginning of the 20th century the New York Giants were the best and most storied team of all, chock full of HOFers such as manager John McGraw, Christy Matthewson, Rube Marquard, Frankie Frisch, and a strong cast of other excellent supporting players such as his buddy Chief Meyers, ect, so Jim grabbed that big brass ring and rode hard for a good go, his $5000 salary being a fabulous figure in those early, days. Despite being good enough to make the team, he was still just a raw minor leaguer striving to improve his skills and team contributions, so necessarily was relegated to a part time player. His biggest contribution was filling stadiums and owner coffers as everyone and his grandmother wanted to see the great Jim Thorpe in action, even just warming up. They were in the World Series his first year and then barnstormed around the nation and then the world, being feted by Kings, the Pope, and various other movie stars and world leaders. After picking him apart to then watch him put himself back together again even better than before, The Gods were now favoring Jim who promptly used his new found security to marry the woman of his dreams. They started a family as any good family man and woman ever hope to do.
After 6 years playing major league ball, he returned to playing the highest level football, but this time as a pro, ultimately becoming one of founding members of the National Football League by serving as first president of the American Professional Football Association that two years later morphed into the National Football League of today. He was a two way player as offensive halfback and defensive back as well as punter, field goal kicker, and probably quarterback duties as well, he could do it all superbly. In one stupendous moment, pinned all the way back his 5 yard line, he blasted a 95 yard punt in the waning moments of a championship game to effectively end the game in their favor. Such heroic gridiron feats did not go unnoticed unlike his baseball career where in spite of his contributions, he was never a starter. He was honored as part of the first ever All NFL team selected in 1931, and of course many had forgotten his barnstorming days as the featured attraction with his all Indian pro basketball team. The World Famous Indians of LaRue got their start around the same time as the Harlem Globetrotters got theirs in the same territories. Boggles the mind that they very well may have played a series with them since they both stood out from the rest of the pack in New York.
Ultimately the inevitable athletic decline of Father Time came calling that saw off the exit of all the back slappers and glad handers who typically surround any great man. Thorpe worked hard at any number of jobs to make ends meet as a roustabout mostly, struggling to raise his family as might be expected for a common laborer. Sadly, he seems to have turned too much to the bottle, but never so low as to dim his bright path in the memories of his friends and family. Google Jim Thorpe images and he absolutely shines when he was around children and family, his love overflowing. No nobler soul could ever be found on this earth, so it was a travesty that he never lived to see his gold medals reinstated with new commemorative medallions. Yet even today the Olympic official records remain unchanged, tainted with the disgrace that they broke their own rules just to bring such noble man down for no good reason than the hardness of their hearts and souls. At least his family and the world know the truth now. His baseball stats:
(!) Jim Thorpe batting .306
166/543 = .306…Switch Hitter/OF in the deadball era from 1913-1919
James Francis Thorpe was his given Christian name, Wa-Tho-Huk being his Indian name translated as Bright Path. Listed as a right handed batter, various photos indicate he must of been a switch hitter, probably engaged in considerable experimentation during his 6 years in the majors, my favorite being a classic, left handed, free swinging style like Shoeless Joe Jackson with a huge chaw bulging out of his cheek. He skipped the 1916 season entirely, probably in a salary dispute, so was traded to the Cincy Reds for the start of 1917 where he was lured back for a solid season, good enough to be traded back to the Giants at the end of the season for their World Series appearance. He closed his final year in 1919 where he was traded to the Boston Braves to have his best season by conventionally recorded base averages, a .327 batting average, .360 on base average, and .429 slugging average as compared to his otherwise modest career of a .252 BA, .286 OBA, and .362 SA.
Out of my incessant curiosity about all things Thorpe and Runs Produced %, I ran the RP% for that last very good year. It is informative that his average dipped slightly from his career mark of .306 to this: 41/137 = .299. So Jim Thorpe in his all time great fashion shows us how much better these Runs Produced averages are over base calculated averages of Batting Average, On Base Average, and Slugging average.
