I remember being incredibly disappointed as a kid when I heard the answer to a trivia question about the pair of brothers with the most home runs. Hank and Tommie Aaron. Really? How can Tommie Aaron count at 13 HRs compared to Hank’s 755? Sure, it would have been one thing had I been involved in a bar bat at age 12. I’d have had to accept the answer and pay up. But as a kid who wanted the question to mean something, I just couldn’t accept it.
In order to be the best brother tandem, I thought, both would have to be legitimate major league home run hitters, not one of the greatest ever and a guy who only once hit more than two in a season. Of course, trivia questions don’t need to be satisfying, just factual.
The project I’m starting today, however, is just representing an opinion. There’s nothing factual, so I can make my own rules when trying to determine the best player/manager ever. And I shall.
Rule #1: in order to be the best player-manager ever, you have to have a significant career in both roles. Even though Babe Ruth never managed, I suppose his playing greatness reached such a level that he could win the award. Nope. Not under these roles. You need to have had a significant playing career and a significant managerial career.
Rule #2: I’m not looking for the best player-manager, really. I’m looking for the person who best combined playing greatness with managerial greatness. It’s not necessary for him to have ever been a player-manager.
Okay, those are the only two rules. The rest is just opinion.
There have been 572 men to ever both play and manage in the majors. That’s where we begin to narrow our list.
- Of those, 187 managed one season or less. Thus, we’re down to 385.
- Of that group, 96 managed only two seasons or parts thereof. We’re down to 289.
- Of that group, we have 98 more who managed only 3-4 seasons. That means we can quite easily narrow out list to the 191 players who managed in the bigs for five seasons or more.
- To keep narrowing, I used BBREF to determine all hitters in MLB history with at least 1000 games played. At the time of my research, there were 1543 such players. So I then found the top 1543 pitchers in terms of innings pitched. Of those players who managed at least five seasons, we’re down to 103 men in the top-1543 of hitters in games played or pitchers in innings pitched. Overall, the list contains 41 men who are actually in the Hall of Fame, so we have a pretty good group.
- There’s one last bit of narrowing we’re going to do to get through this post. To reach the next phase in the battle for best combination player/manager ever, you have to be one of the nearly 900 guys we considered for the HoME’s player wing or the HoME’s managerial wing. Either one is fine. Thus, we bid a farewell to 23 more player/managers. In all, we’re going to consider 80 men for the title of best player/manager ever.
Here are the qualifiers.
Felipe Alou Larry Dierker Pinky Higgins Mel Ott Cap Anson Hugh Duffy Gil Hodges Roger Peckinpaugh Dusty Baker Leo Durocher Rogers Honrsby Lou Piniella Hank Bauer Jimmy Dykes Miller Huggins Wilbert Robinson Don Baylor Buck Ewing Fred Hutchinson Frank Robinson Buddy Bell Art Fletcher Hughie Jennings Pete Rose Yogi Berra Jim Fregosi Davey Johnson Red Schoendienst Bob Boone Frankie Frisch Walter Johnson Mike Scioscia Lou Boudreau Phil Garner Fielder Jones Billy Southworth Roger Bresnahan Cito Gaston Joe Kelly Tris Speaker Donie Bush Kirk Gibson Nap Lajoie Eddie Stanky Frank Chance Joe Girardi Bob Lemon Casey Stengel Fred Clarke Kid Gleason Al Lopez Patsy Tebeau Ty Cobb Joe Gordon Billy Martin Bill Terry Mickey Cochrane Clark Griffith Don Mattingly Joe Torre Jimmy Collins Charlie Grimm John McGraw Pie Traynor Charlie Comiskey Ozzie Guillen Deacon McGuire Bill Virdon Del Crandall Ned Hanlon Pinky Morrill Monte Ward Joe Cronin Mike Hargrove Steve O'Neill Dick Williams Al Dark Bucky Harris Jim O'Rourke Don Zimmer
The plan is to give each one of these guys a player score, which many of them already have because they’ve been run through my MAPES system. They’ll also need a manager score on level as MAPES. That’ll take some time to create, but not to name. Thanks to Eric, I have ZIMMER, Zooming In on Major Managerial Excellence and Rank.
Anyhow, once I have both scores, I can’t merely add them. That might result in Babe Ruth or Joe McCarthy becoming the best player/manager ever, and those results would be entirely unsatisfying. Instead, at least at this stage, I plan to use the harmonic mean of MAPES and ZIMMER, much like Bill James does for homers and steals to make his Power/Speed number. Basically, the formula is the following: (2 * player score * manager score) / (player score + manager score). In case you’re wondering, the best brother homer duos using a harmonic mean are Ken and Clete Boyer, followed by Joe and Vince DiMaggio, and then Justin and Melvin Upton.
The next steps are relatively simple. Find MAPES and ZIMMER for every player, and do the math. The plan now is to unveil the best combination player/managers ever on three Wednesdays in January, beginning on January 13. Lots of work. Very excited to see the results.