(Or, you can always tell it's wilderness time for Philadelphia sports when this topic comes up in the media...)
I looked about in the search functions to see if this has come up before. I can't believe it hasn't- I'm sure I'm not searching effectively, but (to paraphrase Robert E. Smith) "here we go again."
I guess the old chestnut of 'Top-10 Philadelphia Team Sports Athletes' will serve as well as any to start. Typically, my problem with such conversations is that contributors act as though no Philadelphia sports occurred outside of their own life-span. This is understandable from the hoi polloi, but the public mouthpieces whom one would expect would know better often take the same approach.
So- my initial parameter is- major team sports only- don't want to minimize the greatness of Joe Frazier, Bernard the Executioner, or (if we want to extend it to Philly region), Carl Lewis- but the task is hard enough without having to work out the apples-and-oranges of Team Players vs. Individual Champions.
10: Steve Van Buren. People forget about old Steve Van Buren. Running back for the late-40s-early 50s Eagles, he had more to do with Philadelphia's back-to-back championships than any other player. He was the primary weapon in a run-first NFL. A case could be made that he was the best pro running back of the first half of the 20th century.
9. Eddie Collins. The most valuable member of baseball's most storied infield (the $100,000 infield), a player in the discussion for "greatest 2nd baseman of all-time." Mr. Cocky was often clutch in the World Series- the best player on the "White Elephants" that won three series in four years ('1910-'11-'13). Batted .429 in the '10 series and .421 in the '13 series.
8. Bernie Parent. I'll advocate for Parent, in spite of his relatively narrow prime, on the grounds that a narrow but transcendent prime can yield outsized rewards in goal. I'll assert that he was the most important component in the Flyers' back-to-back cups. I believe that if you take away Parent, Philadelphia joins the St. Louis Blues in the "never-won-a-cup" badlands.
7. Steve Carlton. I don't think anyone here will question that he's an historically great pitcher. I'm sure some controversy will attach to my having him this low. I sometimes provocatively say "not only is Carlton NOT the best L-handed pitcher in baseball history, he's not the best L-handed pitcher in Philadelphia history." More on this later...
6. Chuck Bednarik. Another forgotten man in people's focus on modernity- "the last of the sixty-minute men." A nice offensive lineman and an absolutely outstanding linebacker, his contributions will never be duplicated.
5. Grover Cleveland Alexander. Old Pete is almost always overlooked in these lists. For those who even know anything about him, he might be bypassed because he split his career with three teams (Phillies, Cubs, Cardinals). His very best years were in Philadelphia. To get a flavor of his contributions, here are Ol' Pete's 7 PHL years, expressed as a one-season average: 27W 13L 356 innings, opponent BA: .231.
(Trivia time- you might be able to win a bar-bet with this particularly insidious piece of trivia. The set-up runs like this- "in 1968, Denny McLain won 31 games for Detroit, the last major-leaguer to achieve this high a figure. Who was the last National League pitcher to win more than 30 games in a year?" Those who have a little knowledge of baseball (a dangerous thing, here) will predictably answer Dizzy Dean. But that would be wrong. Diz won exactly 30 in 1934... not more than 30. The last NL pitcher to win more than 30 games in a season was when Alexander won 33 for Philly in 1916.)
I'll take a break, here. My top four (a.k.a: all-time Philly Team Sports Mt. Rushmore) will follow...
Last edited by ChiTownPhilly: 06-10-2013 at 07:22 PM.
4 of Wilt, Dr. J, reggie white, Clarke, Schmidt I predict are in your top 4.
should be wilt dr j clarke and schmidt. Reggie won the ship with the packers , won nothing with us though he was a beast. Id do dr J clarke schmidt and reggie if i had to do 4 only... wilt needs his own mountain he was that good.
Not that anyone needs my approval- but I think I agree with you here. The fundamental argument is going to be Barber v. Lindros. Don't want to be dismissive of Barber- he's in the Hockey Hall of Fame- but I'd say he's a bottom quintile guy there. I think Lindros belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame- but he, too, would be a bottom quintile guy. I'll say this much- I don't think anyone ever game-planned for the Flyers and made their first thought "what do we do about that Bill Barber dude."
