Playing Favorites — American League

By | April 18, 2008

Over at ShysterBall (one of the most engaging, intelligent baseball-related blogs I have come across), Craig Calcaterra had what I think is a wonderful idea. And because it’s not stealing if you give credit, I am going to use it here. Here’s what Craig had to say:

Thinking about which Giants jersey I’d get got me thinking of my favorite players. That, in turn, got me thinking of whether I have a favorable opinion of enough players to where I could conceivably buy a jersey for every team and still feel good about it. So here’s my list of my favorite players for each team, limited to my baseball-watching lifetime (roughly 1978-present), why I like them, and whether I’m deep enough in like with the guy to justify buying his jersey.

First, a little bit about my background as a baseball fan. The first year I remember anything from is 1983, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t have many players from before then. On the other hand, I am deeply in love with baseball history, so it may turn out that my favorite players from some teams played before I was even alive. So while I am not going to limit myself to players from “my baseball-watching lifetime” like Craig did, I’m not just going to go with Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, and the like.

I also have a longstanding love of old-school baseball uniforms. Long before throwback jerseys became popular, my brother and I tried to get our mom to make some replicas of those ugly orange-striped old Astros jerseys, mine with “Bjorkman” on the back and his with “Pujols.” (I guess we had a thing for Alan Ashby’s backups.) So I will resist my natural urge to list players just because of their obscurity. No Ron Romanick jersey for me.

Craig started with the American League, and I shall do the same. He started in the AL East, but I’m a California boy, so I will start in the West:

California Angels of Los Anaheim

Favorite: Brian Downing.
Why: I grew up a Dodger fan, and the Angels were always second-class, but they were also about a half-hour closer and a little bit cheaper, so I went to almost as many Angel games as Dodger games growing up. I loved Brian Downing. Maybe it was that he wore number 5 (my favorite Dodger at the time was Mike Marshall — the outfielder/first baseman, not the relief pitcher — who also wore number 5); maybe it was his open stance, which I emulated pretty often in Little League; maybe it was just his glasses. I don’t know, but there’s no question that Brian Downing is my Angel.
Would I buy his jersey: Yeah, I would definitely dig a classic Downing jersey.

Oakland A’s

Favorite: Mark McGwire
Why: I had a neighbor who loved the A’s, and he especially loved Jose Canseco. (That neighbor is now serving a life sentence for murder; Canseco ruins everything he touches.) Between his Canseco love, the 1988 World Series, and my overall loathing of Rickey Henderson, I was not much of an A’s fan. But I always liked Mark McGwire. I still like Mark McGwire. I will never stop liking Mark McGwire.
Would I buy his jersey: I’m torn. On one hand, I think the A’s uniforms have pretty much always been unattractive; at best, they are a color scheme that I don’t think I could wear. But other than aesthetics, I would love to have a McGwire A’s jersey. So I guess what it boils down to is this: if I had all 29 other teams and needed the A’s to complete the set, I wouldn’t have a problem getting the McGwire jersey. But since I’d rarely, if ever, wear the thing, I probably wouldn’t get it just for fun.Yeah, I think I would definitely like a McGwire A’s jersey.

Seattle Mariners

Favorite: Alex Rodriguez
Why: A-Rod is one of my favorite players of all time, and one of my three favorite active players. There have been other Mariners I have liked (Griffey, Buhner, Edgar), but certainly not nearly as much as I like A-Rod.
Would I buy his jersey: Without a doubt.

Texas Rangers

Favorite: Nolan Ryan
Why: Another of my favorite players of all time. It seems like a cheap, obvious choice, but I grew up idolizing Nolan Ryan. When I was fifteen years old, there was an article written about me in our local newspaper with the headline, “Budding young Nolan on the rise,” about when I struck out 18 batters in a seven-inning game twice in one season. I thought that was the greatest compliment anyone could ever pay me, and I am still prouder of the comparison to Nolan Ryan than I am of the games themselves.
Would I buy his jersey: For sure. And I’d wear it a lot.

Minnesota Twins

Favorite: Bert Blyleven
Why: When I was 17 years old, Todd Blyleven pitched for the Lake Elsinore Storm, my hometown Class A minor league team in the California League. Todd and I became pretty good buds, and he once introduced me to his dad before a game. Bert was extremely friendly, and it wasn’t until later that I realized I had just been chit-chatting with one of the best pitchers of my lifetime (no matter what the stupid Hall of Fame voters say).

