Monday, March 31, 2014

Los Angeles' All-Time Baseball Team

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ “territory” might well be the best of them all. As Duke Snider pointed out, the Southern California climate allows you to play all year long, when much of the country is too cold to play. This results in Southern California producing a disproportionately large amount of good players. This is also why the Sun Belt produces most of the College World Series winners.

Eligibility has nothing to do with whether the player in question actually rooted for the Dodgers growing up, or even if the Dodgers were already in Los Angeles at the time. The only requirement is that the player had to have been trained as a player – “grew up,” for want of a better term – in one of the following California Counties: Kern, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Orange and Riverside Counties are, for my purposes, the “territory” of the Whatever They’re Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim. San Diego and Imperial Counties are for the San Diego Padres. Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano and Stanislaus Counties are the ones I’ve assigned to the Oakland Athletics. And the rest are for the San Francisco Giants, who are also a serious contender for having the best “talent pool” of any of the 30 teams.

6. Los Angeles' All-Time Baseball Team

How strong is this team? I can take either of 3 starting pitchers, and end up with a Hall-of-Famer at every position except catcher -- and even that has an asterisk, as Gary Carter was born in Culver City, Los Angeles County, but grew up in Fullerton, in the Angels' home of Orange County.

1B Eddie Murray of Los Angeles. He is one of only 4 men – 3 to do it honestly – to collect 3,000 hits and hit 500 home runs. He won 3 Gold Gloves, and probably would have won more if Don Mattingly hadn’t come along. He helped the Baltimore Orioles win the 1979 American League Pennant and the 1983 World Series. Number 33 retired. Hall of Fame. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 77.

Honorable Mention to Bob Watson of Fremont, Los Angeles, and Cecil Fielder of La Puente. (Son Prince grew up in Melbourne, Florida, and thus qualifies for the Tampa Bay Rays' all-time regional team.) Mark McGwire of Claremont is ineligible, and you know why. (Although, when The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 91.) Same with Jason Giambi of Covina. And neither one was better than Murray, anyway.

2B Jackie Robinson of Pasadena. Let me tell you how strong this position is for the Dodger region: Bobby Doerr of the Fremont section of Los Angeles is in the Hall of Fame. Chase Utley of Long Beach sure looked like he'd make it as of 2009. Freddy Sanchez of Burbank was a batting champion and a 3-time All-Star.

And none of them match the performance – let alone the impact on the game and on society at large – of Jack Roosevelt Robinson. Indeed, so much has been made of Jackie Robinson the pioneer that Jackie Robinson the player often gets forgotten. He won the NL Rookie of the Year award the first year it was given, 1947, He won the NL batting title and Most Valuable Player award in 1949. He was a 6-time All-Star, batted .311 lifetime, had a 132 OPS+, and in just 10 seasons had 1,518 hits (so he could have gotten to 3,000), 273 doubles, 54 triples, 137 homers and 197 stolen bases. And with his aggressive baserunning, he changed how the game was played, not just by whom.

Of course, Hall of Fame, All-Century Team, and Number 42 retired not just by the Dodgers (even though he played for the Brooklyn version, retiring before they moved to L.A.), but by Commissioner Bud Selig for all of baseball. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 44. And, to think, I almost didn’t include Jackie because he was born in Georgia, though his mother moved the family to Pasadena when he was 1 year old.

SS Robin Yount of Woodland Hills, Los Angeles. Born in the Chicago area, he went to Taft High School in L.A. This guy never got the credit he deserved. He and Hank Greenberg are the only players to win MVPs at 2 different positions, Yount doing so at shortstop in 1982, when he led the Milwaukee Brewers to what is still their only Pennant, and in center field in 1989. Playing in Milwaukee instead of Chicago or another bigger city meant he only made 3 All-Star Games, but after debuting in 1974 at age 18, he gave the Brewers 20 years, 3,142 hits including 583 doubles, 126 triples and 251 home runs, and 271 stolen bases.

Of all players with at least as many stolen bases as he has, only Willie Mays has at least as many home runs and at least as many hits, although Yount has more doubles than Mays (but not more hits, triples, homers or steals), and his ex-teammate Paul Molitor has more hits and steals and nearly as many homers. Career OPS+ 115.

The Brewers have retired Yount's Number 19, which Molitor wore to honor him went he went to the Toronto Blue Jays and found his Brewers number, 4, was already being worn. The Brewers also dedicated a statue of Yount outside Miller Park. He was easily elected to the Hall of Fame, and while he's not the most popular player in Milwaukee baseball history -- both Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews were more celebrated there -- if you're a Wisconsinian my age or younger, he's the best you've ever had.

Honorable Mention to Nomar Garciaparra of Bellflower. From age 23 to 29, he was one of the best baseball players you’ll ever see. At age 32, he briefly recaptured his former greatness. But injuries turned him from “What a player!” to “What might have been.” This guy hit .357 and .372 in back-to-back seasons (as a righthanded hitter!), 4 times hit over 40 doubles (twice reaching 50), and 4 times reached 100 RBIs (twice reaching 120 RBIs.) He seemed like a sure bet for 3,000 hits and the Hall of Fame. As it is, he finished with a career batting average of .313, .361 on-base, .521 slugging, .882 OPS and 124 OPS+.

But he also finished with “just” 1,747 hits and 229 home runs. And note that the Boston Red Sox did not win a World Series until after they traded him, then won another 3 years after that. Hmmmm... He does rather fit "the steroid profile"... But no serious accusation has ever been made against him.

I wonder if the Sox will ever retire his Number 5? And, by marrying Mia Hamm, he’s no longer even the most accomplished athlete in his own marriage. On the other hand, he’s married to Mia Hamm, which ain’t bad at all. Fortunately, their kids look like Mom, and not like “Nosemar.”

Honorable Mention to 2 other Red Sox shortstops, Rick Burleson of Downey and Vern "Junior" Stephens of Long Beach; and to Mike Young of Covina.

Honorable Mention also to Osborne Earl Smith, born in Mobile, Alabama and a graduate of Locke H.S. in Los Angeles. He won 13 Gold Gloves, made 15 All-Star Teams, collected 2,460 hits, and helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the 1982 World Series and the 1985 and 1987 NL Pennants -- but his career OPS+ is just 87. I don't care how good Ozzie's defense was: His bat would kill rallies, so Nomar, once a really good fielder himself, is the starter. Still, he's in the Hall of Fame, and Cards have retired his Number 1.

3B Eddie Mathews of Santa Barbara. Born in Texarkana, Texas, he and his family moved to California when he was 6 years old, probably to escape the Dust Bowl and head for "the land of milk and honey." The only man to play for the Braves in all 3 cities, he reached them in 1952 in Boston, stayed with them until 1966, their first season in Atlanta, and was the most popular player on the team for all 13 years in Milwaukee. Also has the distinction, with New York Giants catcher Wes Westrum, of being on the cover of the first issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, dated August 16, 1954. (Apparently, there was no "Dreaded SI Cover Jinx" yet: Mathews went on to have a great career.)

He and Hank Aaron set a record for most home runs by teammates, 863. (While they were together, from 1954 to 1966, Aaron hit 442, Mathews 421.) He hit a total of 512 home runs, including 47 in 1953, a team record that Aaron would later tie, but not until Andruw Jones in 2005 would it be surpassed. He led the Milwaukee Braves to the 1957 World Championship, hitting a walkoff 10th-inning homer in Game 4 and fielding the final out in Game 7, and the 1958 Pennant. Won another World Series while playing out the string with the 1968 Detroit Tigers. He also managed the Braves, including in 1974 when Aaron hit Number 715.

Hall of Fame, Number 41 retired by the Braves. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 63.

Honorable Mention to George Brett of El Segundo. Born in West Virginia, and older brother Ken Brett (who nearly makes this team as a pitcher) was born in Brooklyn, but they grew up in Dodger territory. Mr. Kansas City Royal is the only man to win batting titles in 3 different decades: 1976, 1980 (.390!) and 1990. The Royals have been to the postseason 7 times with him, never without him. 1980 AL Pennant, 1985 World Championship.

He had a career batting average of .305, and an OPS+ of 135. He is a member of the 3,000 Hit Club, and hit 317 homers despite playing his home games at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Hall of Fame, Number 5 retired. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 55.

Also, Honorable Mention to Darrell Evans of Pasadena, Doug DeCinces of Sepulveda and Terry Pendleton of Oxnard. Evan Longoria of Bellflower still has a ways to go.

LF Ralph Kiner of Alhambra. He was born in New Mexico, but lived most of his off-season life in the Los Angeles area. He only played 10 seasons due to a back injury cutting short his career at age 32. But he led the National League in homers in each of his first 7 seasons, had 2 50-homer seasons while playing his home games in spacious Forbes Field, put together a career OPS+ 149 (wow), and hit 369 home runs. At his pace, if he’d been able to play until he was 40, he would have had close to 600 homers, and might have been a serious threat to get to Babe Ruth’s then-record of 714 home runs well before Hank Aaron got close to it.

Hall of Fame, Number 4 retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 90. And if patience is a virtue, then Ralph is a saint, for he was been an employee of the New York Mets, as a broadcaster, from Day One, April 11, 1962, until his recent death, 52 seasons.

Honorable Mention to Roy White of Compton, and Garret Anderson and Ryan Braun, both of Granada Hills, Los Angeles. Also to the Meusel brothers of Los Angeles, who would have been perennial All-Stars had the All-Star Game existed in the 1920s: Bob of the Yankees and Emil of the Giants. (Emil was known as Irish, even though the family was German.) And to Joe Rudi, born in Modesto, the home territory of the A's, for whom he would play in both Modesto in the minors and Oakland in the majors, but grew up in Downey, in the Dodgers' territory. And to George Foster of the 1970s Cincinnati "Big Red Machine," born in Alabama but raised in Lawndale, California, who hit 348 home runs, including 52 in 1977, most in NL play between 1965 and 1998.

CF Duke Snider of Compton. That’s right, Da Duke o’ Flatbush went straight outta Compton to the little ballpark on the edges of Flatbush, Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. Ya wanna make somethin’ of it?

It's a strange thing: The two best players the Brooklyn Dodgers ever had, Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider, were both from Los Angeles (or close to it); while the best player the Los Angeles Dodgers have ever had, Sandy Koufax, was born in Brooklyn, but did nothing for the Dodgers until well after they moved. The Duke, at least, not only had one of his best seasons, including a great World Series, in 1955, but was still a solid contributor to their 1959 Series win in his hometown. And at the time of his 1964 retirement, his 407 home runs were 10th all-time. Hall of Fame, Number 4 retired. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 83.

Honorable Mention to George Hendrick and Eric Davis, both graduates of Fremont H.S. in Los Angeles. And to Lyman Bostock of Manual Arts H.S. in Los Angeles, a .311 career hitter with a 123 OPS+ when he was shot and killed in 1978, not yet 28 years old.