Originally Posted by sobrien
Phillies Mt. Rushmore:
Roberts, Carlton, Schmidt, Alexander
I think this is spot-perfect.
Originally Posted by sobrien
Eagles Mt. Rushmore:
Bednarek, Van Buren, White, Dawkins
Like the first three... but I'm not sure I'm ready to dismiss Tommy Mac yet. Hall-of-Famer Tommy McDonald: I took note that in his first four years in the league, culminating in that last Eagles Championship Season of 1960, he averaged 20 yards a reception- in the late-50s into '60(!) [Well, not actually 20 yards a catch- 19.98, in truth.]
My top four (a.k.a: all-time Philly Team Sports Mt. Rushmore) will follow...
... and so we continue---
4. Reggie White. My choice for greatest Defensive End in football history [I think Deacon Jones is his only serious rival], and by extension in the conversation for greatest defensive player in football history. Alone among the players so far mentioned in that he never played in a Championship game as a Philadelphia player. I don't believe that should be held against his memory. A continual winner in his gridiron matchups, his only notable losses were to Father Time and The Grim Reaper.
3. Wilt Chamberlain. Still the plurality choice for best Center in NBA history. His freakish seasonal scoring feats were at their apex with the Philadelphia Warriors... but it was with the 76ers that he, Peyton Manning-like, got his Philadelphia NBA championship ring. [He would later add another with Los Angeles in 1972.] Later generations might not retain full awareness that the man averaged nearly 23 rebounds a game over the course of an entire career.
2. Mike Schmidt. Evaluation of players vis-à-vis other players at the same position involves variations in certitude. We can believe that Chamberlain is superior to Jabbar, or Reggie White is superior to Gino Marchetti... but I think it can be argued with greater clarity that Mike Schmidt is the greatest 3rd Baseman in baseball history; his reputation safe from the late challenge of the compilations of a "better-living-through-chemistry" Alex Rodriguez. If, improbably, you and your friends were having a fantasy-draft, with ALL of the people who ever played baseball as your pool, Mike Schmidt's name would be called mighty early.
[Number one, basically, deserves his own essay... to be continued---]
Last edited by ChiTownPhilly: 06-22-2013 at 08:08 AM.
Reason: spelling, again
Love how you put Alexander in the list , Surprised , DR.J isn't on their , a really tough list to do. Good job with it.
Hey, thanks! When limiting it to ten, you have to leave upper-echelon hall-of-famers off the list. For instance, in my lower half, I have Van Buren, Parent, and Bednarik. It wouldn't at all be unreasonable to consider Jimmie Foxx (arguably the most productive R-handed bat of the first half of the 20th c.), Mickey Cochrane (my choice for greatest catcher in that same time-span) and Robin Roberts. The danger here is that one risks making a top-10 list that includes seven baseball-players. It's a defensible position, maybe... but you're on the defensive with such a set-up.
My primary criterion is- among the very best ever to play the position- and by this, I mean like top-3 material. Exceptions were made for multiple championships where the player cited was the biggest contributor to those championships (Van Buren, Parent), and for Bednarik; whose unmatched skill-set, I felt, trumped the above considerations.
Now, if someone says that Doctor J is a glaring omission because of his on-court greatness, combined with his stylistic influence and class- I have no answer except to say that Julius Irving advocates make a valid point. Now, the real elephant-in-the-living room is the omission of Bobby Clarke. I wouldn't strenuously argue with someone who'd seek to put his name up there instead of someone else in slots 6-10- as long as no-one from my top-5 is removed from the list. HF Boards "History of Hockey" sub-forum had a poll-and-discussion driven top-players thread that ranked Clarke the 7th best center in Hockey history. I think that's about right. In my mind, seventh-best center isn't enough résumé to crack this list. If you think it is, that's all right... I won't go in paroxysms about it. I'll save that for those people who'd try to sneak Allen Iverson, Norm Van Brocklin or Randall Cunningham past the doorman.
Bobby Clarke who captained the first NHL Expansion team to a Cup... and then to make no mistake possible won a second consecutive and then upset the Soviet Army team... won a couple Hart Trophies, a Masterson and a Selke... Managed IIRC five Flyers teams to the Cup Finals... and was responsible for drafting and developing many Flyers stars... and was elected to the HHoF three years after his early retirement from the Flyers... should have been a lock for one of the top ten spots on this list, no matter the Eras considered. With all due respect to this excellent and well thought out list, his omission is a flat out crime, IMHO.
