It's not easy to dispute the mostly wise choices that fans and a
panel of experts made for the 30-man All-Century baseball team,
but let's do it anyway. For starters, some of the team's position
players spent much of their time elsewhere on the diamond. Of the
three shortstops, Cal Ripken Jr. and Honus Wagner played the
position most of their careers, but Ernie Banks played more games
at first (1,259) than at short (1,125). His selection left no
place for Ozzie Smith, the best fielder of the bunch, who played
2,511 games in the field--all of them at short. So let's create an
All-Century bench and put Banks there, making a spot for Ozzie.
All-Century catcher Yogi Berra, who played 260 career games in
the outfield, is another utility man on my team. His move to the
pine would let baseball correct the most glaring All-Century
error--the absence of a single Negro leaguer. Though stats from
the Negro leagues are notoriously unreliable, Josh Gibson (above)
is said to have hit 75 homers in one season. No less an authority
than Walter Johnson called him the best defensive catcher of all.
Sorry, Yogi, but Gibson and Johnny Bench are the century's top
Versatile Pete Rose played more than 600 games at each of four
positions, but despite the fan vote, he doesn't belong in an
outfield with Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays. Let's
send Rose, who played 874 more games as an infielder than as an
outfielder, to play cards in the clubhouse, and improve the
outfield with Roberto Clemente--addressing the voters'
second-worst miscue, the absence of any Latin-American players.
An alltime pitching staff without Grover Cleveland Alexander and
Satchel Paige won't do, but who should go to the showers? Cy
Young, to begin with. History's leading winner was really a
19th-century guy. More than half his 511 wins came before 1900,
and his three winningest seasons were in 1892, '93 and '95. He
and Roger Clemens get bounced from my staff to make room for
Alexander and Paige. Care to argue?
B/W PHOTO: SPORTING NEWS/ARCHIVE PHOTO