You don't have to love baseball to appreciate the ceremony that took place just before game two of the World Series in Atlanta on Sunday. In what could be called the greatest gathering of baseball talent ever, the "Mastercard All-Century Baseball Team" unveiled its list of the game's 30 top players to celebrate the sport's past and present.
Legendary players were at the top of the list, with Lou Gehrig narrowly edging Babe Ruth to finish first in fan voting. Hank Aaron was third, followed by Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Johnny Bench and Joe DiMaggio.
The list of 100 players on the ballot was announced at the All-Star break. Voting took place at major league ballparks and retail outlets, as well as the Major League Baseball Web site, where fans still can vote on the starting nine members of the All-Century team.
CBS This Morning Co-anchor Mark McEwen spoke with two of the best of the best: Aaron and Mays.
All-time home run king Aaron says it was exciting "to once again rub elbows with people like Mays, Ted Williams and some of the giants of baseball."
Mays, who hit 660 home runs and made 24 All-Star appearances, says it's a thrill, "When you can still have the same kind of status" after being out of the game for more then 25 years.
As great as they were at the plate, Mays and Aaron say there were a few pitchers who always made their lives miserable. St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson, an All-Century team selection, was one.
"Very intimidating," says Aaron of Gibson. He "threw hard and didn't mind brushing your back every now and then and making you feel the air of the ball. Bob Gibson was truly a complete pitcher. He could pitch, he could hit and he was a very good athlete."
Sandy Koufax was another All-Century pitcher who gave them fits. "I knew every pitch he was going to throw," says Mays, "but I just couldn't hit him. He would say fastball, and he would throw it right by me. Breaking ball, I couldn't hit it."
Aaron says he was especially happy to see the return of Pete Rose, the all-time Major League hits leader, who's been banned from baseball for 11 years for gambling.
|Mark McEwen, with Aaron and Mays, holding the All-Century team book.|
When Rose received a huge ovation from the crowd at Atlanta's Turner Field, Aaron says, "I felt that right then that the fans said, 'okay, we forgive you, Pete. We'd love to put you in the Hall of Fame.'"
Aaron says baseball has given him "the opportunity to met some very big people in life." He recently had a birthday party with a very special guest: "I don't guess too many can brag about it. I had the president of the United States come to my birthday party."
Asked about their own heroes, both Aaron and Mays mention Jackie Robinson. "He paved the way for me to be in the position I'm in," says Aaron.
Mays agrees: "You've got to pick Jackie right off the bat because we wouldn't be here without him."