Joe DiMaggio was named the "Greatest Living Player" in a 1969 centennial poll of sportswriters.
You see it in many places, written almost exactly the same way with little variation. I've just spent 30 minutes googling the damn thing and I cannot find anything more. I even found a post that I wrote on this blog, which contains the phrase. I'm starting to wonder if it actually happened.
1. Was there a list of the top players considered?
2. Was there a list of the voting results? Who finished second, third, ...?
I was wondering who would have been considered back in 1969. Here's my guess:
Am I missing somebody obvious? Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby were all dead.
When Joe D. died in 1999 many of us thought about who should be considered the greatest living. Most of us figured Mays. Mantle had died. People had started the nonsense that Aaron had been better than Mays. No way. From 1954 through about 1968 (until the three year older Mays started to fade before Aaron did) NOBODY thought that Hank Aaron was better than Willie Mays. With modern stats it's become easy to prove. Both Aaron and Mays have OPS+ 155, ironically tied with DiMaggio and Mel Ott, so their offense is equivalent. And NOBODY thought that Aaron was better than Mays in fielding or base running. So Mays was better.
Even in home run hitting, which provided Aaron with his distinction as the greatest home run hitter (NOBODY thought that Aaron was a better home run hitter than Mantle, Mays, Harmon Killebrew), Mays was more distinguished. Mays hit 50 in a season twice: 52, 51; Aaron topped out at 47. In AB/HR:
Aaron 12,364/755 = 16.3761589404
Mays 10,881/660 = 16.4863636364
Aaron and Mays are almost dead even. Had Mays not lost almost two full seasons in the Army during the Korean War era, Willie would have been much closer in career home runs.
Unfortunately for Mays 1999 is when his godson Barry Bonds started using performance enhancing stuff like steroids and blowing past Mays. Willie just can't catch a break on this, maybe the only thing he couldn't catch.
I was thinking about greatest living:
- ten (it's been done but the guy included pitchers: yuck)
- by position
- by team
- by team by position.
Try it with your friends and/or post comments here. You could even try pitchers like Seaver, Clemens, Johnson chronologically. Feller died recently.