Friend of the HoME verdun2 writes an excellent blog with a recurring post, A Dozen Things You Should Know About, in which he introduces his readers to an interesting player, very often from the 19th century. I enjoy all of those posts. I enjoy those on players I’m unfamiliar with the most. So not long ago when I ran into Fred Carroll while researching Buster Posey, I thought about introducing him to HoME readers.
In tribute to verdun2, check out a baker’s dozen things you might like to know about Fred Carroll.
Thanks for the inspiration, verdun2!
As we approach the end of our manager project – just two more to induct after today – we see the same thing that we saw with the players. As most people could predict, those who get in don’t have tremendously better cases than those who are out. And with managers, we don’t have numbers, debatable as they may be, that we trust as much as our numbers for players. Offensive WAR is fairly easy to trust. And even if defensive WAR isn’t, managers present different challenges. Was the manager himself great, did he just have great players, or did he find a way to get greatness out of only good talent? For us anyway, that’s harder to figure.
In any case, we’re almost there. Today we add Ned Hanlon to the Hall of Miller and Eric. And we’ll also present one obituary. As with Clark Griffith as a player, Clark Griffith as a manager falls just short. If the HoME were 10% larger than the Hall, perhaps he’d be in both wings. Alas.
As always, here are your updates.
Walter Alston Miller Huggins Frank Selee Sparky Anderson Tony La Russa Billy Southworth Cap Anson Al Lopez Casey Stengel Fred Clarke Connie Mack Joe Torre Bobby Cox Joe McCarthy Earl Weaver Leo Durocher John McGraw Dick Williams Ned Hanlon Bill McKechnie
Two spots left, and there are just six managers we’re still considering. For those who are especially observant, you’ll notice Pat Moran is again under consideration. The winner of the 1915 pennant with Philadelphia and the 1919 World Series with Cincinnati, maybe, possibly, was let go too soon. Among players we wrote an obituary for Roy Campanella but later decided to enshrine him. Perhaps we’ll do the same for Moran? Time will tell.
G> WS Flags Yrs From W L % .500 Won Won Teams =================================================================================== Frank Chance 11 1905-1923 946 648 .593 298 2 4 3 Whitey Herzog 18 1973-1990 1281 1125 .532 156 1 3 4 Tommy Lasorda 21 1976-1996 1599 1439 .526 160 2 4 1 Billy Martin 16 1969-1988 1253 1013 .553 240 1 2 5 Pat Moran 9 1915-1923 323 257 .557 66 1 2 2 Harry Wright 23 1871-1893 1225 885 .581 340 0 6 4
Sometimes referred to as “The Father of Modern Baseball” Ned Hanlon led five teams over nineteen seasons, gaining his most fame with the National League’s Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Superbas. He brought innovations like the hit-and-run and Baltimore Chop into prominence and put tremendous pressure on his opponents. A more appropriate nickname for Hanlon might be “The Father of All Managers”. John McGraw, Connie Mack, and Miller Huggins all played for him. And HoMErs Casey Stengel, Billy Southworth, Bill McKechnie, Leo Durocher, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Dick Williams, Earl Weaver, and Bobby Cox all have their managerial family trees trace back to Hanlon. The Baltimore Orioles finished eighth in his first season there; then they won three straight pennants. After moving to Brooklyn, Hanlon immediately turned that team around. The 1898 Bridegrooms won 54 games and finished tenth. When Hanlon got their, their name and their fortunes changes. The Superbas won 101 games and their first of two NL pennants under Hanlon. Overall Hanlon won 1313 games, five pennants, and posted a .530 winning percentage. Clearly he’s one of the greatest managers ever to grace the dugout.
