By In Baseball

No. 55: Ernie Banks

Buck O’Neil told a million great stories about Ernie Banks, his protege, but my favorite comes from a doubleheader in Houston on August 18, 1962. By this point, Ernie Banks was an already icon … and had already played his best baseball.

That was the first year Banks had moved from shortstop to first base after the knee injury — and the truth is that Ernie Banks was never a great player after the injury and position move. e was 31 after he made the move, his body was beaten down. He did have some moments — heck, he hit 214 more home runs (pushing his career total above 500). But he never hit higher than .276, only once walked 50 times, never scored 90 runs and never quite played first base defense to even a draw.

But … he was Ernie Banks. In eight extraordinary years as a shortstop, he had already secured his place as a legend. Before him, no shortstop had ever hit 40 home runs in a season — Vern Stephens was closest with 39 in 1949. Ernie Banks hit 40 five times, including four seasons in a row. He drove in 100-plus RBIs five seasons in a row, tying Joe Cronin for the most by a shortstop. He led the league in homers twice, RBIs twice, slugging once, intentional walks twice. This sort of thing didn’t happen with shortstops. It was like he had invented a new kind of baseball player.

And he had invented this new player with a joyfulness and delight that make him perhaps the most irresistible player in baseball history. How could you not love Ernie Banks? How deep would your cynicism and disgust with life have to run to miss out on the wonder of Mr. Cub? Mr. Sunshine? He would take the dugout steps two at a time, and he would have this huge smile on his face every game, and he would famously say “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame … let’s play two!”

Buck used to say that when Ernie Banks first joined the Monarchs he was a quiet type. His first sports love had been swimming. There’s a persistent story that Banks has sometimes acknowledged that it was Cool Papa Bell who spotted him first playing softball and recommended him to O’Neil. Anyway, Banks flashed talent right away but he would sit quietly on the team bus and hardly every say a word. “I was learning,” Banks says, and he says nobody in those days taught him more than Buck did. It wasn’t on-the-field stuff that Buck taught though. It was something more existential.

“I already loved baseball,” Ernie Banks says. “But Buck showed me how to express that love.”

Buck and others facilitated Banks signing with the Cubs (he actually didn’t want to go at first). And Banks, you probably know, never played one game in the minor leagues. He went right from the Monarchs (where he had hit .347) to the Cubs where in 10 games he hit .314 with two homers. The next year, he was the Cubs starting shortstop. The year after that he became the first shortstop to hit 40 homers in a season

And he expressed that joy for baseball in everything he did — in the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he played every single game, the way he made it feel like he was exactly where he wanted to be — no place on earth would be better.

“Maybe it’s sacrilege but I believe Banks was a con artist,” John Roseboro said. “No one smiles all the time, naturally, unless they’re putting you on and putting you on. Every day of our lives isn’t a good one.”

Only it was for Ernie Banks. Every day was a good day. His mother had wanted him to be a minister. His father wanted him to be a baseball player. In a way, he was both. The ballpark was his pulpit. The crowds were his congregation. Ernie Banks was the first black player to sign with the Chicago Cubs, and like all pioneers he dealt with the pressures and fury that raged all around him. He dealt with it all in his way, not with speeches or sermons or shouts of anger but by being Ernie Banks, by hitting long home runs and playing terrific shortstop and never missing a game and expressing his joy for baseball and life as boldly as anyone who ever played this wonderful game.

His 1958 and 1959 MVP seasons are probably the greatest back-to-back seasons for a shortstop since Honus Wagner more than 100 years ago.

In 1958, hit .313/.366/.614 with 47 homers, 119 runs, 129 RBIs and a league-leading 379 total bases. By Defensive WAR, he was also a brilliant defensive shortstop.

In 1959, he hit .304/.374/.596 with 45 homers,143 RBIs, and his 3.5 Defensive WAR was the best for any shortstop in 15 years.

There does need to be context added — there are few, perhaps zero, legendary baseball seasons that were not influenced by context. Banks played his home games at Wrigley Field, and while the overall park effects were neutral and perhaps even leaning slightly toward pitchers (that surprised me too), Banks had pretty extreme home-road splits, particularly in 1958.

1958 home: .340/.393/.700 with 30 homers.
1958 road: .287/.339/.533 with 17 homers.

1959 home: .321/.390/.631 with 24 homers.
1959 home: .288/.359/.563 with 21 homers.

I think Banks’ love of Chicago and the park, his comfort level there, probably had as much to do with the split as the park itself (as I say, it was a neutral park then). His defense was certainly good but perhaps not quite as good as his Defensive WAR suggests — the Cubs had an extreme ground ball pitching staff, for one thing.

But those are still extraordinary seasons by any measurement, and they were bookended by only slightly less extraordinary ones. He had a 43-homer season in ’57. He hit a league-leading 41 home runs in 1960 when he also won his first and only Gold Glove.

So, he was iconic by 1962 when the Cubs went to play a doubleheader in Houston. Houston was the Colt 45s then (it was their first season) and they were playing at old Colt Stadium — from what I can tell, there could be a whole book written about the three years when the Houston Colt 45s played at old Colt Stadium. The mosquitoes there were apparently so large and feisty that outfielders used to wear towels under the hats — like arab sheiks, Buck used to say — just so those mosquitoes wouldn’t get their necks.

“Those mosquitoes were so big,” Buck told me, “we used to say that everybody should move in groups because otherwise a mosquito might carry one us back to the nest.”

It was an absurdly hot day, scorching — 92 degrees according to the official box score but Buck always swore it was at least 110 degrees. It was exactly NOT the right day to play two, but the doubleheader was scheduled. Banks came to the ballpark smiling, like always, and he went through his routine. He took the dugout steps two at a time. He looked up into the sky, felt the heat attack him in waves and he said his mantra: “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two!”

He struck out three times in the first game.

And then he fainted before the second game.

And then he recovered enough to pinch hit in the ninth inning with the scored tied 5-5. Don McMahon struck him out.

“Beautiful day, Ernie?” Buck asked him in the clubhouse after the doubleheader and he had this mischievous smile on his face. Banks was crumpled by his locker and he was so exhausted and drained by the heat that he could barely look up. But then he too smiled.

“They’re all beautiful days, Buck,” he said. “Just that some days are more beautiful than others.”

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96 Responses to No. 55: Ernie Banks

  1. MCD says:

    Ernie Banks actually played more games at 1B then at SS, but I will always think of him as a shortstop because of how great he was before his health predicated the switch.

  2. what was the injury that forced banks to first?

  3. Stephen says:

    Great article. One of my favorite players ever.

