When the dog bites. When the bee stings. When I’m feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad. -Rogers and Hammerstein
Public Service Announcement: Ok, here we go! You smell that? Ooooh that smell. Can’t you smell that smell? Smells like baseball, don’t it? Sure it do. Like my main man Bill Veeck always says: “This is a game to be savored, not gulped. There’s time to discuss everything between pitches or between innings.” Or between seasons.
Nothing warms you up like baseball. Good old fashioned baseball. Eddie Shore baseball. Baseball writer Lawrence Ritter once said: “The strongest thing that baseball has going for it today, are it’s yesterdays.” While I still love today’s game. I still sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today. There is some truth to Ritter’s quote.
We love to wax nostalgic about America’s game. The scent of bubblegum still on your Ozzie Smith rookie card. The sight of the emerald green field after coming off the grey city streets. City sidewalks, busy sidewalks. Busy sidewalks filled with the aroma of sausages and hot dogs. Ballpark franks. They plump when you cook ‘em. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you. Joltin’ Joe: “You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” This blog is dedicated to the kid in all of us.
Disclaimer 1: This assemblage of ball players is not meant to be an all time best team. Just a collection of guys who were my favorites.
Disclaimer 2: If this were a true collection of my all time favorites, it would be all Red Sox players. I limited my Red Sox players in this list to three. Quite judicious if I do damn say so my own damn self.
Catcher: Carlton Fisk
OP. The Original Pudge. The day he, Freddy Lynn and the Rooster, Rick Burleson, left Boston, was a sad day indeed. The day the music died. Carlton Fisk caught more games than any other player in baseball history. He hit the most home runs as a catcher. He was Rookie of the Year in 1972, the first to be chosen unanimously.
He will always be remembered in the hearts of Red Sox fans for one moment more than thirty Octobers ago. He was at the heart of the great Red Sox/Yankees debates in those days. Fisk or Munson? That is the question. The answer: Carlton Fisk.
First Base: Willie Montanez.
A journeyman. Angels. Phillies. Giants. Braves. Mets. Rangers Padres. Expos. Pirates. He was productive enough. A sweet-swinging, fine-fielding lefthander. Productive enough to hang around the show for fourteen years. Productive enough to be traded for the likes of Darrell Evans, Al Oliver, Bert Blyleven, and the future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. But that’s not why I liked him.
Montanez had personality. Walk personality. Talk Personality. Smile Personality. Charm personality. I’ll be a fool for you. I was a fool for this hot dog. This hot diggity dog. His slow shuffling home run trot. His “holstering” of fielded fly balls. His trademark bat flip as he sauntered up to the plate. His genuine love for the game. I was a fool for all of it. I was a fool for Willie Montanez.
Second Base: Orlando Hudson
Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a frog! A frog? Not bird, nor plane, nor even frog, it’s just little ole me, the O-Dog. Yup, just little ole him. Orlando Hudson. Knock ‘em down. Roll ‘em around. C’mon defense work! Work! Orlando Hudson works on defense. All you need is glove. All together now. All you need is glove.
The O-Dog gots glove. Lots of glove. It’s the glove you love. Hudson is renowned around the major leagues for his fielding prowess. In particular, his amazing range into right and center. Known for making spectacular catches. Lunging catches. Diving catches. Phenomenal catches. Catches in batches. Catches without matches. Groundballs he snatches. Base runners he dispatches. Web Gem after Web Gem. Gem of the Night after Gem of the Night. Because the night belongs to glovers. Because the night, belongs to us. Because the night belongs to the O-Dog.
Shortstop: Freddy Patek
Little Freddie. The Flea. Moochie. I remember him as Royal. Played for the Pirates. Played for the Angels. I picture him those baby blues. Had a glove like Crazy Glue. Catchy as the Asian flu.
Patek was a three-time All-Star. Patek led the league in triples. Get the papers, get the papers, get the papers. Patek led the league in stolen bases. He became the second shortstop, after Mr. Baseball himself, to hit three home runs in a single game. Whitey Herzog called Freddy the best artificial turf shortstop he ever managed. Ranked him even higher than the Wizard of Oz. Wow! Better than Ozzie Smith! Now that’s saying something. That’s saying a lot. That’s saying a mouthful.