My highest ranked player who is eligible for, but not in, the HoME is Clark Griffith. So I was very excited to see that he has an impressive managerial record as well. Over 20 seasons, he won 1491 games at a .522 rate. He’s 22nd all-time in wins, and only twelve managers can say that they topped Griffith in both wins and winning percentage. Further, almost no other pitcher ever served as a player/manager. Griffith was unique. His leadership skills are unquestioned. As one of the main organizers of the American League, convincing many NL greats to jump to the new Junior Circuit. Unfortunately for Griffith’s HoME case, he just didn’t win much. After an AL pennant in his first year managing, 1901 with the White Sox, Griffith never finished first again for the White Sox, Highlanders, Reds, or Senators. Maybe Griffith’s HoME chances aren’t over though. As the only person ever in the game to act as a player, a manager, and an owner for at least 20 seasons, there’s a chance we find a way to elect him as a combination candidate. But that day is not today.
Twenty down and just two managers to go. Next week we’ll get within one.
As we continue with our player/manager project today, we review candidates 16-40. If you’ve missed them, check out the primer, where I narrow the list, and next post, where review candidates 41-80. In search of the best combination player and manager ever, we’re going to review 25 guys today. Some were good to great players. Others were good to great managers. However, none were excellent both on the field and in the dugout. So without further ado, here are the next 25 managers on our list.
#40 Lou Piniella (MAPES: 13; ZIMMER: 50; Player Manager Score: 20)
Piniella is the best manager we’ve seen so far on this list who had a playing career of at least 10 MAPES points. He was AL Rookie of the year in 1969, an AL All-Star in 1972, and the owner of two World Series rings. He managed the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Devil Rays, and Cubs to 1835 wins, good for fourteenth in history. The highlight of his run had to be the 1990 World Series upset of the A’s by his Reds. He also made the playoffs four times in Seattle and twice more in Chicago. And he won three Manager of the Year Awards.
#39 Hank Bauer (MAPES: 25; ZIMMER: 18; Player Manager Score: 21)
Bauer shows more balance than most everyone who has come before him. He was a very solid player and a very solid manager, but great at neither. Bauer played almost his entire career with the Yankees, winning seven rings. That’s most of the reason we think he was better than he really was. He made three All-Star teams and has three seasons of at least 4 WAR, but he wasn’t much to talk about otherwise. His main managerial success came in 1966 when he led the Orioles to the World Series title. Frank Robinson’s triple crown that year didn’t hurt, and the O’s plummeted to 7th place in 1967. Overall, Bauer managed just four full seasons and won 594 games. Still, this overall placing is impressive.
#38 Jimmy Collins (MAPES: 51; ZIMMER: 13; Player Manager Score: 21)
Collins is one of the games great 3B. He was a solid hitter and a wonderful defender. Only Mike Schmidt, Stott Rolen, Adrian Beltre, and Robin Ventura best his numbers in both batting WAR and fielding WAR, and Collins played 300 fewer games than any of them. Managing was less glorious for Collins, as he led only one team, the Boston Americans from 1901-1906. He won the first World Series in 1903 and may have won again in 1904 had one been played. Overall though, just 455 wins means he can’t be placed any higher on this list.
#37 Yogi Berra (MAPES: 60; ZIMMER: 13; Player Manager Score: 21)
While Berra is a bit overrated to me as a player (it’s unlikely he’s among the three or four best catchers ever), he was nonetheless an outstanding player. He won three MVP Awards and finished in the top-4 four more times. On top of that, the guy has ten World Series rings. Ten! In the dugout, he took both the 1964 Yankees and the 1973 Mets to the World Series, losing both. With more than his 484 career wins, he’d be a lot higher on our list.
#36 Ozzie Guillen (MAPES: 19; ZIMMER: 25; Player Manager Score: 22)
Raise your hand if you’re surprised to see Ozzie Guillen here. That’s harmonic mean for you. Guillen is really close to equal in his playing and managing career, so he doesn’t take the huge harmonic mean hit that some unbalanced guys do. He was the 1985 AL Rookie of the Year, and he made three All-Star teams as a White Sox shortstop. As a manager, the fiery Guillen gained some value. In 2005 he led the White Sox to their first World Series championship since 1917. And he won 88 games four times in his seven full seasons in Chicago. Overall, his 747 wins (so far) bring him to 36th on our list.