    One thing I don’t understand, though, You seem to be knocking Banks down a bit because he benefited from Wrigley even though it didn’t play as a hitter’s park during the fifties, which is reasonable.

    But in earlier essays you’ve knocked Miguel Cabrera down for playing in a hitter’s park in 2013, even though he hit 27 homers on the road and just 17 at home and had essentially equivalent OPS in each place–so didn’t seem to benefit from Comerica in that year at least.

    I’m not trying to pull a gotcha here, and don’t have any particularly strong views about Cabrera either way. But it seems kind of…odd…to say to Cabrera, “Well, your park didn’t help you in 2013, but we’ll still debit you for playing in a hitter’s park” while saying to Banks “Well, your park played as neutral in 1958, but we’ll still debit you for doing better at home than on the road.”

    Or am I missing something? Entirely possible.

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      Because playing in a hitter’s park is advantageous, regardless of whether or not the numbers accrued there are better than road numbers. Just because Cabrera was better on the road in 2013 doesn’t mean his home numbers weren’t higher than they would have been if he’d played say, San Diego.

      • Stephen says:

        Thanks for the response, but it only sort of answers my question.

        Getting back to Cabrera, in August Joe ran a column called Explaining Cabrera, Trout and WAR. He made the point that Trout plays in a tougher run-scoring environment, which I get, so therefore Trout’s offense is actually better than Cabrera’s if placed into equalized contexts. And IN THEORY, that makes sense.

        But in 2013, for whatever reason, though Trout did better on the road than at home (though his OBP was better at home than away), Cabrera’s offensive ROAD stats were better than Trout’s offensive ROAD stats:

        Trout 326/425/575, OPS 1.000

        Cabrera 331/426/648, OPS 1.074

        So looking only at what they did in ROAD games Cabrera was a superior offensive player in 2013. So why include a park adjustment in this case?

        And I bring it up here because Joe seems to have done exactly the opposite with Banks, docking him for what his actual home/road stats were although the park, as he admits, played as a neutral park during the years in question.

        Again, I am not trying to refight an MVP discussion. But there seems to be a contradiction…

        • bookbook says:

          “He made the point that Trout plays in a tougher run-scoring environment, which I get, so therefore Trout’s offense is actually better than Cabrera’s if placed into equalized contexts.”

          You’ve answered yourself quite nicely. To exaggerate the point, if you contribute 3 runs in a park where the average team scores 5 runs a game that’s more valuable than if you contribute 4 runs in a park where the average team scores 10 a game. It makes a bigger contribution to your team’s chance of winning. (Yes, it’s all THEORY. In theory, gravity keeps us from floating off the Earth.)

          Here, for Banks, I don’t get the sense that Joe is docking Banks, nor downgrading the contribution he made to his team by hitting so much better at home. He is, rather, noting with bemusement one possible reason why Banks was able to hit so spectacularly at home.

  4. Jake Bucsko says:

    It’s a beautiful day for a Top 100 piece…let’s read two!

  5. Wilbur says:

    Ernie Banks was (is) a great man, and a great ballplayer at least for the first half of his career. Once he injured his knee the Cubs moved him off of shortstop, and eventually settled him at first base.

    I saw him at the end of the 60’s. He had great, soft hands at first base, but moved somewhat like a slug. Leo Durocher, his manager (motto: “I come to kill you”) tried hard to get rid of Banks for several years, but couldn’t get it done.

    Another memory is how he would finger the bat while waiting for the pitch like he was playing a flute.

    On Sunday nights, he would do the sports on WGN-TV on their nightly news. He would narrate the Cub highlights, and I’d love it when he’d precede a highlight with “And then, in the seventh inning, I came to bat …”

  6. Wilbur says:

    I’ve read in several sources that during his career, Ernie used to call young black players throughout MLB, checking on them, giving them counsel and encouragement. Sounds like another thing he picked up from Buck.

  7. Tyler says:

    “His 1958 and 1959 MVP seasons are probably the greatest back-to-back seasons for a shortstop since Honus Wagner more than 100 years ago”

    How about A-Rod’s 2001 and 2002 seasons? (or his 2000 and 2001 seasons, for that matter?)

    • Mark Daniel says:

      ARod was close, but if you go by WAR Banks was better (WAR of 9.5 and 10.2 for Banks in 1958-1959 vs. 10.3 and 8.4 for 2001-2002 for ARod).

  8. Jim Haas says:

    My grandma was a die-hard White Sox fan, but she loved Ernie Banks. Thanks, Joe, for reminding us why.

  9. Herb Smith says:

    According to WAR, Banks’s back-to-back seasons registered as 10.2 WAR and 9.5. A-Rod was superb in the back-to-back years you mentioned, but his WAR was less: 8.4 and 8.8. His 2000 and 2001 years were higher: 10.3 and 8.4.

    Plus, this was before he ever took a steroid!

  10. tombando says:

    Kinda makes up for the lack of Fergie and Billy here….but that’s the Cubs fan speaking. That ’67-73 team shoulda been in the WS at least once and in the playoffs another year, you’d think w/ all that talent on hand. Nice to see Santo acknowledged here though.

    Banks one of the true nice guys in the game.

  11. I saw Pearl Jam play Wrigley Field last summer. After 5 songs or so, a huge storm delayed the concert by almost three hours, and it was midnight when the band retook the stage. Eddie Vedder said he had a special guest to introduce, and out walked Ernie Banks. I’m sure it was hours later than he’d planned on coming out, but he’d stuck around, and was given a big ovation. Banks played well before my time, but it meant a lot to me to see one the the all-time greats and hear him talk about how much Wrigley meant to him.

  12. Jake says:

    I live in the Albany, NY area and decided to go to the HOF induction ceremony in 2005 when my childhood hero was getting the call – Ryne Sandberg. On my way there that day, I was driving down I-88 and a limo went to pass on my left. I was wearing Cubs gear because – duh – Sandburg. Anyway, the glass was tinted like limos are, but I could still see inside. It was an older african-american guy riding in the back. When he saw me in my Cubs shirt and hat, he gave me a big smile, a nod and pointed at me. I swear it was Ernie Banks, but I can never be sure.

    Keep in mind that when existing HOF’ers go to Cooperstown for the induction, they generally fly into Albany and take the exact same route to the town that I was taking. There’s almost 0 doubt in my mind that that guy was a HOFer, but I couldn’t clearly make out his face. I still say it was Banks.

  13. So, 54 spots left. Who am I missing? Feel weird about not having George Davis (#32 all-time in fWAR) and Bob Feller (just because). (Pay no attention to the asterisks or the order these are listed in.)

