Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, June 24, 1999

The best 25 in baseball
this century

I see where Major League Baseball will be asking fans to name the top 25 players of the 20th century. The baseball commissioner's office, with the help of a panel of experts, will come up with a ballot of 100 ballplayers for the fans to select from during the voting period of July 13 to Sept. 10.

Call it the All 20th Century Team. Forget the ballot. Here's the list on my Top 25:

1. Babe Ruth. Who else? It's the first name you think of when it comes to baseball. A national treasure.

2. Jackie Robinson. Nobody had to endure more to play in the majors than this Brooklyn Dodgers great.

3. Joe DiMaggio. Other than Babe Ruth, no one else reached mythic proportions but Jolting Joe, who became a national symbol in literature and song. Don't forget his remarkable 56-game hitting streak.

4. Ted Williams. The last - and maybe really the last player ever - to hit .400. Imagine if he played in a ballpark that wasn't a graveyard to left-handed hitters as Fenway Park is.

5. Cy Young. Nobody but nobody will ever win 511 games. He was so good, they named a pitching award after him.

6. Ty Cobb. He won more major league batting titles than anyone. Twelve American League titles in 13 years.

7. Willie Mays. In the top 10 in every hitting statistic you can think of, except singles.

8. Stan Musial. Likewise.

9. Lou Gehrig. Nobody left the game in a more poignant manner.

10. Christy Mathewson. Won 372 games, threw 83 shutouts and pitched 4,772 innings!

11. Honus Wagner. Eight National League batting titles can't be wrong.

12. Rogers Hornsby. Seven NL batting crowns, a .359 lifetime batting average.

13. Walter Johnson. A 36-game winner in 1913 for the Senators when Washington wasn't first in the nation and last in the American League.

14. Tris Speaker. No words need be spoken.

15. Mickey Mantle. He more than lived up to his difficult role as DiMaggio's heir apparent.

16. Dizzy Dean. Though Dazzy Vance wasn't bad either.

17. Jimmie Foxx. One stat to mull over: 1,921 runs-batted-in in 2,317 games.

18. Hank Aaron. No. 755 says it all, and it's still standing.

19. Bob Gibson. Give me Gibson when the game is on the line, especially the seventh game of a World Series. He wasn't bad on other days, too, with 3,117 lifetime strikeouts.

20. Pete Rose. No one played more games, had more hits and scored more runs. This guy belongs in the Hall of Fame.

21. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. I say it's so. Like Pete Rose, another oversight that baseball needs to correct.

22. Sandy Koufax. A total of 699 strikeouts in back-to-back years, including a major-league record 382 in 1965. Five straight ERA titles.

23. Frank Robinson. The only player to win MVP honors in both the American and National leagues.

24. Ernie Banks. No shortstop has hit more home runs in a season or lifetime than the "Good Day for Two" Mr. Cub.

25. Tony Gwynn. Guess who won as many NL batting crowns as Honus Wagner. The only active player on my 20th Century Team.

And for those looking ahead to the next millennium, these are among the sure-fire members of the All 21st Century Team:

Boston's Nomar Garciaparra, Texas' Juan Gonzalez, Seattle's Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr., and Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees.

Among those caught between millenniums and who won't make any all-century team include Cal Ripken and Nolan Ryan - records based on longevity don't cut it - and my favorite modern-day pitcher, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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