(By the way, Kent Hrbek gets a few sentimental votes from me just because of that time in the 1991 World Series when he pushed Ron Gant off of first base. But I couldn’t get a Hrbek jersey just for one play.)
Would I buy his jersey: No question about it.

Kansas City Royals

Favorite: George Brett
Why: I saw Brett play in person a couple times, and there’s just not much not to like about the guy. Great player, seems like a nice guy. (My wife got his autograph once when she was a teenager and knew nothing about baseball, and it looks like it says “Joyce Butt,” so that’s what she calls him.)
Would I buy his jersey: Yeah. I like that the Royals’ uniforms look a lot like the Dodgers’, and I like the number 5. Maybe I’d get a his-and-hers matching set, with “BRETT” on mine and “BUTT” on my wife’s.

Chicago White Sox

Favorite: Bo Jackson
Why: I thought about Bo Jackson for the Royals, but he doesn’t quite measure up to Brett. But he definitely beats out Frank Thomas, LaMarr Hoyt, and Richard Dotson on the White Sox.
Would I buy his jersey: I’m not sure. For one thing, no one would know that a White Sox jersey with “JACKSON” on the back was a Bo Jackson jersey; they’d probably think my last name was Jackson and I had it personalized. But putting “BO JACKSON” on the back would be stupid. So I guess this goes back to the McGwire A’s jersey: if I needed just this one to complete the set, sure. But not just to have it.

Detroit Tigers

Favorite: Kirk Gibson
Why: I am cheating a little bit here. I love Kirk Gibson because I am a Dodger fan. But he’s not my favorite Dodger ever, and he is my favorite player who ever played for the Tigers, so I am going with it. And I dig the Tigers’ home jerseys from Gibson’s heyday, so I feel good about it.
Would I buy his jersey: Sure. I like the uniform and I like the player, so I can overlook the fact that I never really cared about the player when he wore the uniform.

Cleveland Indians

Favorite: Brett Butler
Why: Cheating again. I love Brett Butler as a Dodger, not as an Indian. But I like the Indians’ jerseys from Butler’s time there, so I wouldn’t mind wearing it.
Would I buy his jersey: Yeah. I don’t like the jersey as much as the Tigers’, and I don’t have quite the strong fondness for Butler as I do for Gibson, but I like both plenty to buy it.

Tampa Bay Satan Rays

Favorite: I don’t know … Wade Boggs?
Why: I like Boggs just fine, but I definitely think of him first with the Red Sox and then with the Yankees. If he hadn’t gotten his 3000th hit with Tampa Bay, I probably wouldn’t even remember that he played for them.
Would I buy his jersey: No.

Baltimore Orioles

Favorite: Cal Ripken Jr.
Why: My favorite player of all time. I love every single thing about Cal Ripken. I named my son after him.
Would I buy his jersey: For sure, for sure, for sure. I’d buy one for my son, too.

Toronto Blue Jays

Favorite: Roberto Alomar
Why: I don’t know for sure that he’s my favorite Blue Jay. I am also a fan of Paul Molitor and Joe Carter and Dave Winfield and Shawn Green, not to mention Jack Morris and Juan Guzman and a few others. There are lots of Blue Jays who I like, but none who I love. Alomar came close on my Indians list, and he probably tops the other guys here.
Would I buy his jersey: I have no burning desire to own a Blue Jays’ jersey, although I wouldn’t mind wearing Alomar. But I’d probably go with another team. Heck, he may end up on my NL list for either the Padres, Mets, or D-Backs. No dice on the Jays.

Boston Red Sox

Favorite: Roger Clemens
Why: As a pitcher growing up, I admired and idolized some great pitchers. Nolan Ryan was one, and I — like a lot of people — saw Clemens as the second coming of Ryan. Clemens turned out to be even better, which may or may not have been a natural thing. But from what I can tell, Roger Clemens of the Red Sox was clean and great.
Would I buy his jersey: Yes. I like the Red Sox, I like their jerseys, and I still have a fondness for Clemens.

New York Yankees

Favorite: Lou Gehrig
Why: I’m going old school on this. Growing up admiring Cal Ripken, I had a natural affection for Gehrig. There have been a lot of Yankees I have liked over the years, and I could see myself theoretically owning multiple Yankees jerseys. But the first one would have to be Gehrig’s.
Would I buy his jersey: Definitely.

And that’s it for the American League. I will post the National League as soon as I get the chance. I’m interested to see what I think.

2 thoughts on “Playing Favorites — American League

  1. Pingback: Playing Favorites « Mr. Thursday??s Curious Mechanism

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