Ruth, Phelps among greatest athletes ever

Updated: August 17, 2008, 2:55 PM ET
After Michael Phelps won his third gold medal on Tuesday, the question of how he ranks among the greatest athletes ever grew organically on the radio -- and actually, it stemmed from a conversation about Babe Ruth.

We were talking about how only Ruth had hit his first 200 homers in a Yankees uniform faster than Alex Rodriguez, and I mentioned that if you were to draw up a list of the 10 greatest male athletes and define the criterion for placement as transcendence over that athlete's sport, then Ruth would have to be on that list. In 1920, he hit 54 homers, and no other team in the American League had more than 50 homers. He crushed all previous boundaries and altered the way his sport was played, and along the way, he lifted the sport.