Al Spalding & Baseball’s ‘Born on September 2’ All Stars
Today is my birthday, earthstrong in the parlance of the Rastaman, and I’m determined not to spend it moping about the Orioles getting no-hit last night. Instead, I will introduce the best baseball team I can find comprised solely of players that -like me- were born on September 2.
Leading off and playing second base, born in 1905 in Angleton, TX…BERNIE JAMES! James was a slight, 150 lbs switch-hitter who spent parts of three seasons in the majors. He hit only one career home run, but stole a few bases. Defensively, his numbers indicate that he was something of a disaster in the field. His best season? For the 1929 Boston Braves, James batted .307 with a .369 on base percentage in 46 games.
Batting second, the centerfielder, RICK MANNING (b. 1954 in Niagara Falls, NY). He was the second overall pick in the 1972 amateur draft, and hit .257 with 168 steals in a thirteen-year career. Manning’s best season was 1976 for the Cleveland Indians, when he batted .292 and won a Gold Glove.
The designated hitter, LAMAR JOHNSON (b. 1950 in Bessemer, AL), bats third. At 6’2″, 225 lbs, the big man wasn’t a very good first baseman, but he did bat .287 in nine major league seasons, with a 109 OPS+. He had his best year in 1977 for the Chicago White Sox, hitting .302 with 18 homers and 65 RBI.
Our cleanup hitter is still active in the big leagues, shortstop RICH AURILIA (b. 1971 in Brooklyn, NY). A solid player for most of his career, he was spectacular for the San Francisco Giants in 2001 when he batted .324 with 37 home runs.
The first baseman bats fifth, none other than Marvelous MARV THRONEBERRY (b. 1933 in Collierville, TN). A below average defender, he was a left-handed hitter with some pop that hit .237 in seven major league seasons. His best year came in 1962, when he hit 16 homers and drove in 49 runs in a career high 125 games split between the Baltimore Orioles and the expansion New York Mets.
Sixth up is the Wonder Dog, REX HUDLER (b. 1960 in Tempe, AZ), a versatile player who we’ll employ in left field. Hudler did everything but pitch and catch in a thirteen-year career in which he hit .261. His best season came in 1996 for the California Angels, when -out of nowhere- he batted .311 with 16 homers and stole 14 bases in 92 games.
The seventh hitter, TERRY JORGENSEN (b. 1966 in Kewaunee, WI), looks like your prototypical slugging third baseman at 6’4″, 208 lbs. That he was not, managing all of one home run in parts of three seasons. At least he had a fine fielding percentage. Jorgensen’s best year was for the Minnesota Twins in 1993, when he batted .224 with his lone home run in 59 games.
Well, every team needs a catcher, and ours is FRED PAYNE (b. 1880 in Camden, NY), who bats eighth. Payne was a career .215 hitter that appeared in the 1907 World Series. His best season came as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 1906, when he hit .270 in 72 games.
Batting ninth and playing right field, we have PAT WATKINS (b. 1972 in Raleigh, NC), a former first-round pick who played parts of three seasons in the big leagues. He could play some defense, and batted .265 in 83 games during his best season with the 1998 Cincinnati Reds.
Here’s a quick look at the bench: Len Rice (b. 1918 in Lead, SD) is the backup catcher. Rice played two years during World War II and hit .232 for the pennant winning 1945 Chicago Cubs. Joe Ward (b. 1884 in Philadelphia) backs up at all four infield positions. For the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies in 1909, Ward had his best season, hitting .255 in 83 games with 9 stolen bases. Danny Goodwin (b.1953 in St. Louis) was the number one pick overall in the 1975 draft, but the lefty-hitting first baseman never fared better than his .289 with 5 homers in 159 at bats for the 1979 Minnesota Twins. Paul Johnson (b. 1896 in North Grosvenor Dale, CT) was a 5’8″ outfielder for a couple of seasons, including a .321 performance in 48 games for the 1921 Philadelphia Athletics. I couldn’t make this team without including outfielder Drungo Hazewood (b. 1959 in Mobile, AL). Sure he struck out in four of his five career at bats in 1980 for the Baltimore Orioles, but anybody with a name like that can play for me. The last spot goes to another outfielder, John Henry (b. 1863 in Springield, MA), who played parts of four major league seasons. In 1890 with the New York Giants, he batted .243, but stole 12 bases in 37 games. Prior to that year, the left-handed thrower also started -and completed- 18 games as a pitcher. He went 4-14.
