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10 Most Influential Players of the 20th Century

Discussion in 'MLB Discussion' started by Vermonter At Large, Jan 6, 2019.

  1. Vermonter At Large

    Vermonter At Large SoxFan Dope

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    While doing some archival research, I found an old thread from 2005 that I thought would be worth a re-visit here during the slack winter period. I'll start off with my post in that thread, which I don't remember writing and may have a difficult time defending since I haven't really done much baseball work in the past decade, but we'll give it a shot ...

    Jul 06, 2005 #97

    1. Babe Ruth. Nobody ever has, or ever will have, as much single impact on the game of baseball as Ruth.

    2. Ty Cobb. To a very large extent, baseball had become a boring game by the time Cobb broke into baseball. Although there were a handfull of great hitters in the game at the turn of the century, it was very much a station-to-station game, with bunting and hit-and-run tactics employed to manufacture runs. Cobb, with all his fire and nasty competitiveness, restored offensive aggressiveness to a game in sore need of it.

    3. John McGraw. As a player, he was pretty much done by the time the 20th Century came around, but his true legacy was as a manager. Indeed, he was the primary exponent of the boring game I alluded to in the preceding paragraph, but his tactics were ever-adaptive. He was a dinosaur in many ways, the bridge between what was good baseball in the 19th Century and what he needed to do to win in the 20th Century. No manager ever had as much impact on the game.

    4. Casey Stengel. He was a pretty fair player, but he was the most innovative manager in the history of the game. He revolutionized the way pitchers were used, and he used the platoon better than any other manager ever.

    5. Jackie Robinson. Not just because of what he signified and went through, but because he was a revolutionary player in his own right. He helped bring some excitement back to a game that had gotten monotonous with the long ball.

    6. Rube Waddell. He didn't invent the fastball, but he was the first modern pitcher who had great success with it. His strikeout rates were incredible for his day.

    7. Mel Harder. An excellent pitcher in his own right, he was he first great pitching coach. He molded the great Indians staffs of the 1950's, making Wynn and Lemon HOFers.

    8. Bob Gibson. Gibson was the first great black pitcher, and perhaps the most dominant pitcher of all-time.

    9. Robin Yount. He didn't invent weight training, but he showed that increased strength could be used successfully at the skill positions. For better or worse, he ushered in the juiced era, even though he never used them himself.

    10. Frank Robinson. A great player, certainly a peer of the more celebrated Mays, Mantle and Aaron. He was the first black manager and, recently, the first great black manager.
     
  2. Saints Rest

    Saints Rest Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Semantics perhaps, but I would suggest that a thread titled “10 Most Influential PLAYERS (emphasis mine) of the 20th Century” shouldn’t be placing 4 people in the top 10 who, albeit former players, are in the top 10 for their roles as non-players.
    Keeping it to player-related performance only, my list:
    1. Ruth.
    2. Jackie R
    3. Ty Cobb
    4. Dennis Eckersley. In combination with Tony LaRussa for sure, but without Eck’s brilliance in the new role of 9th Inning Closer, we might still be seeing relievers who regularly pick up 2 and 3 inning saves. This has also had a tremendous trickle down effect, not only on the value of setup men and middle relievers, but also on the shortening of starting pitchers’ innings.
    5. Hank Aaron. Along with Jackie, his class pursuit of 714, was instrumental in breaking racial barriers.
    6. Roberto Clemente. The Jackie Robinson for Latino players.
    7. Bob Gibson. I’m placing him here as the symbol for the need to lower the mound after the 68 season.
    8. Mark McGwire. His chase of the HR record, post-strike, put baseball back on the national radar for the good, while being the first to admit taking performance enhancing supplements (Andro) put the spotlight on PEDs which has been incredibly influential.
    9. Cal Ripken. Relative to the stain of PEDs, his streak shone a golden spotlight on perseverance.
    10. Yaz. Perhaps overly parochial, but his MVP year in 67 turned Boston into a baseball-frenzied city, perhaps the biggest reason why Sox/Yanks is the money-driving center of so much of TV coverage today.
     
  3. curly2

    curly2 Member SoSH Member

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    I think 6-10 are hard to name, but here would be my top 5.

    1. Babe Ruth: Saved the game after the Black Sox scandal

    2. Jackie Robinson: Nuf Ced

    3. Curt Flood: Every player who came along after him owes him a huge debt.

    4. Roberto Clemente: Set the stage for all the great Latino players.

    5. Jose Canseco: Poster boy for the benefits of PEDs, and the main reason there now is testing.
     
  4. PC Drunken Friar

    PC Drunken Friar Member SoSH Member

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    This is a tremendous top 5. Not sure how it isn't these 5.
     
  5. SumnerH

    SumnerH Malt Liquor Picker Dope

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    Ruth, Robinson, Flood were the first 3 that leapt to mind for me, I think there's a big gap between them and everyone else. Clemente and Canseco are strong selections as well.
     
