How important are awards and All-Star appearances? In the battle for the best left-handed starter, it makes a big difference. With awards and All-Stars included, Randy Johnson comes out on top with a score of 270.10, followed by Steve Carlton (#2, 267.64) and Warren Spahn (#3, 244.40). When awards and All-Stars are removed from the equation, Spahn narrowly beats Carlton for the top spot and the Big Unit drops to third place. I know Johnson was intimidating, but there is no way I would pick him over either Spahn or Carlton when building my historical fantasy team. Sandy Koufax (#8, 180.58) would be another consideration, but he has a lower score due to his short career; in twelve years he won 165 games and compiled a WAR of 50.3.
Only two other lefties topped the 200-point mark: Lefty Grove (#4, 203.46) and Eddie Plank (#5, 200.01). Tom Glavine (#6, 198.62) just barely missed. Overshadowed by Greg Maddux during his prime, Glavine is perhaps the best number two starter in history. His baseball cards are a dime a dozen; even his rookie cards can many times be had for less than a dollar.
Carl Hubbell is next on the list with a score of 185.94, and two non-Hall of Famers, Tommy John (#9, 176.01) and Jim Kaat (#10, 170.14), round out the top ten. Both were very close to the 300-win mark, but had very long careers in which they amassed all those wins and only averaged 13 victories per season.
by John Klima
Thomas Dunne Books, 2012
The Boston Braves were a struggling franchise. No one wanted to go to their games—which they couldn’t win anyway—and financial problems beset the team. Owner Lou Perini made the bold decision to move the team out of Boston where the Red Sox reigned, and head west to Milwaukee. Mocked by “those in the know” who thought the city was too small to support a franchise, Perini established the Braves as a force to be reckoned with in Milwaukee, drawing upon the city’s insatiable appetite for big league ball. In a matter of years, the Milwaukee Braves would defeat the New York Yankees in a seven-game World Series to become baseball’s champions.
Author John Klima brings to life the story of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves team in Bushville Wins! Beginning with Perini’s initial decision in the early part of the decade to relocate and the assembling of the players, leading up to the story of the season itself and the Series that saw the “Bushers” outplay the perennial favorite Yankees, Klima highlights the players and personalities that made it all possible, from Hank Aaron to Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn to Lew Burdette. After laying the groundwork, Klima devotes the final one hundred pages of the book to the World Series itself. It is, as the cover suggests, the “wild saga” of a team that no one expected to win, and a team that laid the groundwork for baseball’s expansion to the west. Fans of baseball history, especially of the Milwaukee Braves, will treasure this volume.
Four Hall of Famers, three of them first-ballot*.
Bob Lemon, Cleveland Indians
Lemon was overshadowed throughout his short career by teammate Bob Feller, but his brilliance was clear to all who saw him pitch. He won 20+ games seven times in thirteen seasons, leading the league in complete games five times. He was not inducted into the Hall of Fame until his twelfth time on the ballot in 1976. His uniform was retired in 1998 by the Indians.
Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates
Warren Spahn, Boston/Milwaukee Braves
Jim Palmer, Baltimore Orioles
* Spahn received a vote for the Hall of Fame while he was still active, prior to the establishment of rules governing one’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame. In his first year of eligibility following retirement, he was elected with 83.2% of the vote.