#35 Bob Lemon (MAPES: 42; ZIMMER: 16; Player Manager Score: 23)
Because he won 20 games on seven occasions and was really popular as a player, Bob Lemon is in the Hall of Fame. He probably shouldn’t be. The seven-time All-Star is without a 6-WAR season and has only two above 4.8. But still, he was one heck of a player compared to most and was a real workhorse for the Indians from 1948-1956. As the result of being a Yankee during the Billy Martin days, he’s also a little overrated as a manager, perhaps. He was in the dugout for three teams over parts of eight years, but he only managed three full campaigns. He had four stints in New York, but none lasted a full season. He managed just 25 games in the 1981 regular season but won a pennant, and he managed just 68 games in the 1978 regular season but won a World Series.
The all-time leader in doubles and the four-time OBP champ might be the most under-appreciated inner circle Hall of Famer. With defense included, his value is quite similar to Ty Cobb’s. Managing was just his side gig, which is all it needed to be to get him here. He won the World Series in 1920, his first full season running the Indians. He had two more second place finishes and 617 total wins. A member of the Hall’s second class in 1937 is the 34th best combination player manager ever.
#33 Don Mattingly (MAPES: 37; ZIMMER: 18; Player Manager Score: 24)
This is a score I expect will go up. After 446 wins in five seasons with the Dodgers, Mattingly is no longer running the show out there, but there aren’t too many guys who don’t get another job after making the playoffs three years in a row. Mattingly is a relatively young man, just 54 right now, and it’s not like back problems will curtail this part of his career. On the field, Donnie Baseball was a heck of a hitter when healthy. The six-time All-Star has a batting title, a ribbie title, and three doubles titles to his credit. And he also won the 1985 AL MVP.
#32 Bucky Harris (MAPES: 17; ZIMMER: 41; Player Manager Score: 24)
This is another mistake we thing the Hall made when electing managers. Yes, he’s seventh in career wins and third when he retired, but he posted a losing record. He’s third in career losses. Yes, he led mediocre teams, mostly the Senators, but it’s not like he got a ton out of them more than a typical manager would. His ZIMMER score is so high because he was a plus manager overall, and for a lot of years. Maybe he’s the Rusty Staub of managing? He also gets a nice bonus from World Series wins in 1924, the first year of his career when he was leading the Senators, and 1947, when he was running the Yankees. As a player, he homered nine times in approaching 5000 at-bats. He got hit by a lot of pitches, drew some walks, and could lay down a bunt, but he’s not a guy you wanted up with a man on first and a couple of outs.
#31 Felipe Alou (MAPES: 33; ZIMMER: 19; Player Manager Score: 24)
I’m not sure if Alou gained more fame as a player or as a manager. He was a three-time All-Star who led the NL in hits a couple of times. And he played seventeen seasons for six teams, so he was at least a little wanted. And he’s the only guy in baseball history to play at least 400 games at first base and at every outfield spot. He found some level of success as a manager too, though he only made the playoffs once in fourteen tries with the Expos and Giants. To be fair, his Expos were leading the NL East when the game shut down in 1994. Still, we can’t count what never happened.
#30 Jimmy Dykes (MAPES: 29; ZIMMER: 21; Player Manager Score: 25)
The first guy to earn 20 points by each of our measures, Dykes was a 22-year infielder for the A’s and White Sox. He wasn’t much with the bat, yet he managed to stick around, probably because of a feel for the game that eventually made him a manager. In that capacity, he never once made the playoffs. He holds the record for most games managed without seeing October at 2962. Still six teams in 21 years thought highly enough of him to give him work. A nice, long career for Dyles makes him the #30 player/manager our list.
#29 Al Dark (MAPES: 35; ZIMMER: 22; Player Manager Score: 27)
“The Swamp Fox”, as he was known, had an interesting career, playing for five teams in fourteen years while making three All-Star teams. It wasn’t until he was 26 that he got a major league job, and he quickly became an impressive offensive shortstop. But shortstops in their 30s begin to regress pretty quickly, which is exactly what Dark did. In 1962 his Giants lost an epic World Series with the Yankees 1-0 in the seventh game when Willie McCovey’s liner was snagged by Bobby Richardson. Perhaps making up for some bad luck, he won the 1974 World Series with the A’s, the last of their dynasty years, after Dick Williams resigned. Overall he won 994 games in thirteen seasons. Not bad.