Bryce Harper is from Las Vegas, Nevada, which, due to its proximity to L.A. and its Hollywood connection, is in the Dodgers' market. But he's had only 2 MLB seasons, and has split his games almost evenly between the 3 outfield positions (104 left, 101 center, 81 right), so even if I wanted to put him in this soon, where would I? Don't tell me, "That's a clown question, bro." Harper will have to wait.

RF Tony Gwynn Sr. of Long Beach. The greatest player the San Diego Padres have ever had, he helped them win their only 2 Pennants, in 1984 and 1998. His .394 in the strike-shortened 1994 season remains the highest in MLB since 1941. Hall of Fame, Number 19 retired, 3,000 Hit Club. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 49.

His brother Chris Gwynn once batted .300 for the Kansas City Royals, but his son Tony Gwynn Jr. grew up in Poway, thus qualifies (by background, if not yet by talent) for the San Diego All-Time Team, rather than the Los Angeles one.

Honorable Mention to Floyd Caves "Babe" Herman, born in Buffalo but raised in Glendale. Phil Rizzuto, who grew up watching him with the Brooklyn Dodgers, thought Herman should be in the Hall of Fame. The Scooter had a case: Herman batted .324 lifetime, an OPS+ of 141, hit 399 doubles even though he had his last full big-league season at age 33, and in 1930 batted .393 with 241 hits, 48 doubles, 11 triples, 35 homers, 130 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.

The problem was that Babe played his first few seasons for the “Daffiness Boys” Dodgers, and he was the daffiest of them all. He frequently protested that he was never, as commonly thought, hit on the head by a fly ball. When asked if he was ever hit on the shoulder by one, he said that didn’t count.

He never, as commonly thought, tripled into a triple play. But in 1926, thanks to a baserunning mistake by Dazzy Vance, a Hall of Fame pitcher not used to reaching third base, Herman did double into a double play, resulting in the old joke that the Dodgers have three men on base: “Yeah? Which base?”

He moved west well before the Dodgers themselves did, playing for a “hometown” team, the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League and starring there, batting .346 at age 41, before returning to a Dodger roster ravaged by the World War II draft for a cup of coffee in 1945.

Additional Honorable Mentions to Tom Brunansky of West Covina, Dwight Evans of Chatsworth, Los Angeles, and Jeff Burroughs of Long Beach. What about Darryl Strawberry of Crenshaw, Los Angeles? Well, he’s gone back to the Mets for employment – nothing wrong with that – but he’s been saying that not only would the 1986 Mets have beaten the 2009 Yankees, but they would’ve beaten the 1998 Yankees. If he believes that, then he must’ve started dipping into his stash again.

C Earl Battey of Watts, Los Angeles. This is the one position in this team's starting lineup that doesn't have a Hall-of-Famer, or a future HOFer. But Battey was no slouch. He was the backup to Sherman Lollar with the 1959 AL Champion Chicago White Sox, but the Sox made a bonehead move trading him to the Washington Senators.

The Senators became the Minnesota Twins, and Battey became one of the best catchers in baseball, reaching 4 All-Star teams and winning 3 Gold Gloves. He helped the Twins win the 1965 AL Pennant and very nearly the World Series – ironically, striking out against Sandy Koufax for the last out, against his hometown team (although that Game 7 was played in Bloomington, Minnesota).

Honorable Mention to Mike Lieberthal of Westlake Village, Los Angeles, whose stats almost all top Battey’s, but is hurt by the fact that the Philadelphia Phillies won a Pennant in 1993, Lieberthal arrived in 1994, his last season with them was 2006, and they’ve made the postseason every year since he left. He’s their Donnie Regular Season Baseball. Good guy, but that record hurts him here.

SP Bob Lemon of Long Beach. A hitter converted into a pitcher, helping the Cleveland Indians win the 1948 World Series and the 1954 AL Pennant. Later managed the Yankees to the 1978 World Championship, which makes him the manager of this team as well. Hall of Fame, Number 21 retired by the Indians. As he himself would have said to one of his players, "Nice job, Meat."

SP Don Drysdale of Van Nuys. At Van Nuys High, he was a baseball teammate of Robert Redford. The speedy, headhunting righthander helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1959, ’63 and ’65, teaming with Sandy Koufax to form one of the few righty-lefty Hall of Fame pairs ever.

In 1968, he pitched 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking a Walter Johnson record that stood for 55 years, and would stand for another 20 until another Dodger, Orel Hershiser, broke it. Unfortunately, an injury ended his career at age 33 the next season (as one ended Koufax’s career at 31), but he still reached the Hall. Number 53 retired, and “Herbie the Love Bug” got Number 53 in Big D’s honor. He ater became one of the game’s most respected broadcasters, and married basketball star Ann Meyers -- the only husband-and-wife pair to both be elected to their sports' halls of fame.

SP Jim Lonborg of Santa Maria. “Gentleman Jim” won 22 games for the Red Sox in their 1967 “Impossible Dream” season, including the tense finale against the Twins, to clinch the Pennant, all while doing National Guard duty on some weekends, not knowing if he’d be called up to serve in the Vietnam War. (He wasn’t.) He won Games 2 and 5 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but was called on to outpitch Bob Gibson in Game 7 on 2 days’ rest (Gibson had 3), and got pounded.

He broke his leg in a skiing accident in the offseason and was never the same, although he became a fine reliever for the Phillies and helped them win the NL East in 1976, ’77 and ’78. Retired to become a dentist. On Cheers, the photo of a righthanded pitcher wearing Number 16, hanging over the bar, meant to be Sam Malone (Ted Danson), is actually Lonborg.

Lonborg won the AL's Cy Young Award in 1967, the first year it was given out to the most valuable pitcher in each League, and the NL winner was also from the L.A. area: Mike McCormick of Alhambra and the San Francisco Giants.

SP Scott McGregor of El Segundo. He was a teammate of Murray’s on the late Seventies, early Eighties Orioles. He arguably should have been the Most Valuable Player of the 1983 World Series. The Yankees let him, and the actual ’83 WS MVP, Rick Dempsey, get away in a 1976 trade for pitcher Grant Jackson. That trade was necessary to win the ’76 Pennant, but in ’79, when Dempsey was becoming one of the game’s best catchers, and McGregor was part of an Oriole rotation that helped them win the Pennant, and Thurman Munson was aching and then dead and the Yankees really needed another starter, it became a bad trade.

SP Jack McDowell of Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles. Black Jack was the ace of the White Sox team that won the AL Central in 1993 (he won the AL Cy Young Award) and was in first place in 1994 when the strike hit. But the Yankees traded for him, and his performance in the 1995 Playoffs against the Seattle Mariners became legendary for the wrong reasons. He blew it, and got booed off the mound at Yankee Stadium. He lifted his middle finger to the fans, and while the New York Post called him JACK THE FLIPPER on its back page, the Daily News, for once, went further than the Post, and called him JACK ASS. After blowing a lead in Game 5 of that series, and the series itself, the Yankees let him go.

He went to the Indians and helped them win the AL Central in 1996, but it was all downhill from there. There was no obvious injury, he just lost it. It got into his head. He's since gone on to a music career, first with a band named V.I.E.W, now one named Stickfigure.

SP Greg Maddux of Las Vegas, Nevada. This is a bit of a cheat on my part, since his father was in the U.S. Air Force, and Greg was born while his father was stationed in San Angelo, Texas, then in Madrid, Spain, before moving to Las Vegas, where Greg attended high school. Normally, I would place a player in the metro area where he was trained to play, but that isn't clear. So I'm putting him in Vegas.

With 355 wins, he is the winningest living pitcher, 1 ahead of Roger somebody. He had 3,371 strikeouts, a career ERA+ of 132, and a WHIP of 1.143. 8 All-Star Teams, 4 Cy Young Awards (and just missed 3 others), and a record 18 Gold Gloves. (OK, he's a pitcher, but, still... ) Number 31 retired by both the Cubs (NL East title 1989) and the Atlanta Braves (World Champions 1995, NL Pennants in 1996 and '99). He is a newly-elected, soon to be inducted, member of the Hall of Fame. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 39, the highest-ranking pitcher then active.

Honorable Mention to Larry Dierker of Woodland Hills, Los Angeles. A terrific pitcher for the Houston Astros in the 1970s, he later broadcast for them, managed them to the NL Central title in 1997, ’98 and ’99 before a bout with cancer (which, thankfully, he survived) ended his managing career. Number 49 retired.

Honorable Mention to Mike Scott of Santa Monica, whose greatness, and thus his place on this team, must be doubted because he was 110-81 when his home park was the Astrodome, but just 14-27 when it was Shea Stadium – and that was a pitcher’s park, too.
 
RP Dan Quisenberry of Santa Monica. The submarining righthander for the Royals got the last out of the 1985 World Series, and once held the record for saves in a season, 45.

In fact, the L.A. region has one heck of a bullpen: Honorable Mention to Jesse Orosco of Santa Barbara, Todd Worrell and Tim Worrell of Arcadia, Rod Beck of Van Nuys, and Robb Nen of Los Alamitos. Strange that both Quiz and Beck died young.

Detroit's All-Time Baseball Team

I was pleased to see that the team the Yankees would face on August 30, 2006, what would have been my the 100th birthday of my grandfather, an original "Bleacher Creature," was the Tigers, a team he would have recognized. 

Too bad the Tigers had to ruin it -- or, rather, Scott Proctor had to ruin it, when, one strike away from nailing down the win while Mariano Rivera was rested after pitching 3 days in a row, gave up a home run to Craig Monroe. The Tigers went on to win the AL Central Division, then beat the Yankees in the Division Series, then beat the Oakland Athletics for the Pennant, before losing the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

7. Detroit's All-Time Baseball Team

Despite the fact that northwestern Ohio is closer to Detroit than to Cleveland, and that region's highest-ranked team, the Toledo Mud Hens, has been a Tigers farm club since 1987 (and has been so, on and off, since 1934), I've limited the Tigers' "region" to just the State of Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula, which is closer to Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

An interesting note: The Mud Hens are best known for their unusual team name, and for being the favorite team of Toledo native actor Jamie Farr, and his best-known character, M*A*S*H Corporal Max Klinger. Prior to his assignment as company clerk (including an eventual promotion to Sergeant), Klinger was so desperate to get out of the Army that he would try all kinds of things (including, most frequently, wearing women's clothing) to convince the Army that he was psychologically unfit for military service.

A "mud hen" or marsh hen is another name (or two) for a bird that is indigenous to the marshlands where the Maumee River flows into Lake Erie. The bird is most often called (by people who study birds) the American Coot. So Klinger, who wasn't really crazy except about the Mud Hens, really was "crazy as a coot!" In another irony, in 1952, the team left Toledo, was replaced by a new Mud Hens in 1953, and that team left after 1955, leaving the city without baseball until yet another ud Hens arrived in 1965, and has stayed ever since.