  6. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    1 (tie) Ruth
    1 (tie) JR42
    3. Clemente
    4. Flood
    5. Mays
    6. Gehrig
    7 (tie) Dimaggio, J
    7 (tie) Williams, T
    9. H. Aaron
    10. Canseco
    hm. Randy Johnson, Pedro (for 97-00), Maddux, B Gibson, Cobb, Shoeless Joe, Mantle

    edited: for 20th century reread and first initials
     
    #6 Ale Xander, Jan 6, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  7. Danny_Darwin

    Danny_Darwin Member SoSH Member

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    Tommy John probably belongs in the top ten somewhere, no?
     
  8. Max Power

    Max Power thai good. you like shirt? SoSH Member

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    Agreed. To me, "influential" means someone who changed the game in some real way, whether it was how it's played on the field or how it's run. Others who haven't been mentioned...

    Hideo Nomo and Ichiro - Nomo showed that Japanese pitchers could succeed in MLB, but there was still a belief that position players couldn't compete. Ichiro came in and was exactly the same player he had been in Japan.

    Maury Wills - Started a 25 year era of the stolen base being a major part of offense.

    Juan Marichal - The first great Dominican player, named by pretty much every great player for decades after as their hero.

    Adam Dunn - For over 100 years there was a stigma attached to striking out, even for the best players. Dunn ushered in the "strikeout is just another out" mentality of the 21st century.

    Edit: Should have actually read the title. Nomo and Wills still make the cut for the 20th century.
     
    #8 Max Power, Jan 6, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  9. SumnerH

    SumnerH Malt Liquor Picker Dope

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    Ichiro didn't enter MLB until the 21st century.
     
  10. Max Power

    Max Power thai good. you like shirt? SoSH Member

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    Yeah, I just realized I can't read titles. You could replace Ichiro with Lefty O'Doul, who made trips to Japan in the early 1930s to help put together their professional leagues.
     
  11. charlieoscar

    charlieoscar Member

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    Have you looked at baseball in the early 1900s? For example. in 1910, the NY Highlanders (soon to be Yankees) had 288 stolen bases as a team and 492 RBI. The Reds had an even higher percentages of SB to RBI (310/526). Wills brought something back that had been missing from the game but even with his 104 SB in 1962, the NL teams only averaged 79 SB. The average for all clubs in 1910 was 204 SB.

    I think Rogers Hornsby might deserve a place on the list. From 1920 through 1925 he led the NL in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, each year while have an OPS+ of 201 for that period and two triple crowns.
     
  12. YTF

    YTF Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    Beat me to it. As I was scrolling down I thought of John. It was pretty much one of those right place at the right time scenarios and eventually someone would have had the surgery, but it was ground breaking for sure and the idea that a promising career can now be extended (perhaps even bettered) rather than ended has no doubt influence the game.
     
  13. McBride11

    McBride11 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    If you mean Dr Frank Jobe, maybe
     
  14. nvalvo

    nvalvo Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    I don't know whether they would land in the top 10, but I also would like to see more discussion of pitchers like Chief Bender, or George Blaeholder, or Bruce Sutter who developed or popularized new pitches.
     
  15. Danny_Darwin

    Danny_Darwin Member SoSH Member

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    While obviously nobody’s doubting his contribution, and while also acknowledging that the “right place, right time” point is valid, I think it’s also fair to say that if John didn’t come back and pitch effectively following the surgery, a lot fewer pitchers would have gotten it done.
     
  16. John Marzano Olympic Hero

    John Marzano Olympic Hero has fancy plans, and pants to match Dope

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    He's also not a player*.

    * At least in the baseball sense, I have no idea how he does with the ladies.
     
  17. nvalvo

    nvalvo Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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  18. Rough Carrigan

    Rough Carrigan reasons within Reason Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I think Curt Flood is being overrated. It didn't seem to much happen in the 1940's through 1960's but guys holding out was much more common before that. Whether Curt Flood went to Philadelphia or not, Miller was going to direct the union toward ending the reserve clause.
     
  19. John Marzano Olympic Hero

    John Marzano Olympic Hero has fancy plans, and pants to match Dope

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    Following that trade to the Phillies, Curt Flood played 13 games. Total. For the rest of his career. In the middle of his prime, he was the one player who stood up to the owners and lost untold amounts of money. Not many people would willingly make that sacrifice.

    So no, I don't believe what Flood did is "overrated".
     
  20. Rough Carrigan

    Rough Carrigan reasons within Reason Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Well, sure it was admirable. All I'm saying is that it wasn't that influential because it didn't actually do anything to overturn the reserve clause and Marvin Miller was undoubtedly aiming to get rid of it from the start and finally did so via an arbitrator.
     
  21. SumnerH

    SumnerH Malt Liquor Picker Dope

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    Agreed; that someone else would have done the same doesn't change the fact that Flood actually did it.