Jim was always a part time player, his most games started being 77 with the Reds, and the Braves with 60, but remember, those Giant years featured the highest caliber team of the era full of outstanding players and the most difficult manager in history to work with, the usually raging, Triple XXX rated John McGraw. The biggest knock on him was that he supposedly could never learn to hit the curve ball, yet nonetheless, his Run Production % is over that of future HOF Ichiro Suzuki and HOFers Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith, and Billy Martin in this study. He’s also just over Chief Wilson who is also over those last three. Those are a fine figures for two turn of the century Indian players given little credit for their baseball contributions during a really rough time in the US of A for their people. If baseball ever had an honorary HOF position, Jim Thorpe should be first in line, but he’s perhaps too good an example compared to many known baseball miscreants already in. He’s already in every track and field and NFL HOF there can be including the American Olympic HOF, well, guess it’s too late for baseball to recognize their limitations by now as previously discussed.
Southpaw Slugger Jim
He never got into a World Series game until 1917 where he only appeared once, starting one game, but obviously yanked before he ever had a chance to come to bat. Nor were any balls were hit to him to give him fielding stats. I’d gather from the way McGraw typically handled his managing duties, Jim was still being used as a figurehead to boost attendance. The net result was a perfect World Series record of 0.00 in every pitching, offensive, and defensive category save the single Game Started, but we the people who actually know something about Jim Thorpe, even multiplied by 0.00 he’s still greater than anyone else who can be drummed up. Jim Thorpe could never be constrained by mere mathematical laws, and even now is likely to be riding fast and loose deep within the universe on his favorite steed looking to lasso the Speed of Light for a new ride.
Some Frank Baseball Hall of Fame Talk:
This perhaps best reflected by Ken Griffey Jr’s 2016 election to the MLB HOF by the highest percentage yet, 99.3%. We can clearly see the herd like grazing mentality of the BBWAA, ie: the eligible baseball media chosen to elect the players as the top percentages slowly rise through the eras. In the first ever 1936 election, Ty Cobb became the #1 player with 98.2% followed by Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner with 95.1%. Those figures maintained their status as the top three immortals for many decades. They’ve been pushed down to 4th and 13th respectively by modern voting creep. Of course Lou Gehrig was elected with 100% of the vote in a special election the year he retired due to his fatal illness, but I’m talking about the regular election results here for a fair comparison. Ted Williams is currently 20th alltime, elected with 93.4% of the vote after previously being near the top of votes for many decades. Hank Aaron has 97.8% and Willie Mays with 94.7%, but all these type of great player beg the question of who are the doltish writers not voting for these greats? I’d be embarrased, but of course I’m not a beat baseball writer or in that media. Gotta be a special brand of stubborn stupidity for sure. Cal Ripken was elected in a new record of 98.5% that lasted until the Griffey vote, clearly an upward trend based on recent popularity of breaking Lou Gehrig’s unbreakable record rather than overwhelming excellence at the plate.
Of course it goes without saying that historically few baseball writers had enough intelligence or original thinking to adequately quantify or qualify the best players, they just had their opinions, some of which were advanced in their day, but most probably not. Too many tended to spend their self serving energies sucking up to the baseball establishment for access and drinks, or sometimes trying to dig dirt on players they didn’t like that might sell papers and make the writer a bigger, more well paid name rather than examination of fundamental baseball. Dirt sells big time as we all know, even more so in our so called “Enlightened Age” of digitally produced tabloid trash. What would Mr. Guttenberg think of all the multi millions of produced trash yearly around the world when he only wanted to make bibles more accessible to the people?
In my article approximately 1/3rd of these notable players are not yet in the HOF if we excluded the few modern players not yet eligible. The significance is they all have players ranked below them with lesser numbers in the HOF, again begging the question, what kind of dummy watered down, bottom of the barrel whiskey have those baseball “experts” been drinking all these years? I understand there are many other legitimate factors beside media incompetence that enter into these evaluations such as longevity, defensive value, utility value, manager value, leadership value, in particular media headline and revenue grabbing value as Cal Ripken Jr. personified as one big example. The really big names not in are #12 *Barry* Bonds, #13 Shoeless Joe Jackson, #26 Mark McGwire, #45 Sammy Sosa, and of course the much lauded yet abusively derided and clearly unrepentant sharp stick in the eye, #79 Pete Rose.