We’ll begin in the bullpen for the pitchers. There’s Wes Littleton (b. 1982 in Hayward, CA), currently of the Texas Rangers, for whom he posted a 1.73 ERA in 33 appearances as a rookie last season. Jose Melendez (b. 1965 in Naguabo, Puerto Rico) gets a spot based on his five-year career. He was at his best for the 1992 San Diego Padres, notching a 2.92 ERA and a 82:20 strikeout to walk ratio in just under 90 innings. Nate Snell (b. 1952 in Orangeburg, SC) was a 6’4″, 190 lbs. sidearming righty who didn’t debut in the major leagues until age 32. The best of his four seasons was 1985 for the Baltimore Orioles, when he saved 5 games with a 2.69 ERA in 43 appearances. Joe Hevins (b. 1900 in Covington, KY) serves as the primary setup man after saving 63 games with a 76-48 won-lost mark over thirteen years. He was at his best in 1944 for the Cleveland Indians when, as the oldest player in the league, he went 8-3 with 10 saves and a 1.96 ERA. The closer is Jeff Russell (b. 1961 in Cincinnati), based on his 186 career saves and two All-Star appearances. For the Texas Rangers in 1989, he saved 38 games with a 1.98 ERA to earn recognition as the American League’s Rolaids Relief pitcher of the year.
Finally, we’ll look at the starting rotation, from the bottom up. Our fifth starter is currently pitching for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 6’6″ Jason Hammel (b. 1982 in Greenville, SC). Considering his career record is 1-10 with a 7.59 ERA as of now, let’s just say we’re still waiting for his best season.
The fourth starter is Harry “Pop” Shriver (b. 1896 in Wadestown, WV). In two years with the old Brooklyn Robins, he was at his best in 1922 when he went 4-6 with a 2.99 ERA.
Luke Walker (b. 1943 in DeKalb, TX), though primarily a reliever, earns the third rotation spot based on his 100 career starts. A left-hander, Walker’s best year came for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970 when he went 15-6 with 3 saves and a 3.04 ERA.
The number two starter is Monte Pearson (b. 1908 in Oakland, CA), a two-time All-Star with a 100-61 career record over a ten years. Pearson pitched the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium in 1938, and got one start in every World Series from 1936-39. In those games, he went 4-0 with a 1.01 ERA. His best season came in 1936, when he went 19-7 for the New York Yankees.
Last, but certainly not least, is our ace right-hander AL SPALDING (b. 1850 in Byron, IL). Inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, his plaque in Cooperstown reads: “Organizational genius of baseball’s pioneer days. Star pitcher of Forest City club in late 1860’s, 4-year champion Bostons (1871-1875) and manager-pitcher of champion Chicagos in National League’s first year. Chicago president for 10 years, organizer of baseball’s first round-the-world tour in 1888.”
Spalding was a giant figure in American life during his time, and you can read all about that elsewhere. Not only did he lead his league in victories for six straight seasons, Spalding often played the outfield or first base on days he didn’t pitch. His best season came with the Boston Red Stockings in 1875, when he went 55-5 with a 1.52 ERA, completing 52 of his 63 starts. Oh yeah, he also batted .312. My favorite statistic that year has to be that he only struck out nine men. Click on the photo at the top of this story to see what the New York Times said about Spalding in 1899.
Well, that’s the team. September 2, 1901 was the date Vice President Theodore Roosevelt first uttered his famous words “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. Wonder if he was talking about Lamar Johnson? Anyway, feel free to tell me how many games you think this team would’ve won.
By MALCOLM ALLEN
Well, what’s the matter little friend, you think this party is the pits?
Enjoy it while you can, we’ll soon be blown to bits!
The monkeys in the Pentagon are gonna cook our goose
Their finger’s on the button, all they need is an excuse
It doesn’t take a military genius to see
We’ll all be crispy critters after World War 3
There’s nowhere you can run to
Nowhere you can hide
When they drop the big one
We all get fried
Come on, boys and girls, sing along okay?
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
-WEIRD AL YANKOVIC