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All-Century Team 

Excerpts from interviews with members of the All-Century Team

Brooks Robinson

On his start in baseball: I started out as a second baseman. They thought I was going to get killed over there, so they moved me to third. If it wasn't for third base I wouldn't be here today.

On current third basemen: I've always like Robin Ventura and Matt Williams from Arizona. I think those two are as good as they get.

On the Yankees bid for a 25th World Championship: It's unbelievable. They've been able to dominate the game of baseball over these many many years. I grew up delivering [former Yankee great] Bill Dickey's paper, newspaper back in Little Rock Arkansas. He was on my paper route. I used to go by his house where he grew up and I'd give that paper a little extra flip. Everyone knew about the Yankees. My Dad played with his brother, Steve Dickey. I played for the Franklin Paint Bulldogs in midget league, and we were known as the Yankees of the midget leagues.

On recently deceased Yankee great Catfish Hunter: Catfish -- as a ball player -- he was tremendous. Didn't over power you, just kept the ball in the right place.

On Pete Rose's eligibility for the Hall of Fame: I'm not talking about Rose, but anyone who bets on the game of baseball, whether it be a player, manager, or coach should not be a part of the Hall of Fame, that's the way I feel about it....To me it's unthinkable that anybody could bet on a baseball game that was playing. It undermines the whole integrity of the game. I think it does an injustice to the players.

On Pete Rose's presence at the ceremony: I don't think these guys even think about it. Although they said we'll let Pete be in a room by himself if he comes [laughing]. I love Pete. I always kid him, 'hey, Pete, You couldn't run, you couldn't throw, you had no position. How' the hell'd you ever get 4,000 some hits?'

On his heroes: When I was growing up Stan Musial , that was my idol. That was the only game we got in Little Rock, was the Cardinals. Here I am [on a team ] with Stan Musial. It brings a tear to your eye.

On his career highlights: I think my love of the game overrode everything else. For me it was a passion. I mean look, here's a guy who might not ever get signed. I didn't run well, I had a very average arm, I was a second baseman when I signed professionally. And I mean, you know, hell of a fielder, but who knows if your gonna hit. It took me a while to get the hang of hitting.

On the Braves diminished legacy for winning only 1 of 5 World Series they've competed in this decade: In sports you win; if you don't win, you don't deserve the accolades. That's the way I feel. We lost in '69 and '71, but if we'd won three straight years, I think people would have looked at us like the Oakland A's who won three in the row.

Sure it does [diminish the legacy for not winning]. Absolutely. It takes a lot away from it. I'm disappointed. I'd like people to come up to me and say 'your teams were the greatest ever.'

Sandy Koufax

On contemporary pitchers: There's a guy in Baltimore [Mike Mussina] who pitches awfully well. I like to watch Randy. He's fun to watch. Pedro in Boston. I'm a believer in the outside corner.

On his affinity with Nolan Ryan: Nolan was trying to do what I was trying to do. He may have thrown harder than I did. I tried to make better pitches, changing speeds. Changing speeds is more predominant now.

On his relationship with the Dodgers organization: It's hard. I grew up with Peter and Terry [O'Malleys, owners of the Dodgers until the recent sale to Murdoch]. Part of your affinity for the organization is the people. I'm still a Dodger fan, but it's not the same people.

On the All-Century Team: I'll be glad in 2001. Everybody'll be writing about the next hundred years.

On contemporary hitters: I think players are bigger and stronger. McGwire's stronger, but he's got a great swing, a great stroke. Whether the ball's more lively, I have no idea.

On his assessment of the players he faced during his career: I would have to say I thought Mays was the best player and I thought Aaron was the best hitter. Where do you put Roberto Clemente? Do you put him with Mays or with Aaron? He was right in there.

Cal Ripken

On Pete Rose: I tend to look at Pete Rose as strictly baseball. I don't get into the other issues, off the field or the politics or anything. I think of him as the all-time hit leader, watching him play when I was young. I think of Charlie Hustle diving into third base. He was one of baseball's best. He's a guy who got the most of his ability. He had the biggest heart. That's all I see.

Warren Spahn

On the proliferation of home runs: They're good hitters. It's media hype, stupid pitches, and they're bringing people into the ballparks. I never say so many hitters hitting 3-0 in my life instead of taking another pitch

On contemporary pitchers he likes: Maddox. He's a clever pitcher, he's got an idea with every pitch that he throws. I just enjoy watching him.

On why he played so long, into his 40's: 'Cause I was hungry.

On who he thinks the all-time greatest pitcher was, after being told that Koufax name him: Koufax. What do you think I'm crazy?

Bob Gibson

On his start in the Major Leagues: I was fortunate. My manager told me 'you're gonna be one of my starting pitchers whether you win or lose. You're going to pitch here till you learn to pitch.'

On his legendary one-run duels with Sandy Koufax: I got beat 1-0 two times in one week by him and both times it was a home run by a guy who couldn't hit home runs. Tommy Davis. And both times it was in the 9th inning.

Johnny Bench

On the "Big Red Machine" Reds of the '70s: We were as good as any team. Now I think It's harder unless you've got a boatload of money.

On the Yankees: If they get a hole in the dyke, they're able to put a lot of fingers in it and they usually get the biggest and best fingers to do it.

On contemporary baseball players: I think they're better athletes. I think the hitters are too good today. You can't allow a pitcher to have anything less than his best stuff against the hitting today. If you put today's pitchers in the dead ball era, you'd be amazed at how good they are.

On his revolutionizing the way catchers catch: There's not one catcher out there that doesn't use the one-handed style of catching.

  • More baseball greats give us food for thought.

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