- P. Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown (d. 1948)
C. Gabby Street (d. 1951)
1B. Cap Anson (d. 1922)
2B. Nap Lajoie (d. 1959)
3B. Pie Traynor (d. 1972)
SS. Honus Wagner (d. 1955)
LF. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (d. 1951)
CF. Harry Hooper (d. 1974)
RF. Jim Creighton (d. 1862)
- P. Roger Clemens
C. Mike Scioscia
1B. Don Mattingly
2B. Steve Sax
3B. Wade Boggs
SS. Ozzie Smith
LF. Jose Canseco
CF. Ken Griffey, Jr.
RF. Darryl Strawberry
On The Simpsons episode “Homer at the Bat,” Mr. Burns devises two separate softball teams in order to win a bet with another billionaire. The first team consists solely of deceased players, while the second contains contemporary ballplayers. Did Burns benefit from the death of his first-round picks, or would he have been better off with the historical team? A cursory examination of each position will reveal the answer…
On the mound, it’s Three Finger Brown versus Roger “The Rocket” Clemens. With a career 2.06 ERA (139 ERA+) and a 1.066 WHIP over 14 seasons, Brown is certainly worthy of his place in the Hall of Fame. Clemens pitched for 24 seasons to a 3.12 ERA (143 ERA+) and was more capable of getting strikeouts, but he couldn’t twirl a curveball in like Brown. Since Clemens was loaded with performance-enhancing drugs (like many on the modern list), the nod goes to the 5’11” Brown.
Catcher sees Gabby “Old Sarge” Street pitted against Mike Scioscia. Street’s only accomplishment was catching a ball dropped from the Washington Monument, which is pretty impressive, but he couldn’t hit and didn’t play much. Scioscia was clearly the better all-around player, and it’s clear-cut that he should catch.
At first base, Cap Anson (“Pop”) faces competition from Don Mattingly. A Hall of Famer with a .334 average, .841 OPS, and over 3400 hits, Cap Anson stands his ground against Mattingly’s sideburns, .307 average, and excellent plate discipline. Mattingly was no slouch, with more power and better defense than Anson, but Pop stole hundreds more bases than Don. Cap Anson stands alone at the top.
Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie takes on Steve Sax for second base. Nap had over 3200 hits and a .338 career mark, and bested Sax in every way, including his name and his immunity to “Steve Sax Syndrome” (see also: Chuck Knoblauch). Nap‘s the man.
Third base goes to either Pie Traynor or Wade Boggs. A .320 hitter with gap power and a good glove, Traynor accomplished a lot in his 17-season Hall of Fame career. However, Wade Boggs is also a Hall of Famer, with more power and an even better average than Pie (not to mention 3000 hits). Burns would be better suited with Boggs manning the hot corner.
What about the old number 6? It’s between Honus Wagner and Ozzie Smith. Much like the choice at third, how can you lose? Both players define the Hall of Fame. Wagner had a .328 average, over 700 stolen bases and 3400 hits, and won the batting title eight times. Ozzie Smith was much less potent with the bat (despite nearly 2500 hits) but had remarkable defensive ability. Still, when Ty Cobb calls you “maybe the greatest star ever to take the diamond,” that’s a massive endorsement, and helps seal the deal for Honus Wagner.
Shoeless Joe Jackson, of Black Sox fame, stacks up against Jose Canseco in left field. This is an interesting matchup, because both players faced scandals and both were tremendous outfielders. Jackson batted .408 his first full season and has the third highest career mark of all time, whereas Canseco clubbed 462 homers and won an MVP award. Canseco was also a benefit to the clubhouse, improving the ability of all those around him with his secret chemical formulas. Jackson was banned from baseball, and Canseco would be too if Selig had any balls. Picking finesse over power (and classy cheating over sleazy buffoonery), Shoeless Joe can have left.
Center field is a toss up between Harry Hooper and Ken Griffey, Jr. Hooper’s a Hall of Famer with great numbers, but he’s no Ken Griffey, Jr. Junior’s number five on the all-time home run list (for now), with an MVP award and some outstanding defense to go with his name. His predilection for nerve tonic notwithstanding, Junior‘s one of the greatest to ever play the game and is the pick over Hooper.
Finally, we have a man who did not live to see the end of the Civil War – Jim Creighton. He was not a right fielder, but Darryl Strawberry was. One was the first superstar in the game, and the other enjoyed prostitutes and cocaine. Despite being a pitcher from the game’s earliest era, Creighton reportedly had a season in which he only got out four times, and that alone should put him on the squad. (As an aside, the story of his death can be appreciated as humorous, if any death can.) Of course, Strawberry was a great ballplayer in his own right, and few can argue with the nine home runs he ended up producing for Burns’ team.
So what is the final assessment? The best team consists of: Brown, Scioscia, Anson, Lajoie, Boggs, Wagner, Jackson, Griffey, Jr., and Strawberry – or Creighton, if you believe he could have hit more than nine homers. Assuming the right field spot goes to Darrryllll, that’s five players from the historic team and four from the “modern” team. Of course, since Springfield managed to win the game with their only superstar being Strawberry, this is all pointless – either team would have annihilated the Shelbyville team.