    Catcher (7)

    Josh Gibson *
    Johnny Bench *
    Yogi Berra *
    Mike Piazza *
    Gary Carter *
    Carlton Fisk *
    Ivan Rodriguez *

    First Base (3)

    Lou Gehrig *
    Jimmie Foxx *
    Albert Pujols *

    Second Base (4)

    Joe Morgan *
    Rogers Hornsby *
    Eddie Collins *
    Nap Lajoie *

    Shortstop (3)

    Honus Wagner *
    Cal Ripken, Jr. *
    Alex Rodriguez *

    Third Base (4)

    Mike Schmidt *
    George Brett *
    Eddie Matthews *
    Wade Boggs *

    Left Field (5)

    Barry Bonds *
    Ted Williams *
    Rickey Henderson *
    Carl Yastrzemski *
    Stan Musial *

    Centerfield (6)

    Willie Mays *
    Ty Cobb *
    Mickey Mantle *
    Joe DiMaggio *
    Oscar Charleston *
    Ken Griffey Jr. *

    Right Field (7)

    Babe Ruth *
    Mel Ott *
    Hank Aaron *
    Frank Robinson *
    Roberto Clemente *
    Pete Rose *
    Al Kaline*

    Pitchers (16)

    Cy Young *
    Walter Johnson *
    Greg Maddux *
    Roger Clemens *
    Christy Mathewson *
    Sandy Koufax *
    Randy Johnson *
    Pedro Martinez *
    Steve Carlton *
    Pete Alexander *
    Tom Seaver *
    Lefty Grove *
    Bob Gibson *
    Warren Spahn *
    Satchel Paige *

    • To respond to my own question….. 🙂

      That feels like too many catcher, but: there has only been one catcher, I believe: Roy Campanella and those listed above were all better than Campy. Basically, the seven listed above are the top six all time in fWAR plus Josh Gibson.

      If I had to take off one player above, it would be Al Kaline. But he seems clearly better than some of those Joe’s already listed.

      • Ross Holden says:

        I agree about feeling like many catchers left, but they’re probably all still to come. Maybe Joe has a soft spot for catchers or maybe I don’t value them enough, but i would have put some of the players recently discussed above the remaining catchers.
        e.g. Ivan Rodfiguez’s contemporaries like Chipper, Jeter, Big Frank, and Bagwell. I’d put all 4 of them ahead of I-Rod. All have a better peak and career WAR.
        Those catchers you mention should be in the top 100, but we should have seen more than just Campy so far, imho

    • buddaley says:

      I am not claiming he should be listed, but as something to consider, I notice you do not mention Rod Carew. Joe is not using WAR as the be-all and end-all, nor should he, but it is worthwhile to mention that Carew’s fWAR of 72.3 is between 7 and about 9+ higher than that of Biggio, Alomar and Sandberg, each already listed.

      Carew did play more 1B than 2B (although I always think of him at 2B), but even so, his WAR is about 3-6 points higher than that of McGwire, McCovey or Mize and virtually the same as that of Murray and Thomas.

      Carew had 5 consecutive seasons between 6.3-8.6 fWAR and 4 more scattered between 4.3-5 WAR. He was, in his time, the consummate hitter, a magician with the bat.

      • He was a hard exclusion. Certainly seems better than some listed already by Joe, but hard to put him above any I listed.

        I also omitted Jackie Robinson. Oops. Joe will certainly include him, won’t he?

        So that’s two I certainly missed–Speaker and 42.

        • invitro says:

          Mr. Doe,

          JoePos is following James and ESPN. It is easy to predict the results when you know that. I’ve given details in previous posts. Anyway… catchers are OUT. You need to remove Piazza, Carter, Fisk, and IRodriguez. All of them. Then add Speaker, JRobinson, Feller, Carew, and Pop Lloyd. That gives 55 players… I feel so sure that these 55 have to make it that I think it’s more likely that JoePos screwed up and tied two players again, or misnumbered a player.

          • I think you’re right. (Although there are only 54 spots left, not 55.) I’ve come around to seeing that I included too many catchers for the spots left. But, I think JoeP is being way too hard on that position. Oh well. Still a great list and a lot of fun!!

          • Oh nevermind…I see what you are saying now about 54 v. 55.

          • invitro says:

            FWIW, I think he’s being too hard on catchers, too.

            Going by James/ESPN, Fisk, Piazza, and IRod should’ve made this list… but somewhere in the 80s-90s. We’re well past that point. I would not be shocked if one of them were still to show up, except that it would take the spot of someone that I -would- be shocked to not see make it.

            Here is where these four catchers show up on James’ and ESPN’s lists:

            IRod was not on James (he’s too recent) and is #72 on ESPN.
            Fisk was #97 on James and is #77 on ESPN.
            Piazza was #79 on James and is #79 on ESPN.
            Carter was #110 on James and is #87 on ESPN.

        • I’m not convinced about Carew. His fWAR is relatively “low.” “Only” 72.3 which is only slightly higher than these catchers we’re talking about. And does anyone think Rod Carew is better than McCovey, Bagwell, Thomas, Killibrew? I don’t.

    • Geoff says:

      Here’s where we’re at for the remaining 54 spots…

      Locks (47):
      Hank Aaron
      Pete Alexander
      Johnny Bench
      Wade Boggs
      Barry Bonds
      George Brett
      Steve Carlton
      Oscar Charleston
      Roger Clemens
      Roberto Clemente
      Ty Cobb
      Eddie Collins
      Joe DiMaggio
      Jimmy Foxx
      Lou Gehrig
      Bob Gibson
      Josh Gibson
      Ken Griffey Jr.
      Lefty Grove
      Rickey Henderson
      Rogers Hornsby
      Babe Ruth
      Randy Johnson
      Walter Johnson
      Nap Lajoie
      Greg Maddux
      Mickey Mantle
      Pedro Martinez
      Eddie Mathews
      Christy Mathewson
      Willie Mays
      Joe Morgan
      Stan Musial
      Mel Ott
      Satchel Paige
      Albert Pujols
      Cal Ripken
      Frank Robinson
      Jackie Robinson
      Alex Rodriguez
      Mike Schmidt
      Tom Seaver
      Warren Spahn
      Tris Speaker
      Honus Wagner
      Ted Williams
      Cy Young

      Near lock (but shouldn’t be):
      Sandy Koufax

      Would be shocked if they didn’t make it (5):
      Yogi Berra
      Rod Carew
      Bob Feller
      Pete Rose
      Carl Yastrzemski

      Only room for one of these guys! (4):
      Gary Carter
      Al Kaline
      Pop Lloyd
      Mike Piazza

      Would take a major upset (8):
      Cap Anson
      Mickey Cochrane
      George Davis
      Carlton Fisk
      Fergie Jenkins
      Phil Niekro (biggest omission, by far)
      Ivan Rodriguez
      Mule Suttles
      Cristóbal Torriente

      Of my 47 locks, the lowest on Bill James’ list are Clemente (74) and Carleton (78); I just can’t see how you exclude any of these guys. I think Koufax should have appeared a while back, and I would rank everyone on the “only room for one of these guys” list ahead of him, but I just can’t see him getting left off; I’d be shocked if he wasn’t in the next few names.