Anyway, this team has lots of Michigander-turned-Tigers, plenty of power, and one amazing pitching staff, with a good mix of righties and lefties, power and finesse, starters and relievers. I wouldn't want to put my hitters up against them.

Another note of interest: There are also some University of Michigan Wolverines on here (Michigan is the "Wolverine State"), as well as some Michigan State University Spartans. The Detroit team became the "Tigers" because their socks had orange and black stripes. Whether this was reminiscent of actual tigers or Princeton University, whose teams are called the Tigers, depends on who's telling the story. But it was at Princeton, in orange on black (since revived, but reversed to black on orange) that Herbert "Fritz" Crisler developed the famous "winged" helmet design that he brought to Michigan in yellow (or "maize" as they put it) on navy blue.

1B John Mayberry of Northwestern H.S. in Detroit. A 2-time All-Star with the Kansas City Royals, he finished 2nd to Fred Lynn in the 1975 balloting for American League Most Valuable Player. He moved on to the Toronto Blue Jays, and closed his injury-shortened career with the Yankees in 1982. He hit 255 home runs and had an OPS+ of 123. His son John Jr. now plays for the Phillies, and was born in Kansas City and thus qualifies for that region’s team, by birth if not yet by performance.

2B Charlie Gehringer of Fowlerville. Considering the performances of Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins and Rogers Hornsby earlier in the 20th Century, I am going to say that Gehringer is the best 2nd baseman of the last 85 years. He was a local guy all the way, going to the University of Michigan, playing his entire career for the Tigers, and living in Michigan for his entire life.

Known as “the Mechanical Man” for his effortless, usually flawless fielding, he had a lifetime batting average of .320, and OPS+ of 124, and 2,839 hits including 574 doubles and 146 triples. In 1929 he led the AL in runs, hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases. He led in runs and hits again in 1934, cracked a staggering 60 doubles in 1936, and led in batting with a .371 average in 1937, earning him the MVP. He was the AL’s starting 2nd baseman in the first 6 All-Star Games.

Hall of Fame, Number 2 retired, and statue at Comerica Park dedicated by the Tigers. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 46.

SS Derek Jeter of Kalamazoo. He was born in Pequannock, New Jersey, and lived the first 4 years of his life in North Arlington, New Jersey. But it's where he was trained to play baseball that counts, and he grew up in "Kazoo" and played at Kalamazoo Central H.S.  (In the photo above, "KC" stands for "Kalamazoo Central" -- not "Kansas City.") The Yankees chose him with their first pick in the 1992 Draft.

And the rest is history: A .312 batting average, 3,316 hits (he will soon surpass Paul Molitor for most hits of anyone born after April 1941), 525 doubles, 65 triples, 256 home runs (certainly a decent total for a shortstop batting righthanded at Yankee Stadium), a 117 OPS+, 13 All-Star Games, 5 Gold Gloves, 16 postseason appearances, including 7 Pennants, 5 World Championships, and the 2000 World Series MVP. He also holds club records for most seasons (he's about to start his 20th, breaking the record of 19 he shared with Mariano Rivera and 18 by Mickey Mantle) and games (2,602 coming into 2014, breaking the record of 2,401 set by Mantle).

Honorable Mention to Mickey Stanley of Grand Rapids, who was mainly an outfielder, but got moved to short in mid-1968 when Tiger legend Al Kaline returned from an injury, which got Ray Oyler out of the lineup (he was a great fielder but was so hopeless with the bat he made Rey Ordonez look like Cal Ripken) and got the Tigers to a 103-win season and a World Championship.

3B Chris Sabo of Novi. National League Rookie of the Year in 1988, he made 3 All-Star teams and helped the Cincinnati Reds win the 1990 World Series. Injuries insured that his last full season would come at age 31 and his last game at 34, but for a while it looked like the sky was the limit. He was elected to the Reds Hall of Fame.

LF Willie Horton of Northwestern H.S. in Detroit, although born in Virginia. Another local guy who went on to his hometown Tigers. By the time I saw him in the late 1970s, he was a fat guy playing out the string and bouncing around the AL, looking for someone to acquire him as a DH.

But he was a 4-time All-Star, who had a 120 OPS+, 325 home runs, and 3 100-RBI seasons – his first at age 22 with the ’65 Tigers, and his last at 36 with the ’79 Seattle Mariners. For all his power hitting, he’s probably best remembered for Game 5 of the 1968 World Series at Tiger Stadium, when he threw out Lou Brock, the best baserunner of that era, at the plate, turning the Series around and leading to the Tiger victory.

Number 23 retired and statue dedicated at Comerica Park. He was a major league coach for a few years, including with his former Tiger manager Billy Martin on the Yankees, and now works in the Tigers' front office. Regarded as a good guy by all who know him, not just by Tiger fans. Definitely should not be confused with the convicted felon who was used by the Republican Party as a symbol of how 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis was "soft on crime." (Like hell he was, it was his opponent, George H.W. Bush, who was Vice President in the Iran-Contra Administration.)

Honorable Mention to Charlie “Paw Paw” Maxwell of Lawton. Although his first big-league team was the Red Sox, this is another Michigander who played for the Tigers. Twice an All-Star, he was a member of the 1961 Tiger team that won 101 games, but finished 8 games behind the Yankees. Career OPS+ of 116.

CF Ron LeFlore of Detroit. A wild story. He served time in the State Prison of Southern Michigan (a.k.a. Jackson State Penitentiary) for armed robbery, played on the prison team, and his talents reached then-Tigers manager Billy Martin (who always seemed to be one incident away from the Big House himself, and I don’t mean the University of Michigan’s football stadium).

LeFlore was paroled, and although Martin was fired by the time he reached the majors, he was one of the players who helped the Tigers, who had collapsed following the aging of the Kaline-era team, revitalize into a respectable organization again. Before Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Vince Coleman, there was Ron LeFlore, who went from stealing money from liquor stores to stealing bases: 58 in 1976, 68 in ’78, 78 in ’97, and (now with the Montreal Exops) 97 in 1980.

Injuries ended his career at age 34, and he went to umpiring school, but flunked out. He has since managed in the minor leagues, but has twice been arrested for failing to pay child support – including following the closing ceremonies at Tiger Stadium in 1999. And in 2011, he lost a leg to cardiovascular disease. After Roots, but before Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation, LeVar Burton starred in the 1979 CBS TV-movie One In a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story.

RF Hazen Shirley “Kiki” Cuyler of Harrisville. That’s “Kye-kye” and “Kye-ler,” not “Kee-kee” and whatever else you might think it is. And if you were born “Hazen Shirley (Last Name),” you’d think “Kiki” was an improvement, too.

He batted .321 lifetime, OPS+ 125, 2,299 hits, 394 doubles, 157 triples, and 328 stolen bases, leading the NL 4 times. He helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the 1925 World Series, but was mysteriously benched late in the 1927 season. It didn’t cost the Pirates the Pennant, and his presence probably wouldn’t have stopped the Yankees (who swept) from winning that World Series, but he was still traded to the Chicago Cubs after the season. Big mistake: The Cubs won Pennants with Cuyler in 1932 and 1935, and the Pirates didn’t win another until 1960. Hall of Fame, although none of the uniform numbers he wore after they became common have been retired. (He wore 3 as a Cub.)

Honorable Mention to Kirk Gibson of Waterford. Like Steve Garvey, he played both baseball and football at Michigan State. Unlike Garvey, he won a Big 10 football title with the Spartans, in 1978. (However, a previous coach had gotten them put on probation, and they couldn't go to the Rose Bowl.)

Two Sports Illustrated covers should catch your eye. One was in spring training 1980, calling him a "RIP ROARIN' ROOKIE." He had to wait until 1981 to really break out, batting .328. In 1984, he helped the Tigers to win the World Series against the San Diego Padres, hitting 2 homers in the clinching Game 5, the 2nd an 8th-inning blast into Tiger Stadium's upper deck off Goose Gossage. But just a year later, in the 1985-86 off-season, he was again on the cover of SI, as "THE MAN NOBODY WANTS." It was the time of the team owners' "collusion," and he was forced to sign a new 2-year contract with the Tigers.

After 1987, when the Tigers won another Division title, they wouldn't re-sign him. Big mistake? It would be 19 years before they reached the postseason again. The Dodgers signed him, and he won the NL's MVP that season as the Dodgers won the Pennant. Injuries to both legs meant he only came to bat once in the World Series, but it was a game-winning home run in Game 1, off Oakland's Dennis Eckersley, who then coined the phrase "walkoff home run."

But injuries kicked in, and only twice more did Gibson have at least 400 plate apperances. He returned to the Tigers and hit 23 homers with 72 RBIs in the strike-shortened 1994, but he lasted only one more season, finishing with a .268 batting average (but an OPS+ of 123) and 255 home runs. But he'll be forever remembered for 2 World Series home runs, one at Tiger Stadium and one at Dodger Stadium, with Jack Buck's words for CBS standing out: "I don't believe what I just saw!"

He became a broadcaster, and is now the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, having taken them to the 2011 NL West title.

C Bill Freehan of Royal Oak. Yes, another Tiger, and also another University of Michigan grad. While Tiger Stadium was a great hitter’s park, catcher is not usually a slugger’s position, but he hit 200 home runs to go with a 112 career OPS+. It’s his glove that gets remembered, though, and he won 4 Gold Gloves, and he made 11 All-Star teams. His best season, with 25 homers and 84 RBIs, appropriately came in 1968 when the Tigers won the World Series – and, of course, someone had to be on the receiving end of that Horton throw so it could nail Brock.

Honorable Mention to Ernie Whitt of Detroit. With Carlton Fisk as their catcher, the Red Sox could afford to leave Whitt unprotected in the 1977 expansion draft, and he became the Toronto Blue Jays’ main catcher in the 1980s. He made the AL All-Star team in 1985 as the Jays won the AL East to reach the postseason for the first time. He’s now a roving instructor in the Phillies' organization, and has managed Team Canada in the Pan American Games and the World Baseball Classic.

SP Hal Newhouser of Wilbur Wright H.S. in Detroit. Another Tiger, he went 29-9 with a 2.22 ERA in 1944. He went 25-9 with a 1.81 in 1945, and the Tigers won the World Series. Baseball rosters depleted by World War II draft callups and enlistments, you say? In 1946, when the boys came back, Newhouser went 26-9 with a 1.94 ERA. He slipped to 17-17 the next season, but went 21-12 in 1948, 18-11 in 1949 and 15-13 in 1950. Think about that: In 7 seasons, he won 141 games. (In those first 3 years, he went 70-21!)

