Babe Ruth is the greatest player in the history of the New York Yankees.
But was he the most iconic player in the history of the New York Yankees?
There is a subtle difference between "iconic" players and "great" players.
Magic Johnson is probably the most iconic player in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers, even though Kobe Bryant is the greater player. Joe Montana is the most iconic player in San Francisco 49ers history, even though Jerry Rice or even Steve Young may have been better.
So, casting greatness aside for the moment, let's have a look at the most iconic player in the history of each Major League Baseball franchise.
Greatest Tampa Bay Ray of all time? For now, Carl Crawford.
But even after David Price, James Shields or Evan Longoria passes Crawford, he may remain the most iconic Ray of all time.
We shall see.
The thing about these recently added major league franchises is that their greatest players are, in fact, their most iconic.
Justin Upton, you're on the clock.
Now we're talking.
When one thinks of the Florida Marlins, the first image that comes to mind is likely Josh Beckett, from the heralded second overall pick out of high school in 1999 to the arrival in 2001 to the World Series MVP in 2003.
Josh Beckett is the Marlins' icon.
Even though the greatest player in Marlins history is Miguel Cabrera.
You could convince me that Larry Walker was a better player before Helton, and Troy Tulowitzki will be afterward, but for now, there is no other.
Todd Helton is Mr. Rockie.
This is probably a controversial pick.
There have been lots of great Toronto Blue Jays: Jimmy Key, Dave Stieb, George Bell, Fred McGriff, Lloyd Moseby, Tony Fernandez, Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay.
But the single most iconic Blue Jays moment belongs to Joe Carter, who won the 1993 World Series with a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6 off Mitch Williams.
The image of him bounding around the bases is the one that persists.
Greatest Expo of all time? Maybe Tim Raines, maybe Gary Carter, maybe Andre Dawson, probably Vlad Guerrero.
Most iconic Expo?
Raines, hands down.
Robin Yount spent his entire career in Milwaukee, got 3,000 hits there and was voted into the Hall of Fame with ease.
The only more iconic person in Brewers history has been Bernie Brewer.
The San Diego Padres actually have two great iconic players.
One is Trevor Hoffman, the career leader in saves, first member of the 600 saves club and Padres hero.
The other is Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest baseball players of all time and the greatest Padre icon of all time.
There is a great divide between the good Angels players and the iconic Angels players.
The most iconic Angels player is probably, of all people, Reggie Jackson, who spent a thin slice of his career with the Angels.
Consider also Rod Carew, Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, Chuck Finley and Bobby Grich.
At the end of the day, though, Ryan was at his most dominant with the Angels and became a household name while in Los Angeles.
The New York Mets' first great star was also their brightest.
The greatest Houston Astro of all time was either Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell.
But with all the career accolades—Bagwell's bum shoulder shortened his career—Biggio edges out Bagwell in terms of all-time Astros icons.
(Frankly, I would like it to be Cesar Cedeno, but I suspect I am alone in that feeling.)
There can be little doubt as to who the greatest Royal of all time is, and he is also the most iconic.
It is George Brett (though I know there are those of you who are pulling for Dan Quisenberry).
Nolan Ryan is distantly not the greatest Ranger of all time, but there are very few more definitive icons in baseball than Ryan in that Rangers uniform.
For one thing, the vast majority of this country had never heard of the Texas Rangers before Ryan went there, and most of the Rangers' most memorable moments were Ryan moments: his 300th win, his two no-hitters and two near no-hitters, his 5,000th strikeout and the Robin Ventura beatdown.
Now that he owns the team, he has clinched it.
Walter Johnson is one of the greatest icons in baseball history and certainly the most iconic player in Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins history.
In the Minnesota Twins only division, we'll go with Harmon Killebrew, the only player on this list who is actually an icon—his personage forms the official MLB logo.
One could certainly make the case for Roberto Clemente here, as well as possibly Barry Bonds, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski or Ralph Kiner.
The combination of Honus Wagner being one of the greatest players of all time and the role that this baseball card, one of the rarest of all time, plays in baseball lore makes Wagner the clear winner.
The Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers are a franchise that could have an All-Iconic Player All-Star Team, with Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Roy Campanella...
But for the Dodgers, Jackie Robinson is the leader of the pack. Robinson is one of the most iconic sports figures in American history and certainly the most iconic Dodger of all time.
Is Cal Ripken Jr., the greatest Baltimore Oriole/St. Louis Brown of all time? Not necessarily. The Robinsons, Brooks and Frank, plus Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer or George Sisler, might have something to say about it.
But Cal is the definition of an icon and certainly the most iconic Oriole of all time.
Bob Feller is the most iconic player in Cleveland Indians history.
By hook or by crook, the most iconic White Sox player of all time is Shoeless Joe Jackson.
That is partly a tribute to what a lousy job the White Sox have done since 1920.
And partly a tribute to the quiet anonymity with which Frank Thomas spent the second half of his career.
Philly fans famously never embraced Schmidt, and he never embraced them.
Thus, this is a tough choice. It could be Steve Carlton, Richie Ashburn or even Ryan Howard.
But close or not, Schmidt is probably the best choice.
This could be Johnny Bench, and it could be Joe Morgan.
But it is Pete Rose.
It is no knock on Rose or the Reds that he would be the most iconic player in Reds history.
Lots of great players have passed through the A's franchise, including Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and this guy, Rickey Henderson.
He passed through the franchise four times. Yikes.
This could have been Sammy Sosa if he had not simply gone into PR implosion mode.
Ernie Banks is not the greatest Cubs player of all time, but he is hands down the greatest Cubs icon of all time.
Let's play two!
Albert Pujols may one day be a greater player than Stan Musial. In fact, he may be closer than we'd like to admit already.
But Pujols will never be the greatest icon in St. Louis Cardinals history; that will always be Musial.
We're going to have a picnic and softball game for all of the most iconic players in the history of each MLB team. Everyone present will freely acknowledge that Ty Cobb is the most iconic player in Detroit Tigers history.
But when everyone realizes that Cobb is not at the picnic, everyone will swear they thought someone else was giving him directions.
On any other team, Mel Ott, Christy Mathewson, Barry Bonds and Willie McCovey all could have been the most iconic player in their team's history.
But this is the Giants, and the answer is Willie Mays.
For the Braves, there is Hank Aaron, and there is everyone else.
(I know there are those of you pulling for Dale Murphy.)
Oh sure, you could make a case here for Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove or Bobby Doerr.
And sure, if any of the sportswriters who covered Williams were here today, they would spit in your face for saying anything kind about Williams.
But let's be real; it's Williams.
Let's dispense with the suspense: The most iconic New York Yankee of all time is Babe Ruth.
Pretty impressive on a franchise that has featured Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
But it is the Babe—the most iconic player in baseball history.