As we approach the final days of Black History Month, I have noticed several pieces that list the best Black baseball players of all time. I saw my first baseball game in 1948; my family did not even have a TV set at the time. We got a TV soon after that and I have watched baseball since then. That goes back a long way – – but baseball goes back a lot further. So today, I will give you my list of the best Black baseball players that I saw play. That means there is no one here from the Negro Leagues simply because I never saw a Negro League game. It also does not include Satchel Paige because I only saw him once or twice on TV when he was probably 50 years old. The list is alphabetical:
- Henry Aaron – – In addition to 755 home runs, his career batting average was .305
- Ernie Banks – – The best shortstop I ever saw
- Roy Campanella – – An eight-time All-Star and a three-time MVP
- Larry Doby – – An All-Star seven times
- Bob Gibson – – Great pitcher, great athlete, intense competitor
- Ken Griffey, Jr. – – He made the game look easy, but it is not easy.
- Tony Gwynn – – He and Ted Williams are the best pure hitters I ever saw.
- Reggie Jackson – – He went to a high school that was in the same division as my high school.
- Willie Mays – – Selected to the All-Star team 20 times, his career OPS was .940.
- Joe Morgan – – He was an MVP in two consecutive seasons
- Frank Robinson – – An All-Star 12 times, he was the NL MVP (’61) and the AL MVP (’66)
- Jackie Robinson – – His societal importance tends to overshadow his baseball prowess
- Ozzie Smith – – A great defensive player who was always fun to watch
- Frank Thomas – – He was called “The Big Hurt” and it was appropriate
That is my list. I intended the list to include a dozen players but could not winnow down the list any more than this. So, in the end, it is a Baker’s Dozen – – plus one.
Thinking about great baseball players in the past reminded me that Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had an interesting perspective on MLB in the present:
“Critics say Major League Baseball has devolved into too many strikeouts and too little action.
“But enough about the bargaining sessions.”
Speaking of those CBA negotiations, let me offer a tiny ray of sunshine here on a day where it is snowing as I look out my window. According to several reports from folks covering the CBA talks, the two sides have agreed on three issues. These three are minor points in the negotiations and do not have any major impact on the real sticking points here – – those that effect how many dollars will go to players and how many dollars will remain in the pockets of the owners:
- The two sides have agreed to a universal designated hitter. Since I hate the DH, I obviously do not like this outcome – – but if it is a starting point to get the negotiators off the dime and on to a signed CBA, so be it.
- The two sides have agreed to implementing a draft lottery in baseball. I have not seen the details as to how that would work but it is intended to reduce the incentive for teams to tank in order to get a better draft pick. The NBA has a lottery system, and it does not seem as if the lottery is fully effective in eliminating tanking there.
- There will be a change in the draft-pick compensation for teams signing free agents. In the last CBA a team signing a free agent could be penalized by losing a draft pick. That is going to be eliminated. I am not sure why that is a big enough deal that it was a sticking point in the first place but let us thank God for small favors now that it is resolved.
Moving on … The hot rumor of the day – – not confirmed but widely reported – – is that ESPN has hired Troy Aikman away from FOX to become the color analyst for Monday Night Football. I have seen no word regarding what happens to the three guys who have done MNF for the last several years, but it is not reasonable to think that ESPN is going to present us with a 4-person announcing team. Let me assume the rumor is correct here; here is how I think the next shoes might fall:
- Clearly, either Brian Griese or Louis Riddick – – and possibly both – – will have to be reassigned by ESPN.
- I wonder if play-by-play guy, Steve Levy, has sufficient gravitas to be Aikman’s partner. Ergo, might ESPN be looking to make a change in that position also? Remember, Al Michaels is a “broadcasting free agent”…
- Who at FOX gets to work with Joe Buck for NFL games? Looking at the current folks on FOX, my two favorite choices would be Greg Olsen and/or Jonathan Vilma. My absolute least favorite would be Mark Schlereth; he never shuts up.
Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with an observation by Ambrose Bierce that I ran across just yesterday:
“Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………