Freddy had an arm. A big arm. A giant arm. Freddy could throw across the diamond from the hole at a velocity of around 95 mph. Yowza! I’ll forever remember Patek making his famous, often imitated, never duplicated, patented, bare-handed double plays. Talent, pure unadulterated talent.
Third Base: Mike Schmidt
I see you baby, shakin that ass, shakin that ass, shakin that ass. Chicks dig the longball. So do I. I dig Mike Schmidt. He just might be the greatest all-around third baseman to have ever played the game. Straight to the Hall of Fame. Say my name! You can George Brett me. You can Wade Boggs be. Heck, you can even Eddie Matthews me. I’ll take my chances with Schmidt. He won ten Gold Gloves. He smashed over 500 bombs. He won three MVPs. He personified baseball in the late seventies and early eighties. He is my favorite all time third baseman.
Left Field: Rickey Henderson
Most illingest b-boy, I got that feeling. ‘Cause I am most ill and I’m rhymin’ and stealin’. Rickey was most ill. Rickey was rhymin’ and stealin’. Baseball’s all-time leader in stolen bases. Baseball’s best lead-off hitter ever. There. I said it. A couple of stories of why else Rickey makes this list:
Seattle. Rickey struck out. As the next batter was walking past him, he heard Henderson say, “Don’t worry, Rickey, you’re still the best.”
Rickey called San Diego GM Kevin Towers and left the following message: “This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball.”
Henderson broke Ty Cobb’s career record for runs scored with a home run. After taking his usual 45 seconds or so around the bases, Rickey slid into home plate.
Center Field: Ken Griffey Jr.
Oh, what could have been. Griff slipped in the shower and broke a bone in his right hand. The first of many. Throughout the nineties he was beast. The high priest. The best from west to east. Junior was arguably the best player of the decade.
He produced runs. He hit for average. He hit over .300 in seven years of the ’90s. He hit for power. The man of the hour, tower of power, he’ll devour. He’s gonna tie you up and let you understand that he’s not your average man when he’s got a baseball bat in his hand. DAAAAAM!!!!! He smashed 422 bombs during the decade.
He was the best center fielder in the bigs. Gold Gloves from 1990 to 1999. Great range. Sick range. Diving plays. Spectacular plays. Say Hey Kid plays. Wheaties boxes. He was the man.
He won games with his legs. You remember. You remember Game Five versus the Bombers. Series even at two apiece. Bottom of the 11th. Junior on first. Edgar with the hit. There goes Griff. He…could…go…all…the…way! He does! He does! He scores from first base! Mariners win! Mariners win! Then he moved to Cincinnati. Then the injury bug hit. Oh, what could have been.
Right Field: Dwight Evans
Thank heavens for Dwight Evans. The Man of Thousand Stances. I got to know how to Pony, like Boney Maroney. Mash Potato, do the Alligator. The best right fielder ever to play for the Red Sox. Patrolled the Fenway grass for parts of 19 seasons. Cannon of an arm. Rocket of an arm. Spacely Sprocket of arm. Johan Sebastian Bachet of an arm. Eight Gold Gloves. Eight. You listening Ted Sarandis? When I saw the baseball card of him in an Orioles hat, it broke my heart. I know it was you Dan Duquette. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!
Starting Pitcher: Pedro Martinez
Pedro Martinez. 1999. As your Curly Headed Girlfriend wrote: “The Red Sox finish their startling regular season in Baltimore today and open a best-of-five playoff series on Wednesday. The Sox were not expected to be in the 1999 post-season tournament, but are back in the playoffs on the strength of a historic season by their 27-year-old, 5-foot-11, 174-pound right-handed ace.”
Pedro has to leave game one due to back spasms. Pedro has to leave game one after pitching four shut-out innings due to back spasms. A collective gasp rises from the city of Boston. For every win, someone must fail. But there comes a point when, when we exhale.
We exhaled in game four. Number four Bobby Orr. Game tied 8-8 in the fourth. Here he comes. Here comes Pedro. Here comes Pedro in relief. Pedro finishes the game. Pedro holds the Indians hitless. Pedro strikes out eight in six innings. Pedro is dead. Long live Pedro! Pedro is carried off the field by his teammates. Pedro: “I wasn’t going to let go, I wasn’t going to do that. I had to be out there as long as I could.” And that’s the way it was with Pedro. He always wanted the ball. Always.
Relief Pitcher: Rollie Fingers
For the mustache alone.
Peace out homies. Six two and Even!