      That leaves six remaining slots. Of the guys on the second list, the lowest ranked on James’ list was Carew (#64). Feller was #56, and I suppose you could make a case for excluding him, but I really can’t see it. Could anyone *really* say that Mariano Rivera was greater than Bob Feller? I think all five guys make it, leaving a group of four guys I think should absolutely be on here, only one of which likely will be.

      Gary Carter is probably the second greatest all-around catcher to ever play in the big leagues, while Mike Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all-time and wasn’t really that bad defensively. Pop Lloyd is generally considered the greatest negro league shortstop. You want to dock Kaline for not having quite the peak some of the best RFers had? Fine, but are you really saying he’s not as good as Ichiro or Tony Gwynn?

      I can’t get too worked up about the guys on the “upset” list, other than Phil Niekro. I would have thought Jenkins was a lock going in, but it’s not that hard to leave him off. The negro league and 19th century guys all have strong cases, but each have significant question marks, as well. Cochrane and Pudge seem to be a notch below the other catchers I’ve listed.

      It’ll be fascinating to see who gets left out of this list…looking forward to finding out!

      • DM says:


        Same as on other posts where you’ve attempted to predict the remaining players to be named, I think your predictions about the remaining players are pretty reasonable and will likely prove to be, ultimately, pretty accurate. Some thoughts:

        It’s probably just nit-picking on my part, but I would consider Rose to be more in the “lock” category than the “shocked if he didn’t make it”, mostly because it’s Joe’s list. He’s lobbied for Rose to be reinstated, he has his personal connection to the Cincinnati area and (through the subject matter of his book) the Big Red Machine. I know it’s a fine line between “lock” and “shock”, but that’ my opinion.

        I went back to Joe’s original statement at the beginning of this project. Here’s what he said:

        “There were three basic rules I went by.

        1. Every player is eligible. So, pre-1900 players, Negro Leagues players, legendary talents who never made it to the Majors, Japanese players, everybody is eligible.

        2. I rank the players entirely on their play on the field (and whatever other subtle and helpful baseball qualities I could glean out of their careers). We can argue about the various ways players have cheated through the years, and I’m not condoning that cheating. While I tend to be quite a bit less bothered than many by steroid use before testing began, I”m probably more troubled than many by Shoeless Joe Jackson’s role in the throwing of the 1919 World Series. In both cases, I try to keep all of that out of the rankings.

        3. I rank the players using my own judgments — it wouldn’t be fun any other way. So, I judge for myself how much Ted Williams and Bob Feller and others lost because of World War II. I judge for myself how the short brilliance of Sandy Koufax’s career compares with the long and steady excellence of Warren Spahn or the mysteries of Satchel Paige’s often hidden brilliance might compare with Randy Johnson who was on display every time out. It’s fun. It’s guaranteed that you will not agree all the time or most of the time or perhaps even some of the time.”

        That 2nd one in particular might be relevant to Rose. I’m sure he’s referring more about PED’s, and this certainly led him to be OK with including players like McGwire (who certainly many, or even most, people would leave off a list like this), but the statement that he’s more concerned with play on the field and not so much on other factors lead me to believe that Rose has to be there. I don’t personally believe Rose was the best or most valuable player on the Machine….I think Morgan and Bench were more valuable in their play. I suspect many have come to that conclusion. But, as much as Morgan and Bench led in their own ways, Rose was the primary leader of that great team. If your point is that perhaps Rose isn’t necessarily a lock based on his baseball value relative to the others, I can see that argument. As legendary as he was, there have certainly been many much more valuable players. I just don’t see any way that (specifically) Joe would exclude him. That’s just me.

        Of course I do understand your dilemma….there are clearly some players left that will seem like unusual exclusions from a top 100. There will be some real surprises.

        I know you and I will never see eye to eye on Koufax and Niekro. I think we beat that one to death on prior posts. Like you, I do agree that Koufax will be listed here. Unlike you, I think he belongs, although at this point, I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Joe doesn’t list him. Obviously, someone (or should I say, several players) who is (are) really good will be left out. I’m trying to interpret his mention of Koufax in his original setup (under point 2), where he said he will judge for himself how the “short brilliance of Sandy Koufax’s career compares with the long and steady excellence of Warren Spahn”. That might be his way of hinting that Koufax, whom I think many would consider a lock, might not be included. Or maybe I’m overthinking it. 🙂

        • Geoff says:

          Yeah, I don’t disagree with you on Rose. The “would be shocked group” is really guys I think are locks, but could *imagine* them getting left off in favor of other guys. A top-100 without Berra seems impossible to me, but there’s a slid case to be made that Carter or Piazza was better then he was. I can’t really see how the list could have, say, Craig Biggio, but not Pete Rose.

          I’m probably also guilty of overthinking the initial rules, as laid out by Joe. I took the mention of Koufax by name to mean that he would be on here somewhere. I just hoped it would be 40 spots lower than it will end up being. 🙂

      • I like that list with the last guy in being a catcher. I initially excluded Feller, but c’mon, when you factor in the war and the fact that he’s an Indian, he’ll make it. I don’t think Carew deserves it over many in your “last in” and “upset” list, but, yes hard to see how he would rate below top 100. I think Joe is being too tough on catchers.

        • Geoff says:

          Completely agree with you on the catchers. It’s tough to include everyone, but it just seems fishy to only wind up with 1-2 catchers from the last 60 years in the top 100.

          I might not have Carew this high, but again, I’m trying to see who might be excluded from the top-100. Is there really any argument for Biggio/Whitaker, but no Carew? I suppose he gets dinged a bit for spending so much time at 1B, but he’s basically dead even with Gehringer in overall and peak value.

      • invitro says:

        Geoff: glad to see you came around (partially) on Berra and Koufax.

        Your list matches mine now. I think Kaline and Lloyd both have to make it, and I will predict that JoePos has either another tie, or a misnumbering of a player, or forgot a player, to let them both on.

        Since we’re almost-certain, it’s time to start predicting the order. I predict some combination of Carew, Boggs, Kaline, Feller, and maybe Lloyd* are up next. Your move.

