Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The All-Space Baseball Team

April 12, 1961, 50 years ago today: The Space Age really began, with Yuri Gagarin orbiting Earth 3 times aboard Vostok 1. On May 5, 23 days later, the first U.S. citizen reached space, Alan Shepard.

In 1968, Gagarin was killed in the crash of a plane he was test-flying. He was just 34. Or... is that really what happened? For all we know, the Soviet Union's greatest living citizen might have been expressing decidedly non-Communist sympathies and was hushed up. Is that what happened? Probably not, but with the Soviets, you never know.

April 12, 1981, 30 years ago today: The first space shuttle, Columbia, lifted off, carrying John Young and Robert Crippen.

Like Gagarin, Columbia would have a horrifying death, in 2003, with all 7 people aboard perishing.

The All-Space Baseball Team

Some have names connected to space, others share names of astronauts. Nicknames, like Sunny Jim Bottomley, Archie "Moonlight" Graham, John "Blue Moon" Odom, and Bill "Spaceman" Lee, do not count.

1B Cecil Cooper (ahead of Glenn Davis, due to having the last name, rather than first)
2B Eddie Collins (in honor of Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 pilot)
SS Arthur Irwin (1880s star, in honor of Apollo 15 Moonwalker James Irwin)
3B Jimmy Collins (also the manager of this team)
LF Saturnino Orestes Armas Minoso (better known as Minnie Minoso)
CF Marquis Grissom
RF Wally Moon
C Walker Cooper
SP Cy Young
SP Lee Grissom (Cincinnati Reds, 1937 All-Star)
SP Jack Armstrong (whose hometown has a space name: Neptune, New Jersey)
SP Chris Carpenter
RP Ed Mars (1 season, 1890 Syracuse Stars of American Association)
RP Marv Grissom (New York Giants, 1954 All-Star AND World Champion)
RP Sun-Woo Kim (1990s Boston Red Sox, I saw him pitch for the Trenton Thunder)

Wally Moon was mainly a left fielder, but I couldn't keep Minoso out, and Wally did play a lot of right field. If you think I'm cheating with "Saturnino," the left fielder could be either Dale Mitchell or Kevin Mitchell, in honor of Apollo 14 Moonwalker Edgar Mitchell.

For 2B, I could have named Glenn Beckert or Glenn Hubbard, in honor of John Glenn, but I wanted a last name, where possible. I almost named Dick McAuliffe, in memory of Challenger loss Christa McAuliffe. But while Dick McAuliffe was one of the best 2nd basemen of his time, Eddie Collins was one of the best 2nd basemen of all time.

Cy Young is included in honor of U.S. Navy Captain John Young, who flew on the first Gemini mission in 1965, commanded both Apollo 10 and Apollo 16 (in which he walked on the Moon and piloted a lunar rover), and commanded the first shuttle mission. John Young was the only Moonwalker to fly on a shuttle, and the first person to fly in space 5 times, later the first to do it 6 times.

Apollo 15 commander and Moonwalker David Scott could have led me to put George Scott at 1B or Mike Scott on the mound, but Scott is just too common a name.

Honorable Mention to Bert Shepard, no relation to Alan although the name is spelled the same way. Bert was the pitcher who lost a leg in a World War II plane crash, but returned to pitch in the majors thanks to a prosthesis, for 4 1/3 innings in a 1945 game for the Washington Senators. He was every bit the hero the astronauts were, and are.

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