#28 Mike Hargrove (MAPES: 27; ZIMMER: 28; Player Manager Score: 27)
Hargrove won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1974, was an All-Star in 1975, and had a productive career as a singles hitter who could draw walks. His profile overall was really interesting. Only nine players ever posted more walks while compiling fewer hits. He’s Miller Huggins or Roy Thomas 70 years later, which isn’t a bad little player. Of course, we want more power from our DH types. As a manager, he was blessed with some incredible talent while in Cleveland. Once they rounded into form in 1995, they won five straight AL Central titles. And they got to the 1995 and 1997 World Series, losing to the Braves and Marlins respectively. The O’s and M’s took him on after that, but after six straight fourth place finishes for the two clubs, he was fired the next year and is likely done in the dugout.
#27 Pete Rose (MAPES: 60; ZIMMER: 17; Player Manager Score: 28)
Given how many he signs, it’s no wonder that Pete Rose has one of the prettiest autographs in baseball. Also, it’s kind of remarkable how many guys on this list have won the Rookie of the Year Award, as Pete did in the NL in 1963. Though I don’t think I’m likely to say anything new here about Pete Rose, with the help of BBREF’s Play Index, I’ll try. While Pete is 75th all-time in triples, only 14 of the 74 guys ahead of him also hit more than his 160 homers. And only three – Willie Davis, Willie Mays, and George Brett – top Rose in 3B, HR, and SB. I don’t know how much his gambling hurt the Reds in the standings, if it did at all. What I do know is that in each of the four years he both started and ended as Cincy’s manager, the Reds finished second. In the first full year he was gone, the Reds beat the A’s in the World Series.
As a manager, we’re talking about an inner-circle HoMER. Ten World Series and seven titles tell that story. Sure, he had oodles of talent. But winning isn’t just a matter of having talent. Ask Mike Hargrove and his four HoME-level hitters in 1999, for example. Stengel was also the first manager of the New York Mets and retired after 25 years in the dugout and 1905 wins, good for eleventh all-time. Stengel had a bit of value as a player too. He led the AL in OBP in 1914, and he won a ring in 1922. It’s clear, however, that Stengel reaches this height as a manager primarily.
#25 Ned Hanlon (MAPES: 23; ZIMMER: 35; Player Manager Score: 28)
Mainly for the Detroit Wolverines, outfielder Ned Hanlon held his own as a player. He drew more than his share of walks, and he ran the bases very effectively. But Hanlon’s greatness was as a manager. He won pennants with the NL’s Baltimore Orioles from 1894-1896. And he did the same with the Brooklyn Superbas of 1899-1900. Though it’s not part of this equation, the most impressive thing about Hanlon is his legacy. Many of the greatest managers ever played for him, including John McGraw, Miller Huggins, Connie Mack, Hughie Jennings, and Wilbert Robinson.
#24 Red Schoendienst (MAPES: 35; ZIMMER: 24; Player Manager Score: 28)
Some people say that when Red Schoendienst was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989, it was as a combo candidate. And if you’re going to elect him, that’s the way to do it. A ten-time All-Star at second base, Schoendienst won a SB title, a 3B title, and a H title. His career, while a bit longer, is similar to what we’ve seen so far from Dustin Pedroia. Red was mostly a Cardinal as a player. He was exclusively a Cardinal as a manager. His best season was 1967 when St. Louis won the World Series. He made the playoffs one other time and thrice finished second. Overall I rank him below the Hall level, but Schoendienst’s career deserves celebration.
Schoendienst might have been a combo candidate, but as we move up one in our rankings, we see that none yet have been great as both aspects of their career. Cochrane certainly was a great player, winning the MVP for the A’s in 1928 and for the Tigers in 1934. Overall, he’s one of the ten best catchers ever. He only managed for two full seasons and parts of three others, so perhaps his ranking here is high. On the other hand, he led the Tigers to a pennant in 1934 and to a World Series win in 1935. Almost nobody ever had a peak in the dugout like “Black Mike”.
