With a lot of craziness and transition in my life right now, I have been winding down watching a lot of baseball from my childhood. While I don't keep up with baseball as well now, something about the pastoral nature of the game and the way it has mirrored recent American history gives it a continuity which is comforting. Football has changed much more rapidly. Where the baseball of my childhood has changed in some ways (primarily being the Moneyball philosophy around batting and the lack of adeptness at moving the runner or going the other way), the game is much more similar to the game of my childhood than the football of my childhood and the current product.
Also, I love talking the history of baseball. I graduated from dinosaur books to Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller, and Roberto Clemente stories at my school library. Football came later.
So, as a conversation starter as much of anything, I am going to write some thoughts about my dream teams. Keep in mind, my most intense consumption of baseball started in 1986, and was waning by the time of the 90s Yankees dynasty. Feel free to get me up to speed on the current product if a player warrants mention. For the first topic, I will start with my Mount Rushmore of third basemen.
1) George Brett- Brett was an interesting test case. His prime was before I started watching, and other than the Cardinals of my childhood, no team adapted their game to their home stadium more than the Royals. I didn't have cable, so my exposure to Brett came in All Star Games, the NBC Game of the Week, and highlight videos I rented from the video store. In those high profile moments, Brett was a terrific contact hitter who hit to all fields, and watching footage of Brett in the late 70s/early 80s, he was the primary source of power with little protection in the lineup. I don't remember much about his defense, but when the emergence of Kevin Seitzer moved Brett over to first base, he didn't look bad. And, he was so clutch. As a Yankees fan (primarily because so much of baseball historical narrative in books for kids my age focused on the Yankees), I saw a lot of footage of the pine tar game and Brett's other battles with Yankees like Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, and Tommy John. He won a ton of those battles.
2) Mike Schmidt- The Phillies were on the down slide when I started to watch in 1986. Schmidt was had two full good seasons left. As a kid, I valued batting average and contact over power, and saw Schmidt as more of a one dimension hitter (the same reason I never got into the Bash Brothers in 1987.) Schmidt's glove was spectacular, and because I didn't get to see him play much on TV, I didn't get to see his consistency as a power and RBI hitter. Now, going back and watching his team lose to the Reds and Dodgers in the playoffs before the 1980 breakthrough, Schmidt was always delivering in big spots despite his teammates falling through.
3) Chris Sabo- This may be a weird one. However, the four third basemen I saw the most times on television were Mike Pagliarulo (who was terrible), Wade Boggs (who was my Skelator because he was beating out He-Man Don Mattingly for batting titles- again my favorite stat line), Buddy Bell, and Chris Sabo. Bell and Sabo played for the Reds, and we got Reds baseball with Thom Brennaman and Johnny Bench on WETO channel 39. Bell was an excellent defensive player, but Sabo was a clutch hitter who was so distinctive in his Rec Specs. While I didn't have glasses, I (a terrible Little Leaguer) tried to wear the safety goggles for weed whacking when I went up to bat. From 88 to 90, he was the most reliable third baseman in the NL.
4) Wade Boggs- I can't leave off Boggs, even though I detested him with a passion. He was solid defensively, and the best contact hitter east of Tony Gwynn in the game. He is fourth because he never seemed to deliver that big hit in big games (my first MLB playoffs was 1986, which was the fall of Marty Barrett and Dave Henderson if Buckner could have fielded a ground ball.) Boggs is probably someone I like (he loves fishing and the outdoors), but I will never forgive him for beating out Mattingly for batting titles, even when Mattingly was winning the MVP, tying the record for grand slams in a season, or hitting homers eight games in a row.
Honorable Mention: Terry Pendleton, Kelly Gruber, Carney Lansford, Chipper Jones, Anthony Rendon, Buddy Bell, Greg Nettles, Scott Rolen
Who is your list? If your area of interest goes beyond this time frame, share it. Share stories. Let's talk the game.