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Brady vs Rogers = ???

Later today, Tom Brady, possibly the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL will battle Aaron Rogers, who just might be the greatest quarterback in NFL history in the NFC Championship game.

Has there ever been a one-game win or go home game quite like this in the history of baseball where two starting pitchers who are in the conversation as the greatest of all-time battle against each other?

I decided to try and find out…


I’m not a huge football fan. I have watched much of the sport for much of my life and have always followed on the periphery, but I have never been a die hard football fan, except for a few years in the early 1980’s when I was a huge Jets fan while, at the same time, also loving the Washington Redskins.

Those were the days… Richard Todd and Joe Theismann. The New York Sack Exchange and the Hogs. Mark Gastineau and Dexter Manley. Pat Leahy and Mark Mosley (yeah, I rooted for the place kickers). Wesley Walker and Charlie Brown.

And of course Freeman McNeil and John Riggins.

I wouldn’t call myself an expert in football history, but if I had to list the best quarterbacks of all time, I think I could create a reasonable list:

Tom Brady

Joe Montana

Peyton Manning

Terry Bradshaw

Johnny Unitas

Aaron Rogers

Drew Brees

Dan Marino

Bart Starr

(Others who mike rank among the best: Kurt Warner, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Joe Namath, Frank Tarkington, Jim Kelly, Brett Favre, John Elway…)

The bigger point is that I would think Tom Brady is probably considered one of, if not THE greatest quarterback ever and that Aaron Rogers is also on the short list there as well.

I decided to see what the experts say:

Sports Illustrated gives the #1 spot to Tom Brady. They didn’t add Rogers. Their Top-10 list included Sammy Baugh and Otto Graham, two players I did not list. Otherwise the names I chose also were on their list.

The NFL’s list includes Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady (who was again #1). That Top-10 list also includes Otto Graham.

Bleacher Report gives Brady the #1 spot and also counts Aaron Rogers in the Top-10. They also put Otto Graham in there. (I should read about Otto Graham, I guess.)

The USA Today list puts Tom Brady at the top and ranks Aaron Rogers #14.

After seeing these lists, I feel secure that my knowledge of football history is good enough that I can feel secure in saying that I can recognize and identify the best quarterbacks in the sport.

It seems a consensus that Tom Brady is the greatest ever. Of that there is no question based on my own knowledge and the quick research here.

So…who was the greatest pitcher in baseball history? Is there a consensus?

Bleacher Report says it was Christy Mathewson

The Baseball Scholar says it was Walter Johnson.

Baseball-Reference’s WAR lists Cy Young as the best ever. Fox Sports agrees.

Fivethirtyeight says it was Pedro Martinez

An article on ESPN claims that Lefty Grove was the greatest…

Others might claim that Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, or Randy Johnson was the greatest ever. Or Sandy Koufax…

Warren Spahn?


It’s clear that Tom Brady stands at the top of the list of football quarterbacks. Baseball has no consensus regarding starting pitchers.

The best starting pitcher might have been any of these guys.

Any of them.

This makes the exercise I’d like to conduct almost impossible.

For simplicity, here are the Top-!0 pitchers by WAR:

Cy Young

Walter Johnson

Roger Clemens

Kid Nichols

Pete Alexander (I like him better as Grover Cleveland Alexander)

Lefty Grove

Tom Seaver (I like him better as Tom Terrific)

Greg Maddux

Randy Johnson

Christy Mathewson

Did any of these guys battle in a winner-takes-all game for a league championship or World Championship?

The quick answer is…

Cy Young pitched in one World Series (1903). He never faced an all-time great.

Walter Johnson pitched in two World Series (1924 and 1925). He never faced an all-time great.

Roger Clemens pitched in two Game 7’s:

One game (I’ll describe below) might be the closest thing we have to today’s great football match-up

The other had him (as an Astro) facing Jeff Suppan

Grover Cleveland Alexander famously came out of the bullpen to save the 1926 World Series (defeating the Yankees) in a game started by Hall-of-Famer Waite Hoyt. That’s close, but he didn’t start that game so it doesn’t count.

Lefty Grove never pitched in a Game 7

Tom Seaver didn’t either… (he did beat Jack Billingham to defeat the Reds in Game 5 of the NLCS in 1973)

Nor did Greg Maddux (the Yankees defeated him in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series to become champs though…)

I’ll get to Randy Johnson in a minute…

Christy Mathewson lost Game 8 in a 9-game series in 1912…


Have you ever done a research project that began with a good idea and ended with a result you didn’t like?

If so, you know how I feel.

I wish I hadn’t done this exercise.


The closest game I could come up with that would replicate what will transpire in Green Bay later this afternoon was a Game 7.

In 2001.

By WAR, Roger Clemens (#3 all-time WAR) started against Curt Schilling (#26 all-time WAR).

Randy Johnson (#9 all-time WAR) pitched in relief in that game.

As did the greatest relief pitcher of all-time, Mariano Rivera.

(This is a Yankees blog. Do I need to even finish the story? It’s still too painful.)


On the cold tundra of Green Bay two legends will battle later this afternoon.

I’ll be watching.

It’ll be historic… in a way like nothing that ever transpired in baseball history.


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