I grew up in a baseball home. This means that when I was about a year old I was weaned from my mother by being given nachos and a hotdog. My room was the ballpark, and it was a fantastic way to grow up. If I wasn’t playing baseball I was watching it, trading cards, or playing some type of baseball spin-off game. As a kid, our family also had a slight obsession with Kentucky football, my family is currently one of the ten people that still have season tickets. One of my dad’s closest friends is a huge Georgia football fan and every other year we would travel to visit with them and watch the game and in the other years they would return the favor. Being in Georgia in the 90’s during October usually meant that the Braves were on TV and in the playoffs. Myself, being an impressionable youth, quickly took to this team filled with mustache and mullet wearing men, shunning the more regional team of the Cincinnati Reds for the likes of Sid Bream, Mark Lemke, Deion Sanders, Fred McGriff, and Steve Avery. I am still a Braves fan to this day though my fervor has waned from when I was a younger man, I still make it a point to keep up with them.
I was watching the NL Wild Card game on Friday. Lost in the fact that it was the most terribly officiated game in the history of baseball (I am not proud to say that the umpire who made the infield fly call is from my hometown) was that we were witnessing the last game of legendary third basemen, Chipper Jones. That it was the last game of one of my favorite ball players of all time got me to thinking about my all time favorite ball players.
I limited the list to players during my lifetime, picked outfielders without consideration of if they played right, left or center, and showed a solid lean towards my favorite team. Lastly, remember that this is not necessarily a list of the best players of my lifetime, rather it is a list of my favorites. Also, notice that each players’s name is a link, click on said link and you will find their career stats on the website BaseballReference.com.
Catcher: Joe Mauer
Joe edged out Javy Lopez and current Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis (from our hometown) for the position of catcher for multiple reasons. Mauer and I were in high school at the same time (not the same school just the time period) and I remember reading about him while I was trying to achieve baseball stardom of my own. In a way Joe Mauer destroyed my hopes for a career in baseball after I read in ESPN Magazine that he only struck out once in his four year high school career. Also, at age four he was asked to leave his T-Ball league because he hit the ball too hard. Injuries have plagued his career but he is undoubtedly the best hitting (three time batting champion) catcher of my lifetime.
1st Base: Don Mattingly
The only Yankee to make the list, though there are definitely others that are worthy of being on the it (notice I put Mariano Rivera on the honorable mention). I absolutely idolized Don Mattingly as a kid. It might have been the mustache, or it could have been that my glove as a Little Leaguer was a Don Mattingly “signature edition,” or it could simply be that he was awesome. Also, “Donnie Baseball” is one of the greatest sports nicknames of all time. I cannot stress enough how much I hate the Yankees, which goes to show how much I loved Mattingly as a kid.
2nd Base: Ryne Sandberg
Hall of Famer and a legitimate claim to the title of the greatest second basemen of all time. Also, my parents almost named me Ryne Rogers, with a name like that I would have been destined for baseball success.
3rd Base: Chipper Jones
He was the impetus for the list. A childhood icon, so of course he is my third basemen. An incredible player both offensively and defensively. His numbers would be even better if he could have stayed healthier during his 19 year career. He will most certainly be a first ballot hall of fame inductee.
Short Stop: Ozzie Smith
Picking The Wizard over Cal Ripken might have been the hardest decision on the team. However, if asked point blank my first reaction is to say Ozzie. Also, as a manager I figured that I have plenty of offense on the team and so Ozzie’s relative lack of hitting is more than made up for with the rest of the lineup.
Outfield: Ken Griffey Jr.
Kids these days (I just gained 10 years of age by saying that) do not fully understand how much Ken Griffey Jr. meant to baseball. He was the Lebron James and the Michael Jordan of the diamond. I truly believe that had he not been so plagued with injury that Griffey would have gone down as one of the five greatest players of all time, and would be on top of the all time home runs list.Don’t believe me? Have a look at the stat line. I have also included two highlight reels for your viewing pleasure. The first video is overly dramatic and I threw in the second because never in the history of Youtube videos has there been a a more disparate combination of song and athletic ability.
Outfield: David Justice
He is from Kentucky, played for my favorite team, has two world championships, and put together some pretty impressive postseason stats. He is in a very elite group among ballplayers (not so much among those who have been in a relationship with Halle Berry.)
Outfield: Andruw Jones
Andruw Jones was another childhood icon. He was a great defensive outfielder and had a stretch of years in which he put together some pretty impressive home run numbers cou steroids gh. Even so he was one of my favorite players during my playing days.
Utility: Craig Biggio
In my mind, Craig Biggio is the definition of a utility player.
Honorable Mention: Vladamir Guerrero, Frank Thomas (awesome nickname “The Big Hurt”), Fred McGriff, Candy Maldonado (greatest name ever), Cecil Fielder, Tony Gwynn, Torii Hunter, Bobby Bonilla, Sid Bream, Ichiro
Starting Pitcher: Nolan Ryan
Who cares about the stats? This is all you need to know.
Starting Pitcher: John Smoltz
Favorite pitcher from my favorite team. Random fact: Smoltzy is a close friend with Tiger Woods and has beat him in a round on at least one occasion.
Starting Pitcher: Randy Johnson
Ya he was good, but he also did this.
Starting Pitcher: Greg Maddux
The ultimate finesse pitcher, he never threw the ball as hard as the other guys, he was simply smarter.
Starting Pitcher: Jack Mcdowell
The “Swirly Mcdowell,” a crucial part of the game “McSnigglesworth” was named after this White Sox great, I don’t expect many of you to know what this means, but those of you that do understand the honor. Maybe one day I will enlighten the rest of you. Random Fact: Jack is currently in a rock band named “Stickfigure”
Honorable Mention: Jose Rijo, Ramon Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Al Leiter,
Relief Pitcher: Dennis Eckersley
Perhaps the greatest reliever of all time, he also coined the term “walk off home run.”
Relief Pitcher: Rollie Fingers
I was only a year old during Rollie’s last season, but he is worthy of the list, both for his ability to pitch and grow a stache.
Relief Pitcher: Billy Wagner
I will not put another Yankee on the roster after Don Mattingly. Yes I realize that has nothing to do with Billy Wagner
Honorable Mention: Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Antonio Alfonseca (he had six fingers, and may have killed Inigo Montoya’s father).
So there is my roster, now I want to hear your thoughts, and also your own lists. Share your comments and rosters in the comments section below.