Greatest baseball player?

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Answered by: Mark, An Expert in the Learn Major League History Category
Who was the greatest baseball player to ever step on a diamond?

How does one figure who was the best to ever play America's Past Time? Is the answer found in statistics? Is the answer found in how many championship rings the person owns? Or, do intangibles come into play?

Ruth, Dimagio, Banks, Cobb, Young, Clemente, Kaline, Aaron, Mays, Ripken, Koufax, Griffey, Johnson, Carew, Henderson, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There have been several other legendary ballplayers throughout the years who could claim at least a share of the moniker, Mr. Baseball.

When the ellipsis is removed and the remaining players are named, it’s virtually impossible to leave this one player off of that greatest baseball player list. If Mr. Doubleday had the near-perfect baseball player in mind when he America’s Past Time, he obviously would have envisioned # 7.

Barely a high school graduate, this outfielder made his big league debut in The Big Apple, as a 19-year-old kid. The switch-hitting slugger spent his entire career on New York’s national stage. He played his final game as a 36-year old, leaving a brilliant, often painful, career behind him. “He,” of course, is The Mick, Mickey Mantle.

Mantle’s on-the-field accomplishments are impressive, to say the least. The 1974 Hall-of-Fame inductee amassed a career batting average of .298 in just under 10,000 at bats. While knocking in 1,509 runs, the Oklahoma native belted 536 balls over the fence. Furthermore, he collected 1.733 walks during his remarkable, 18-year career—all in the pinstripes—which added up to an astounding .421 on-base percentage. Finally, he also swiped 153 bases, or about eight per season.

Undoubtedly, avid baseball fans realize that those are some terrific numbers. However, bumps and bruises are things with which every player has to contend. Playing through injuries is simply part of the game, naysayers point out.

Mantle was just such an extreme case. He played a large part of his career on a sore knee. For most of his career, he carried a sore, nagging injury to the plate for every at bat and every scamper in the outfield. With today’s medicine and steroids--not mentioning the watered-down pitching in MLB--The Mick would surely shatter his own numbers. Imagining Mantle playing without the pain he had to deal with makes this debate a no-brainer to me, at least.

Undoubtedly there are a plethora of stars who could rightfully claim the title of Mr. Baseball. Every few seasons, someone bursts onto the scene as that certain special, can’t-miss ballplayer. Mr. Mantle was going to be that guy before living up to the hype and becoming the man.

Sure, statistics are supposed to tell the whole story in the game of baseball. However, in Mick’s case, stats alone don’t paint the entire picture. The statistical portrait doesn’t show how he constantly played in pain. Still, somehow, he enjoyed a marvelous career.

Years after his playing days, the deceased outfielder is still considered special among so many of the other special players. His major-league stint earned him acceptance into Cooperstown and that distinguished category. Moreover, one wouldn’t be wrong to consider him to be the most special of the special, aka The Greatest.

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