        Turkey Stearns was #25 on James, #58 here, and I thought he’d be higher. Lloyd was #27 on James. Other Negro Leaguers JoePos has listed so far: Campanella (#53 James, #66 here), Irvin (not on James, #71 here), Leonard (#64 James, #76 here), Smokey Williams (#52 James, #79 here), Rogan (not on James, #89 here), and Bell (#76 James, #99 here). JoePos is about 20% lower than James, with outliers of Irvin and Stearns. I think Lloyd could be anywhere from #33 to #54.

        • Geoff says:

          I would add Koufax to that list of guys coming up soon. 🙂

          I always thought Berra and Koufax belonged on the list (please correct me if I said otherwise). I disagree with James’ ranking of Berra above Bench, and think Koufax at #51 is silly, but I’d probably have Berra in the top 60 and think Koufax probably slots in somewhere in the 80-100 range.

          It looks we’ll know exactly who the top-50 are by the time we get there, so maybe we can get a contest going for ranking all of them when we get there, and see who gets closest.

          • DM says:


            Regarding a contest for predicting the ranking of the remaining players….an excellent idea!

            Starting with 54, here are my predictions. Note that these are where I predict Joe will have them…..not the order that I would personally rank them. I’m using your most recent list of locks, near locks, etc. Of the 4 you felt kind of unsure of (Carter, Kaline, Lloyd, Piazza), I think Joe would pick Lloyd. It’s hard for me to imagine that he would include some of the Negro League players already listed earlier (Irvin, Rogan, Williams, Bell, etc.) and not also include Lloyd. I may be wrong, but I just think Joe would include him. In fact, I have him fairly high up on the remaining picks.

            Here we go:
            Rank Name
            54 Bob Feller
            53 Rod Carew
            52 Steve Carlton
            51 Carl Yastrzemski
            50 Sandy (“Silly”) Koufax – (“Silly” – my shout-out to Geoff!) 🙂
            49 Warren Spahn
            48 Yogi Berra
            47 Wade Boggs
            46 Eddie Mathews
            45 Roberto Clemente
            44 Cal Ripken
            43 Bob Gibson
            42 Nap Lajoie
            41 Christy Mathewson
            40 Randy Johnson
            39 Tom Seaver
            38 Ken Griffey Jr.
            37 Johnny Bench
            36 Pedro Martinez
            35 Cy Young
            34 Pete Rose
            33 Jackie Robinson
            32 Mel Ott
            31 Pete Alexander
            30 Frank Robinson
            29 Pop Lloyd
            28 Rickey Henderson
            27 George Brett
            26 Alex Rodriguez
            25 Jimmy Foxx
            24 Albert Pujols
            23 Greg Maddux
            22 Rogers Hornsby
            21 Eddie Collins
            20 Roger Clemens
            19 Mike Schmidt
            18 Satchel Paige
            17 Lefty Grove
            16 Tris Speaker
            15 Joe Morgan
            14 Joe DiMaggio
            13 Lou Gehrig
            12 Stan Musial
            11 Hank Aaron
            10 Walter Johnson
            9 Josh Gibson
            8 Ted Williams
            7 Oscar Charleston
            6 Mickey Mantle
            5 Ty Cobb
            4 Barry Bonds
            3 Willie Mays
            2 Honus Wagner
            1 Babe Ruth

            I get the feeling that Bonds and Clemens will both finish well up the list (A-Rod too) as I don’t think he’ll hold the PED issues against them.

          • BT says:

            Guys, I would use this to re-think some of your final predictions.


        • Geoff says:


          Let’s wait until we get to 51…that way we’ll almost certainly know who the top-50 are, and can predict a nice round number.

          I say we (including anyone else who wants to join in) each start with 1,000 points, and subtract based on how far off we are. One point for each slot you’re off you lose a point (e.g., you have a guy at #40, Joe has him at #35, you lost 5 points). Maybe a 25 point penalty if you pick a guy that doesn’t make the list…

  14. Herb Smith says:

    What about Ferguson Jenkins? He had a (much) higher career WAR than either Santo or Banks, who’ve both made the list. His career WAR is higher than the career WAR of Glavine, Schilling, and Nolan Ryan, all of whom have made the list. (And Fergie’s peak was also significantly higher than any of those 3, so it’s not like he was a “compiler.”)

    Plus, the Fergie “story” is tailor-made for a series like this: the unique upbringing, the fact that his trade from Phillies-to-Cubs is perhaps the most lopsided trade in baseball history, the cocaine bust, the fact that he was a great hitter (7 HR one year), the fact that he was such a good athlete that he played for the Harlem Globetrotters in the off-season…I mean, come on.

    Gotta put Fergie on the list!

  15. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    One of the fun things about watching this list develop is the realization that it’s not just a straight sabermetric assessment from top to bottom. It shows a real soft spot for the players who, while obviously outstanding, also contributed significantly to the narrative of Major League (and Negro League) baseball. Thus, Derek Jeter and Ernie Banks end up coming in much higher than their numbers alone would seem to warrant. Compare this list (as many have) to the list developed by Bill James. The players who score significantly higher here tend to be the ones whose numbers are great, but whose stories are greater.

    • Geoff says:

      Your point is well-taken, but I think you’re not giving Joe enough credit. A great storyteller can make just about anything compelling, and I don’t think there’s any reason to think Joe allowed narrative to play a role in his rankings. I think just about everyone who’s ever played Major League (or negro league, Japanese league, etc.) baseball has an interesting story, and I’m pretty sure that if Joe was ranking the top-300 guys, he’d find 300 interesting stories to tell.

      In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure Derek Jeter’s story is particularly interesting (relative to other players), and he always strikes me as a pretty bland character (though he’s obviously been a great player). Besides, it’s not like the story is better because he’s ranked 57th than it would have been if he had been ranked 87th.

      • EnzoHernandez11 says:

        Sorry, I should have been clearer. I’m not saying that Jeter and Banks received high rankings because they had more interesting stories to tell. I agree with you that everyone has an interesting story, and that the story is just as good at #57 as it is at #87.

        What I was trying to say is that Joe Posnanski’s definition of relative greatness seems extend beyond the numbers. By statistics alone, it would seem that Jeter and Banks (and several others) are slotted much higher than they deserve to be. But Banks and Jeter are very prominent in the folklore of baseball; they are team-defining and decade-defining players, and I think they’re getting extra credit for that.

        I have no problem with that, by the way. The idea of greatness should certainly begin with the statistical record, but it can also include what a player meant to the fans and to the overall narrative of the game. There are limits, of course; Jack Morris’s “greatness” went unrecognized by nearly everyone until Dan Gladden touched home plate in 1991. But I do think you can give a player extra points for being Reggie Jackson or Cal Ripken or Pete Rose–or Derek Jeter or Ernie Banks.