Not many had more admirable careers than Al Lopez. He’s “only” ninth in games caught right now, but let’s consider who’s ahead of him. His career ended in 1947. Everyone ahead of him played in 1989 or later. No, Lopez wasn’t a great player, though he did make two All-Star teams. What we can assume is that he had a great baseball mind. Otherwise, he wouldn’t likely have been given so much playing time. He displayed that acumen for the game when he was given the chance to manage the Cleveland Indians in 1951. In six years he finished second five times and first once, losing the 1954 World Series to the Giants. From Cleveland, he moved to Chicago where he had five more runner-up finishes. And he took the 1959 team to the Series where they lost to the Dodgers. He had the misfortune of managing teams in the AL when the Yankees were in the midst of their greatest dynasty. Yeah, his was an incredibly admirable career.
If Red Schoendienst can make it to the Hall as a combo candidate, perhaps Hodges can too. Hodges was a very, very good player. No, he’s not at HoME level, but he’s in the conversation. I like neat stats, thought I admit they’re not telling. Only 21 players can top Hodges in runs, ribbies, and Gold Gloves. They’re a who’s who among greats of the last 50 years. Of course, that list also includes Torii Hunter, Gary Gaetti, and Steve Garvey. You can put together a lot of weird lists to make your candidate look great. If we include homers in our calculation, we’re down to eleven guys. Anyway, while lists like this are nice, they’re not a reason someone should make the Hall. But what about managerial greatness too? Hodges led some rough teams in Washington. His best finish in five years was sixth place. Then he got another crappy job with the Mets. But a funny thing happened in 1969. You might call it a miracle. I’m not so sure there’s a spot in Cooperstown for Hodges, but I do know he’s a great combination player/manager.
#20 Fielder Jones (MAPES: 42; ZIMMER: 22; Player Manager Score: 29)
Jones was a turn-of-the-century outfielder who posted only one All-Star type of season. On the other hand, he’s the only ten-time 4-win player among center fielders outside the HoME. Actually, he and Jake Beckley are the only position players with that distinction. His managing career has been similarly forgotten today. But it was pretty good as well. He won 683 games in ten seasons, and he took home the World Series with the 1906 White Sox. Still though, we’re without a candidate who was an excellent player and an excellent manager.
#19 Billy Southworth (MAPES: 20; ZIMMER: 56; Player Manager Score: 30)
And it seems we’re going to have to look beyond candidate #19 to find one. Southworth was mainly an outfielder for five teams over thirteen seasons from 1913-1929. He was a decent player but certainly no star. He was absolutely a star manager though. His thirteen seasons and 1044 wins helped him get to the HoME. But it’s the four World Series appearances and titles with the 1942 and 1944 Cardinals that got him there. Still, I kind of thought this project would offer for us more guys who were stars both as players and as managers.
#18 Frank Robinson (MAPES: 76; ZIMMER: 19; Player Manager Score: 30)
While Al Lopez absolutely had an admiral career, I think I’d trade his for Frank Robinson’s. Robinson is one of the least appreciated superstars ever. As Fred McGriff supporters might say, “He hit 586 home runs when that was still a big deal.” He won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1956, MVP Awards in both leagues, and the 1966 AL triple crown. As you know, he’s also the first African American manager ever and one of the game’s statesmen. He was never once given a good team when he was managing, not with the Indians, Giants, Orioles, or Expos/Nationals. He took over the O’s in the midst of an 0-21 start in 1988. The next year they won 87 games and finished second in the AL East. The 2001 Expos won 68 games and finished fifth in the NL East. The next year Robinson came in, and they finished second. Maybe he was underrated as a manager too. He got jobs where the team needed stability, not when they were ready to win. It’s very possible that Robinson would be close to the top of this list were he just given some playoff-caliber rosters.
