Who Would Be on Major League Baseball’s Mount Rushmore?

Who would you choose, and why? Not surprisingly, the same names keep popping up.

For starters, let’s all agree that there’s no definitive answer to the question.

Imagine how difficult—how impossible—it would be to pick only four MLB players to represent the very best of baseball, for all time, because of their significant contributions to the game.

Just how would you put together a list, either individually or as part of a group, perhaps creating a list with your fantasy league, drinking buddies, or parents and siblings?

There is a place to start.

Sports organizations and individuals who follow and revere the game (and have put together lists of the best players ever) seem to choose from the same talent pool those players who have honored the game with their records or contributions.

So, when and if you started researching players whose faces deserve consideration on a baseball Mount Rushmore, these are the names (in alphabetical order) that would keep surfacing:

• Hank Aaron. Ty Cobb. Willie Mays. Stan Musial. Jackie Robinson. Babe Ruth. Ted Williams. Honus Wagner. Cy Young. Lou Gehrig.

The four names that come up most often are:

• Ruth. Aaron. Robinson. Williams. (With Aaron, Mays and Gehrig right behind.)

It’s hard to argue with that list of seven names, no matter how you personally might mix it around.

And the top four seem rock solid.

It includes the greatest pure hitter (Williams), the greatest offensive player (Ruth), the greatest home run hitter in the eyes of many (Aaron), the most exciting player (Mays), a true Iron Man (Gehrig), and the first African American man to play in the Majors and who bravely opened the door for other players (Robinson).

Still, if you’re not in total agreement (which is understandable) and you poke around for more candidates, you’ll quickly find these additional names coming up for consideration—and if you’re a baseball fan, you’ll understand why (even if you emphatically disagree):

Mickey Mantle. Cal Ripken Jr. Barry Bonds. Joe DiMaggio. Frank Robinson. Roberto Clemente. Walter Johnson.

Why Mount Rushmore matters.
To most of us, Mount Rushmore simply represents important presidents of the United States. The likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were carved in stone in South Dakota many decades ago. They were chosen for their roles in founding, expanding, preserving and unifying the country.

Baseball is only a game, yes—but it is also a business enterprise played by professional athletes. And in the United States, where it was created, it is the most cherished and revered of professional sports.

Baseball stars, more than other sports, become legends and heroes. It’s been that way for more than one hundred years.

So, the game of creating baseball’s Mount Rushmore, though pure fantasy, is not such a silly exercise. True baseball fans, those who love the history of the game, take it seriously…or as seriously as they can.

And what would the criteria be, anyway? There are a handful of ways to identify the best candidates for a monument to baseball immortality. Who’s considered the best of the best? Consider these ways of compiling a starting list of players from which to choose:

Go for the all-time leaders.
Barry Bonds (homers). Hank Aaron (RBIs). Pete Rose (hits). And Cy Young (wins).

You could simply pick the leaders in all-time categories and call it a day. Of course, this initial list of four contains two of the most controversial players of all time (Bonds, Rose) and one of the most disliked (Cobb). That list isn’t likely to fly. So, maybe you consider meaningful achievements, like the last man to hit over .400 (Williams), the player with the longest hitting streak (DiMaggio) or longest consecutive-game streak (Ripken).

Follow the historians and researchers.
Ruth. Gehrig. Aaron. Williams.

The members of the Society for Baseball Research voted on the best players of all time. Simply that. Greatness was the factor. You could more or less follow their lead.

Follow the sports reporters.
Ruth. Mays. Aaron. Williams.

ESPN formed an expert panel and in 2016 reported on the top 100 players of all time, based on both peak performance and career value. Their top four could clearly be enshrined on a monument and is hard to argue against.

Listen to Joe Morgan (or a baseball expert).
Mays. Ruth. Aaron. Cobb.

In 1998, Joe Morgan was asked to create his list of the top ten baseball players of all time. In addition to his top four, Morgan listed Mantle, DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams and Roberto Clemente. (Sportscaster Bob Costas has said, “There may not be anyone alive who knows more about baseball than Joe Morgan.”)

Choose those with integrity and character.
Lou Gehrig. Cal Ripken Jr. Roberto Clemente. Sandy Koufax.

The people who vote to elect players into the Hall of Fame are asked to take a variety of factors into consideration. According to one guideline, “…voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” The players named above are revered by all sports fans for the way they (have) carried themselves on and off the field.

Have fun.
Get a discussion going with friends on who would comprise the Mount Rushmore of baseball. Enjoy the discussion. Throw out the top names and see what kind of consensus your group can come up with.

Most of all, have a great time and lively debate. It’s all for fun.

After all, it’s not as if your decision will be cast in stone.

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