SABR 50 at 50: Most Impactful Players
Baseball players are like markers etched in our collective memory. We fondly remember our favorite players and discuss their accomplishments and careers. As long as professional baseball has existed, so too have the debates about the best hitters, pitchers, and fielders.
The Society for American Baseball Research was founded in August 1971 at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Coopertown, New York. To celebrate SABR’s 50th anniversary we have produced a list of 50 players who have impacted the sport in the last 50 years.
These compelling players left an indelible footprint on the game and “wrote” baseball’s narrative in the last half-century. They captured the Zeitgeist and transcended, influenced, and reinvigorated the sport. Included are retired, as well as active players; some were and are still stars while others never were; yet all them captured our imagination and attention with auspicious arrivals, potential, courage, and inspirational accomplishments.
This is not yet another “best” or “greatest” player list, though some players included, such as Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench, and Greg Maddux, would no doubt be considered among the best ever. All of the players on the list played the majority of their career after 1971; consequently, you’ll not see Hank Aaron or Willie Mays, each of whom wrapped up their career a few years after SABR was founded. On the other hand, some players were already stars by 1971 but their impact on the game was felt most profoundly later, such as Willie “Pops” Stargell and Reggie Jackson.
It was an arduous task creating a list with just 50 players. Members of the committee initially identified close to 200 players. Over the course of a several months, we discussed the players and their impact on the game and gradually reduced the list to 50. No doubt the list is subjective; you’ll find notable stars and even Hall of Famers missing from the list.
We invite you to read the list and the short description for each of the players. For most players, click on the image to read their SABR BioProject entry, which provides an extensive biography of their lives and careers.
— Compiled by Gregory H. Wolf, Rory Costello, Carl Riechers, James Forr, Len Levin
Photo credits: National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, MLB.com, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, The Topps Company, Trading Card Database, guano/Flickr.com. Used by permission.