Ruth, Dean, Stengel Most Colorful

This article was written by L. Robert Davids

This article was published in the 1976 Baseball Research Journal


There are many definitions of “colorful,” but members of the Society for American Baseball Research came to the conclusion that the three most colorful baseball performers of the last 100 years were Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, and Casey Stengel Although more than 100 other players, managers, coaches, and umpires received votes, these three finished well ahead of challengers like Ty Cobb, Rube Waddell, Rabbit Maranville, Willie Mays, and Jimmy Piersall.

The Society, made up of more than 300 baseball historians, statisticians, and dedicated fans, was asked during 1975 to vote on the 10 most colorful performers. Some 75 sample names from Richie Allen to Hack Wilson were supplied to stimulate some head-scratching, and the members were encouraged to use their own interpretation of colorful within the general contest of “generating crowed reaction.”

In other words, the performer could be a character like Stengel, a clown like Nick Altrock, a showboat like Bobo Newsom, cocky like King Kelly, controversial like Leo Durocher, flamboyant like Ruth, aggressive like Pete Rose, or exciting like Jackie Robinson. There is no denying that each type has contributed in some special way to a century of fan interest in baseball.

There were 97 ballots returned and 112 different names were listed. Even Bill Veeck, a colorful but ineligible non-performer received one vote. But even with this broad interpretation, a consensus was achieved which seemed to place greater emphasis on dynamic performance rather than on the other aspects of “colorful.”

Ruth led with 594 points (based on 10 for first, 9 for second, etc.), Dean was next with 459, and Stengel followed with 438. Then there was a substantial drop-off to 281 for Cobb, 263 for Mays, and then in gradually descending order, Jackie Robinson, Leo Durocher, Ted Williams, Satchel Paige, and Pepper Martin. All of the top ten are considered Hall of Fame caliber except Martin, the “Wild Hoss of the Osage.” This does not imply, however, that color is equated with performance, as Henry Aaron received only one tenth-place vote.

The active performer receiving the most votes was Pete Rose, the hustling thirdsacker of the Reds, who finished in 22nd spot. Billy Martin, the new Yankee manager, finished 28th. Yogi Berra, the deposed skipper of the Mets, was in the No. 20 spot.

Baseball coaches were best represented by the Washington Senators’ clown combination of Al Schacht and Nick Altrock, who ranked 23rd and 24th. Umpires, usually the model of decorum on the field, did not get much play from the voters. Of the seven receiving votes, Emmett Ashford, the first Negro arbiter in the majors, who was short in stature but long on flamboyant gestures, received 19 points to 17 for Bill Klem. William “Lord” Byron, the long-forgotten singing umpire, got only two points.

The top 50 vote-getters in the balloting for most colorful baseball performer are listed below:

 

Rank

Performer

Points

Rank

Performer

Points

1

Babe Ruth

594

26

Charlie Grimm

41

2

Dizzy Dean

459

27

Germany Schaefer

39

3

Casey Stengel

438

28

Billy Martin

30½

4

Ty Cobb

281

29

Sandy Koufax

29

5

Willie Mays

263

30

Bo Belinsky

27

6

Jackie Robinson

243

31

Denny McLain

25½

7

Leo Durocher

212

32

Richie Allen

25

8

Ted Williams

191

33

Minnie Minoso

24

9

Satchel Paige

184½

34

Cap Anson

23½

10

PepperMartin

168

35

HughJennings

20

11

Jimmy Piersall

149

36

Emmett Ashford

19

12

Lefty Gomez

139

37

French Bordagaray

19

13

RubeWaddell

132

38

RobertoClemente

17

14

John McGraw

127

39

Jimmy Dykes

17

15

Bobo Newsom

96

40

Bill Klem

17

16

Rabbit Maranville

86

41

Ducky Medwick

17

17

King Kelly

82

42

Lou Novikoff

15

18

Mickey Mantle

81

43

Art Shires

15

19

Frankie Frisch

79

44

Pete Gray

14

20

Yogi Berra

76

45

Hal Chase

13

21

Babe Herman

75

46

Pete Reiser

13

22

Pete Rose

69

47

Honus Wagner

13

23

Al Schacht

68

48

Eddie Stanky

12½

24

Nick Altrock

60

49

Lou Gehrig

12

25

Hack Wilson

49½

50

Ken Harrelson

12

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