Trouble was, outside of those 7 seasons, he only won another 67. He hurt his arm in 1950, and that caused him to retire at age 34, but not before winning another Pennant as a reliever with the 1954 Cleveland Indians. His final record of 207-150 was pretty strong, and his ERA+ of 130 was exceptional. Hall of Fame, Number 16 retired and statue dedicated at Comerica Park.

SP Billy Pierce of Highland Park. That’s the one north of Detroit, not the one north of Chicago, the one north of Dallas, or the one in Central Jersey across the river from New Brunswick. Here’s one the Tigers let get away, selling him to the Chicago White Sox after the 1948 season. He won at least 12 games in every season but one from 1950 to 1960, and at least 14 in every season but 2 from 1951 to 1962. He led the AL in strikeouts in 1953, led it in ERA with 1.97 in 1955, and led it in complete games in 1956, ’57 and ’58. He won 20 in 1956 and did it again in 1957. Strangely, one of his weaker seasons was 1959, when he went 14-15, but the White Sox won their only Pennant between 1919 and 2005.

After the 1961 season the White Sox traded him and Don Larsen (yes, that one) to the San Francisco Giants for 4 guys you don’t need to know about. Big mistake for the White Sox: Pierce went 16-6 and helped the Giants win the NL Pennant in 1962, and he was the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the World Series (although he also lost Game 3 and the Yankees beat the Giants in Game 7.) Still, the White Sox would go on to retire his Number 19, and erected a statue of him at U.S. Cellular Field, as he went 186-152 for them, 211-169 overall with an ERA+ of 119.

SP Jim Kaat of Zeeland. “Kitty” debuted in 1959 with the original Washington Senators, and turned out to be the last active player who’d played with them. He moved with them as they became the Minnesota Twins in 1961, and in 1962 he went 18-14. He went 18-11 for the Twins’ first Pennant winner in 1965, outdueling Sandy Koufax in Game 2 before Koufax returned the favor in Games 5 and 7. He went 25-13 in 1966. An arm injury in the next-to-last game of the 1967 season, against the Red Sox, may have cost the Twins the Pennant that weekend, but he pitched the Twins to the first 2 AL Western Division titles in 1969 and ’70.

Traded to the White Sox, he won 21 in 1974 and 20 in 1975. Traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, he helped them reach the postseason in 1976, ’77 and ’78. He spent parts of the ’79 and ’80 seasons with the Yankees, who moved him to the bullpen, and in 1982 he finally won a World Series, appearing 4 times in the Series for the St. Louis Cardinals at age 43. He retired after one more season to become one of baseball’s best broadcasters.

His career record is 283-237. His ERA is 3.45, but his ERA+ is 108, and his WHIP is 1.259. He has 2,461 strikeouts and only 1,083 walks. He won 16 Gold Gloves, formerly a record for pitchers, and was a 3-time All-Star. He reached the postseason 7 times and just missed 3 others.

On Baseball-Reference.com, their Hall of Fame Monitor has him at 130 out of 100, meaning he absolutely should be in; their HOF Standards have him at 44 out of 50, meaning he comes close but doesn't make it. Of his 10 Most Similar Pitchers, 7 are in the Hall: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Eppa Rixey, Bert Blyleven, Early Wynn, Burleigh Grimes and Red Ruffing. Another, Jamie Moyer, is not yet eligible. That leaves Frank Tanana, who shouldn't be in, and Tommy John, who should. John and Blyleven are also the only 20th or 21st Century pitchers with more wins eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in. Yet he has not been elected to the Hall, as either a player or a broadcaster. That’s just wrong.

SP Bob Welch of Hazel Park. Reached the majors at age 21, splitting between starting and relieving for the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers. In Game 2 of the World Series, he came in to relieve and ended the game by striking out Reggie Jackson with the bases loaded. Everybody remembers that, but they tend to forget that Reggie got his revenge in a big, or at least very long, way by clobbering a Welch fastball deep into the San Gabriel Mountains in Game 6 as the Yankees clinched.

The Game 2 heroics didn't give Welch a swelled head, nor did the Game 6 setback faze him, as he became one of baseball’s most reliable starters, helping the Dodgers reach the postseason 5 times and the Oakland Athletics 4, winning the World Series with the 1981 Dodgers and the 1990 A’s. Like his Oakland teammate, Dennis Eckersley, he battled alcoholism for years before overcoming it and becoming the pitcher everyone thought he could become.

In 1990, he went 27-6 for the A’s, his 27 wins representing the most in the majors since Steve Carlton in 1972, and no one other than Carlton or Welch has even reached 26 since Denny McLain’s 31 in 1968. Welch must’ve overexerted himself that season, because he only won 35 more games, but finished his career at a fine 211-146. B-R doesn’t have him even close to the Hall of Fame, but he had a good career.

SP John Smoltz of Lansing and Michigan State University. Not content to wait for him to reach the majors and needing to shore up their rotation for the 1987 AL East race, his home-State Tigers traded him to the Atlanta Braves for the aging Doyle Alexander. It worked in the short term, as they won the Division but lost the Pennant. In the long term, the Braves benefited as few teams have ever benefited from a trade. From the ages of 22 to 32, he was one of the best starters in baseball, topping out at 24-8 – winning 29 games counting the All-Star Game and the postseason, most since Denny McLain’s 32 in 1968 – with 276 strikeouts in 1996, winning the NL Cy Young Award. At 33, an injury kept him out all season. From 34 to 37, he was one of the game’s best relievers, setting the NL record which still stands with 55 saves in 2002. At 38, 39 and 40 he was again one of baseball’s top relievers, going 16-9 in 2006 – though it says something about the way the game has changed that his 16 wins were enough to lead the NL that season.

He has moved into broadcasting, and will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year. He should have no trouble getting in. He was an 8-time All-Star. He won 213 games (losing just 155) and saving 154 others. His career ERA+ is 125, his WHIP 1.176. He is a member of the 3,000 Strikeouts Club. And he reached the postseason 14 times (13 with the Atlanta Braves, not counting 2000 when he was hurt all season, and the last with the Cardinals), and his 15 postseason wins are 2nd all-time to Andy Pettitte, against just 4 losses. (However, he has only one World Championship, with the ’95 Braves. Don’t blame him, however. In 1991 he pitched 9 shutout innings in Game 7 before the bullpen lost to the Twins. And 2 of those losses were in the World Series to the Yankees, to Pettitte in Game 5 in ’96 and Roger Clemens in Game 4 in ’99.) The Braves have retired his Number 29. And a friend of his named Eldrick “Tiger” Woods says that he’s the best golfer in baseball.

The Michiganders who didn’t make the all-time Detroit-area starting rotation could fill out 2 more pretty good rotations: Steve Gromek of Hamtramck, Art Houtteman and the aforementioned Frank Tanana, both of Detroit’s Central Catholic H.S.; Milt Pappas of Detroit’s Cooley H.S., Rick Wise of Jackson (but grew up in Portland, Oregon), Steve Trout (born in Detroit while his father Paul “Dizzy” Trout pitched for the Tigers), Scott Sanderson and Derek Lowe of Dearborn (but both Trout and Sanderson grew up in the Chicago suburbs), Jim Abbott of Flint and the University of Michigan, Steve Avery of Taylor, and, somewhat less honorably because of his connection with the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, Eddie Cicotte of Springwells, who was 209-148 when he was banned for life at age 36, having gone 28-12 at 33, 29-7 at 35 and 21-10 at 36.

RP Dr. Mike Marshall of Adrian. He has a degree in kinesiology from Michigan State, which means he is well-versed in how the various parts of the human body move. He put his theories to work, suggesting that a pitcher actually benefits by throwing more, not less. This is probably why he is not a pitching coach today.

But he might have known what he was doing. In 1973, with the Montreal Expos, he made 92 appearances, all in relief, for a new major league record, finishing 73 and saving 31. In 1974, traded to the Dodgers for an aging Willie Davis (not one of the trades that ensured the Expos would eventually move, it only seems like it), he broke that record by appearing in 106 games, finishing 83 and saving 21, going 15-12 with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP, becoming the first reliever in either league to win the Cy Young Award. The Dodgers won the Pennant that season, his only postseason appearance, and he saved their only win of the World Series in Game 2 but got tagged with the loss in the clinching Game 5.

Apparently, for team owners' and GMs' tastes, he was too much of an egghead and too much of a flake, as he bounced around the majors. In 1979, with the Twins, he set the AL record for most appearances with 90, finishing 84 and saving 32. But, at 36, that was the last time anyone trusted him as a regular reliever. He wrapped it up 2 years later, going 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 20 appearances for a terrible Mets team. Overall, he was 97-112, ERA 3.14, but ERA+ 119. He is not related to another Mike Marshall who played for the Dodgers, who came from the Chicago suburbs and became an All-Star outfielder in the 1980s.

As with the rotation, the Michigan bullpen is very strong: Bob Kuzava of Wyandotte (who closed out the 1951 and ’52 World Series for the Yankees), Phil “the Vulture” Regan of Wayland (went 14-1 with 21 saves for the Pennant-winning ’66 Dodgers and was also the top reliever on the ill-fated ’69 Cubs), Dick “the Monster” Radatz of Detroit (saved a then-record-tying 29 games for the weak ’64 Red Sox), Bill Campbell of Highland Park (17-5 for a not-that-strong ’76 Twins and 31 saves for the ’77 Red Sox), and Jim Kern of Gladwin, a 3-time All-Star who went 13-5 with a 1.57 ERA for the ’79 Rangers, but a year later lost his control so badly – 3-11 with a 4.83 ERA – that he told reporters, “I’m working on a new pitch, it’s called a ‘strike.’”

MGR Joe Altobelli of Eastern H.S. in Detroit. It wasn’t easy succeeding Earl Weaver as manager of the Orioles, but in his first season, 1983, he took them to the World Championship. He had previously gotten the Giants to an 89-win, 3rd-place season in 1978, and coached with the Yankees in the 1981 World Series. He briefly played 1st base and the outfield for the Indians in the 1950s, and, like Kaat, was an original member of the Twins in 1961.

I considered Bill Virdon, born in Hazel Park, but he grew up in West Plains, Missouri, so it can’t be him. A good outfielder who won the 1955 NL Rookie of the Year with the Cardinals, he moved on to the Pirates and won the World Series in 1960 and led the NL in triples and won a Gold Glove in 1962. As a manager, he got the Pirates to an NL East title in 1972 and nearly another in ’73, the Yankees nearly to an AL East title in ’74, the Houston Astros nearly to the NL West in ’79, getting them one in ’80, and nearly another in ‘81.

Oakland's All-Time Baseball Team

When I was growing up, it always seemed like the Yankees' August trips to the Pacific Coast -- to Anaheim to play the team then known as the California Angels, Oakland to play the Athletics, and Seattle to play the Mariners -- would end up doing them in. In 1977 and '78, they provided speed bumps that were eventually overcome on the way to World Championships. But in the '80s, and even in the '90s until Joe Torre came along, such trips always seemed to hit us in July and August, and turn a team fighting for first place into a team struggling just to make third.

