The All-Time Baseball Dream Team
by Joe Orlando
If you are a baseball fan or a collector, I am sure you have toyed with the idea of being manager for a day and attempted to fill out your personal All-Time Baseball lineup (read my full article on the subject).
Here is my ultimate baseball lineup. It includes a starter at every position, including a DH, a starting pitcher, a closer and one bench player.
Some of my starters are expected, while others may provide a platform for debate, but that is the beauty of this process. For me, it’s not just about raw statistics or names. It’s about putting together the lineup of players that you think not only best complement each other, but also gives you the best chance to win.
At the end of this PSA List, you’ll have your chance to choose your team. So keep your favorites in mind as you go through my selections.
And remember…this exercise is about building the best lineup for a single game, winner-take-all scenario.
So, without further ado, here is my All-Time Baseball Dream Team.
Leading Off – Joe Morgan – 2B
I begin my lineup with one of the more controversial selections on paper.
Here’s why I selected Morgan over other standout second basemen: If you listen to his former teammates and opposing players talk about Morgan in his prime, they almost all say that he was one of the most complete players – at any position – ever.
In his back-to-back MVP seasons (1975/1976), Morgan hit .327 and .320. More importantly, his OBP was .466 and .444 respectively during those same two seasons. Plus, at the time of his retirement, only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams had more walks than Morgan.
Morgan’s most popular card is his 1965 Topps #16 rookie. In my opinion, it remains one of the most overlooked Hall of Fame rookie cards of the decade and is one of four key rookies in the set, along with those of fellow Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Catfish Hunter and Tony Perez.
Morgan’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .327 (1975)
- R – 122 (1972)
- HR – 27 (1976)
- RBI – 111 (1976)
- OBP – .466 (1975)
- SLG – .576(1976)
Batting Second – Willie Mays – CF
Speaking of high baseball IQs, Willie Mays is hitting in the second spot and playing center field. Like Morgan, and perhaps even more so, Mays was often admired for his incredible baseball instincts at the plate, on the base paths and in the field. In my mind and the minds of many others, Mays is the best all-around player that ever lived.
Even though Mays was one of the easiest selections for me, let’s just take a quick look at some of the facts. Mays, a career .302 hitter, hit over .340 twice (.345 in 1954 and .347 in 1958). As a power hitter, Mays eclipsed 50 homers twice (51 in 1955 and 52 in 1965). As a fielder, Mays won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves and is still considered among the best, if not the best, ever to play the position
Mays’ most popular card is his 1951 Bowman #305 rookie. Along with the rookie cards of fellow Hall of Famers Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, this iconic rookie card is a key to this historically important and colorful set.
Mays’ Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .347 (1958)
- R – 130 (1962)
- HR – 52 (1965)
- RBI – 141 (1962)
- OBP – .425 (1971)
- SLG – .667 (1954)
Batting Third – Mickey Mantle – LF
At his best, Mantle was a freak of nature, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. At one time, Mantle may have been the fastest runner and the most powerful hitter in the entire game. Injuries robbed Mantle of his unmatched speed over time, but he remained quick for many years.
No one hit more tape measure shots during the 1950s and 1960s than Mantle did. By the way, while his batting average suffered during his final four seasons, his OBP numbers were terrific throughout his career. His .421 career OBP is higher than Hank Aaron, Mays and Roberto Clemente. In addition to his speed, power and ability to get on base, Mantle was a switch hitter.
Let’s face it, just about every Mantle card is popular, but his most popular card, without a doubt, is his beautiful 1952 Topps #311. This card has been taken to new heights in recent years as more and more collectors realize its symbolic value as perhaps the most iconic baseball card image in the hobby.
Mantle’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .365 (1957)
- R – 132 (1956)
- HR – 54 (1961)
- RBI – 130 (1956)
- OBP – .512 (1957)
- SLG – .705 (1956)
Batting Fourth – Babe Ruth – RF
For me, this was the easiest pick of them all. In his prime, Ruth was more like a fairy tale character than a real person. He just seemed to be so far ahead of his time, and he revolutionized the game in many ways.
For a player to emerge as truly one of the best pitchers in the game, perhaps the best left-hander in the league, and then to switch gears completely several years later to become the most feared hitter in the game sounds more like fiction than fact, but it’s true. Ruth’s overall numbers are already incredible, but imagine what they would have been if he started his career as a full-time position player? Scary stuff.
Ruth’s most iconic cards, from an image standpoint, are his 1933 Goudeys (#s 53, 144, 149 and 181), but the card that has become THE Ruth card over the past several years is his 1915/1916 M101-5 and M101-4 rookie. The 1914 Baltimore News Ruth rarity is clearly tougher, but the above-mentioned card is considered his major league rookie card as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Ruth’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .393 (1923)
- R – 177 (1921)
- RBI – 168 (1921)
- OBP – .545 (1923)
- SLG – .847 (1920)
Batting Fifth – Jimmie Foxx – 1B
Along with Morgan, my guess is that this will be viewed as one of the most controversial selections for my starting lineup. Why? Most people would probably go with Lou Gehrig at first base. How could anyone blame them? That said, if you compare Foxx and Gehrig at their best, they are virtual mirror images of each another. Offensively, they could seemingly do whatever they wanted to at the plate. They hit for average, scored runs, drove in runs and hit with immense power.