Speaking of superstars, it’s no surprise that the best pitcher ever ranks this high. I can’t tell you much that’s new about Johnson, I know that. But it’s remarkable that he averaged 26.5 wins per year in the 1910s. Managerially, he wasn’t a lot more than just another guy. But perhaps he could have had a longer career. He managed only five full seasons. Among those seasons, he finished third three times and second once. He won 90+ games three times. Clearly though, he’s not a star as a player and a manager.
#16 Buck Ewing (MAPES: 66; ZIMMER: 21; Player Manager Score: 32)
It’s hard to try to equate the game in 1890, say, to the game today, but that’s precisely what I try to do with MAPES. And MAPES tells me that Ewing is one of three to six best catchers ever. My adjustments put him at the MVP level four times and the All-Star level six more. As a manager he didn’t do quite as much, though he managed a .553 winning percentage and 489 wins over seven seasons.
I know who the best fifteen combination player/managers are, and I think this is a good place to stop this post since the next guy on our list looks to be the first star both on the field and in the dugout. We’ll talk about him and about the fourteen better combos a week from today.
Well, this makes two elections and zero men elected to the Hall of Miller and Eric. With seven more candidates this time, we’re now 0-20. There are still 80 candidates we haven’t considered in the first phase of our work, so there are plenty more chances to begin electing our 22 HoMErs.
The good news, I suppose, is that there are a couple of managers who will move on to our project’s second phase.
We began our process with exactly 100 managerial candidates in order to fill the HoME with the 22 best. While we didn’t elect anyone again this time, we’re still starting well as we begin to narrow. With five obituaries this election, we now have only 86 managers to consider for our 22 spots in the HoME.
Each election I’ll keep you up to date on our process through this chart.
Remaining Remaining Year Nominees Elected Obituaries Continuing to Consider to Elect ================================================================================= 1910 7 0 5 2 86 22 1900 13 0 9 4 91 22
Frank Bancroft holds the record for most teams managed, seven, and most teams managed in the National League, six. He led the Providence Grays to the 1884 World Series championship. He also led the Reds, Athletics, Hoosiers, Blues, Wolverines, and Ruby Legs. In only 1884 did one of his team’s top 55 wins. Of course, 1884 was also the only year his teams played over 110 games. Still, he doesn’t have the bulk of a HoMEr.
Bill Shettsline managed the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies from 1898 through 1902. He only makes our initial list through the quirkiness of our rules. He never won a pennant. He’s no HoMEr.
An all-time great third baseman and HoMEr, Jimmy Collins managed the Boston Americans from 1901-1906. He was the first manager to ever win a World Series between the National League and the American League. He also won the pennant the next year but lost the chance to win back-to-back titles when John McGraw refused to play the 1903 World Series. With just 455 wins, Collins can be dismissed from our project now.
Bill Armour is on our initial list only because he managed the 1902 Cleveland Bronchos, a year before the first AL/NL World Series. He added just four more years in the bigs and won only 382 games overall. He’s not close to HoME-level.
Though he didn’t do much as a manager, the fact that Joe Kelley ran the Cincinnati Reds for 60 games in 1902 gets him to our list — in the same way Armour gets on. He totaled only five seasons, never finished above third place, and totaled only 338 wins. He’s not a HoMEr.
The 1920 candidates will be out on Monday, and results will be shared a week from today.
As we reach our second election, we also reach the time in the game’s history when we’re dealing with nothing but professional managers. By the time these men retired, the hooliganism of the 1890s was long gone, the mound was firmly entrenched at 60’6”, and the World Series was a fixture. We can do a much better job evaluating this group by more modern standards.
This election we’ll review the cases of seven more managers. Two, Frank Selee and Ned Hanlon, are Hall of Fame managers. Two others, Joe Kelley and Jimmy Collins, are in as players. Collins was the manager and star third baseman for the Boston Americans, the team the defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first AL/NL World Series.
Just a note on that World Series. Collins went 9-36 with a double and two triples. He walked just once, drove in just one run. On the other hand, he stole three bases and scored five runs.
Let’s check out all of the guys we’ll review this election.
G> WS Flags Yrs From W L % .500 Won Won ===================================================================================== Frank Bancroft 9 1880-1902 375 333 .530 42 1 1 Bill Shettsline 5 1898-1902 367 303 .548 64 0 0 Frank Selee HOF 16 1890-1905 1284 862 .598 422 0 5 Jimmy Collins HOF 6 1901-1906 455 376 .548 79 1 2 Bill Armour 5 1902-1906 382 347 .524 35 0 0 Ned Hanlon HOF 19 1889-1907 1313 1164 .530 149 0 5 Joe Kelley HOF 5 1902-1908 338 321 .513 17 0 0
Check out the election results this Friday. We’ll let you know who gets in, who reaches the second phase of our process, and who receives an obituary.
Graham Womack of Baseball: Past and Present has a cool project going on: The 25 Most Important People in Baseball History. I thought I’d share my ballot as a way to encourage others to vote.
Well, there’s 18,000+ players, several hundred managers, all kinds of execs, writers, even fans to choose from, and I needed to choose twenty-five. Graham doesn’t define “Most Important” for us:
“most important” is a deliberately subjective term and I’m interested to see what direction people go with it.
For me, it’s about impact. Lasting impact. For me, there are three names that stand above all others, and that any baseball fan should know: Babe Ruth, Branch Rickey, and Jackie Robinson. Without them, major league baseball as we know it today simply would not exist or would be limping toward its death. Ruth who ushered in the modern mode of play, an offensive-minded game with greater mass appeal. Rickey who is the pivot man in at least three of modern baseball’s most important innovations—the farm system, the use of analytical statistics, and equal opportunity for all races—and who played a role in expansion by his attempt to organize the Continental League. And, of course, Robinson, whose success cemented the status of African Americans (and all other peoples of color) in sports, transcending the game and pointing us toward the civil rights era.
After that to understand the lasting impact a person has on the game, we can look at some of the major themes of baseball’s history. These are the major story arcs since the 1840s. They continue to unwind themselves today. The flashpoints among them constitute game-changing moments. So as we sift through the games’ most important people, they should have some kind of prominent role in short- or long-term movements that have brought us to the present day.
That’s another twenty to add to Ruth, Rickey, and Robinson for twenty-three total. Two more.
A lesser theme in baseball’s history is the ascendency of the Yankees. While Ruth accounts for much of it on the field, much of the rest can probably be laid at Ed Barrow’s feet. Barrow first built the twice-champion Red Sox of the late 1910s. Then, moving to the Bronx after the 1920 season, he took advantage of Sox owner Harry Frazee’s debt problems to build the Yankee roster into a perennial winner, thus starting The Evil Empire. Barrow continued on into the 1940s, overseeing the DiMaggio/Gehrig era as well, so this wasn’t a one-time thing. The Yankees are the game’s most loved and most hated team, and they occupy a special place in history thanks to Barrow.
Another team builder had a different kind of perennial influence. Ned Hanlon built the 1890s Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Superbas into a two-part syndicate dynasty. But as Bill James points out in his Guide to Baseball Managers the players on those teams went on to influence the game like no other team. John McGraw managed 33 years in the majors, Wilbert Robinson nineteen, and Hughie Jennings sixteen. Fielder Jones skippered for ten seasons, Joe Kelley for five seasons, and Bad Bill Dahlen for four. Jack Dunn became famous as the manager of the minor league Baltimore Orioles of the teens and twenties…the team that sold Lefty Grove and numerous other players to the majors. Hanlon also managed Miller Huggins for two years. All those guys exerted influence over subsequent generations of outstanding managers, including Stengel, Lopez, and Durocher. You can trace Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and virtually any great contemporary manager’s lineage back to Ned Hanlon’s Orioles.
Here’s my final ballot. After the big three, there’s any number of orders we could settle on. I’m looking for far-reaching, long-lasting, high-impact contributions. Your mileage may vary.
