is a great debate. It’s between four New York Yankees:
Babe Ruth in 1927: 60 Home runs; 164 Runs batted in; .356 Batting average; 158 runs scored.
Mickey Mantle in 1956: 52 Home runs: 132 runs batted in; .352 Batting average; 132 Runs scored.
Roger Maris in 1961: 61 Home runs; 142 Runs batted in; .269 Batting average; 132 Runs scored.
Aaron Judge in 2022: 60 Home runs; 128 Runs batted in; .317 Batting average; 125 Runs scored. [So far, in only 147 games.]
don’t count because they cheated. They all took illegal, performance enhancing drugs. Should I even mention them? Alright, okay: Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Sammy Sosa. Those three (cheaters) each hit more than 70 homers in a season. But seriously, I don’t even want to consider them.
Consider this, Ruth and Mantle took performance inhibiting drugs! Copious amounts of alcohol consumed nightly and daily. On a regular basis!
The Most Valuable Player and The Triple Crown
are the two most prestigious awards in Major League Baseball. Ruth, Mantle, and Maris all won the MVP in their record setting years; and Judge is a sure bet this year. Mantle won the Triple Crown (league leader in AVG. HRs, and RBI) in 1956 and Judge seems likely to win today.
In Addition, Ruth, Mantle, and Maris teams’ won the World Series. That remains to be seen for Judge’s Yankees. But they’re in the hunt.
does it factor in in how you vote?
Aaron Judge seems to be the darling of the sports world in 2022. He says all the “right” things. In other words, is humble and team-first oriented. He is scandal free and considered a great teammate. Judge is fawned over by the media and never has a discouraging word to say about anyone or thing – even the umpires!
Babe Ruth, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t be allowed to play today on most days. He’d be suspended and fined. In his own words:
“I was listed as incorrigible, and I guess I was. Looking back on my early boyhood, I honestly don’t remember being aware of the difference between right and wrong. If my parents had something I wanted very badly, I took it. I chewed tobacco when I was seven, not that I enjoyed it especially, but from my observations around the saloon, it seemed the normal thing to do.”
In contrast, Roger Maris had this to say:
“People hate me for breaking Ruth’s record–the press especially.”
Mickey Mantle was loved, hated, then loved again. If Ruth’s record was to be broken (in 1961) everyone wanted Mantle to be the one, not Maris. Mantle finished the 61 season with 54 homers.
I don’t know if any Sport’s person has been written about more than Mantle. He was my “hero” and “role model”. He died at age 64 and was a sad figure – a self-identified alcoholic. However, he would get my vote for greatest Home Run Hitter Ever.
The Mick was not a large man, like Ruth or Judge, but could run faster and hit a ball farther than any person before or since. And played through and with great pain – physical, psychological, and emotional. It’s not even close.
My ranking would be: Mantle, Ruth, Judge, then Maris. All were great, tremendous in fact. All overcame great obstacles and pressures. Moreover, I consider the context in which they played, the era, if you will.
However, biased I am. I grew up with Mantle. I started to play the game when he was at his peak, his finest.
My brother and I watched the 1961 MLB season unfold from Washington DC, Clark Griffith Stadium, the home of the Washington Senators. When the Yankees came to town, Dad would take us. After all, it only cost him him $1.50.
I was in Little League, eleven years old, and played for the Yankees (of course). It was a magical time in America. Right before the “shit-hit-the-fan”. Things began to unravel. Jane Leavy captures this in her book, The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood (2010).
I can’t recommend her book enough. The epigraph:
Play hard, died hard, – Don Larsen
Ya gotta be honest, -Tony Kubek
Who you got?
Let me know in the comments.