*Bonds* of course will forever have his misbegotten BALCO years dragging him through the mud, the clearest example of PED cheating history that saw him spike his career best homerun totals, batting average, on base average, and slugging average after a serious ankle injury that should have led to a sharp decline in his post prime numbers. Shoeless Joe Jackson, in contrast, was one of the most honorable men in baseball compared to, and I don’t use this term lightly, compared to many of the sociopaths that ran baseball along with assorted drunks and nefarious gambler types associated with underworld types. Just think HOFer John McGraw as perhaps the most scurrilous example of that type. Joe was just too damn good for Major League Baseball. Big Mac ruined his immediate chances with his PED relevations, but he likely gets in later on since he was quite popular with the fans and press. Sammy Sosa to a lesser extent also fell prey to drug suspicions with his infamous Flintstone vitamins crack. Pete Rose was at the lower end of run production spectrum, the poster boy for aggressive over-achievement, grandstanding, and betting on baseball in spite of the warning placards posted in every dressing room in the county prohibiting betting on baseball. So many players produced over Rose are not in despite following the rules, so many if not most deserve entry before Rose no matter what his supporters dribble on about.
The highest HOF % votes of players and pitchers here:
HOF Qualifications, Oh Brother vs Brother Where Art Thou?
This involves two brothers playing in the same era with an interesting 6 years of overlap when they were playing for the Red Sox and then Senators together. Both were traded around during their substantial careers with older brother Rick Ferrell playing for 3 teams over 5 distinct time frames, and younger brother by 3 years, Wes, playing for 6 teams in 6 distinct time frames. They formed the perfect brother baseball battery with Wes being a no hitter, league leading type pitcher and Rick being a good fielding, modest hitting catcher during their 6 years together. However, point in fact when on separate teams, brethren Rick almost broke up Wes’s no hitter late in the game with a screamer between SS and 3rd base that was barely snagged. The throw easily beat Rick to the base save for the first baseman being imperceptibly pulled off the bag. Scorer ruled an error on the fielder, the 3rd baseman which preserved the no hit status, so Wes quickly sealed the game by retiring the side.
OK, now, what’s the real dispute you might ask? Let’s compare stats and let the public figure out which brother is already in, or which should be in, or even perhaps if both should be in. The older Rick made his debut 2 years later than did Wes at age of 23. He played for 18 years including years through WW2 that boosted his numbers since most of the draft eligible players were off to factories or the war. His career BA was .281, OB of .378, and SA of .363 with 28 HRs, so you can see he was at least a decent batter and better than average at getting on base, yet little power. He had excellent defensive value as a reliable catcher, the only position he ever played, and his RP% ended up @ 1393/4529 = .308, a perfectly fine number even if not among the elite and over a few considered “elite.” His best season seems to be in 1932, BA .315, OB% .406, SA .420 that yield an RP% of 130/314 = .414, a most excellent run production per out figure.
Brother Wes seems to be something of a pitching phenom, turning pro 2 years earlier at age 19, yet barely used in relief for the first two years. His official rookie season was age 21 when he posted a 21-10 record, winning % of .677, ERA of 3.60, outstanding numbers for any 21 year old in history. He threw his no hitter at age 25, posting a record of 22-12, a .647 Win%, an ERA of 3.75, and RP% of 45/91 = .495, one of the best overall seasons any pitcher ever had, so he and his brother appeared to peak near the same time. He played for 15 years, but barely used at all those last 3 years, so that’s 5 cumulative years on the front and rear end of his career where he was scarcely used at all, leaving 10 years to establish most all of his record where he was often leading the league in complete games or innings pitched with a final pitching record of 193-128, a .601 Win%, and a 4.04 ERA, basically averaging a 19-12 record during those ten years. His batting numbers as compared to brother Rick reflect his less at bats due to his pitching are BA of .280, OBA of .351, both incrementally under Rick, yet a SA of .446, substantially over Rick with 38 HR, again, substantially over Rick in spite of having only 1/6th at bats, so formidable that he was used as a pinch hitter twice as much as Rick. His career RP% is likely the highest pitcher record of any note save for Babe Ruth, the essentials working out to 345/887 = .389. So in effect, every time he took the field as an excellent pitcher, he also was one of the superior HOF type hitters for that game, ranked well over most of my 90 players listed, most of whom are in the HOF.
So, who’s in the HOF, and who’s “out,” or perhaps who’s in first and who’s out? Who dat?