        • DM says:


          (by the way…are there really 10 others that came before you?) 🙂

          On your most recent post…..well said! The numbers are a good starting point….but greatness can (and should) extend well beyond that.

          Well said indeed.

          By the way….my favorite Enzo Hernandez stat…..rookie year, 1971….618 plate appearances, 12 RBI. A nice 51 AB to RBI ratio. Priceless. I wonder what the record is?

          • EnzoHernandez11 says:

            DM, thanks for the response.

            Enzo Hernandez’s number was 11. I use the name as a tribute to the Padres shortstop of my childhood, by all accounts a nice young man who worked hard to have a 6+ year major league career, and came to a tragic end.

            In a sense, he’s my Duane Kuiper, only way worse at baseball. Your stat sums up his offensive skills, and Bill James once named Enzo and Derrel Thomas in 1974 the second-worst DP combo in major league history. He was fast, though, and so the Padres would often let him bat lead-off. Ah, the 70s…

  16. Chad Meisgeier says:

    My No. 55 is Ivan Rodriguez.

  17. I was going to say that from this point on, we’re getting into the all timers, and there won’t be much argument (making the rest of the picks kind of boring). I.e. Ernie Banks, #55…. OK…. next. But, I can see from above, that there will be disagreements on 3-5 players who get snubbed. I guess In mid-August, when Joe finally completes this series he can write a blog on his snubs. One player everyone may have forgotten… Miguel Cabrera. Maybe he’s on the wrong end of the last two MVP discussion blogs, but he has already compiled 54.6 WAR only 10 1/2 seasons. He’s hit .321/.399/.568 with an OPS+ of 154 and has amassed 365 HRs. (Almost 35 per full season). With him still being in his prime, he projects out to a Top 50 player. It depends, like with War era players and Negro leaguers how Joe wants to process him. But if he retired today, he’s got more than 10 years in and would be eligible for the HOF, and would likely be in already.

  18. johnq11 says:

    Banks had such an odd career. The first part of his career from 1953-1961, he’s basically Alex Rodriguez in his prime. The second part of his career from 1962-1971 he was basically Sid Bream.

    Another odd thing is that he actually played “more” games at 1b than SS.

    Also, how the heck did he get a 12th place finish in the MVP in 1969?

    I think the biggest misconception about Banks in the 1960’s was that he was still a great player.

    I often wondered how those 1960’s early 70’s Cubs teams would have done with a top notch 1b during the 1960’s.

  19. johnq11 says:

    I think overall Banks was a tad overrated. Great Peak but his career WAR of 67.6 ranks 14th among SS and is roughly the same as Joe Cronin. Bobby Wallace, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, Jeter, Arky Vaughn, Luke Appling, Bill Dahlen, O. Smith and Robin Yount all have more career WAR.

    If you average out his career WAR and his best 7 seasons he ranks 7th overall. But Yount and Arky Vaughn still rank higher.

    Banks has no post season credit.

    Among other players from different positions already mentioned, Charlie Gehringer was better so were Johnny Mize and Jeff Bagwell. C. Jones, B. Robinson and Santo were better than Banks. Reggie Jackson was better.

    It seems like Starting pitchers are very undervalued in Joe’s ranking. I guess he’s using Win Shares which would account for his lack of pitchers.

    It looks like Phil Niekro is going to be a massive snub.

    Nolan Ryan, Mussina, Ed Walsh, Schilling, Fergie Jenkins, Amos Rusie, Robin Roberts, Eddie Plank, Bert Blyleven, Gaylord Perry and Kid Nichols were better than Banks.

    Kid Nichols was ranked way too low in this list.

  20. Wilbur says:

    Banks’ 12th place finish for MVP in 1969 is a testament to the value voters placed in RBIs. Banks had a truckload, nearly all of them coming before the Cubs’ infamous swoon.

    Jim Hickman had a truly great year in 1970, playing mostly first base. The Cubs used him and Joe Pepitone there until they broke the team up.

    • johnq11 says:


      Yeah, you’re right about Hickman in 1970, I forgot about him. What’s crazy is that the 1970 team played Pepitone 50-60 games in center field that year?

      That 1970 team was basically B. Williams, Santo and Hickman. The pitching staff was quite good with Jenkins, Holtzman, Hands and Papas.

      I think the problem is that those Cubs teams of the 1960’s were very top heavy among position players. They’d have 3 great players and then little else. They always had Ferguson Jenkins who is such an underrated pitcher IMO. His 1971 is crazy when you consider he hit .243 and had 6 HR in 115 at bats to go along with that outstanding pitching.

    • invitro says:

      Banks had a negative WAR in 1969… I’m curious if a negative-WAR season ever finished higher in the MVP voting.

  21. […] is basically a response to Joe Posnanski’s post on Ernie Banks from yesterday. Over the past few months he’s slowly been leaking his “Top 100 […]

  22. Wilbur says:

    True, I never understood why they traded for Pepitone and then stuck him in center field. I’m sure Leo had a reason. He may have been a SOB but he wasn’t stupid.

    That 1970 pitching was good as long as they went 9 innings. If Leo had to go to the pen, you just winced and hoped they’d hang on.

    Phil Regan somehow ran out of grease around August of ’69.

  23. AJK says:

    Does #55, then, start the inner-circle group? All due respect to nos. 100 to 56, Ernie Banks seems to me the first player that is good enough and famous enough to be considered a HOFer by most folks, baseball and non-baseball fans alike.

    • invitro says:

      He’s not an inner-circle HOFer to me, and I’m not sure why non-baseball fans’ opinions should matter in a discussion of the greatest players ever. 🙂

      • AJK says:

        Funny, invitro. I think it’s interesting that the most famous haven’t always been the best and the best haven’t always been the most famous (or famous at all), and I am wondering whether Banks is the turning point on the list. (Obviously not for you!)

    • Geoff says:

      This brings up an interesting point, something I started to think about as I was making predictions about who’s still likely to be included in this list.

      I’ve often used the term, “inner-circle hall of famer,” but never really gave much thought to how big that circle was. It stuck me, that there are about 40 guys in this group, players whose careers are essentially unassailable, at least not in any serious way. I’m not sure exactly where I’d draw the line, but I think it’s right around 40.

      It seems to me that for any player below the line, there’s a fairly clear criticism of that player if you want to nitpick. Usually it comes down to not having a truly spectacular peak, not having a particularly long career, deficiency in an area important to their game, or some combination of those two things. This isn’t to say that everyone above the line, or in the inner circle, if you will, did everything well. But for whatever type of player they were, they were essentially perfect players.

