Cliff Eastham's 2011 MLB Living Legends
This article is an assembly of the best living players in MLB history. It was prepared by me along with my oldest friend Al Rinker. Between the two of us, there is 100 years of baseball knowledge. We have forgotten more than most fans will ever know.
To become a member of this team, a player must meet certain criterion. First and foremost the player must be alive. Secondly, he must be retired from the game.
Therefore, you will not find Albert Pujols on it, and you will not find Babe Ruth on it. The majority of the players on this elite squad will be born after 1940.
I have taken into account the steroid problem and have decided that if a position is seriously linked to PED use, he will not be on the roster. Tough love, but I only feel it is right. Seven MVP's and Cy Young's, please.
If a player played multiple positions in his career, he may be placed on a secondary position if his statistics warrant it.
We will have eight position players with a designated hitter. We will also have a five-man pitching rotation and one relief pitcher.
Having said all of that let us proceed with the winners.
Catcher: Yogi Berra
Catcher: Yogi Berra
Begin the arguments if you wish, but the fact is that none of the other catchers have three MVP awards along with 15 All-Star selections. Berra also has a World Series ring for each finger and each thumb.
That is correct, sir. The man has 10 World Series rings and most likely, nobody else will in our lifetime. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Reserve: Johnny Bench
Honorable mention: Mike Piazza
First Base: Stan Musial
1B - Stan Musial
Stan "The Man" Musial was my father's favorite player. All I ever heard about as a kid was Stan Musial this and Stan Musial that. But you know what? Musial was one of the greatest players ever to play the game.
He played all of the outfield and first base. He also pitched an inning in 1952.
Musial had a fascinating career. He was the National League MVP three times, all within his first six years of service. He also was runner-up in MVP voting on four occasions. He is tied with Willie Mays for the most All-Star selections (24).
He is fourth on the all-time hit list. He was as consistent a hitter as there ever was. Of his 3,630 hits, half were at home and half on the road. Exactly half! That is amazing.
He has three World Series rings and of course is in the Hall of Fame, being elected in 1969.
Reserve: Eddie Murray
Honorable mention: Willie McCovey
Second Base: Pete Rose
2B - Pete Rose
The all-time hits leader would have to find his spot on a roster such as this. Rose's gambling peccadilloes did not add an iota to his hitting prowess.
He played in so many positions for years that it was nearly impossible to place him anywhere but here, where he began his long career.
He has a Rookie of the Year and one MVP trophy on his mantel and he was on 16 All-Star teams. He also picked up two Gold Glove awards (as an OF) along the way.
Rose also has won three World Series rings. He won three batting titles, led the league in hits on seven occasions, collected over 200 hits 10 times, and scored 100+ runs 10 times.
He was banned from baseball and will unfortunately probably never enter the Hall of Fame.
Reserve: Joe Morgan
Honorable mentions: Roberto Alomar
Third Base: Mike Schmidt
3B - Mike Schmidt
This was probably the roughest decision I had to make on this team. If you go for power, Schmidt is your man. If you want hitting, George Brett would be tough to keep out. Defensively, Brooks Robinson would win. All-round ability is where Schmidt stands as the tallest third-base tree still living.
He won eight HR crowns and four RBI titles. He also has three MVP trophies on his mantel along with 10 Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers. Schmidt was an All-Star 12 times and has one World Series ring.
Schmidt was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995.
Reserve: George Brett
Honorable mentions: Wade Boggs
Shortstop: Cal Ripken Jr.
SS - Cal Ripken
Ripken, baseball's king-of-the-hill when it comes to showing up for work, was a two-time MVP and a Rookie of the Year winner.
He was a 19-time All-Star (all in succession) and won two Gold Gloves and eight Silver Sluggers. He also has a 1983 World Series ring to add to this memoirs.
On the downside, Ripken has the distinction of topping the career leader board when it comes to grounding into double plays with 350.
Ripken was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
Reserve: Ernie Banks
Honorable mentions: Barry Larkin
Left Field: Frank Robinson
LF - Frank Robinson
Robinson is one of only 13 players in MLB history to have won a triple crown. He achieved that feat in his first season as an American League player with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966. He was just traded to the O's for Milt Pappas by the Cincinnati Reds in what many think is the worst deal ever.
Robby was also Rookie of the Year in 1956 and is the only player in MLB history to win an MVP award in both the American and National Leagues. His other MVP year was in 1961 while with the Reds.
Robinson was a 12-time All-Star and led the league in OPS+ four different times.
He also owns two World Series rings. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
Reserve: Carl Yastrzemski
Honorable mentions: Rickey Henderson
Center Field: Willie Mays
CF - Willie Mays
The "Say Hey Kid" could not be left off anyone's all-anything team. He was a remarkable player and along with Robinson and Hank Aaron had to endure all of the racist attitudes of their early careers.
Mays was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1951 and oddly won only two MVP awards, although he did finish runner-up in voting two times.