I love the thought of Ruth and Foxx hitting back-to-back. The most devastating left-handed hitter of the era followed by the most feared right-handed hitter, a hitter that had even more raw power than Ruth according to most observers.
Foxx doesn’t have a ton of cards to choose from during his playing days, but the 1933 (#s 29 and 154) and 1934 (#1) Goudeys are his most popular issues. In particular, the #1 card in the 1934 Goudey set takes on an extra level of significance due to its position in the set and the fact that Ruth was absent from the production entirely.
Foxx’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .364 (1932)
- R – 151 (1932)
- HR – 58 (1932)
- RBI – 175 (1938)
- OBP – .469 (1932)
- SLG – .749 (1932)
Batting Sixth – Ted Williams – DH
Williams’ all-around hitting ability and ability to get on base was really only rivaled by Ruth. Williams’ career OBP is #1 at .482. Ruth is #2 at .474. Ruth’s career slugging average is #1 at .690. Williams is #2 at .634. The comparisons go on and on. For the same reason I like Foxx behind Ruth, I like Williams behind Foxx. Ruth-Foxx-Williams, 4-5-6, left-right-left. All with precision, all with power and all with swagger. Doesn’t that sound tempting?
Williams has several great cards that are both popular and historically important, from the early Play Ball issues (1939-1941) to the colorful Bowman and Topps cards of the 1950s. For the purpose of this article, we went with his classic 1939 Play Ball rookie…a simple, black-and-white design featuring the skinny, young prodigy known by many as The Splendid Splinter.
Williams’ Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .406 (1941)
- R – 150 (1949)
- HR – 43 (1949)
- RBI – 159 (1949)
- OBP – .553 (1941)
- SLG – .735 (1941)
Batting Seventh – Mike Schmidt – 3B
Let’s get something straight right off the bat, no pun intended of course. Michael Jack Schmidt, with emphasis on Jack, was the best third baseman ever. Don’t try to argue with me, just accept it.
George Brett, Eddie Mathews, Brooks Robinson and even Chipper Jones were all outstanding and arguably better than Schmidt in one specific area or another, but Schmidt was better overall. This three-time NL MVP winner was one of the greatest threats at the plate throughout his career, leading the league in homers eight times. Schmidt was also one of the premier defensive third basemen in history with 10 Gold Glove awards. On top of all his personal achievements, Schmidt was a winner, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to five division titles and one World Series title (1980) during his career.
Without a doubt, the Schmidt card that generates the most interest with collectors is his 1973 Topps #615 rookie. Like many other rookie cards of iconic players, Schmidt’s rookie has jumped to a new level in the last couple of years. His rookie card now consistently sells north of $2,000 in PSA Mint 9.
Schmidt’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .316 (1981 – Strike Shortened)
- R – 114 (1977)
- HR – 48 (1980)
- RBI – 121 (1980)
- OBP – .435 (1981 – Strike Shortened)
- SLG – .644 (1981 – Strike Shortened)
Batting Eighth – Johnny Bench – C
When it comes to selecting the greatest catcher of all time, there is very little doubt about who you would want manning the position. Yogi Berra, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey and a host of other catching legends could easily hold their own on an All-Time team, but Bench – at least in my opinion – has the most to offer as the total package.
The two-time NL MVP was easily the premier offensive and defensive catcher of his era. He had an absolute cannon for an arm, was a natural leader on the field, extremely agile and a perennial winner with “The Big Red Machine” of the 1970s, leading the team to six division titles, four NL pennants and two World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.
Bench’s most popular and desirable card is, without question, his 1968 Topps #247 rookie. While not considered an overly tough card to acquire in high grade, the Bench rookie remains a key in the set along with the rookie card of Nolan Ryan. It is also a must for hobbyists who collect premier rookie cards of the greatest Hall of Famers.
Bench’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .293 (Tie – 1969/1970)
- R – 108 (1974)
- HR – 45 (1970)
- RBI – 148 (1970)
- OBP – .379 (1972)
- SLG – .587 (1970)
Batting Ninth – Cal Ripken, Jr. – SS
I chose to go with Ripken at shortstop, but it’s the choice I actually felt least comfortable with during this process. The reason I went with the two-time AL MVP and two-time Gold Glove winner is that there are some outstanding offensive and defensive shortstops to choose from, but few of them combined strong value in both areas at their best.
Ernie Banks played a portion of his career at the position and put up some incredible power numbers, but he didn’t stay at the position. Ozzie Smith was “The Wizard” at short, but remained a defensive specialist for the most part.
With Honus Wagner, I just wish I knew more about his defense. I can read about his defense and look at all kinds of numbers, but it’s really difficult to ascertain just how good any player was during the pre-1920 era. In truth, Wagner may be the right choice, but I am sticking with Ripken because of what we know about him.
Ripken has a handful of 1982 rookie cards to choose from, including the regular-issue Donruss #405, Fleer #176 and Topps #21. The most desirable Ripken rookie, however, is the 1982 Topps Traded #98 card, which sells for substantially more than the other three.
Ripken’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .323 (1991)
- R – 121 (1983)
- HR – 34 (1991)
- RBI – 114 (1991)
- OBP – .374 (Tie – 1984/1991)
- SLG – .566 (1991)
Starting Pitcher – Pedro Martinez
After digesting all of the relevant numbers, I ended up with Pedro Martinez as my starter.
At his best, Pedro had a repertoire of pure filth. In addition to his mid-to-upper 90s fastball, Pedro had a devastating changeup and wicked curveball, to go along with pinpoint control for good measure. Pedro was also not afraid to pitch inside and move hitters off the plate with his electric heater, which made his off-speed pitches that much tougher to hit.
Pedro pitched during an era that was filled with PED issues and record-setting offense. He may have pitched in, arguably, the most pitching-unfriendly period the game has ever seen. Now, take your time and relook at those prime Pedro numbers. In 1999, when Pedro finished with 313 strikeouts, the only other pitcher in the entire American League to reach 200 strikeouts that year was the runner-up at exactly that number. When Pedro finished the 2000 season with an ERA of 1.74, the next best ERA in the American League was nearly two full points higher at 3.70.
Pedro had the stuff and attitude to be “The Man” in a single game scenario. He wants the ball and I am going to give it to him.
Vote for Pedro.
Pedro’s most popular mainstream rookie card is his 1992 Bowman #82. This rookie, along with those of Trevor Hoffman, Mike Piazza and Mariano Rivera, are the keys to the set and can be found in PSA Gem Mint 10 condition without too much trouble. Pedro does have a 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition card, but the Bowman rookie is more popular with collectors.
Pedro’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- W/L – 23-4/.852 Winning Percentage (1999)
- ERA – 1.74 (2000)
- SO – 313 (1999)
- SO/9 – 13.2 (1999)
- SO/W – 284/32 - 8.88 (2000)
- H/9 – 5.32 (2000)
- WHIP – 0.737 (2000)
Closer – Mariano Rivera
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect to Rivera’s stellar career is that he spent virtually the entire time throwing one pitch – the cutter – and he did so with one of the most effortless-looking deliveries in baseball history.
Opposing batters tried to anticipate where the pitch would end up, but they simply couldn’t square up the bat to the ball. Righties thought they were right on the pitch, only to have the cutter move just out of the hitting zone; while that same pitch would just bore into the hands of lefties, leaving their bats in pieces. Even when Rivera’s velocity declined in his later years, hitters still struggled to barrel the ball.
In the case of Rivera, as the saying goes, the numbers don’t lie…especially in the postseason where the pressure is the greatest for a closer. When you have time, I suggest you check out his numbers in detail online.
Since we are building this team for a winner-take-all scenario, Rivera is the perfect guy for the job.
Along with Martinez’s inaugural issue, Rivera’s most popular rookie card appears in the 1992 Bowman set at card #302. It has become the most valuable of the four major rookie cards in the set, a set that boasts the potential for four potential Hall of Famers.
A Sampling of Rivera’s Stats:
- Career (Regular Season)
- SV – 652
- ERA – 2.21
- Career (Postseason)
- SV – 42
- ERA – 0.70
- Regular Season Bests
- SV – 53 (2004)
- ERA – 1.38 (2005)
Off the Bench – Roberto Clemente
After wrestling with so many scenarios and potential options, I went with Clemente.
Clemente hit over .340 on five different occasions and won four NL batting titles during his career, although his OBP was admittedly modest. While he wasn’t a traditional power hitter by any stretch, Clemente had good power. Even though he played at the cavernous Forbes Field for most of his career, which was 365-ft to left, 406-ft to left-center and 457-ft to center, he finished with 240 homers overall. Clemente’s fielding ability and arm are legendary. He won a total of 12 Gold Gloves and had one of the best throwing arms the game has ever seen.
In any event, I went with Clemente off the bench because I think he could fill different needs if those needs should arise during the course of the game…especially if Mantle and Ruth partied too hard the night before and started to fade late in the game or if I needed to bring in Ruth from right field to face a batter or two from the bump.
Much like Mantle, it seems as if every card featuring Clemente is a popular one with collectors. That said, the Clemente card that has risen above all others is his classic 1955 Topps #164 rookie. Considered one of three key rookies in the set, along with those of Koufax (#123) and Harmon Killebrew (#124), the Clemente is the toughest and clearly the most valuable of the three.
Clemente’s Ultimate Stat Line:
- BA - .357 (1967)
- R – 105 (1966)
- HR – 29 (1966)
- RBI – 119 (1966)
- OBP – .411 (1969)
- SLG – .559 (1961)
There it is…my ultimate All-Time Baseball lineup. Of course, as I was writing this, I struggled through the selection process. The game of baseball and the hobby are ever-evolving things. If you ask me to go through the same process a month, a year or five years from now, who knows what my team might look like at that point in time. For now, I’m rolling with this fantasy team and feel pretty good about my chances.
It’s always fun to build customized hobby lists from scratch, and here’s your chance.
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