      If you go through this exercise with any of the players already ranked, I think it’s clear what I mean. Banks? Only great for the first half of his career. Jeter? Lousy defender. Brooks Robinson? Not a great hitter. Larkin? Got hurt a lot. You get the idea. But when you get to the top guys, it becomes really hard to criticize them. Sure, you can always find something: Rickey Henderson didn’t have the arm for CF and didn’t hit for a great average, Foxx fell off a cliff at 33, etc. But it’s generally a real struggle to come up with meaningful criticisms of these guys.

  24. G-Man says:

    I’m still pissed that Banks beat out Hank Aaron for MVP in 1959. Aaron had 355/401/636, 223 hits, 400 TB. Shoot, Eddie Mathews beat out Hank also.

  25. Herb Smith says:

    You know, when a Gold Glove shortstop leads the majors in homers and RBI, he tends to win the MVP.

    I think people don’t realize how good a fielder Ernie was in his prime. In that 1959 season you mention, he led ALL fielders in the majors in fielding WAR. By a mile (a distant second was Nellie Fox, who won the American League MVP).

    I find it tough to argue against Banks as the ’59 MVP; in a year that featured Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle at the absolute apex of their primes, Banks led MLB in WAR by almost TWO full wins. (Granted, Hammerin’ Hank was second. Oh, and I think Mathews actually led MLB in homers, with 46. Ernie had 45).

    That also leads to why I have no trouble with Joe ranking Banks so high on this list. True, his career WAR, because of his injuries, is lower than most Mt. Olympus players. But, like Koufax and Pedro, Ernie had such a gleaming, mind-blowing prime that he became permanently etched into the fabric of the game.

  26. BT says:

    Al Kaline is an all-time top 50 player. Period.

    • DM says:


      As persuasive as the “period” is…..

      The problem with simply stating Kaline is a top 50 player “period” is who you gonna leave out? Most people’s top 50 list would probably include 10-15 starting pitchers (there are certainly 15 or 16 very strong pitchers remaining), leaving 35-40 position players. That equates to roughly the top 4-5 at each of the eight positions (understanding that some positions could go 6 or 7 deep, and some maybe as few as 3. There are certainly 7 CF’s that are virtually certain to appear…..Mays, Mantle, Cobb, Speaker, Charleston, DiMaggio, and Griffey Jr.) There’s not a lot of wiggle room.

      I’d say the consensus among most people would be that the top RF’s would start with Ruth, and then go Aaron, F. Robinson, and Mel Ott just for starters. Kaline would probably be in a group with Clemente, Gwynn, Waner, Reggie, maybe Rose (depending on how he would be classified…..he’s got so many positions), Sam Crawford, Winfield, and Suzuki, depending on how you value players. I’m inclined to think that (excluding Rose, since he may not be appropriate among RF’s) is that Clemente would probably be a consensus #5. Kaline has a good case for #6, but you’d get a lot of people opting for Reggie, Gwynn, or Waner.

      So, stating categorically that he has to be top 50….I don’t see it. Sure, he could make Joe’s list. He was 47 on ESPN (of course, they didn’t have any Negro League Stars). Bill James had him #90 in the Historical Abstract. It’s far from certain, though. I’m surprised he hasn’t been listed yet…..I suspect the consensus of similar lists would put him more in the 60 – 80 range. If you’re the #6 (or so) Right Fielder, that’s probably about where you would be.

      • DM says:


        As a follow up to the post I just made….

        I see up earlier in the thread you had a link to Joe’s “Unanimous HOF” post, in which you suggested that we reference when we consider potential remaining candidates. That’s an interesting link…..and on second thought you may have a very good point, especially as it relates to Kaline, considering how he fared in that other post. If so, I’ll eat a little crow 🙂 In any case, that will bump out someone else really good that I hadn’t counted on. I would still personally maintain that Kaline should have been earlier in the listing and not quite top 50 material……but it’s not my list.


        • BT says:


          Thanks for your thoughts. In addition to what I witnessed watching him play, comments from stars of the day also inform my views on Kaline.

          Mantle said he was the best all-around player he ever played against. Berra said he was the best outfielder with the strongest arm he ever saw, and Ted Williams said he was the best right handed hitter in the American League at the end of his playing days.

          These kinds of lists are fun to discuss. For me, he was a top 50 guy and if not for various injuries he’d be even further up the list.

          • DM says:

            Hey BT,

            Fair enough. I guess I can’t be too surprised if Kaline is listed. Your link to Joe’s other post on Unanimous HOF’s is a good call-back, because, if the goal is to predict who Joe may mention from this point on, that previous post of his is certainly very relevant. It makes me wonder who might fall out now, though, if Kaline is mentioned. Lloyd? Carew? I’m struggling with who might get left out at this point.

          • Herb Smith says:

            One of my best pals is a Tiger’s fan, and amongst Tiger fans, Kaline is the equivalent to Ernie Banks/Cub fans, Mickey Mantle/Yankee fans, Tony Gwynn/Padre fans, etc.

            That doesn’t mean he’s Top-50 (and I agree with the earlier posts, that he’s more of a 60-80 guy), but there will be some screaming Detroiters if he’s not on thisTop-100 list at all.

          • Geoff says:

            The Mantle quote is nice, obviously, but that Williams quote is pretty narrow in its praise. If Barry Bonds had said “the best left-handed hitter in the National League at the end of my playing days was Ryan Howard,” I don’t think that would be a strong enough endorsement for Howard being considered for the top-50.

          • BT says:


            You’re nit-picking my Williams comment with a silly Howard analogy.

            For what it’s worth, William’s comments regarding Kaline began after his 1955 batting crown at 20 and were repeated throughout the remainder of his career. He thought so much of him he took him under his wing and developed a friendship, which was unheard of if you know his reputation-especially for a player on a competing team.

            These quotes were just a few asides of many more which could have been cited. I’ll let Joe elaborate when he reveals his ranking.

        • Geoff says:

          Take it easy, BT…I just thought the Williams quote sounded like an odd backhanded compliment.

          I think Kaline belongs in the top-100. The problem is there are currently 58 players that I think pretty clearly belong in the top-100, but there are only 54 spots left on Joe’s list. Some people are going to get left out.

          This is what happens when you include Mariano Rivera and Old Hoss Radbourn on a list like this. 🙂

  27. BT says:

    Carew and Lajoie would be my first guesses to fall out.

    • DM says:


      BT had an interesting point on Kaline. Did everyone see the link he referenced a littler higher up on this thread?

      That’s an entry from Joe in October 2013 regarding those players who he felt, in his opinion, were Hall of Famers beyond any reasonable argument. He focused on 20 that had been elected since 1962. Now, “Hall of Fame” and “top 100 greatest players”, are 2 different topics, but one would expect that if you think someone is a Hall of Famer without any reasonable argument against him, one would think you would include him in your top 100.