All too often, it would be a Borg Roadtrip: The Yankees would lose 7 of 9, and resistance was futile.

While the A's have been more successful than the Giants (and are thus ranked higher here), the regional team for San Francisco is much better than the one for the East Bay. But this team would cause a few problems for opponents as well.

8. Oakland’s All-Time Baseball Team

This pool of players comes from the following California Counties: Alameda, which includes Oakland itself; Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Stanislaus and Yolo. (Yes, Yolo. It doesn't mean "You Only Live Once," it was the name of a local Indian chief.) And, of course, the players involved don't have to have grown up while the A's have been in Oakland, since 1968.

1B Willie Stargell of Alameda. Born in Earlsboro, Oklahoma, graduated from Alameda’s Encinal High School. He hit the longest home runs ever measured at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, both Jarry Park and the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, and the first 2 homers hit out of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles -- but, strangely, he did not hit the longest at either Forbes Field (Babe Ruth) or Three Rivers Stadium (Greg Luzinski, which is only fair since "Pops" hit the longest ever at the Vet).

Hall of Fame, 475 homers, 2 rings with Pittsburgh Pirates, who retired his Number 8. Pops joined Honus Wagner and his former teammates Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente as being honored with a statue outside PNC Park. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 81.

2B Joe Morgan of Oakland. Born in Bonham, Texas, graduated from Oakland’s Castlemont High. The best 2nd baseman of my lifetime, and that includes Ryne Sandberg, Lou Whitaker, Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar and Jeff Kent. A 132 career OPS+, his 268 home runs made him the all-time leader among second basemen (since surpassed by Sandberg and Kent), 2,517 hits, 689 stolen bases (9 straight seasons with at least 40, including 3 of at least 60), 6 times reached the postseason including 3 Pennants and the 1975 and ’76 World Championships with the Cincinnati Reds, seasons in which he was also the National League’s Most Valuable Player.

The Reds have retired his Number 8, and he’s in the Hall of Fame.  When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 60. All this despite being just 5-foot-7. As for his broadcasting, well…

Honorable Mention to Steve Sax of West Sacramento. His first manager, Tommy Lasorda, said of him, "He plays like my wife shops: All day long." I think that meant he hustled all game long. He was National League Rookie of the Year in 1982, even though he'd been up with the Los Angeles Dodgers long enough to be on the postseason roster the year before, winning the World Series. He also helped them win it all in 1988, and to win the NL Western Division title in 1983 and '85. He was a 5-time All-Star, including in 1986 when he batted .332.

He came to the Yankees in 1989 and batted .315, and the stories of him "developing the yips" were in the past: While he made 30 errors in 1983, in 3 seasons in Pinstripes, he made 10, 10 and 7 errors, hardly outrageous totals for a modern 2nd baseman.

Honorable Mention to Dustin Pedroia of Woodland. He's a Red Sock, so I can't stand him. But the achievements don't lie -- at least, not without a steroid outing, which I don't think is coming. Like Cal Ripken, he was AL Rookie of the Year one season, MVP the next, 2007-08. He's been an All-Star 4 times and a Gold Glove 3. In his MVP year, he led the AL in hits and doubles (with 54). He's 30, and his "lifetime" batting average is .302, his OPS+ 117. He's helped the Red Sox reach 4 postseason berths, including the 2007 * and 2013 * World Championships.

SS Jimmy Rollins of Alameda. Like Stargell, he's a graduate of Encinal H.S. Amazingly, a lot of Phillies stars have come from the East Bay, including also Larry Bowa of Sacramento, whose 5 All-Star appearances, 2 Gold Gloves, and sparkpluggery of 6 postseason teams including the 1980 World Champions make him an Honorable Mention here.

But J-Roll has surpassed him as the greatest shortstop in the history of Philadelphia baseball. The 2007 NL MVP, 3 All-Star appearances, 4 Gold Gloves, 2,175 hits, 199 homers (already not a bad career total for a shortstop) and 425 stolen bases, and Captain of the 2008 World Champions.  If the Phils don’t eventually retire his Number 11, and if he doesn’t make the Hall of Fame, I will be genuinely shocked.

Honorable Mention to Dick Bartell of Alameda. "Rowdy Richard" was born in Chicago, so I missed him the first time I made this team out. He had 6 .300+ seasons, collected 2,165 hits including 442 doubles, and made the first All-Star Game in 1933, and another in 1937. He only played 1 game for the Pirates in their 1927 Pennant season, but won Pennants with the 1936 and '37 Giants and the 1940 Detroit Tigers.

Honorable Mention to Derrel McKinley “Bud” Harrelson of Hayward, still the best shortstop the Mets have ever had (unlike Rey Ordonez and Jose Reyes, he did not get substantially worse in September or October), and who ended up traded to… the Phillies. And to Chris Speier of Alameda (another Encinal grad), a 3-time All-Star for the San Francisco Giants.

3B Harry “Cookie” Lavagetto of Oakland. He made 4 All-Star teams with the Brooklyn Dodgers, including 1941 when they broke a 21-year Pennant drought. He probably would have had a much better career if he hadn't lost the next 4 seasons to serving in World War II. Such was his popularity that a Dodger fan named Fierce Jack Pierce used to buy two tickets, one for himself and one for a helium tank that he’d put in the next seat, and he’d blow up balloons with “COOKIE” on them, chanting, “Cooooooookie! Cooooooookie!” all the way, and the balloons would be batted around Ebbets Field like beach balls.

Cookie is best known now for his last career hit, which won Game 4 of the 1947 World Series, breaking up the no-hitter of Bill Bevens of the Yankees with one out to go. In the famous photo of Ralph Branca face down on the steps after giving up Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World, Cookie is the man sitting next to him, looking forlorn with a burning cigarette in his hand. He went on to become one of the first coaches for the Mets.

Honorable Mention to Andy Carey of Alameda – but of Alameda H.S., not Encinal. Nine years with the Yankees, including leading the AL in triples in 1955, he appeared in 4 World Series. Also to John Vukovich of Sutter Creek, another Phillie – in fact, between playing, coaching and managing, Vuk and Bowa share the record for most seasons in a Phils’ uniform.

Honorable Mention to Ed Sprague of Castro Valley. The son of Ed Sprague Sr., a 1970s pitcher, Ed Jr. played on the Toronto Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Champions of 1992-93, hitting a home run in the Jays’ Game 2 victory over Atlanta in 1992 despite making only 50 plate appearances in the regular season. In 1996, he hit 36 homers with 101 RBIs, and in 1999, by then with the Pirates, he was named an All-Star (probably because every team had to have one and the Bucs were otherwise pathetic). Retiring in 2001, he went back to the East Bay as the head coach at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. He and his wife are both Olympic Gold Medalists: Ed in baseball in 1988, Kristen Babb-Sprague in synchronized swimming in 1992.

LF Rickey Henderson of Oakland. Like Dick Bartell, he was born in Chicago, so I nearly missed him when I first did this team. But he grew up in Oakland, went to Oakland Technical H.S., and had 4 separate stints with his hometown A's. He's not easy to sum up, but here goes:

He had a career OPS+ 127. He set records for stolen bases in a season, 130 in 1982, and in a career, 1,405 and no one else is even over 1,000. (But he also set the records for caught stealing, 42 in a season and 335 in his career.) He had 6 .300 seasons. He hit 297 homers, including the most leadoff homers. He was an 11-time All-Star. He won 1 Gold Glove. He was named the 1990 AL MVP.

He is the all-time leader in runs scored with 2,295. Briefly, before being surpassed by Barry Bonds, he was the all-time leader in walks with 2,190. (But he's also among the leaders in strikeouts with 1,694.) He reached postseason with the A's in 1981, '89, '90 and '92, the Toronto Blue Jays in '93, the Padres in '96 and the Mets in '99, winning rings with the '89 A's and the '93 Jays. 3,000 Hit Club.

Hall of Fame. The A's retired his Number 24.When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 51. He may have been the most egotistical ballplayer of all time, but there was plenty of reason for it: As Bill James, King of the Statheads, says, if you split Rickey Henderson in 2, you could have 2 Hall-of-Famers.

Honorable Mention to Charles “Chick” Hafey of Berkeley. A sinus condition led him to become one of the first prominent players to wear glasses on the field, and insured that his last productive season came at age 31 and that he was finished 34.

But anyone calling him “Four-Eyes” had better have also called him “Sir.” He had a lifetime batting average of .317, OPS+ of 133, collected a hit in an NL record 10 straight at-bats in 1929, was the 1931 NL batting champ at .349, in 8 full seasons never batted below .293, 3 times had at least 100 RBIs. He helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the 1926 and ’31 World Series, also winning Pennants in ’28 and ’30. He was selected for the first All-Star Game in 1933 and got the Game’s first hit. He also had one of the best outfield arms of his era.

He is rightfully in the Hall of Fame, and he did live long enough to see it happen, but the Cards have never retired a number for him – in fact, they traded him away before they ever started wearing uniform numbers.

Honorable Mention to Greg Vaughn of Sacramento. He was saddled at the start of his career with a weak Brewer team and a not-very-hitter-friendly Milwaukee County Stadium, but he moved on to the San Diego Padres and helped them win the NL West in 1996 and the Pennant in 1998. A 4-time All-Star, he finished with 355 home runs.

CF Willie McGee of Richmond, Contra Costa County. On October 21, 1981, the Yankees traded him to the Cardinals for pitcher Bob Sykes. This was a stupid thing to do: Sykes was 26, but an injury meant he would never play again; while McGee, just 22, nearly became the next year’s NL Rookie of the Year, and helped the Cards win the 1982 World Series, and the 1985 and 1987 NL Pennants, and then helped the A’s win the 1990 AL Pennant, and then nearly helped the Giants win the 1993 NL West title (and they were leading the next year when the strike hit), and returned to the Cardinals and got them to within 1 win of the 1996 NL Pennant.

He won 2 Gold Gloves and the 1985 NL MVP, and batting titles in 1985 and 1990, and made a bunch of great catches. He finished with a .295 batting average, 2,254 hits, 350 doubles, and 352 stolen bases. The Cards have not officially retired his Number 51, but neither have they handed it back out.

Honorable Mention to Dave Henderson of Dos Palos, Merced County. Considering how Red Sox fans now treat David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, and several other members of the 2004, 2007 and 2013 tainted champions, just imagine if they’d gotten that last out in 1986. Hendu, who hit the home run to put them ahead in the top of the 10th in Game 6 of the World Series, and also hit the home run that saved them from being eliminated in Game 4 of the ALCS, would be a god in New England today.

