I'm not entirely sure why, but in the past I've tended to have a "wallflower" mentality about the Blog Bat Around post topics that make their way around the sports card blogs. It's typically due to lack of time, or the fact that I have too many post ideas of my own that I don't have the time to get to as it is.
The latest Bat Around though appealed to me, and I decided this was as good a time as any to join the fray! As I'm sure you've already read elsewhere by now, the idea is to form the best starting nine you can featuring autographed cards from your collection. In the kick-off post over at Torren' Up Cards
, it was mentioned that you could also include two relief pitchers and a closer. Hopefully I don't offend anyone by stretching the rules a bit, as I got slightly out of hand and built an entire 25-man roster.
Here we go...
Every team needs a manager, and my Red Sox bias probably shows through here a bit with my selection of Johnny Pesky. He was one of the longest-tenured Red Sox in team history, in so many different capacities, and was a fan favorite right up until his death a few years back. He coached the Sox back in the '60s, so he's fair game for a manager spot.
I don't actually collect autographs all that actively these days, although I'll still nab an occasional signature or two from time to time. The bulk of the autos that I do own are Red Sox players, being that I'm a team collector, but I did try to avoid this becoming an all-Red Sox team, since I'm still quite eclectic in my collecting overall and a lot of the best players I had at each position were not actually Red Sox.
With the manager out of the way, let's take a look at the 25-man roster. First, the starting nine...
One of the easier parts of the challenge here was filling out an outfield, just so many big names to choose from across baseball history. I think I did pretty well with HOFer Al Kaline in right field. The 18x All-Star won a batting title, and provided solid defense as well, as evidenced by his 10 career Gold Glove awards!
In center field, one of the few active players on my roster, Mookie Betts! This guy can truly do it all, and is off to another hot start so far here in 2018. Mookie has received at least some AL MVP votes in each of his first three full seasons, including a 2nd place finish in 2016. Add to that a couple of All-Star appearances, a couple of Gold Gloves, and a Silver Slugger Award all by the age of 25, and you've got one exciting, dynamic young player.
This is also probably one of the best steals I've ever gotten on an autographed card. I paid $12.99 for this on eBay years ago, before Mookie was a household name in baseball circles. These days the card commands $100+ all day long.
In left field, the great Stan Musial! Stan patrolled all three outfield positions over the course of his career (as well as a heavy dose of first base). He played more career games in left than he did in center or right though, so I think it makes sense to put him there. How can you not want this bat in your lineup? One of the greatest pure hitters the game has ever seen.
Side note, you'll be seeing quite a few cards from this 2005 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes release over the course of the post. It's one of my favorite autograph sets of all-time, and since it's chock full of HOFers it isn't all that surprising that you're going to see a bunch of them here. Let's move on to the infield...
Don't think I'll get many arguments over this one. Sure, I could've selected some big, hulking slugger to man the hot corner, but defense matters! I don't see a whole lot of balls getting through the left side with "The Human Vacuum Cleaner" manning third. Also, this is a just plan fantastic on-card autograph. That first Gypsy Queen release has never been rivaled in my opinion.
Yup, the left side of my infield is all Baltimore! As someone who was going through his boyhood period of baseball fandom/obsession during the early '90s it was impossible not
to be in admiration of The Iron Man. I remember his streak so fondly, takes me back to a time when I had a much more innocent outlook on the game, pre-steroid era.
At second base, we have one of the game's most dominant hitters throughout the 1940s, Bobby Doerr. I'm sure I may not be the only person with this selection at 2B for the Bat Around, given that Doerr signed about a million cards before passing away last year at the ripe old age of 99. Bobby is enshrined in Cooperstown as well, is it going to be an all-HOF infield here?
Okay, here's one selection where I expect to maybe get a little grief in the comments. I'll be honest, I have better first basemen that I could showcase here based on pure skill or career accolades, but I wanted to at least have some personal touches in this post. Will the Thrill was my favorite player for a time growing up, and like the Ripken this one takes me back. Sure, it's mostly here for nostalgia value, but Clark was no slouch either!
This one was an easy call. Arguably the greatest catcher in the history of the game, period. When I decided I was going to participate in this, I'd made up my mind about the catcher position before I even sat down and started typing. And that's coming from a Red Sox fan
Here's another one that's been a popular choice for this Bat Around based on sheer volume of autographed cards out there. The Heater from Van Meter led the AL in wins 6 times, led all of baseball in strikeouts 7 times, pitched 3 no-hitters, won a triple crown and a World Series. If those aren't good enough credentials to make the top of my rotation, I'm not sure what would be.