    If anything, Clemente is being overrated slightly (though he probably still deserves to be on the list) by some of the posters. He's an all-time great talent who's extremely important, but he's not really comparable to being a Latin Jackie Robinson. Latinos had been playing in the league for decades. Dolf Luque had quite a distinguished career from the 1910s-1930s, and Latino players were fairly commonplace by Clemente's time: Minnie Miñoso was an All-Star before Clemente entered the league, and the Senators had made some hay when they used Joe Cambria as a Latin American scout to sign a fair number of players in the 30s and 40s (including Jesse Flores, the first Mexican with a reasonably long career, and Alejandro Carrasquel, the first Venezuelan in MLB). The Cubs had signed Hi Bithorn, the first Puerto Rican MLBer, in the 40s, and fellow Puerto Rican Rubén Gómez had helped pitch the Giants to a World Series victory a year before Clemente entered the league. There were plenty of others, too.

    But Clemente was the first Latino megastar (Luque and Miñoso were probably the biggest names before him), and did a ton of great charity work.
     
    #21 SumnerH, Jan 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  22. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    It's the JFK effect. (tragedy immortalized him)

    -One of the "overraters"
     
  23. Spacemans Bong

    Spacemans Bong chapeau rose SoSH Member

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    Miñoso deserves Clemente’s spot. He was a star, got serious MVP attention as a rookie in fact, so any sort of credit Clemente’s getting for being a pioneering black Latino star should go to Miñoso.

    Miñoso also deserves credit for something Clemente never did, which is Miñoso helped bring the stolen base back into vogue. The year before he exploded onto the scene, Dom DiMaggio led the league with 15 stolen bases. Well Miñoso stole 31 as a rookie. He tailed off a bit after that, but the Go-Go Sox were the runningest team of the decade and he was a part of that.
     
  24. Rough Carrigan

    Rough Carrigan reasons within Reason Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    In a perverse way you could call Carl Mays one of the most influential players of the 20th century. By killing Ray Chapman with a pitch he supplied the catalyst to the change in play where a dirty ball was no longer acceptable, where a pitcher doing almost whatever he wanted to the baseball was no longer acceptable, where teams having terrible backgrounds behind the pitcher was at least discouraged. This was part of the death of the deadball era.
     
  25. Savin Hillbilly

    Savin Hillbilly loves the secret sauce SoSH Member

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    I don't think Max was saying Wills invented the running game, but it's hard to overestimate how dormant it had become and how quickly and dramatically it was revived, and Wills was definitely perceived and lionized at the time as the guy who did it.

    Interesting point. In a similar vein, if you buy the narrative of Hal Chase as Agent Zero in the gambling scandals of the 1910s that culminated in the Black Sox mess and the commissioner system, then Chase, too, becomes a pretty influential figure.
     
  26. charlieoscar

    charlieoscar Member

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    Not so much. These are the average stolen base totals by team, NL and AL from 1957 through 1970 (with players who made some difference added). I suppose that one could say that a 50% increase is a lot but given the small number of stolen bases in a year, one or two players can have a large impact. Back when the ball was dead and parks were huge, stolen bases were a big part of the game but as home runs began taking over, stolen bases belonged more to the players who didn't hit for power (obviously there are players who did both but only Bonds (1966), Canseco (1988), Alex Rodriguez (1998), and Alfonso Soriano (2006) belong to the 40-40 club.

    Year -- NL -- AL
    ----------------
    1957 -- 50 -- 46
    1958 -- 49 -- 44
    1959 -- 55 -- 52
    1960 -- 63 -- 53
    1961 -- 59 -- 58
    1962 -- 79 -- 56 (Wills 104)
    1963 -- 68 -- 55
    1964 -- 64 -- 55
    1965 -- 75 -- 70 (Wills 94)
    1966 -- 74 -- 72
    1967 -- 69 -- 68
    1968 -- 70 -- 81 (Campaneris 62, also Year of the Pitcher)
    1969 -- 68 -- 86 (Harper 73)
    1970 -- 87 -- 72 (Tolan/Brock/Bonds/Morgan: 40+)
    1971 -- 75 -- 72
     
  27. SumnerH

    SumnerH Malt Liquor Picker Dope

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    I thought that recent analysis is that the impact of this incident is somewhat overstated. By the teens, balls were fairly regularly replaced during play when dirty; that was encouraged even more post-Chapman, but it was part of an already ongoing evolution beginning in 1908 when rule 3.01 prohibiting soiling the balls and mandating replacement of non-white balls was implemented.

    And the cork-core ball was introduced in the 1910 World Series and was used throughout the league beginning in the 1911 season (Eight Men Out’s dramatic license notwithstanding).

    The spitball ban rule was also introduced 9 months before the Chapman incident, though it didn't take effect until after the season (but Carl Mays’ pitch wasn't a spitball, anyway).
     

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