And now my prediction for Number One... unless we are being as ignorant as the Powers That Be of MLB... The winner is the player with by far the most MLB hits and the man instrumental for multiple World Series Championships, one being here in Philly... Pete Rose.
By the way... I am well aware of the fact that many GREAT players have to be left off a list of only ten that spans four major sports in a city with a long history in sports... but I truly believe none with such credentials as Clarkie has... was as honored in his League, nor any that meant as much to his franchise and was key in multiple championships.
The hint for whom I'm placing at Number One can be found in this quote:
Originally Posted by ChiTownPhilly
I sometimes provocatively say "not only is Carlton NOT the best L-handed pitcher in baseball history, he's not the best L-handed pitcher in Philadelphia history." More on this later...
1. Lefty Grove- Yes. Lefty Grove. Ask a half-dozen of your sports buddies for their "Philly top-10" and I'll betcha none of 'em mention Lefty Grove. But I put him at the very top, since any hurler that ever pitched in the Major Leagues is in for a tough go when compared to Lefty Grove. Testimonials?
The consensus pick as the best lefthander in history... His lifetime ERA of 3.06, when normalized to the league average and adjusted for home park, was the best ever, even topping Walter Johnson's. Total Baseball- Lives of the Players
Walter Johnson, pitching all his career in pitcher's parks, led the league in ERA six times- but Lefty Grove, pitching all his career in hitter's parks, led the league in ERA nine times. Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract
Bill James computes Grove as the best pitcher in baseball (both leagues) each season/every season for four straight seasons: 1929-30-31-32. It's historically unprecedented- no-one else has that many in a row... not Cy Young, not Walter Johnson- not even prime Sandy Koufax [he comes close, though]. Oh, and by the way, Total Baseball picks Grove as the AL's best pitcher in '28 (but falling short of Hall-of-Famer Dazzy Vance's career year for the NL Brooklyn Robins).
Lefty Grove's Philadelphia A's won-lost record is 195-79. All this while averaging over 265 innings a year, and nearly 22 complete games a year. There were a handful of valuable players in Connie Mack's "Second Kingdom" A's dynasty, but none moreso than Ol' Mose.
I'll grant that it's better to have the rights to Walter Johnson's career than Lefty Grove's career... but if I'm forced to pick one pitcher at the peak of his powers, in all of baseball history, to pitch one crucial game, I'm taking Robert Moses Grove.
QFT. Come one man, no Clarke? SERIOUSLY? Over thought this list trying to be clever with the Phillies pitchers and ended up with a huge gaping hole, on a hockey board no less.
O.K.: which Philadelphia Pitcher do I leave off? Do I leave off the best left-handed pitcher in baseball history, the best National League hurler in history, or the best left-hander since Spahn?
Pick Clarke instead of Carlton- it's probably one of those "ant's eyelash" distinctions where there's so little to choose between the two that it's not worth a protracted argument. However, just can't leave off Alexander or Grove, IMO.
I hope that people aren't left with the feeling that I'm 'dissing' Clarke. He's an upper-echelon Hall-of-Famer, and one of the top-10 centers in hockey history. Jimmie Foxx is probably the second-greatest First Baseman in history (behind only Lou Gehrig)- and is an upper-echelon Hall-of-Famer-- and he didn't make the list, either.
[Alternate lists are welcomed.]
P.S.: Philadelphia Athletics Mount Rushmore: Grove, Collins, Foxx, Cochrane.
Restating my list in "countdown" format: 10. Van Buren
9. Eddie Collins
5. Pete Alexander
4. Reggie White
1. Lefty Grove.
Rummaged around the internet, and found two other such lists. One was a vox populi poll with 16 votes, and went like this: 10. Parent
Not an utterly horrid effort, considering. The absence of Alexander, Grove, and Collins is best attributed to historical myopia. I don't think Iverson belongs, at all, and Dr. J at Number One overall is pretty fulsome.
Another tally came from PhillySportsNet, and went like this: 10. Barkley
8. Moses Malone
I don't think this list is any better than the one done by the random fans. I'm not sure Barkley or Malone rate top-20, let alone top-10.