The Sox didn’t hang on to him. But he was one of these guys that “get followed around by winning teams.” He helped the Giants win the Division in 1987, then went across the Bay to Oakland, winning the AL West in 1988, ’89, ’90 and ’92; the Pennant in ’88, ’89 and ’90; and the ’89 Series. A knee injury knocked him out at 35, but had several good seasons, and was oh… so… close… to being the biggest hero in New England baseball history.

It seems weird that the Oakland area is very solid at left field, and positively loaded at right field, but McGee, a borderline case for the Hall of Fame, is the best they can do in center – mainly because the DiMaggio brothers, Joe and older brother Vince, were moved by their parents from Martinez to San Francisco at a young age, and younger brother Dom was born there and they all grew up there, thus making them ineligible for the Oakland team I’m setting up here.

RF Frank Robinson of Oakland. Although born in Beaumont, Texas, Robinson grew up in West Oakland. Think about this: McClymonds High School had, at the same time, in the early 1950s: Frank Robinson, the only baseball player to be MVP in each League, and the first black manager in each League; Bill Russell, the keystone of the Boston Celtic dynasty, and the first black head coach in modern major league sports; and Ron Dellums, who served 27 years in Congress, became Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and served a term as Mayor of Oakland. Just a little bit later, the school produced Vada Pinson, another All-Star ballplayer and Robinson’s Cincinnati Reds teammate for a few years; a few years after that, star NBA player and coach Paul Silas, and Jim Hines, the first sprinter to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters, winning the Gold Medal in the 1968 Olympics and holding the record for 15 years at 9.95.

Frank Robinson hit 586 home runs, fell just 57 hits short of 3,000, led the Reds to their first Pennant in 21 years, led the Baltimore Orioles to their first Pennant and World Championship ever (unless you count the old NL version, in which case it was their first in 70 years), and is essentially the greatest ballplayer you don’t think of right away. From his generation, 4 right fielders made the Hall of Fame. The other 3 are Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Al Kaline; yet all get remembered first, and, sometimes, so do Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito, who didn’t make the Hall.

Nevertheless, both the Reds and the Orioles retired Frank’s Number 20 – in fact, he was the first Oriole to have his number retired. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, and rooting for the Reds, Mike Schmidt wore 20 in honor of Frank. Along with teammate Brooks Robinson, was part of the first induction class into the team’s Hall of Fame. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 22.

Oh, and to answer the question on that cover in the photo, Fritz Pollard had already been pro football's first black coach, in the NFL's first season, 1920, with the Akron Pros. But the NFL might not really have been a "major league" then, so the first real black head coach in the NFL would have been... Art Shell of the Oakland Raiders, in 1989.

Honorable Mention to Jackie Jensen of Oakland. With the University of California at Berkeley, he won the first College World Series in 1947. In the regional final, he outpitched future Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne of Texas. In the national final, Cal defeated a Yale team that had future President George H.W. Bush. He also played football at Cal, becoming their first 1,000-yard rusher, and saved them in a 4th-and-31 situation by rushing for 32 yards in “the Big Game” against arch-rival Stanford. They went undefeated and won the title in the league now known as the Pac-12, but lost the Rose Bowl to Northwestern.

He was signed by the Yankees, and in 1950 became the first (and still only) man to play in the Rose Bowl, the College World Series and the regular World Series. (The only other man to play in the Rose Bowl and the World Series is Chuck Essegian, for Stanford in 1952 and the Dodgers in 1959, respectively.) The Yankees had too many outfielders, so he was traded, eventually ending up on the Red Sox.

He won the AL MVP in 1958, reached 3 All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove, had 5 100-RBI seasons, led the AL in RBIs 3 times, and had 1,463 hits and 199 homers… in just 11 seasons. He retired in 1960 and again in 1962, aged just 34. Not because of injuries, but because… he was afraid to fly, and expansion had made that necessary. His wife, Zoe Ann Olsen, was a Silver Medalist in diving at the 1948 Olympics. He is in the Bay Area, Boston Red Sox and College Football Halls of Fame.

Honorable Mention to Von Hayes of Stockton, another Phillie on this list. Best known for the December 9, 1982 trade in which the Cleveland Indians sent him to Philly and got back 5 players, the best known of which were 2nd basemen Manny Trillo (a great player on the way down) and Julio Franco (a great player on the way up). That Franco was still playing in the majors 25 years later seems to have rankled Phils fans, who called Hayes “Five-for-One” and suggested his uniform number, usually 9, be “541.”

But he had a lifetime OPS+ of 113, and in 1986 led the NL in both doubles and runs scored, and 5 times he hit at least 15 home runs (peaking at 26 in 1989) despite Veterans Stadium not exactly being a hitter’s park (Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski to the contrary). He has since become a minor-league manager, winning Manager of the Year in the Class A California League with his home-region Modesto in 2004 and in the Class AA Texas League with Midland in 2005. He managed in the Philly area, having managed the Lancaster Barnstormers and now the Camden Riversharks, both of the independent Atlantic League.

Honorable Mention to Jermaine Dye of Vacaville. I don’t know why nobody picked him up for the 2010 season: In 2009, at 36, he hit 27 homers with 81 RBIs. He appears not to have been hurt, and he wasn't suspended for steroid use -- in fact, there's no record of him even been accused of it.

For his career, he hit 325 homers and 363 doubles. He had 4 100-RBI seasons, was a major force in the A’s reaching the postseason in 2001, ’02 and ’03; and was the MVP of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox, the only Series won by a Chicago team in the last 97 years. He also had one of the best outfield arms of his era, although he only got 1 Gold Glove.

DH... or is that DL? Nick Johnson of Sacramento. Has it really been so long since he was capable of batting .290 with 23 homers and 77 RBIs in 628 plate appearances? In one season, not 2 or 3? It was 2006, with the Washington Nationals.  Only once after that did he appear in at least 100 games, and he retired after the 2012 season, with an OPS+ of 123, but only 95 home runs.

C Ernie Lombardi of Oakland. Another McClymonds High graduate, he was one of the guys who make people who call Mike Piazza “the best-hitting catcher ever” look incredibly stupid. He batted .300 10 times. His career OPS+ is 125. He was the NL’s MVP in 1938, a 7-time All-Star, and led the Reds to the 1939 Pennant and the 1940 World Series (although he was injured and didn’t play in the ’40 Series).

Unfortunately, he was known for some unpleasant things, including a large nose and a play in the ’39 Series where he got knocked out in a home-plate collision with Charlie Keller of the Yankees, which allowed Joe DiMaggio to, essentially, achieve an inside-the-park home run – together, these led to Lombardi being “known for his Schnozz and his Snooze.” He did not live to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he was eventually elected.

SP Dutch Ruether of Alameda. He went 137-95 for his career, including 19-6 with the 1919 World Champion Reds, 18-7 for the 1925 AL Champion Washington Senators (he was with the Dodgers during the Senators’ ’24 World Championship season), and 13-6 for the 1927 World Champion Yankees. After 1927, Ruether returned to his native Pacific Coast League, because he could make more money there, pitching until 1933.

SP Monte Pearson of Oakland. He went 18-13 for the Cleveland Indians in 1934, but just 8-13 in 1935. The Tribe then traded him and lefty pitcher Steve Sundra to the Yankees for pitcher Johnny Allen. This isn’t the best trade the Yankees have ever made, nor the worst the Indians have made, which should tell you a lot about both franchises.

In Pearson’s first 4 years with the Yankees, he went 19-7, 9-3, 16-7 and 12-5, and was the winning pitcher in a World Series game each time, with a Series ERA of 1.10 and the Yanks winning all 4. He was an All-Star twice, and on August 27, 1938, he pitched the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium history. Guess who the opponent was. You got it, the team that traded him away, the Indians.

SP Dave Stewart of Oakland. He is one of only 2 players on this list to go from growing up in Oakland to starring for the A’s. From 1987 to 1990, he won at least 20 games 4 years in a row; for the latter 3 of those, the A’s won the Pennant. He was the MVP of the 1989 World Series, the only Oakland title since the Reggie/Catfish years. He won another ring with the Blue Jays in 1993.

Unfortunately, the A’s retired Number 34 for Catfish Hunter, so when he came back to the A’s, he had to switch to 35. Other teams have retired 1 number for 2 guys, so why not the A’s? He won 168 games, and became one of the game’s top pitching coaches. He is now a sports agent, and his clients include Dodger sensation Matt Kemp.

SP Randy Johnson of Livermore. His hometown was the site of the Altamont concert that cast a cloud over rock and roll in 1969, and the 6-foot-10 “Big Unit” sure looked like baseball’s equivalent to a Hell’s Angel. He had the worst hat-hair in the history of sports. And he was one of the meanest SOBs you’ll ever see.

But he’s (quite possibly for good) the last pitcher win 300 games (303, peaking at 24 for the 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks), the all-time strikeout leader among lefthanders (4,875), has a career WHIP of just 1.171, an ERA+ of 136, made 10 All-Star teams, won 5 Cy Young Awards (4 in a row from 1999 to 2002), led the league in strikeouts 9 times (including 372 in 2001, the most ever except for Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax) and ERA 4 times (lowest was 2.32 in 2002).

He reached the postseason with 4 teams: The Seattle Mariners (1995 and ’97), the Astros (1998), the Diamondbacks (1999, 2001 and ’02) and the Yankees (2005 and ’06). He pitched 2 no-hitters, including a perfect game for the D-backs against the Braves in 2005. He became the first lefthander to strike out 19 batters in an AL game, then did it again, then became the first lefty in either league to strike out 20 in a game.

He was one of the all-time great Yankee Killers, due to his performances in the 1995 ALDS with Seattle, the 2001 World Series with Arizona, and the 2005 and ’06 ALDS with… the Yankees: He put up 2 of the most useless 17-win seasons you’ll ever see, then, each time, choked in Game 3 of the ALDS. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year.

SP Carsten Charles “CC” Sabathia of Vallejo. The Big Fella is 33, and he's a lefty, so his career shouldn't even be close to being over. Here’s what he’s done thus far: Won 205 games (currently tied with Tim Hudson as the active leader) against only 115 defeats, 2,389 strikeouts (also the active leader there, by over 200 more than the runner-up, ex-teammate A.J. Burnett), a career ERA+ of 121, a WHIP of 1.232, 6 All-Star appearances, the 2007 AL Cy Young Award with the Indians, postseason appearances for 3 different teams (the Indians in 2001 and ’07, the Brewers in ’08 and the Yankees in 4 times), and was the MVP of the ’09 ALCS.

In 5 seasons as a Yankee, 51 starts, he is 88-42. Not bad for a man listed at 290 pounds (and 6-foot-7). The heaviest Yankee ever, but he sure does a good job of throwing his weight around. I’m thinking something else heavy is in his future: A Monument Park Plaque.