      Here’s an excerpt from that post:

      [From Joe, Oct 2013] – “By my best guess, there should have been 20 unanimous Hall of Famers already. Actually, it’s more than 20 when you consider Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner and other players before World War II, but the Hall of Fame was a different thing in their time. Well, it didn’t even exist in their time. So that’s a different thing.
      The Baseball Writers of America have been voting more or less the same way since 1962. And I think, since 1962, there have been 20 players who should have been voted in unanimously.”

      and then, later in that post:

      “There are, however, 20 players who I think there is no legitimate argument against. Well, there are 19 plus 1 — you’ll see below. I list them by the number of people who did not vote for them:”

      The “plus 1” was, of course, Koufax, whom Geoff and I gone toe-to-toe on (we agree on the fact that he has a place in the top 100… was more a discussion on exactly how far up on the list he deserves to be). Joe’s take on Koufax in that Oct 2013 post: “There is a reasonable argument to be made against Koufax. His career was very short. He was a dominant pitcher for five or six seasons at most — you could argue that he was truly dominant only from 1963-66. He retired at 30. He won “just” 165 games — and wins have long swayed Hall of Fame voters.”. Ultimately, Joe concluded that Koufax should be included in that same group.

      The 20 he identified were:
      Robinson, F
      Robinson, J

      On Kaline, he wrote:
      “Three thousand hits. Ten Gold Gloves. A gentleman. An icon.
      Theory: With Kaline, you can see a few cracks in the career if you want to see them. He was injured a lot and so played fewer than 140 games in half of his seasons. And his brilliance was in his consistency — and consistency is almost always undervalued. He never hit 30 home runs in a season, but hit between 25 and 29 seven times. He hit .340 as a 20 year old, and never again matched that but hit .300 or better either other times in a pitch-dominated era. His career did not scream out to the voters the way, say, Roberto Clemente’s career might have. But Kaline was almost exactly as valuable a player as Clemente over the whole career.”

      Sounds to me like that bodes well for Kaline to appear.

      So, rethinking the projected list of remaining players, I’m wondering if maybe Carew gets cut out. In the Historical Abrstract, Bill James had Carew as “only” the #9 Second Baseman, and “only” #64 overall (of course, he also had Kaline at #90). This was also only through the year 2000, before we had the full resume of players like Pujols, A-Rod, Jeter, Schilling, Suzuki, Randy Johnson, Miguel Cabrera, Frank Thomas, and Chipper Jones. Sure, Thomas was on James’ list at that time (#75), but still had several years ahead of him which would probably have moved him up on James’ list. At that time, Randy Johnson was just the #49 PITCHER, and still had about 120 wins ahead of him, so he obviously wasn’t on his top 100.. Bert Blyleven, who made Joe’s list in large part, I’m sure, due to the surge in attention on Blyleven’s career that occurred over the past decad or so, was only James’ #39 PITCHER, and obviously not on his top 100.

      The point is, I suspect if James did an updated list, just the mere presence of these players (and probably even some others that aren’t coming to mind), Carew would slide even further down….maybe into the 70’s or 80’s. Carew was one of those “magical” names when I first started observing baseball in the late 60’s/early 70’s…..the ultimate artist with the bat, a remarkable bunter, and an uncanny knack for being able to steal home many times. Over time, though, it seems like he’s lost a little bit of luster. A .328 batting average, but fell short of .400 OBP. Not much power. He stole a fair amount of bases, but only at a 65% success rate, which we would interpret as below the break-even mark for taking that risk. Not a very good reputation on defense, and had to be switched to 1B (where his lack of power was especially noticeable).

      At the risk of falling on my face…..I’m thinking Carew may make some sense as to the group of players being discussed that could fall out of the remainder of the list. Just my luck…..he’ll probably be the next one up, and I’ll have to eat crow……again! 🙂

      • Geoff says:

        The “unanimous” thing is interesting, but I’m not believing a player should be unanimous is really the same as believing they’re in the upper echelon of HOFers. I think it could also just mean a player has no real hole in their case.

        Glavine isn’t one of Joe’s “unanimous” guys, but I think he could be. If you think about it, he’s kind of the pitching equivalent of Kaline. Excellent for a long time, and even the best in league a couple of times. No one thinks he was on the level of Maddux, Clemens, Johnson, etc., but there’s no doubt he’s worthy of induction given the established standards of the Hall.

        I think Kaline is going to make the list, and that the biggest snubs will include be Carter, Piazza, Pudge, and Lloyd (and Niekro, of course).

        • DM says:


          I think the point really is that, if Joe identified Kaline as a guy that should have been with the others listed as a “unanimous” HOF’er, then how could he reasonably not have him in his top 100? Not saying that the classification necessarily means that Joe would automatically put him top 50 (even though that’s about the point that we’re at right now)……but if he felt that way about Kaline, how could he then not have him on the list at all? That just wouldn’t make sense. And, I can’t bring myself to agree on Glavine. I understand the comparison as a pitching equivalent to Kaline, but I think there were lots of less than stellar aspects to his game and his HOF case. I agree with his selection….I just don’t see him as a no-doubt candidate on par with the others.

    • John Gale says:

      Lajoie has 107.2 WAR (23rd all time). I would put the odds of him *not* making it at close to zero percent.

  28. Herb Smith says:

    The other problem with leaving Lajoie off the list entirely is the fact that at one time he was widely considered the very best player in the game. Heck, in the early 19-aughts, he was probably considered the single greatest player of all TIME.

    Seriously, how many players have ever been widely considered the GOAT (greatest of all-time)? probably Lajoie for awhile, then Lajoie/Honus, then Ty Cobb, then you were either a Cobb or Ruth man. Willie Mays? Barry Bonds? I mean, it’s a short list.

    And you want to talk popularity and legend…how many players have had their freaking team NAMED after them? From 1903 to 1915, the Cleveland team (Joe’s home town) were not named the Indians; they were called the Cleveland Naps.

    I just can’t see how you can leave a guy like that off the Top 100.

  29. […] in praise of Banks last year, Joe Posnanksi noted that Banks, who posted previously unthinkable offensive numbers for a shortstop, “had […]

  30. […] a paean published last year, Joe Posnanksi noted that Banks, who posted previously unthinkable offensive numbers for a shortstop, “had […]

  31. […] Posnanski wrote a great post about Ernie almost exactly a year ago and this part is pitch […]

  32. […] a paean published last year, Joe Posnanksi noted that Banks, who posted previously unthinkable offensive numbers for a shortstop, “had […]

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