By Andrew Kahn
Baseball breeds debate more than any other sport. There are several reasons for this. For starters, it is far older than the other professional sports leagues in this country. It is a team game with individual battles, making it easier to evaluate a player’s performance. Comparing eras is tricky, but no more so than in other sports.
One of my favorite baseball debates involves Mount Rushmore. In this exercise, you must choose four entities—usually, but not always, people—that stand above the rest. For many of the Rushmores below, limiting myself to just four selections was incredibly difficult. It would be justified, in most cases, to add several more heads to the mountain. (I imagine people would have the opposite problem adding to the actual Mount Rushmore.)
Starting with baseball’s all-time Mount Rushmore and delving into the more specific (and zany), here are my choices. Sound off in the comments with your own selections.
All-time: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ted Williams
If you ask me again tomorrow, I could come up with an entirely different quartet. In polling others, Jackie Robinson was a popular choice. Considering “impact on the game” or the four most “important” players, he’d be there. But I’m going with the four best; plus I wanted to cover several eras.
Active: Miguel Cabrera, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw is in his 10th season, making him eligible for the Hall of Fame. He’ll get there eventually, along with everyone else on this list. This Rushmore was perhaps the easiest to construct.
Under 30: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Kris Bryant
Kershaw is only 29 years old, folks. Trout (25) and Harper (24) were obvious choices. Both members of Houston’s double-play combination (Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve) were considered, but Bryant (25) is the reigning MVP.
Pitchers: Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax
I didn’t rule out pitchers for my all-time Rushmore. I just didn’t think any belonged. This list was tough, as the eras affect pitchers more than hitters. I like the fact that, among my choices, only Young and Johnson’s careers overlapped (and for just four seasons). Young is probably the least deserving but it’s hard to overlook 511 wins.
Records: 7 No-Hitters, 56-Game Hit Streak, 2,632 Consecutive Games Played, .366 Career Batting Average
Johnny Vander Meer threw no-hitters on consecutive starts. Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in one winning. Those are records that will likely never be tied and certainly won’t be broken. But the four most impressive to me—that I also believe won’t be touched—are Nolan Ryan’s seven career no-hitters, Joe DiMaggio’s record hit streak, Cal Ripken, Jr.’s streak, and Ty Cobb’s career batting average.
Ballpark food: Peanuts, Hot Dog, Pretzel, Beer
Is including a beverage cheating? If limited to food, I’m not sure about my fourth choice. Do people actually like Cracker Jack? Cotton Candy is the most ridiculous “food” in the world. I’d probably have to acknowledge modern stadium options and go with sushi or something. Oh, and the peanuts better be salted and in shell.
Movies: The Natural, Eight Men Out, A League of Their Own, Little Big League
It’s killing me (Smalls) to leave The Sandlot off this list; same for the hilarious Major League. Others will cry foul over the benching of Bull Durham.
Mascots: Mr. Met, Wally the Green Monster, Dinger, San Diego Chicken
I am not willing to debate Mr. Met’s inclusion. Wally, the Red Sox mascot, is funny looking and appropriately named. I’m partial to dinosaur, hence the Rockies’ purple triceratops appearing here. The Chicken is not technically any team’s mascot, but he became famous at Padres’ games. And don’t bother bringing up the Phillie Phanatic; that thing spends more time in court than on a baseball field, and is constantly blocking the view of fans who paid three figures for their seats.
Entrance Music (2017): “Space Jam Theme,” “Circle of Life,” “Jurassic Park Theme,” “Pony”
According to MLB Plate Music, two players use the Space Jam theme, performed by the Quad City DJ’s, as their walk-up music: Francisco Lindor and Steven Souza, Jr. The Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes uses “Circle of Life,” from The Lion King. Milwaukee reliever Brent Suter enters to the Jurassic Park theme. I’m partial to soundtrack selections, but I’m entertained by the five players who chose Ginuwine’s suggestive 1996 hit “Pony.”
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn