ESPN's Hall of 100
December 12, 2012
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The Time Is Now

With some big PED-era names facing judgment day next month in the Baseball Hall of Fame voting and with the everlasting cacophony over who belongs in Cooperstown and who doesn't, we decided to take a fresh look at the greats of the game.

Out with conventional wisdom and hidebound opinions; in with a new analysis of which players really are the best of the best.

And so we present the ESPN Hall of 100: the top 100 players of all time. Period. -- Steve Wulf

More: Full intro | Methodology | #Hallof100

Tuesday: Nos. 100-76 | Wednesday: Nos. 75-26 | Thursday: Top 25

DAY 2: NOS. 26-75

26. Steve Carlton, LHP

Career: 1965-88, Phillies, Cards, others

Fun fact: Won 27 of Phillies' 59 games in '72

He was combative with the media, but it was opposing hitters who found him most disagreeable, as he used one of the game's greatest sliders to strike out 4,136 hitters, fourth most time.

Said Tim McCarver, his one-time catcher: "When I played for other teams against Steve, I could hear the right handed hitters saying, 'He may have gotten me out but at least he didn't throw me the slider.'"

27. Johnny Bench, C

Career: 1967-83, Reds

Fun fact: Only catcher to lead league in total bases

Most catchers are great hitters or fielders, but Bench was both. He led the league in homers twice, and caught stealing percentage three times, gunning down 43 percent of attempted basestealers in his career.

"I don't want to embarrass any other catcher by comparing him with Johnny Bench," said Sparky Anderson, his manager with the Reds.

28. Jimmie Foxx, 1B

Career: 1924-45, Red Sox, A's, others

Fun fact: At least 30 homers and 100 RBIs each season from 1929-40

Though he stood just 6-feet tall, Foxx was a slugger in the true sense of the word, leading the AL in slugging five times, while winning the Triple Crown in 1938.

He was so feared, in fact, that he was the first player (and one of only three in history) to walk six times in a game, and he is one of nine players with three MVP awards. Only Barry Bonds has more.

29. Christy Mathewson

Career: 1900-16, Giants, Reds

Fun fact: 0.97 World Series ERA (11 starts)

Sure, some of his raw numbers were helped by virtue of pitching in the deadball era (career 2.13 ERA), but there is no question that he was the dominant pitcher of his time.

Not only did Mathewson lead the NL in ERA five times, but he paced the circuit in strikeout-walk ratio every season from 1907-14. For context, Greg Maddux's best run in that category was three years.

30. George Brett, 3B

Career: 1973-93, Royals

Fun fact: Won a batting title in three decades

The term "pure hitter" was invented for players like Bret, who is the only third baseman in history with more than 300 homers and 3,000 hits, and he has more career walks (1,096) than strikeouts (908).

When Brett went on the disabled list to open the 1984 season, teammate Dan Quisenberry said: "Our goal is to get as many games rained out as we can the first six to eight weeks that George is out."

31. Cal Ripken Jr., SS/3B

Career: 1981-2001, Orioles

Fun fact: Won '91 AL MVP with 95-loss team

You know about the consecutive-games streak: 2,632. The man just didn't take a day off. But did you know that for five-plus seasons, he didn't take a pitch off? He played through 8,243 straight innings.

But the streaks shouldn't overshadow the caliber of his play. At 6-foot-4 and well over 200 pounds, he redefined the shortstop position by bringing size and power (421 HR, 1,695 RBI) to the middle infield without sacrificing defense.

32. Bob Gibson, RHP

Career: 1959-75, Cardinals

Fun fact: Played for the Harlem Globetrotters in 1957-58

Won at least 20 games in five different seasons with an intimidating power-pitching approach and a willingness to come inside with it. In 1968, Gibson went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA that included a 95-inning stretch in which he allowed only two runs.

Tim McCarver called Gibson the luckiest man in baseball because "he is always pitching when the other team doesn't score any runs."

33. Roberto Clemente, RF

Career: 1955-72, Pirates

Fun fact: First homer was inside-the-parker in his third game

Four batting titles and an MVP trophy. A .317 career batting average over 18 seasons. Twelve All-Star Games. Most Valuable Player in the 1971 World Series. Baseball's career leader in assists by a right fielder.

All accomplished with charisma and style that made him a legend even before his tragic death in a plane crash doing relief work on behalf of survivors of an earthquake in Nicaragua.

34. Ken Griffey Jr., CF

Career: 1989-2010, Mariners, Reds, White Sox

Fun fact: Sixth all-time in homers and extra-base hits

One of the game's most prolific power hitters (630 home runs, 1,836 RBI). Check out these back-to-back power seasons: 56 HR, 147 RBIs in 1997 (AL MVP); and 56 HR, 146 RBIs in 1998.

When Seattle traded him to the Reds for Brett Tomko and others in 2000, Tomko said, "It's like being traded for [Michael] Jordan or something."

35. Nolan Ryan, RHP

Career: 1966-93, Mets, Angels, Astros, Rangers

Fun fact: Led NL in ERA (2.76) with 8-16 record in 1987

The Ryan Express fastball made him baseball's all-time record-holder in strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (seven). Ryan led his league in strikeouts 11 times on his way to 324 career wins.

Former player Dick Sharon once said, "He's baseball's exorcist, scares the devil out of you."

36. Mel Ott, RF/3B

Career: 1926-47, Giants

Fun fact: Retired 65 years ago, but still ranks 12th all time in RBIs

When he retired, Ott was the NL record-holder in home runs (511), RBIs (1,860), runs (1,859) and walks (1,708). He was only 5-foot-9 and 170-pounds, but he led the league in home runs in six different seasons.

The best part of his game might have been his defense. In 1929, he took part in 12 double plays from right field and had 26 outfield assists.

37. Pete Rose, OF/1B

Career: 1963-86, Reds, Phillies, Expos

Fun fact: The Hit King was hitless until his 12th official at-bat

No one in the history of baseball has played more games (3,562) or stepped to the plate more times (15,890) than Rose did over his 24-year career. But the number that really counts is 4,256, his record for hits.

Known as "Charlie Hustle," Rose once said, "I'd walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball."

38. Derek Jeter, SS

Career: 1995-, Yankees

Fun fact: Yankees all-time steals...
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