Will Pens' Historical Big 4 Be Greater Than Yankees' Big 4?

John BaranowskiCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2012

Imagine being a New York Yankees fan and having witnessed Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle play for the Bronx Bombers. Four of the sport’s all-time greats playing for the same team in succession over a period of time, the torch of greatness being passed from one player to the next.  

Well that same feeling should exist now for Pittsburgh Penguin fans having watched Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and now Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, all who at one time could lay claim to being the best hockey player in the world.   

Will the Penguins’ Fab Four be as great as the Yankees Hall of Fame Quartet?  Much depends on Crosby’s long term health but the potential certainly exists, and consider the comparison to date.    

Lemieux was one of the three greatest players to ever play his sport, with Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr being the other two. Sorry, Gordie. One can make the same claim about Ruth being one of the three greatest players ever to play his sport.   

Relatively speaking, Jagr’s career accomplishments may exceed those of Gehrig in their respective sports. Jagr led the league in scoring five times, was a three-time Lester B. Pearson Award recipientand is the greatest European-born hockey player ever. Despite spending the past three seasons playing in Russia, Jagr is eighth all-time in points scored in NHL history.  If Jagr had played his entire career in Pittsburgh, Penguin fans would hold his career in higher regard.  

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 04:  Evgeni Malkin #71 and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins sit on the bench against the Detroit Red Wings during Game Four of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 4, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Pho
Harry How/Getty Images

One could argue that DiMaggio was the best player of his time, but one could also debate that Ted Williams may have been the best during that era. 

Crosby, in only his second season, was widely acknowledged as the best player in the NHL. Crosby has won the Hart and Art Ross trophies and is ranked fifth all-time in regular season points per game and third all-time in playoff points per game (min. 40 games) behind only Gretzky and Lemieux.  

Mantle hit over 500 home runs in his career and was not only one of the best all-around players of his generation, but of all-time as well. Predicting Malkin to score 500 goals in his career almost seems a certainty. A Conn Smythe Award winner and with one scoring title already to his credit, Malkin is currently leading the league in scoring and may well be deserving of the Hart Trophy this season as the league’s MVP, especially in light of all the injuries the Penguins have had and Crosby’s absence from the ice. Malkin at times has looked Lemieuxesque this season. 

Obviously, health will be a determining factor for both Crosby and Malkin’s legacies. 

Yankee fans were fortunate to watch Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle.  We may well be in the midst of hockey’s version of having four all-time greats play for one team in an unrivaled continuation of greatness.  Penguin fans hope it continues for a long, long time.