DILIGENCE AND REVERENCE for record keeping, baseball is often held up as an
exact science. Ted Williams chose to play on the last day of the 1941 season
because .39955--his batting average that morning--was not actually .400. The
discovery in 1977 of an overlooked RBI for Hack Wilson in his record 1930
season was akin to scientists finding a new element, and thus made sacred the
number 191. � Yet so visceral is the appeal of the game that it also moves
poets as much as it does mathematicians. "Poets," Robert Frost once
exclaimed, "are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The
intervals are the tough things."
fact, is a good workout for both sides of your brain, which is why a bar stool
has always been just as handy as a calculator when trying to figure out the
game. Just ask us. We tried.
SI set out to
pick an alltime All-Star team--25 players (seven starting pitchers, two
relievers, two catchers, seven infielders and seven outfielders), one manager
and two coaches--by polling 22 expert writers, editors and analysts, including
Bill James, Peter Gammons and more than a dozen current and former SI
What we wound up
with was something much like Aaron Goodman's photo illustration on these pages:
a fascinating blend of art and science. It's why the alltime leader in hits and
the heir apparent to the alltime leader in home runs didn't make the cut. Pete
Rose, for all his singles and manic drive, simply wasn't better than any of the
outfielders or infielders on the dream team. (His gambling on baseball as Reds
manager had no impact on this voter's opinion.) Barry Bonds, because of how his
freakish late-career production has been linked to the use of steroids and
other performance-enhancing drugs, has numbers that are not to be believed.
Such is the
nature of baseball that the omission of some players from this roster is
certain to provoke cries of despair, so let me throw out the first bawl: Warren
Spahn over Randy Johnson? Please. The Unit blows away Spahnnie in most
important pitching metrics as well as the rather less sophisticated playground
test: If I were a captain choosing up sides, I'd pick Johnson (truth be told,
Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez too) before I picked Spahn.
catching selections, Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench, are a little too traditional
for my taste. Where are Josh Gibson, whose Ruthian prowess should not be
diminished for having played in the Negro leagues when the major leagues
wouldn't have him, and Mike Piazza, whose unequaled offense at the position
more than makes up for his weak arm?
But, hey, that's
just me. You're likely to find your own beef in what you see (and don't) in the
greatest team picture of all time. A great baseball argument, and this one is
mammoth, generates more disagreement than resolution. Such eternal debate is
why message boards, watering holes and outfield bleachers exist.
Now, about the
batting order that manager John McGraw should use for this team....
363 WINS, 20-GAME WINNER 13 TIMES
Most wins by a lefty, 1957 Cy Young Award
Lou Gehrig, FIRST
.340 AVG., 493 HOMERS, 1,995 RBIS
Two-time MVP (1927, '36)