Some people would argue that Ty Cobb was a better baseball player than Babe Ruth, yet Ruth outdistanced Cobb and greats from other sports to be named the greatest athlete of all time. In a special commercially sponsored poll of 130 sports writers and broadcasters, the Sultan of Swat was named first on 111 ballots.
In order he was followed by Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Jack Nicklaus, Jim Thorpe, Joe DiMaggio, Arnold Parlmer, and O. J. Simpson (tied for seventh). Wilt Chamberlain and Mark Spitz tied for ninth, and next came Jesse owens, Joe Louis, Bill Russell, and Cobb.
The aura that has always surrounded Ruth, plus a possible baseball bias by the voters, may account for Babe's selection. Beyond this, the main source of controversy could involve Russell's appearance after Chamberlain on the list. Through the years many basketball fans have sided with the former Boston center in this match-up, calling him the greatest player in the game's history. And what happened to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who some feel may embody the best talents of both players? Oh, these "best athlete" pools, they're always causing a ruckus. But that's the point, I guess.