REST OF THE ROTATION
How about 3 Cy Young Awards and another no-hitter from the guy in the number two spot? It's kind of funny that this is the third Baltimore Oriole to make my virtual club here, but I just couldn't omit Jim Palmer.
After two straight right-handers, I wanted to mix it up with a lefty. You know, gotta keep some of these other virtual Blog Bat Around rosters on their toes during a three-game series! What better guy to go with than the one whose nickname
is Lefty? Steve also led his league in wins and strikeouts multiple times, won 4 Cy Youngs and also achieved a triple crown just like my #1 starter Feller. Dominance.
For the back end of my rotation I went a bit more on the sentimental side. Like Dimebox Nick, whose Bat Around I really enjoyed
, Jim Abbott has always been a personal hero of mine and I just couldn't bring myself to leave him out here. Anyone who faces the challenges that Jim did, and overcomes it to achieve the level of success that he enjoyed, is deserving of a spot on my roster.
Bringing up the rear we have Luis Tiant. Again, maybe a slight bit of Red Sox bias here I'll admit, but I figure he can really eat up some innings! In fact with five starters like this I'm not even sure I need a bullpen at all. For this to be a proper roster though I'm going to need one, so here we go...
I thought about going the cheap route and just picking some more starters that I'd convert to "long relief" guys, but I tried instead to stick to the spirit of this exercise and find actual relievers to man my 'pen. Kent Tekulve is one I've seen on at least one or two other All-Auto Bat Arounds. Makes sense as relievers tend not to get a lot of love, yet Teke is a guy that collectors can't seem to get enough of (and rightfully so!).
The bullpen ended up being particularly Red Sox-heavy, which isn't that surprising. As eclectic as my collection is, I don't exactly gravitate towards picking up cards of middle relievers from other teams. I'd be honored to have Koji Uehara in my bullpen though regardless of what team he's depicted with. Dude was pretty dominant for quite a stretch there, especially in his later years.
Jonathan Papelbon was pretty damn dominating himself for a while there, and endeared himself to Red Sox fans as the closer for the World Series Champion 2007 Red Sox team. He's actually been out of baseball since 2016, which makes me feel very old.
At the back end of the bullpen I loaded up with a couple of the best relievers ever. Sparky Lyle is one of a small group of relief pitchers to win a Cy Young Award, after his absolutely dominating year closing out games for the Bronx Zoo Yankees in 1977. In my case though, he'd probably be a setup guy most nights...
...because I'll have Rollie Fingers taking the ball in the 9th! Rollie is another member of that very select group of relief pitchers to have won a Cy Young, and was one of the most dominating bullpen arms in baseball for a good long stretch. All of that aside though this card deserves inclusion based on that fantastic mustache alone!
I'm not going to provide as much commentary for the bench since this post is starting to run a bit long. Besides, I think just about every baseball fan out there is familiar with these guys. Robin Yount would be a great bat when I need to provide an outfielder with a day off!
I chose Brooks Robinson for 3rd base due to his defensive prowess, but I just as easily could have gone with Wade Boggs at the position for his offense. I figure he'd be a valuable asset on the bench, handy to call on in a pinch-hit scenario as a 3,000 career hit guy.
For anyone who was grumbling at the Will Clark selection above, don't worry, I could easily slide Harmon Killebrew here in at first base if Clark starts slumping!
I figure Reggie Jackson could maybe platoon with Al Kaline out in right field. Talk about a bat you'd want in your lineup, especially in the post-season. Besides, every team needs a straw that stirs the drink, even a Blog Bat Around fantasy team.
Here's one that I selfishly snuck in. Xander Bogaerts is my favorite current player, so I just had to include him. Besides, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to show this blindingly bright 2014 Finest X-Fractor autograph on the blog one more time.
I've got a good amount of outfield talent on the bench, so I wanted a couple of players who could serve as utility type infielders to round out the roster. I could think of no better names for this role than Paul Molitor...
...and The Wizard, Ozzie Smith! Besides, I'd want the Shoebox Legends All-Autograph Team to be fun to watch above all else, and I think Ozzie back-flipping around the infield will really get the crowd going!
So, there you have it, the Shoebox Legends All-Autograph Team! I have to say, that was a ton of fun to put together. I think I might have to do the same thing with a hockey roster here in the near future if I can find the time. I hope you enjoyed my take on the Blog Bat Around, thanks for stopping by!