As the 1999 baseball season winds down and the year 2000 approaches quickly, we have all read various and sundry lists of "the best" athletes in the 20th century compiled by every major sports magazine in the country. Because those lists are fascinating and often evoke considerable debate, we thought we would allow our readers a forum to where they can express their views on "the best of the best" of our national pastime . . . the great game of baseball. Therefore, with this column we encourage all of you to respond to our special end of the century baseball survey. After all, who better to express their views than our faithful readers?
Here is how the survey will work. Each of you will be able to submit one (and only one) vote under the listed categories. Second, and importantly, each person will be able to include within their vote one sentence (ok, maybe two) telling us why you have made the selection. We would ask that everyone only submit one vote per category and the survey will be open from now until December 31st at the stroke of midnight Eastern Standard Time. The submissions are to be sent directly to me at
and we will post the results soon thereafter. Finally, although I will not be able to recreate the reasons for everyone's vote on every category, I will be able to review the submissions, make a final tally and report back to you in the next column.
Here are the categories. This survey will cover the hundred-year period from 1900 until the present time. Also, you are not restricted to Major League baseball players but can include Negro Leaguers, Cuban baseball stars and so on.
1) Who would you consider the greatest hitter of the 20th century? Why?
2) Who would you consider the greatest fielder of the 20th century? Why?
3) Who would you consider the greatest pitcher of the 20th century? Why?
4) Who would you consider the greatest all-around baseball player of the 20th century? Why?
5) Who would you consider the greatest manager of the 20th century? Why?
6) Who would you consider the best baseball writer of the 20th century? Why?
7) Who would you consider the greatest baseball radio or television announcer of the 20th century? Why?
8) Which team would you consider the greatest single season team of the 20th century? Please include the exact year. Why?
9) What is your favorite baseball book?
Please remember to include a one or two sentence reason for each selection and make sure, as hard as it is, to only submit one answer per category.
Your Holy Grail
As a variation of the "end of the century" theme, we would also like our readers to delve into the wonderful world of baseball artifacts and collecting and let us discover your favorite baseball collectible. Since the
MCI National Sports Gallery
opened early last year, we have had many people from this country and elsewhere enjoy the artifacts displayed in our museum.
items are always popular. We have a beautifully signed baseball and photo on loan and we purchased a Ruth game used bat for a very special reason. Because we own the Ruth gamer, we allow and even encourage patrons to touch Babe's bat! Since it was one of the bats Babe used during his heyday as a Yankee slugger, the smile on kids' faces when they touch the bat is great.
Anyway, one of the things that I particularly have fun doing is talking to patrons about some of their personal baseball antiquities. There is something about gazing at artifacts that evokes in the viewer thoughts about some of their "national treasures."
Therefore, for the last part of our "end of the century" survey we would like to ask you to submit to me your thoughts on the final two categories.
10) What is your favorite baseball artifact? This can include any item that you possess as long as it relates to our national pastime and you own it. Also, why is it your favorite item?
11) Lastly, if you have answered the previous question, you are probably a collector or at least vitally interested in baseball memorabilia. Therefore, what is your own personal "holy grail?" That is, what baseball artifact have you been searching for but have been unable to find? Please give reasons. Who knows, when you let us know perhaps we will be able to locate it for you.
Babe Ruth's Home Run Baseball
We started the calendar year of 1999 by reading in amazement as Todd McFarlane paid $3 million for the actual baseball hit by Mark McGwire
to set the single season record of 70 home runs. That sale set the stage for what has been called "the year of the baseball" in the sports collectibles market. Therefore, I would like to close by highlighting a very significant ball that has only recently seen the light of day. I told you about our Ruth game used bat, the signed ball and photo, but this piece is really something!
Eighty years ago, Babe Ruth, as a Red Sox pitcher, had not only exceeded his own major league leading total of eight homers from the year before, but quickly zeroed in on the single season record of the great 19th century slugger Ned Williamson. In the early 1880's, Ned had become the National League's premier shortstop for the Chicago White Stockings. Even though he was known for his speed and sure-handed fielding, Ned set the single season home run record of 27 in 1882. That total was more than three times the number of homers Ned hit either before or after that one spectacular year.
Many years later, on September 24, 1919, the Babe, pitching for the Boston Red Sox, took on the New York Yankees in the Polo Grounds. It was a double header and Ruth was victorious in game one. The second game, however, was even more historic as Ruth, then playing the nightcap as an outfielder, thrilled Red Sox fans by tying the game in the ninth inning with a mighty shot well over the fence. The Babe's 28th round tripper broke Williamson's record - a record that had stood for a period of time longer than Ruth's own eventual record of 60. Four months later, Babe was sold to the Yankees.
Until recently, our museum displayed the actual 28th home run baseball that broke the record. Because the ball had never been publicly displayed before, our patrons enjoyed gazing at it, particularly when they read that it left the Babe's bat when he was a pitcher, for the Boston Red Sox, and it was the longest home run ever hit in the Polo Grounds! Where is the ball now? If you happen to have won the lottery and want to own a piece of baseball history, be sure to check out Mastro's "end of the millennium" auction because that baseball is now offered publicly. I wonder how much it will go for in light of the Halper auction?