Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop we’ve ever seen.
Sure, Honus Wagner is the greatest shortstop in baseball history. But who alive saw old Hans play. After all, Wagner last played 95 years ago, when Woodrow Wilson was President, World War I was being waged and Babe Ruth was still pitching.
Wagner won eight National League batting titles, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and swiped 722 bases before retiring. In 1917. His career numbers are awesome.
But moving on to shortstops who actually played after the Teapot Dome scandal, the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age, Jeter is the best.
With apologies to Joe Cronin, Luke Appling, Arky Vaughn, Ozzie Smith, Pee Wee and the Scooter, Jeter beats out Cal Ripken for the title of best shortstop we’ve ever seen.
Let’s compare Jeter and Ripken:
Batting – Jeter has a .313 lifetime batting average, well ahead of Ripken’s .276. Advantage Jeter
Power — Ripken 431 hit career home runs, nearly 200 more than Jeter’s 246. Advantage Ripken
Run Production — Ripken’s 1,695 RBIs beat out Jeter’s 1,216. Advantage Ripken
Speed — No contest. Jeter has 344 stolen bases, Ripken 36. And Jeter has scored 1,799 runs, well ahead of Ripken’s 1,647. Advantage Jeter
Awards — Both Ripken and Jeter won Rookie of the Year honors. However Ripken was voted AL MVP in both 1983 and 1991. Advantage Ripken
Fielding — Jeter won five Gold Gloves at shortstop, Ripken two, and his .972 lifetime fielding average bests Ripken’s .969. Advantage Jeter
Championships — Jeter was a member of five Yankee World Series winners. Ripken won one World Series with the Orioles. Advantage Jeter
Durability – Jeter has been amazingly durable through his career. But Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record and played in 2,632 consecutive games. He’s the Iron Man. Advantage Ripken
Hits — The tiebreaker. Ripken is 13th on the all-time list with 3,184 hits. Jeter trails him by less than 20, and stands to challenge some of the all-time leaders. Moreover, Jeter is already the all-time hit leader as a shortstop. Wagner is fifth all-time with 3,415 hits, but played a lot in the outfield and at first base and third base. And Ripken was a third baseman in his final six season. Advantage Jeter
So that’s it. Of these nine key categories, Jeter wins five and Ripken four. That makes Jeter the best shortstop of the modern era.
Some of the old timers out there might remember when Mel Stottlemyre hit an inside-the-park grand slam against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
The date was July 20, 1965, and I recall listening to the call on the radio on the beach in Spring Lake, New Jersey. The grand slam, which came in the fifth inning, helped the Yankees to a 6-3 win over Boston that day as Stottlemyre recovered from his race around the bases to hurl a complete game.
“I remember a lot about it,” Stottlemyre said. “It was in the [Yankee] stadium, the ball was hit to left-center field, against Boston, a real hot day in July. The pitcher was Bill Monbouquette. Those things you don’t forget.”
What I did not realize until recently was exactly how rare an inside-the-park grand slam really is. For instance, Stottlemyre become the first pitcher to hit an inside-the-park grand slam since Deacon Phillippe did it for the Pirates in 1910. No pitcher has done it since.
Inside-the-park home runs were much more common in the first half of the century, when ballparks were bigger and there was less emphasis on hitting the ball over the fence. There have been 40 inside-the-park grand slams since 1950, eight since 1990, and none since October 3, 1999 when Randy Winn of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays hit one.
Some other interesting factoids:
- Roberto Clemente, one of the greatest outfielders in Baseball history, is also the only player in baseball history to have hit a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam
- Jimmy Sheckard completed a phenomenal feat in 1901, hitting inside-the-park grand slams in consecutive games on consecutive days with the Brooklyn Superbas (later the Brooklyn Dodgers).Sheckard is the only person in baseball history to accomplish that feat.
- Sheckhard’s teammate, Joe Kelly, also hit one in the first game of Sheckhard’s tandem.
- Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner had five inside-the-park grand slams in his storied career, the most in baseball history.
- Tony Gwynn, Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson are also on the list. Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. are not.