1. Branch Rickey
2. Babe Ruth
3. Jackie Robinson
I could have put Ruth first for creating interest at a time when the game’s gambling problems came to light. But the sheer number and breadth of Rickey’s innovations tipped the scales in his direction.
4. Kennesaw Mountain Landis
5. Walter O’Malley
6. Henry Chadwick
I’m pretty sure these are the next three. I put Landis first because rooting out gambling’s influence and restoring the integrity of any given game was far more important to the survival of the game than anything anyone below him could have accomplished. O’Malley is next because of the extreme importance of his vision and its affect on expansion. Chadwick was “Father Baseball” for a reason.
7. Doc Adams
8. William Hulbert
9. Ban Johnson
10. Marvin Miller
11. Bill James
Another tough group. As a founder of the game, I give Adams precedence and Hulbert’s corporate-ownership innovation is absolutely huge. Johnson and Miller could be swapped, but Johnson’s impact is still felt more than 100 years later, while Miller’s is more recent. James’ is more recent yet and just as widespread as Miller’s.
12. J.G. Taylor Spink
13. Rube Foster
14. Harry Wright
We’re getting into a place where everyone’s slot is up for debate. The Sporting News was almost an arm of Major League Baseball and affected its fanbase deeply. Foster’s role as a league architect trumps Wright’s as a team architect.
15. Peter Seitz
16. Al Spalding
17. Monte Ward
Ward turned the game upside down for a year, Spalding held it together for a decade, but Seitz has had the greatest total impact of the three. I ding him a little for being a one-trick pony, but it’s one hell of a trick.
18. Ed Barrow
19. Bud Selig
20. Roger Bresnahan
21. Ned Hanlon
22. Sean Forman
23. Curt Flood
24. Frank Jobe
25. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Among this final group of eight, we really are drawing straws. Barrow’s success laid the groundwork for almost 100 years of Yankee success. Selig has made numerous, though dubious, innovations…and helped to rob a lot of taxpayers of their money. I thought about putting him last simply because of his friendships with Jeffrey Loria and the Wilpons. Bresnahan has helped catchers for more than 100 years. Hanlon’s reach has been incredibly deep, though of course diluted over time. Forman’s reach is still growing. Flood and Jobe could be anywhere in this group, but Holmes I’m solid on for #25 because of the one-trick thing but also because I’m skeptical about the positive value of the anti-trust exemption.
There are some notable omissions. For example, I only have two men on this list for their playing careers. No Dickey Pearce nor Hank Aaron. I don’t have John McGraw or Connie Mack or Joe McCarthy or Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa on this list. No Bill Veeck or Billy Beane. Maybe I could have considered HOK architects or Hillerich & Bradsby. Negatory on George Wright, Al Reach, Everett Mills. Nor Fred Lieb or Ring Larnder.
There’s one other guy I didn’t touch on that I thought a lot about and is worth a mention.
I’m not entirely sure who had the most impact on bullpens, but their evolution is also a key theme in baseball history. Bill James suggests that McGraw rolled out the first relief specialist, Doc Crandall, but McGraw didn’t really follow up that innovation. Joe McCarthy was the first manager to split his moundsmen into starters and relievers. Herman Franks in 1979 announced that Bruce Sutter would only pitch in save situations. Although the Cubs canned Franks a year later, this innovation has had startling implications. Before this, relief aces could enter in any inning with any score when the manager felt it necessary. Other bullpen roles were therefore only vaguely defined. The sharp redefinition of the ace into the closer created a cascading effect. As closers threw fewer innings in save situations, managers needed a set-up man for the eighth inning. Since most late-inning relievers were righties, skippers soon found they also needed a lefty specialist to get that one big out in the seventh or eighth, enter the LOOGY (lefty one-out guy). Since then bullpens have become increasingly hierarchical, and include seventh-inning specialists and even the ROOGY. All of this spilled out of Franks’ decision to limit Sutter to save situations. Franks was not great, he wasn’t even a good manager. But his impact is still reverberating through baseball today as we see twelve, thirteen, and even fourteen-man pitching staffs.
This has been a fun exercise. Make your own ballot and vote!