Nothing like putting together your list of the greatest living baseball team to get some debate going.
I received numerous responses from readers about the team that I put together in Monday’s column listing my choices for the greatest living players at each position — 40 years after Major League Baseball did the same thing for the 1969 All Star Game in Washington.
The biggest complaint was picking Frank Robinson over Stan Musial in the outfield.
I get that. You won’t here me complain if Musial is one of your greatest living outfielders. He is a baseball legend, not only for his remarkable career numbers in St. Louis — 475 home runs, 1,951 RBI, 3,630 hits and a .331 average over 22 seasons — but also because he was part of the identity of the game when he played. In “Donovan’s Reef,” one of my favorite John Wayne films, the little boy wears a Cardinals hat throughout the movie because he loved Stan the Man.
And his introduction Tuesday night at the All Star Game in St. Louis was one of those special midsummer classic moments.
For me, though, Frank Robinson gets the nod for his power — probably the fifth greatest home run hitter in the history of the game (ignoring the steroid inflated numbers of Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa after passing Robinson’s 586 career home run mark). He also finished his career with 2,943 hits, and if he had played another season, would have been one of the few players with 600 home runs and 3,000 hits. Robinson would say, “If I knew it was going to be such a big deal, I would have played a little longer.” Robinson played the game with an intensity that should be treasured and recognized — and he did so in both leagues, for the Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles.
Someone suggested that Bob Feller should be the greatest living righthanded pitcher, and Bullet Bob is certainly in the argument — . 266-162 record while missing four season serving in the military during World War II. And someone else suggested Tom Seaver — a 311-205 record over 20 seasons with 3,640 strikeouts — and he was my second choice. But I felt that Greg Maddux’s body of work — 355-227 and a 3.16 career ERA — in the long ball (steroid) era earned him the greatest righthanded pitcher slot on the all time living team.
Others suggested Bob Gibson. If you want Gibson — 251-174 over 17 season, five-20 game seasons, a 2.91 career ERA and 3,117 strikeouts —to be your righthanded pitcher on your all time living baseball team, you won’t hear me complain.
They were all great players, and any debate over who is the best reminds all of us of their greatness.
I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM Washington on Wednesday, July 15, from 5 to 7 p.m.
To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com