The history of Major League Baseball is rich in tradition. The game has changed many times throughout their history, and has left an unforgettable impact on us all. Baseball has survived during tough economic times in the United States as well as many wars that players served in.
But through it all, the game has seen many memorable moments that gave fans a reason to watch. Then there are five men who have influenced the game like no other, and will never be forgotten.
So here is the top five most influential figures in Major League Baseball history:
5. Curt Flood
Flood is one of the most pivotal figures in the history of the game. Flood was a great defensive player in his playing days, but that is not why he made this list. Flood is most remembered for challenging the reserve clause and helping to bring free agency to the sport. Flood eventually took his case to court to challenge Major League Baseball for what he thought was an unfair ruling when denied the right to become a free agent. Although Flood lost his case to the Supreme Court, he is the one most responsible for the reserve clause in baseball being done away with in favor of free agency.
4. Alexander Cartwright
Cartwright belongs on this list for obvious reasons. Cartwright is credited for inventing the modern game of baseball. He was a member of the New York Knickerbockers, who played a game of stick-and-ball game in the mid-1850’s. It was in 1845 that Cartwright, with the help of a committee, drew out the rules and guidelines for this new game. Some of the rules laid out by Cartwright still exist in today’s game such as 90 feet between bases and four bases in a square diamond. Though the game has changed rules in many ways throughout history, Cartwright left a mark that still is remembered by lifelong fans who love the grand game of baseball.
3. Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth is arguably the most dominate player in the history of the game, and certainly one of the greatest to ever live. In his early career, the game struggled because of World War I as well as the beginnings of what would later become the Great Depression. In addition to that, baseball had lost touch with many fans as the Black Sox Scandal had given the game a bad image that could have really crippled the sport. When Ruth was sold to the Yankees from the Red Sox before the 1920 season, he was a pitcher and played the field on days when he did not take the mound. Ruth then played the field throughout the rest of his career with Yankees, and had changed the game with hitting many more home runs than the rest of the players at the time. Ruth out-homered many teams by himself during his seasons with the Yankees, as this also helped to bring fans back to the game after they had lost trust with it. With all that Ruth did, there is no question that the game would have suffered more scrutiny without his contributions that forever changed baseball.
2. Jackie Robinson
What Jackie Robinson endured as a player in Major League Baseball is immeasurable. Robinson was the first African American to ever play in the Major League Baseball, and it was not an easy transition from the Negro Leagues by any means. He was verbally abused by fans and teammates as well as opposing teams. Finally, Dodgers’ management had told players who did not approve of him playing that they could find another job. Robinson had broken the color barrier once and for all, and his heroic way of handling the pressure of doing so will never be forgotten.
1. Branch Rickey
There shouldn’t be any doubt that Rickey is number one on this list after what he did for the game on and off the field. The biggest achievement as a Major League Baseball executive was the signing of Jackie Robinson, which broke baseball’s color barrier. Later on in his tenure, he signed the first Hispanic superstar player in Roberto Clemente. Rickey was also very instrumental in developing the foundation of the minor league farm system. Minor league baseball had seen a steady decline in attendance throughout the 1930’s, and it was Rickey who was most responsible for many teams later adopting the farm system in their own organizations. According to most historians, this is the single biggest reason why minor league baseball exists today after many hardships that it had endured.
These five men forever impacted the game to what it is today like no other. Without all of their contributions on and off the field, baseball would be a far different game today. Major League Baseball has a very proud history, and it is these guys who were the most helpful in preserving that for all fans from the past to the current game.