Honorable Mention to the Forsch brothers of Sacramento. Ken won 114 games, and younger brother Bob won 168. They are the only brothers to both pitch no-hitters: Ken threw one for the Astros on April 7, 1979, the earliest in a calendar year one had ever been thrown (a record tied by Jack Morris in 1984 but broken by Hideo Nomo on April 4, 2001). Bob pitched 2, in 1978 and 1983, the only no-hitters ever thrown at Busch Stadium II (the one that stood from 1966 to 2005). Ken never appeared in a World Series, although he got into LCS with the Astros in 1980 and the California Angels in 1982 and ’86. Bob appeared in 3 with the Cardinals, winning in ’82 despite pitching poorly in that Series.

Honorable Mention also to Dick Ruthven of Fremont, yet another Phillie on this team. He went 17-10 as the Phils’ 2nd starter behind Steve Carlton in their 1980, first-ever World Championship season, and was on the mound when they clinched their first Pennant in 30 years. He later became one of several ex-Phillies, including Bowa and Ryne Sandberg, who was plucked away by his former manager, then Cubs GM, Dallas Green. He won 123 games.

RP Dennis Eckersley of Fremont. Born in Oakland, along with Stewart he went from that to the A’s. He pitched a no-hitter for the Indians in 1977, but, in another brain-surgeon Tribe trade, they sent him to the Red Sox, for whom he won 20 games in 1978. Drinking ended his effectiveness as a starter, but the A’s got him in 1987, and manager Tony LaRussa converted him into a reliever, redefining the role from one-or-more innings “fireman” to 9th-inning-only “closer.”

A 6-time All-Star, the AL’s MVP and Cy Young Award in 1992, he won 197 games and saved 390 others – a starter/reliever combination no one can beat. He reached the postseason with the Cubs in 1984, the A’s in ’88, ’89, ’90 and ’92, the Cards in ’96, and in a return to the Red Sox in ’98, but only won one ring, with the ’89 A’s, though he was on the mound for the clincher. He didn’t win with the A’s in ’88, largely because he gave up a home run to Kirk Gibson to lose Game 1. After which, Eck coined the phrase “walkoff homer.” But he has walked into the Hall of Fame, and the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, and the A’s retired his Number 43. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 98.

Honorable Mention to Warren Brusstar of Napa, yet another member of the 1980 World Champion Phillies – and yet another that Dallas Green took from South Philly to the North Side of Chicago. He only won 28 games and saved 14 in his career, but was a key figure on 5 postseason teams, 4 with the Phils and 1 with the Cubs.

MGR Billy Martin of Berkeley. He was no slouch as a player, either. He batted .257 for his career, but that was in the regular season. In World Series play, 5 tries, he batted .333 with 5 homers and 19 RBIs, including 12 hits (tying what was then the record) in 1953, the last driving home the run that won the clinching game. That year, he hit 15 homers with 75 RBIs as a righthanded hitter in the pre-renovation Yankee Stadium. He made the All-Star Team in 1956.

In his 1st season as a manager, 1969, he led the Minnesota Twins to the first AL West title. In his 1st full season with the Tigers, 1972, he led them to the AL East title. In his 1st full season with the Texas Rangers, 1974, he led them to 2nd place, the highest finish in the history of the franchise to that point. In his 1st full season with the Yankees, 1976, he won the Pennant; in his 2nd, 1977, he won the World Series. In his 1st 2 seasons with the A's, he got them from 108 losses in 1979 to 2nd place in '80, and the AL West title in '81. And with a patchwork pitching staff, he got the Yankees to 97 wins in 1985, not getting knocked out until the next-to-last game of the season.

But there were 2 reasons he never stayed anywhere for long: He was an alcoholic, and he had a persecution complex. Put them together, and he was always fighting -- sometimes his teams' owners figuratively, sometimes his players and others literally. He was set in his ways, nearly ruining the Yankees' 1977 chances by not batting Reggie Jackson 4th because it would "mess up my running game." He had Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella and Chris Chambliss: He didn't need no stinkin' running game. George Steinbrenner told him, "Bat Reggie 4th, or you're fired." He batted Reggie 4th, and they went 40-15 the rest of the way. Then he messed things up again in '78, and resigned 1 step ahead of George's axe, while new manager Bob Lemon brought them all the way back and won the Series. So, really, his greatest achievement is not the '77 title, because it wasn't really his. His greatest achievements are the '76 Pennant, and possibly saving the A's from getting moved in '80.

Still, George kept bringing him back, partly because he did win, partly because he was so popular with Yankee Fans, partly because George genuinely liked him on a weird level, and partly because George was always a sucker for a redemption story, thinking, this time, he and Billy and the Yankees could make it better. Five times -- 1975-78, '79, '83, '85 and '88 -- Billy managed the Yankees. It's believed by many that Billy was going to be brought back again for 1990, but then he was killed in a truck crash on Christmas Day 1989.

The Yankees retired his Number 1 and gave him a Plaque in Monument Park on August 10, 1986. I was there. Billy said, "I may not have been the greatest Yankee, but I am the proudest."

Baltimore's All-Time Baseball Team

From 1972 to 2004, the Baltimore Orioles’ “territory” consisted of the entire State of Maryland, plus southern Delaware, all of Virginia, and a good chunk of West Virginia. And even some of south central Pennsylvania, as Gettysburg and York are actually closer to Baltimore than to Philadelphia. (See how important the Battle of Gettysburg was? If the Confederates had won... the Atlanta Braves really might have been “America’s Team.”)

But with Major League Baseball having returned to Washington, D.C., the O's now have the smallest territory by area in the majors. Unless you want to limit the Oakland Athletics to just the East Bay region, without considering that other parts of Northern California might root for the A's -- including the State capital of Sacramento, where the River Cats are the Triple-A farm team for the A’s.

Still, it’s possible to put up a pretty good all-time team of players from “the Baltimore Area,” which includes northern and eastern Maryland. Although people in the resort town of Ocean City may consider their town a “neutral zone” between the O’s and the Nats. (The town also seems to be evenly divided between Ravens and Redskins fans.)

One thing I found absolutely amazing is how many Maryland-born players played for one team or another called the Baltimore Orioles, from the 1890s National League powerhouse to the International League team of 1903 to 1954 (which won 7 straight Pennants in the 1920s and fed Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics for a few years), to the American League version that began in 1954. It’s not just the Ripken brothers: Jack Fisher, Steve Barber, Brady Anderson, and Tom Phoebus, who even threw a no-hitter for the Orioles in 1968.

9. Baltimore's All-Time Baseball Team

1B Jimmie Foxx of Sudlersville, on the Eastern Shore. He hit 534 home runs. He was 2nd on the all-time list from 1940, when he passed Lou Gehrig, until 1966, when he was finally passed by Willie Mays. He was the all-time leader among righthanded hitters until Mays passed him as well, and not until 1973, when Harmon Killebrew passed him, was he no longer the leader among AL righthanders.

It’s too bad that he lost most of his money due to drinking and bad investments, that he choked to death before he turned 60, and that he’s now remembered mostly as the basis for the Tom Hanks character in A League of Their Own. He deserved better. And it doesn't help that the Oakland Athletics, while now hanging the 5 World Championship banners from their Philadelphia days, don't recognize that era's greats from their era. The Boston Red Sox have elected Foxx to their team Hall of Fame, but neither franchise has retired his Number 3. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 15 -- clearly, the publication once known as "the Bible of Baseball" remembered.

Frankly, I don’t think Mark Teixeira of Severna Park will ever take this position away from Double X, but that will hardly be his fault. Bob Robertson of Frostburg, a slugger with the 1970s Pittsburgh Pirates (he caught the last out of the ’71 Series), also doesn’t make it, but is worth mentioning.

2B Clarence “Cupid” Childs of Calvert County. Records being what they were then, a definitive town is not available, although he appears to have lived in Baltimore his entire adult life, which included a .306 lifetime batting average, and an OPS+ of 119, mostly in the 1890s with the Cleveland Spiders. He’s been dead for over 100 years (in 1912, aged only 45), but a case can be made for him for the Hall of Fame.

Honorable Mention to Charles "Buck" Herzog of Baltimore. Not a great hitter, but a good fielder, and he stole 320 bases in a career that lasted from 1908 to 1920. He won Pennants with the New York Giants in 1911, '12, '13 and '17.

If you want one since Herzog, the best I can come up with is Jake Flowers of Chestertown, and he's not much more recent. He was never even a regular, but for whatever reason, he did get an MVP vote while with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928. And he did play on a World Series winner, the 1931 St. Louis Cardinals.

SS Cal Ripken Jr. of Havre de Grace. Tough choice, there. After all, he holds the record of grounding into 350 double plays. And his lifetime batting average was just .276, peaking at .340 in 1999. Lou Gehrig, the man with whom he is so often linked? He batted .340 for a career. And it can be argued that Ripken's devotion to his consecutive games played streak, which eventually reached 2,632, actually hurt the Orioles, because the occasional day off might have given him the rest he needed to play better.

But who's kidding who? Cal surpassed Brooks Robinson and Johnny Unitas as the most popular athlete in Baltimore history, and there's plenty of reasons why: 1982 AL Rookie of the Year, 1983 and '91 AL MVP, 1983 World Championship, 19 All-Star Games, 5 .300+ seasons, 4 100+ RBI seasons, 2 Gold Gloves, OPS+ 112, 3,184 hits, 431 home runs. To put it another way: Of all players with more hits, only Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Mays, and his longtime teammate Eddie Murray have more home runs.

Hall of Fame, All-Century Team, Number 8 retired by the Orioles. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 78. He and his brother Billy founded the minor-league Aberdeen Ironbirds (named for Cal, sort-of), right across the Susquehanna River from their HDG hometown, and through their fundraising got Ripken Stadium built -- named for the entire family.

3B Frank “Home Run” Baker of Trappe, on the Eastern Shore. The first Marylander to be a superstar for Mack’s A’s, and by no means the last, he formed "the $100,000 Infield" with shortstop Jack Barry, 2nd baseman Eddie Collins and 1st baseman Stuffy McInnis. Together, they won 4 Pennants and 3 World Series from 1910 to 1914. He would later play for the Yankees, and help them win their first 2 Pennants, in 1921 and '22.

He got his nickname from hitting a pair of key home runs for the A's against the Giants in the 1911 World Series, off future Hall-of-Famers Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson. It was the Dead Ball Era, and his career home run total was 96, and the most he ever hit in a season was 12 -- but he did lead the AL 4 straight times, 1911-14. He also led the AL in RBIs in 1912 and '13.

Lifetime batting average, .307. OPS+, 135. He hit 315 doubles and 103 triples to go with those 96 home runs, so he probably would have been considerably more productive in the Lively Ball Era. He is in the Hall of Fame, but he played before numbers were worn, so he has no number to retire.

LF Lewis Pessano “Buttercup” Dickerson of Tyaskin, Eastern Shore. I had to go way back to find a suitable left fielder, to the Rutherford B. Hayes Administration. Buttercup -- I can’t find an explanation for the nickname -- was good enough to reach the National League at age 19, to lead the League in triples at 20, and to hit .316 for the Worcester Ruby Legs at 22 in 1881. (The Rubies became the Philadelphia Phillies in 1883.)

