And the Hometown Heroes are ...
Second 10 winners announced Wednesday on ESPN
After nearly 17 million votes were cast by fans this summer to help settle the arguments once and for all, the time has arrived this week to announce one all-time greatest player for every existing Major League Baseball franchise.
The second of three episodes of "DHL Presents Major League Baseball Hometown Heroes" was televised Wednesday night on ESPN, and unveiled were the next 10 Major Leaguers selected by fan ballot. Here were the people's choices:
Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks
Hall of Famer; 11-time All-Star (1955-62, '65, '67, '69). Mr. Cub.
Cincinnati Reds: Pete Rose
Seventeen-time All-Star (1965, '67-71, '73-82, '85); all-time hit king (4,256).
Cleveland Indians: Bob Feller
Hall of Famer; eight-time All-Star (1938-41, '46-48, '50).
Detroit Tigers: Ty Cobb
Hall of Famer; record-holder for highest career batting average (.367).
Kansas City Royals: George Brett
Hall of Famer; three-time Silver Slugger Award winner (1980, '85, '88).
Milwaukee Brewers: Robin Yount
Hall of Famer; won AL MVP at two different positions -- shortstop (1982) and outfield ('89).
New York Mets: Tom Seaver
Hall of Famer; three-time Cy Young Award winner (1969, '73, '75).
Pittsburgh Pirates: Roberto Clemente
Hall of Famer; 12-time consecutive Gold Glove Award winner (1961-72).
St. Louis Cardinals: Stan Musial
Hall of Famer was 20-time All-Star (1943, '44, 1946-63). Simply "The Man."
Texas Rangers: Nolan Ryan
Hall of Famer; all-time leader with seven no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts.
Those aforementioned accomplishments each pertain to that individual's overall career. The question now is whether Ryan will be a two-time Hometown Hero, because the Houston Astros are one of the 10 remaining clubs that will have their winners revealed in the final episode at 10 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN and Ryan also is among the five Astros nominees.
Other clubs will include: Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners.
One trend that has emerged so far is that baseball fans definitely are not skewed toward the modern-day vote as some might have wondered given so many young online voters. Just consider the case of Cobb, who played from 1905-28. The Georgia Peach's legend prevailed among Tigers competition that included the likes of Al Kaline, Charlie Gehrenger, Hank Greenberg and Alan Trammell. Cobb could be the biggest throwback of all the 2006 Hometown Heroes, especially considering that Clemente was chosen over the legendary Honus Wagner (1897 debut) as the Pirates' honoree.
Fans also resisted the temptation to think modern in St. Louis, where the ballot included contemporary superstar Albert Pujols and a fairly recent Hall of Fame inductee, Ozzie Smith. Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock were on the ballot, but anyone who knows St. Louis knows what Stan "The Man" Musial's living legacy means there. Hearing him play the harmonica at a baseball banquet is the essence of Redbirds baseball.
Brett, who caused those St. Louis fans much consternation by winning a 1985 World Series championship, probably was the Mr. Obvious of the entire ballot process, even though Hank Aaron was the top overall vote-getter. The final tallies of all voting will be released after the final show on Friday. Don't expect the second-place finisher from Kansas City to be in the same ballot stratosphere as the great Royals third baseman.
It was probably hard to imagine anyone else but someone nicknamed "Mr. Cub," yet Banks did have some competition as stiff as the Wrigley wind in fellow nominees Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo and Billy Williams.
The only honoree on the second episode who is not a Hall of Famer was one Charlie Hustle. That's because Rose remains suspended from baseball due to his now-admitted involvement on betting on MLB games he managed. But on a ballot loaded with Big Red Machine legends, Rose was the popular choice over Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Frank Robinson. Robinson, current manager of the Washington Nationals, fell short on two Hometown Heroes lists -- Cincinnati's and Baltimore's.
With that possible exception of KC and Atlanta -- and perhaps Babe Ruth's Yankees -- every fan base so far seems to have had at least one really tough decision to make. Brewers fans went with Yount over Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Mets fans went with Tom Seaver -- a fixture on the 1969 world champion Amazin's -- over a more recent popular choice like Mike Piazza. Indians fans have a long list of greats in Tris Speaker, Larry Doby, Nat Lajoie and Earl Averill, but Bullet Bob Feller is never forgotten as the dean of club history.
Here were the names announced on Tuesday's first episode:
Atlanta Braves: Hank Aaron
Hall of Famer; baseball's all-time home run leader with 755.
Baltimore Orioles: Cal Ripken Jr.
All-time leader for consecutive games played with 2,632.
Chicago White Sox: Frank Thomas
Two-time AL Most Valuable Player (1993-94); now leading Oakland.
Florida Marlins: Dontrelle Willis
Two-time All-Star (2003, 2005); NL Rookie of the Year (2003).
New York Yankees: Babe Ruth
Hall of Famer; 714 homers; seven-time World Series champion; the legend.
Oakland Athletics: Reggie Jackson
Hall of Famer; 14-time All-Star (1969, 1971-75, 1977-84).
Philadelphia Phillies: Mike Schmidt
Hall of Famer; three-time NL Most Valuable Player (1980, '81, '86).
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Wade Boggs
Hall of Famer; led AL in batting average (1985-88); 3,000th hit as a Ray.
Toronto Blue Jays: Joe Carter
Five-time All-Star (1991-94, '96); walk-off homer won 1993 World Series.
Washington Nationals: Gary Carter
Hall of Fame catcher; 11-time All-Star; led Montreal before club moved to DC.
The Hometown Heroes program has been a widespread effort to celebrate a player -- either past or present -- from each of the active clubs whose combination of on-field contributions, character and leadership make him stand out from the rest. Fans were given a list of five nominees for each club.
The three announcement shows are produced by Major League Baseball Productions. From the setting of historic Yankee Stadium, Ravech is guiding viewers through profiles of the winners, focusing on the "hometown hero" attributes that they possess and why their names are indelibly etched in the minds of fans.
Each segment begins with a collage of fans and players talking about each team's nominee, the attributes they possess and why their names are indelibly etched in our minds. Only after painting the full picture of each team's top five players will the shows reveal an extensive portrait of the Hometown Hero.
Each winner is receiving his due through the words of former teammates, Hall of Famers, current players, celebrities and, once again, personalized fan testimonials. MLB Productions also is combining its vast library resources with new content to capture the career highlights and memorable moments for each winner.
Voting was conducted from July 18 through Sept. 17, with the final stretch of voting in September conducted exclusively at MLB.com. Fans also voted this summer at all MLB ballparks, via mobile texting, at DHL.com and at any of the 1,600 participating DHL Authorized Shipping Centers around the country.
"Over the course of baseball's history, certain players have become synonymous with the cities and franchises they have represented," Commissioner Bud Selig said in making the announcement in July. "Through this program, and thanks to the support of DHL, we will celebrate the contributions of some of baseball's greatest players and the rich history that belongs to each Major League franchise.
"One of the aspects about this program that I am particularly excited about is the healthy debate and discussion that it will provoke. This kind of spirited debate is so closely associated with the history of the national pastime and it will be fun to hear the debates that take place in the coming months."
Oh, there was a lot of debating. Now that the first 20 winners have been announced, it's time to see how the people spoke for the final 10. Can Teddy Ballgame get some competition in Boston from the man for whom baseball's ultimate award was named? Rod Carew is on both the Twins' and Angels' ballots -- can he win either? And possibly the biggest drama of the entire balloting process will be announced to Dodger fans who had to choose between Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson.
You're done talking. You've voted. You've seen the first 20. Now it's time to learn the identities of the final lasting legends.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.