I often dream about the type of team I would have if I were a GM. And really, I think I’d be pretty terrible at it. Mostly because I’m not really interested in running a successful ballclub. I mean, sure, it’d be great if we won a World Series, but I think I’d much rather just fill a team with all of my favorite players. So let’s walk through my dream lineup, one largely filled with the players of my childhood:
SP: Rick Reed
I feel a little strange including him since he broke union ranks during the ‘94 strike. Still, when I fell in love with him during the late-90s, I was a mere boy whose only interaction with union rules was wondering why Rick Reed wasn’t in Triple Play ‘99.
C: Moe Berg
He was a spy, okay? The catcher was a spy. How unbelievably cool is that? He was described, separately, as the brainiest and strangest guy in baseball. He’s one of the few ballplayers that I think I’d like to hang out with. Did I mention that he was a spy?
1B: Hank Greenberg
Besides being the greatest Jewish hitter of all-time, doing so when anti-semitism was at its height, Hank Greenberg means a lot to me. My grandmother, who bought me my first baseball cap and who I interviewed during the playoffs, grew up in Detroit, losing her mother and father at an early age. However, she still found a way to regularly make it to Briggs Stadium to watch Hank Greenberg, Pat Mullins, and Hoot Evers. For years, she held on to a postcard that Hank Greenberg wrote out to her, eventually handing it down to me. If my Grandma could play first base, that’s where she’d be.
2B: Craig Counsell
My love of Craig Counsell has long been established. I even made a pizza plate for him.
Why, yes, that is folk art, ready to be displayed in any museum you’d like.
SS: Rey Ordonez
A good defensive highlight is worth more to me than all the strikeouts and home runs and gifs of Adrian Beltre freaking out because someone touched his head combined. And Rey Ordonez was magical at shortstop. He couldn’t hit worth a damn, but before knee injuries limited his range, he ran down balls that were unreal, making twirling, swirling, diving stops and throws from his knees that a mere mortal would never have moved towards.
My sixth grade “girlfriend” (which basically means we occasionally talked to each other. Also, our first date involved a game of catch), gave me a poster of Rey Ordonez that still resides in my parent’s home. Because no one touches Rey Ordonez.
3B: Brooks Robinson (or…Me. If we can do that.)
I was never much of a baseball player. Sure, I loved the game and busted my ass out there, but I was always a nervous head case. During a game with friends or at practice, I may not have been much of a stickman, but I could at least devour groundballs with the best of them.
My lone decent season, in which I made the All-Star game, I played third base and was called “The Vacuum” in honor of Brooks Robinson. From that day on, I always idolized the Human Vacuum Cleaner, dreaming of one day following in his footsteps. That, clearly, didn’t happen. Especially as my nerves got the better of me, relegating me to two innings a game for my last year of Little League, ironically, with the Orioles.
LF: Joe Charboneau
“Charboneau also remembers being stabbed three times in fights with local migrant workers. He closed one of the wounds with fishing line. He once got drunk enough to have himself tattooed, on an arm, but after sobering up, he cut the tattoo out with a razor. If you don’t believe it, he will show you the scar. In the minor leagues, Charboneau couldn’t afford some dental work, so he cut around the offending tooth with a razor and pulled it out with a vise grip. He is so strong he can open the twist-off cap on a bottle of beer with the muscles of his left forearm.”
Yeah, my team needs that guy.
CF: Ken Griffey Jr
My first real season following baseball came in 1995 when the Mariners stormed back to force a one-game playoff with the Angels to win the AL West, following that up with Edgar Martinez’s double that saved baseball in Seattle, scoring, who else, but Ken Griffey Jr.
I (briefly) wore my hat backwards like Jr and practiced his upright stance and wiggle for hours. I still want these shoes even though from a purely aesthetic viewpoint I think they’re hideous:
I remember being broken hearted every season that his hamstrings and body gave out, sucking away at his youth, speed, vitality, and, yes, his popularity. And every spring, I would announce that this was the year, the season where Junior returns to form.
Even in his last season, whenever he came to the plate for those last gasping at-bats, when his hardest hit balls were merely flyouts to the warning tracks, I still had stop and sit and watch. Because with Junior, anything was possible.
Oh, and nap gate? He was just conserving his energy.
RF: Butch Huskey
Growing up in Connecticut, my two options for baseball before the advent of MLB.tv were the Mets and the Yankees. Hence the mid-90s Mets slant of the roster, I suppose. But Butch Huskey is just so much the epitome of my favorite player. He was large; strong, but rotund, and he played all over the field, never doing it very well. When he hit the ball, it would go a long way, but he was prone to struggling, to consistently missing the ball. Plus, his name was Butch Huskey. Butch. Huskey. A large player named Butch Huskey.
After a breakthough campaign in 1997, Huskey’s numbers dropped off considerably the next season and I remember Howie Rose consistently talking about how Huskey kept putting his foot in the bucket, the same thing I was doing in Little League.
I loved Huskey, not so much because I thought he was amazing, but whereas Brooks Robinson was the player I wished I could be, Huskey was the player I was. That is, if I remained the same person, but was gifted with athletic abilities that put me in the top 1% of people on this Earth.
And looking at this list, one largely unchanged since I was in grade school, and it remains one I’m damn proud of. It’s a group of supernaturally gifted stars that I wished I could be, being not much different from wanting to fly like Superman and race through time like The Flash, and a number of guys that felt like me because were a little heavy, or wore glasses, or just looked awkward on the field. They were guys that had to max out their gifts through hard work and determination. Really, not such a bad group to fall in love with.
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