He hit .315 in 1884, yet for some reason -- a reason apparently unknown to Baseball-Reference.com, which nonetheless provides dates -- he played his last game on June 1, 1885, just 26. In those days, before the invention of antibiotics, an illness easily treatable today could kill you, but he lived on until 1920, age 61. So whatever it was that ended his career, it didn’t end his life.

Italian on his mother’s side, he appears to be the first player of Italian descent to reach the major leagues, a title usually given to the later Ed Abbaticchio (who does appear to remain the first Italian-American professional football player).

I wanted to pick 1940s Yankee slugger Charlie Keller, but his home town of Middletown is in southern Maryland, and much closer to Washington than to Baltimore.

CF Wilson "Chick" Fewster of Baltimore. A fair hitter who played for the Yankees’ first Pennant winner in 1921, he was traded to the Red Sox for 3rd baseman “Jumpin’” Joe Dugan in 1922, and was the first batter at the original Yankee Stadium the following spring.

He’s best remembered now for his days with the Brooklyn Dodgers, where, in 1926, his baserunning blunder caused Babe Herman, a sensational hitter but a player to whom weird things happened, to double into a double play, due to the Dodgers having three runners -- Dazzy Vance, Fewster and Herman -- on 3rd base. Dazzy, Chick and Babe? No wonder the 1920s Dodgers were called the Daffiness Boys.

RF George Herman Ruth Jr. of Baltimore. What can we say about the Babe that hasn't already been said? Not much, so let me add this. In 1999, when The Sporting News made end-of-the-century lists for the 100 Greatest Baseball Players and the 100 Greatest Football Players, editor John Rawlings went on CBS' The NFL Today and admitted that picking the Number 1 football player was tough, as they debated whether it should be Jim Brown or Jerry Rice. But when NBC did the special for the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, host Bob Costas got Rawlings to admit that, basically, the debate was going to be about Numbers 2 through 100 (and Willie Mays came in at 2), because there was never any doubt that Babe Ruth was going to be Number 1.

From 1915 (when he was only 20) until 1918 (his last full season as a pitcher), the Babe was one of the best lefthanded pitchers in baseball. In 1917, he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Then, from 1919 to 1933, he was the best hitter in baseball. Or, to put it another way: For 4 years, he was Randy Johnson without the mullet; then, for 15 years, he was Barry Bonds without the steroids. Show me another player capable of doing that, and I'll admit that he was the greatest all-around baseball player ever.

You say Mays was a better all-around player, because of speed and defense? Do you really think Mays' speed produced more runs than the Babe's power? And as for defense, who do you think can prevent more runs over the course of a season: The best-fielding center fielder who ever lived (if, indeed, Mays was that, which is hardly decided), or one of the top 3 pitchers in the game (as the Babe was in the late 1910s, along with Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander)?

You say Ruth never played against black players. This is true -- during the regular season. After the season, he would play exhibition games against teams of Negro League all-stars, and do you think the black pitchers stepped up their game to play the Babe? You bet your ass they did. Do you think they did any better against him than white pitchers did? Think again: According to the records that survive, the Babe batted well over .300 against them. Had there been a Bob Gibson, a J.R. Richard, a CC Sabathia permitted to pitch in regulation games against the Babe, he would have treated them just the way he treated Johnson and Lefty Grove. Also, while he never had to face black, Hispanic or Asian pitchers, he played in an 8-team League, with no Interleague play, so the talent pool he faced was a lot smaller than it is now. (This is also part of the case of why Wilt Chamberlain was better than Michael Jordan, and Gordie Howe was better than Wayne Gretzky.)

You say Ruth never had to fly coast-to-coast. True. But he did have to ride on a train for 24 hours. You say Ruth never had to face the split-fingered fastball, and rarely had to face the knuckleball or the screwball. True. But the knuckler and the screwgie did exist in his time, and until 1920 (and, in limited form, until 1934) he had to face the various pitches that fell under the category of "spitball." Modern players hardly ever see that, because, with so many TV cameras, it would be too hard to get away with it for long.

Also, while the Babe was the first person in America, outside of boxers, to hire what we would now call a "personal trainer" (he wasn't always fat), he hardly had modern exercise equipment, or a modern diet or exercise regimen. Imagine what the Babe could have done if he could have gotten, say, into the kind of shape as Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas. Now take him out of those 1920s ballparks with their 450-feet-plus center field fences, and put him in today's ballparks. Think Phil Rizzuto would have a few "Holy cow"s for him? Think ESPN wouldn't have a Ruth highlight every night? Oh yeah: The Babe would have loved the attention.

Hall of Fame, All-Century Team, Number 3 retired, Monument in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, statue at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and the rowhouse where he was born has been turned into a museum honoring him, and the baseball legacy of the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland.

I could, I suppose, make the Babe one of my starting pitchers, and make my starting right fielder this guy:

Honorable Mention to Al Kaline of Baltimore. In 1955, he became the youngest player to win a batting title. Ted Williams predicted he'd be the next player to bat .400. That didn't happen, but he did collect 3,007 hits (getting Number 3,000 in Baltimore), and he remains the most popular player in Detroit Tigers history. Hall of Fame, Number 6 retired, statue at Comerica Park. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 76. Unfortunately, playing where and when he did, he doesn't get the kind of acclamation (outside of Michigan, anyway) that his right field contemporaries Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Frank Robinson get.

How strong is right field for the Baltimore region? Chestertown native Bill “Swish” Nicholson, a slugger for the Cubs who made 4 All-Star teams, finishing 3rd in the NL MVP voting in 1943 and 2nd in '44 -- and he isn't even the 2nd-best right fielder here. Nor is Baltimore native Ron Swoboda, one of the heroes of the 1969 Mets. Nor does Princess Anne native Dick Porter, a pretty good hitter for the early 1930s Cleveland Indians. In fact, it seems a little unfair that Baltimore and its environs are so loaded at right field, but considerably weaker at left and center.

You know who else could qualify for right field on this team, but couldn't finish ahead of Ruth and Kaline? So I'll make him my designated hitter for this team:

DH Harold Baines of Easton, another Eastern Shore guy and another Marylander who played for the O’s, although he’s best remembered for his days (in 4 separate stints!) with the Chicago White Sox, who retired his Number 3 and dedicated a statue to him at U.S. Cellular Field. His usual position was right field, but he did DH a lot. He’s eligible for the Hall of Fame now, and he should be in.

C Ernest “Babe” Phelps of Odenton. Wow, 9 position players, and 2 of them are fat guys nicknamed Babe. Phelps, who was also nicknamed “Blimp,” was a .310 lifetime hitter, with an OPS+ of 125, and was one of the players that helped make the Brooklyn Dodgers respectable again after their Daffiness Boys days. Unfortunately, he ran out of gas just before the Dodgers won a Pennant in 1941, and didn’t play in the World Series. It is also unfortunate that catcher is a weak position for Maryland, but Phelps isn’t a bad choice at all.

SP Bobby Mathews of Baltimore. He might be the greatest pitcher you've never heard of. He won 297 games -- between 1871 and 1887. (Yes, he goes back to the 1st term of Ulysses S. Grant.) Because 131 of those wins were in the first professional league, the National Association, (1871-75), which is frequently considered not to have been a major league, his MLB win total is usually officially listed as 166 -- still good, but not a Hall of Fame total. If he'd gotten 3 more, to push his combined NA-NL-AA total to 300, he might be in the Hall. Then again, maybe not: Until 1893, the distance from the pitcher's mound to home plate was just 50 feet, and until 1884 it was all underhand.

In 1872, pitching for his hometown Baltimore Canaries (seriously), he went 25-18. His best year was 1874, when he went 42-22 for the New York Mutuals. In 1879, he appeared in only 27 games for the Providence Grays, but his 12-6 record was enough to help them win the Pennant. He died in 1898, only 46, so he didn't exactly live long enough to speak up on his own behalf on radio, let alone on television.

SP Lefty Grove of Lonaconing. This may be stretching it a bit, as Lonaconing is in the panhandle and thus could be seen as Washington territory. But there haven’t been many pitchers in baseball history this good, and he did pitch for the IL Orioles before going on to the A’s. He helped them win 3 straight Pennants, 1929-31. He led the AL in wins 4 times, 5 times in winning percentage, 9 times in ERA, 7 times in strikeouts, 5 times in WHIP (even though that stat wasn't known then). He was chosen for the first All-Star Game in 1933, and then every year from 1935 to '39.

In 1931, in the midst of a power-hitting era, he went 31-4, had an ERA of 2.06, an ERA+ of 217, and a WHIP of 1.077. Considering the competition, it may have been the best season any pitcher has ever had. This was the first season that the Baseball Writers' Association of America gave out the modern MVP award, and Grove won it for the AL.

Tom Yawkey later bought him for the Red Sox, and was a big reason why they got back to respectability in the late 1930s. It was said that his fastball was so good, "He could throw a lamb chop past a wolf." Hall of Fame, All-Century team, 300 Wins Club, but neither the A's nor the Red Sox have retired his Number 10. When The Sporting News announced its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, he came in at Number 23.

SP Eddie Rommel of Baltimore. No relation to the German field marshal. Perhaps the first great knuckleball pitcher, he was Grove’s teammate on those powerhouse A’s of 1929-31, and forged a fine 171-119 record. He later became a respected umpire.

SP Vic Willis of Cecil County. Another whose exact birthplace isn’t traced, he was a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Boston Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates at the turn of the 20th Century. He went 249-205, mainly for some awful Braves teams, but was a member of the Pirates' 1909 World Champions. His career ERA+ was 117, and his WHIP was 1.209, a good figure in any era.

SP Denny Neagle of Gambrills. He went 20-5 for the 1997 Atlanta Braves, but other than that was more steady than spectacular, going 124-92. He was a 2-time All-Star, and reached the postseason with the Pirates in 1992, the Braves in 1996, '97 and '98, and the Yankees in 2000.

RP Tommy Byrne of Baltimore. He actually started a lot more games (170) than he relieved (111), but I wasn't satisfied with the relief pitching options for the region. In 2 separate stints with the Yankees, the blazing lefty helped them win Pennants in 1949, '50, '55, '56 and '57. He was an All-Star in 1950, and had 15 wins in '49 and '50 and 16 wins in '55, leading the AL in winning percentage. He won 85 games in his career, and saved 12 others. He later moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina, and was elected its Mayor. 

MGR Cal Ermer of Baltimore. He didn't manage for long, but he did get the Twins to within 1 win of the 1967 AL Pennant, and that's closer than any other Maryland native came to winning a Pennant as a manager. Certainly, it's closer than Aberdeen native Cal Ripken Sr. ever came.