What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
To be honest, this question was posed on Dubsism two years ago by myself and Dick Marple, the Chairman of the Dubsism Advisory Board. You can see the original post here, but since then, the numbers we examined have only gone up.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is the over-arching question. I know that means saying “yes” to that question means saying that Derek Jeter is a greater Yankee than some heavy-duty legends not just in pinstripes, but to baseball in general. Some people are simply going to scream their brains out stuck on the pre-eminence of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio.
However, doing so misses some really important stuff. For starters, let’s look at Jeter’s place in Yankee history, statistically speaking in the offensive categories. Also, don’t forget these number have at least two months of baseball left to change…
A lot of people will look at those numbers and will be surprised at how many categories in which Jeter is the all-time Yankee leader. The numbers that surprised me were the fact that Jeter is in the Yankees’ top ten in home runs considering all the sluggers that have worn pinstripes. Lou Gehrig was a doubles-hitting machine, but Derek Jeter passed him. But on the other side of the coin, I was surprised that Jeter’s on-base percentage wasn’t higher than it is.
Now, for the fun part. When it comes to the non-statistical arguments, in my mind the battle for the title of Greatest Yankee Ever is a two-horse race; Jeter or Ruth.
Had Lou Gehrig’s career not been cut short, this is a different conversation. Two more seasons and Gehrig would have been in the 500-home run, 3,000-hit club. Having reached that plateau may very well have made him the subject of this discussion.
Two years ago, I had DiMaggio at #2 on this list. But I honestly believe Jeter sailed past the Yankee Clipper on the following points. DiMaggio’s biggest claim to fame was being the best hitter in the game not named Ted Williams. While Jeter was not the batsman DiMaggio was, Jeter is arguably the biggest clutch performer baseball has seen since Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson. Jeter also did this while playing more games than anybody else in the history of baseball at the toughest position on the diamond that doesn’t have to wear a mask. Jeter also passed DiMaggio in terms of notches on the bedpost as well. The Yankee Clipper got to call Marilyn Monroe a “home port,” but Derek Jeter has a list of conquests of legendary proportions.
But no matter how you slice it, I simply cannot put anybody ahead of Babe Ruth. If I were to make a list of the greatest sports figures of the 20th Century, Babe Ruth tops it all for three massively important reasons.
First of all, Babe Ruth changed baseball. Before “The Sultan of Swat,” the home run was an anomaly in an era when the ball was made out of lettuce and it was legal to put an entire quart of Pennzoil on the ball. Before Ruth, baseball’s home run leader was a guy named Frank “Home run” Baker, who was tearing up that salad-ball to the tune of eight taters a year. Without the “Bambino,” we would never have had our century-long fascination with the long ball.
That fact led to two other reasons. The old Yankee Stadium was called “The House That Ruth Built” because people would fill a 20,000-seat ballpark to watch Ruth do his thing. Not only did other baseball owners realize that people would pay to see their product, it’s no accident that the other major sports leagues started after Ruth built baseball.
To top it all off, let’s not forget that Babe Ruth comes along at a time when baseball sorely needed a star. In 1919, baseball was on the verge of being destroyed by the “Black Sox Scandal,” and it was the combination of Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis restoration of the integrity of the game and Ruth mesmerizing blasts that saved it.