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Shohei Ohtani Latest in Evolution of Elite Athletes in Baseball 1

Posted on July 11, 2021 by Dean Hybl
There have been many great athletes in the history of Major League Baseball, but you can draw a clear line in the evolution from Ruth to Mantle, Jackson and now Ohtani.

There are quite a few exciting young players in Major League Baseball, but while most of them fit the traditional model of players in baseball history, in my opinion one stands out as part of a very elite lineage of special athletes in baseball.

Whether he is throwing a 100 MPH fastball, launching a tape measure home run or gliding around the bases like an Olympic sprinter, Shohei Ohtani is clearly a unique athlete within the current game of baseball.

In my opinion, Ohtani is the fourth player over the last 100 years who stood out from the crowd, not just in relation to their baseball production, but more specifically in how their unique level of freak athleticism allowed them to do things never seen before.

The first of these four was Babe Ruth. Though most common images of him are from later in his career when he was slightly overweight, the reality is that the young Babe Ruth was a transcendent athlete who forever changed the game of baseball.

Ruth first burst on the scene in 1914 as a 19-year-old left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. He posted an 18-8 record with 2.44 ERA as a 20-year-old in 1915 and then won 23 and 24 games respectively over the next two seasons. He also led the American league with a 1.75 ERA in 1916.

Part of three World Series Championship teams in four seasons with the Red Sox between 1915 and 1918, Ruth set a World Series record by pitching 29.2 consecutive scoreless innings (it stood until 1961).

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

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