He won 12 Gold Gloves all in succession. As mentioned earlier, he is tied with Stan Musial for most selections to an All-Star team with 24. He also has one World Series ring.
He won four HR crowns, one batting title and drove in 100+ runs 10 times. He also has four Stolen Base titles. Even with the steroids era and nearly four decades since retiring, he is still fourth on the all-time list with 660 HR.
Many believe Mays to be the best player in the history of the game. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
Reserve: Ken Griffey Jr,
Honorable mentions: Robin Yount
Right Field: Hank Aaron
RF - Hank Aaron
In my opinion, Aaron is the best baseball player ever to have played. He had every tool there was and some I think he invented. He had extreme power for a small man (6', 180 pounds). He is the MLB career leader in RBI and TB, and in my view still owns the HR record.
Aaron is third on the all-time hit list with 3773. As hard as it was to believe Mays only had two MVP awards, it is harder to believe that Aaron only has one.
He won two batting titles, four HR crowns and four RBI titles. He hit 40+ HR eight times and had 100+ RBI 11 times. He had three 200+ hit seasons and batted over .300 14 times.
Aaron won three Gold Gloves and was an All-Star 21 times, all consecutively. He does have one World Series ring in his possession. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
Reserve: Al Kaline
Honorable mentions: Tony Gwynn
Designated Hitter: Edgar Martinez
DH - Edgar Martinez
If there ever was a full-time Designated Hitter, Martinez is him.
Martinez won two batting titles, led the league in OBP three times and in RBI once. He was on seven All-Star teams and won five Silver Slugger awards.
He batted .300+ 10 times, hit 20+ HR eight times and drove in 100+ runs six times.
Martinez' best all round year was 2000, when he batted .324 with 37 HR and 145 RBI, and scored 100 runs.
Reserve: Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas
Honorable mention: Harold Baines
Starting Pitcher: Sandy Koufax
SP - Sandy Koufax
Although Koufax' first half of his career were teetering on melancholy, he quit on perhaps the highest note in the history of the pitcher's mound.
In his final four big league seasons, Koufax won three Cy Young awards and one MVP award. His record during those four years averaged 24-7 with a very tidy 1.86 ERA and a microscopic WHIP of 0.909. He also added three Triple Crowns to his collection during that time.
After 1960, Koufax was a completely different pitcher than he was in the first half of his career. From 1961 until he retired in 1966, he was an All-Star every year.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Starting Pitcher: Randy Johnson
SP - Randy Johnson
The "Big Unit" was an imposing image on the mound.
He won five Cy Young awards (four in a row) and finished second in voting three times. He was a 10-time All-Star and has one Triple Crown.
His 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings places him on top of the career leader board. He struck out at least 300 batters five times.
Starting Pitcher: Bob Gibson
SP - Bob Gibson
Anyone who doesn't think Gibson belongs on this list has never seen him play or knows nothing about him.
In 1968, he put together one of the best years in modern history. He threw 13 shutouts. Read that again. I didn't write 13 CG, 13 shutouts. That is incredible. His ERA was 1.12, had a record of 22-9 and had an eye-popping 0.853 WHIP.
He won the Cy Young and MVP awards that year and added another Cy Young award in 1970. He was a seven-time All-Star and won nine Gold Gloves in succession.
He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.
Starting Pitcher: Greg Maddux
SP - Greg Maddux
Maddux is currently eighth on the career leader board with 355 wins. I am 61, and in my lifetime, he ranks behind only Warren Spahn in wins for pitchers I have seen pitch.
He won four Cy Young awards and was on eight All-Star rosters. He was a great pitcher defensively as well, earning an astounding 17 Gold Gloves.
He led the league in wins three times, ERA four times, IP five times, WHIP four times and in ERA+ five times.
Starting Pitcher: Tom Seaver
SP - Tom Seaver
Tom Seaver won three Cy Young's and a Rookie of the Year award. He was on 12 All-Star teams and won 20+ games five times.
He led the league in ERA three times, in strikeouts five times and in WHIP four times. He also has a no-hitter to his credit.
Seaver is 18th on the all-time list with 311 wins. He is one of only 12 pitchers to have won over 300 games and kept his ERA below 3.00. He is the only pitcher to do that who did not come over on the Mayflower.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992.
Reserves - Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Whitey Ford, Jim Palmer, Tom Glavine
Honorable mention: Ferguson Jenkins
Relief Pitcher: Dennis Eckersley
RP - Dennis Eckersley
Dennis Eckersley started his career as a starter and was a 20-game winner. In 1987 he became a full-time reliever.
He won the Cy Young and MVP award in 1992, becoming the third reliever to accomplish that feat. The others were Willie Hernandez and Rollie Fingers.
He was the league leader in saves twice and during the years 1998-2003, he averaged 43 saves.
Reserve: Trevor Hoffman
Honorable mention: Rollie Fingers