The All American Out:
This is the tale of Leo Durocher, and WoW, how to explain a such a sordid baseball playing sycophant in relation to Outs in this study? When Babe Ruth first spotted him in his rookie season, Leo was posing in the Hotel lobby in a tuxedo, prompting Babe to ask, “Who’s that little gink in the monkey suit?” It didn’t get any better for Leo either. Listed as 5-10, 160 lbs, Leo’s ego and braggadocio greatly outstripped his size and abilities that Babe quickly seized on, tagging him as the All American Out. He only lasted 3 Yankee years before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds for 4 years where he was known as The C-Note, always needing weekly $100 advances against his pay. Then on to the Cardinals for 5 years as he settled in on his final nickname, Leo The Lip, letting loose his most formidable befouled vocabulary on the opposition. He continued to live up the night life, too often getting called on baseball commissioner Landis’ carpet for his long established penchant of stiffing the local restaurants and habadasheries that was giving baseball a major league black eye in the community. Then on the Dodgers for 6 years as a player, a very odd numerical progression as it all turned out that we will further explore.
Babe didn’t dislike many folks, but Leo was one, most famously accusing him of stealing Babe’s treasured commemorative gold watch. Later he bought a very expensive gold necklace for his wife to be and taunted Leo by dangling it as they were retiring for the night in the train sleeper berths, telling him he was putting it under his pillow and wanted it to be there in the morning, of course naturally infuriating Leo to no end, making Babe his enemy for life. Leo could never post any big batting numbers as the prototypical weak hitting shortstop, additionally cursed with mediocre defense, so pray do tell us what Leo’s Yankee RP% was? How about 163/493 = .331, a solid number that betrayed the expectations of his weak averages. Perhaps Babe was also looking at his laughable rookie base stealing numbers, only 1 successful stolen base while being caught stealing 4 times. Mysteriously his caught stolen figures stopped being recorded after being traded from the Yankees, making me think he was paying off the scorer so as not to further show how bad he was or maybe it was just missing in the data base at the time and could be filled in later. As I also mentioned from the beginning, it helps to be paired with good players, and those Yankees were known as the “Murderer’s Row” for good reason as they boosted his Yankee numbers, but never up to their lofty standards. So Leo could never be one of the boys as his lifetime RP% proves, 1118/4226 = .265. He was given no credit by the Yankees because he was loud, divisive, and he alienated players with his profane aggressiveness, and worse, he had a habit of sucking up to owners and other big shots, just a miserable team member with no discernible baseball or personality talents to redeem him.
His best year was with the Cardinals in 1935, another strong team. Though they could never be nearly so strong as the Yankees, Leo managed his most At Bats, Runs, RBIs, HR, and highest career slugging average of .376 that yielded an RP% of .332, not bad at all. He gets traded to the Dodgers where he immediately starts sucking up to the owner, a meanass, junkyard dog styled drunk named Larry MacPhail, and the team general manager, the Bible thumping, cigar chomping, contract squeezing Branch Rickey, the trio combining for an unholy rendition of The Three Stooges as it turned out. Leo connived to get the team manager overthrown and Babe Ruth run off. Babe had been long retired, but had been hired for his name in expectations of assuming manager duties. Leo by then had become more experienced in the backhanded ways that baseball actually worked so he did his best knife work behind the curtains buried in the background that paid big dividends when his rivals departed. He was named player/manager in 1939 for his biggest career salary, $15,000, still a very modest figure, but well over previous remunerations. Posted his 2nd highest career batting numbers that 1939 year, BA of .277, OB% of .325, and SA of .369, so how did that and his higher pay affect his RP%? How about 75/294 =.255, likely an example of why Babe disparaged his playing abilities as it would seem to show he couldn’t produce many runs that counted for anything. Likely he put himself into meaningless game situations where he got useless base hits and walks to suggest the appearance of still producing for the team, but by then he was winding down as a player and was soon done with that phase as he moved into a full time coach/manager status.
Leo’s most acclaimed year might have been in 1947 had he not been suspended before the season started due to the sheer volume of his well publicized, sleaziness, turpitude, adultery, and fraternization with gamblers that even the morally bankrupt baseball officials could no longer stomach. Instead, a low key former Dodger player named Burt Shotton took over managerial duties to brilliantly handle the fabulous season of Jackie Robinson’s rookie debut. The sheer hatred of the rest of the league towards the Dodgers tempered team cohesion that in turn sparked a ferocious run at the pennant. That ultimately resulted in one of the most hard fought World Series in history against the Joe DiMaggio led Yankees that the Dodgers fell just short of in the 7th and final game. What a year for baseball, but, alas, not for Leo.
Poor Leo was left steaming in his own juices, not even allowed in the clubhouse, but that didn’t stop him for taking all the credit for “his boys” of 1947 during his 1948 return, irritating the Dodger team even more than ever until Durocher was “persuaded” for his own good to take over the New York Giant managerial duties where his seedy gambling proclivities wouldn’t be so frowned upon by the Stoneham family owners. Thus, Durocher must have been the instigator of one of baseball’s greatest frauds in 1951 when the Dodgers were involved in a 3 game play off for the NL pennant against Leo’s Giants that included Willie Mays in his rookie year. It should be noted that Durocher actually did something noble that season when he carefully nurtured and protected the scattered Alabama farmboy oozing with talent in his Big City debut, yet greatly struggling at the plate those first few months. The series was tied 1-1 as they entered the 3rd game, but the Dodgers with Don Newcombe pitching were on fire, giving the team the lead 4-1 going into the 9th and final inning. The fading Newcombe managed to notch an out, but he gave up a run and let 2 runners on base, so he was relieved by Ralph Branca who would be facing Bobby Thomson, an excellent right handed clutch hitter at the plate, and rookie Willie Mays who had whiffed his previous at bats on deck. Only two more outs to go in a very winnable situation if handled with care, so the Dodger manager, Charlie Dressen, rolled his dice and Branca did his job, a called first strike shaving the inside of the plate, excellent. What happened next became one of baseball’s most celebrated moments when Thompson pulled another inside fastball into a line drive over the left field fence that won the game 5-4.
Wait, how could hitting The Shot Heard Round The World be such a bad thing, after all, the Scottish born Bobby Thomson ended up engraving his name in baseball history as the ultimate hero?
Well, it breaks down like this, in midseason the Giants had a telescope installed in centerfield to steal the opposing catcher’s sign to be relayed via an electronic buzzer to the Giant dugout where it was relayed to the batter, almost certainly hatched up by Durocher who had a history of running rigged card games that even fleeced his own teammates I’m sad to say. We need to note that stealing signs is part and parcel of baseball and perfectly legal and the best sign stealers had a special status on the club, but this had always been done with great difficulty by eyeball observation by the various participants in the game only when they found the perfect angle to see the catcher’s sign. The home team setting up a secret telescope in center with an electronic communication to their dugout to steal every sign goes way beyond the pale, sorta like slipping the pitcher a mickey or a very lively non standard ball. Poor Ralph Branca had to live with being the goat of that series for most of his life until the cheating was confirmed around 2001. We can’t blame Thomson for doing what all players are paid to do, taking their cues from the coaches. Sign stealing also helped Mays break out of his rookie slump. Nobody had to guess a pitch, instead they were fed the information by what they supposed were genius code breaking coaches. Thomson batted .500 for that 3 game series with an OB% of .545 and SA of 1.300. The players could not have known about it. Likely only Durocher and a couple of coaches were in on the operation since it stayed a secret for so many decades, and let’s face it, it was a great shot Thomson hit, but sadly tainted with the stain of one of baseball’s most crooked miscreants in the HOF, Leo the Lip, The C-Note, The All American Out.
So, we have to ask, why is not Thomson in the HOF? He did his part to make baseball the legendary sport of the conclusive, concussive, spectacle of the game winning homerun. He played Centerfield and 3rd base for 15 years with an career RP% of 1665/4849 = .343. That’s over many of the HOFers in this study, some legendary, and had I included him, he would enter at 66th, moving Rod Carew down. His RP% for that 1951 season was 158/392 = .403 where he was on fire in September and October, pulling the Giants into the playoffs and on to the World Series where they were whooped by the Yankees of course.
Durocher’s managing record may be good on paper, 2008 wins-1709 losses for a Win% of .540, 3 NL Pennants and one World Series win, but you’d think with that Giant team and baseball knowledge he should have more pennants and at least another World Series win. The fact will always remain that his 2nd NL Pennant was won as the worst form of a cheat of shameless proportions, but hey, that’s just the way it was. He was kind of a venom spitting guru mirroring the essence of the baseball owners and execs who could look down onto the field and see themselves and the game being run in a sort of Walter Mitty transformation.