Is love in the air, or is it just that tingly feeling brought on by the imminent arrival of pitchers and catchers to their spring training camps?
Yes, Valentine's Day and the start of spring training have converged once again, and is there no better way to celebrate this double holiday than by offering you my (All Time) All Valentine's Day Baseball Team. That was rhetorical.
Now, you can sue me or grill me if you insist, but please give me just a little love—I'll settle for a "like" or two—even if I omitted some of your favorites.
I thought about including the greatest player to ever play the game, one George Herman (Babe) Ruth as I once dated a babe named Ruth, but my more conservative instincts thought that was too much of a reach. Still, I could not resist the cover picture of the Babe with his own babe at the shore.
And even if you're dizzy in love (for your partner, or for baseball), you won't find Dizzy Dean here. Not even Daffy.
But if you look hard enough at the following show, you may find a Hall of Famer or two playing alongside some dudes that were barely household names in their own households. And isn't that what V-Day is all about? Well, that and some stuff I won't discuss here.
So, journey onward, and you may even find some slim love ahead. Speaking of which, the Yankees had a pitcher named Slim Love who ...
It seems that many baseball expressions can be adapted to the world of romance. Most of the following (hopefully) don't cross the Mendoza line into crudeness.
Just a few off the top of my head:
- Going the distance
- Rounding third and trying to score
- Covering all the bases
- Going to the bullpen...maybe not
Now, I did not say going deep, rubber game or shagging flies. Well, I typed them, but I'm just trying to have some fun here. It's Valentine's Day (almost)—have a heart!
So, please enjoy the following, even if I took a liberty (linguistically) or two along the way.
Oh, Herb Score, the Cleveland Indians acclaimed pitcher and broadcaster, did not make the team, but merited a picture.
Now, onto my real mythical team!
Yes, I realize that Bobby Valentine was a pretty good manager and he has turned into a pretty good baseball analyst for ESPN. Smug though he may be, he really knows the game, and he'd be the first to admit it.
But I went in another direction and hired former legendary Yankees skipper Miller (Hug or Mighty Mite) Huggins.
Hug was a pretty fair player/manager for the St. Louis Cardinals, but he was much better known for his stint managing the Bronx Bombers from 1918-1929, during which he led a pretty talented ballclub to six pennants and three world championships.
And no, I didn't really consider Leo "The Lip" Durocher or George "Sparky" Anderson, fine managers both.
I know that we're reaching way back into the dead ball era for Candy Cummings, but what's not too like about Candy, and well, it's a colorful name for a great pitcher of yesteryear.
William Arthur (Candy) Cummings is a Hall of Famer who has been credited with inventing the curveball. That's a pretty cool distinction, actually.
He pitched in the bigs from 1872-1877, before retiring from the Reds. I believe that he was replaced in the rotation by Jamie Moyer, although that hasn't been confirmed.
Cummings compiled a 145-94 record with a 2.42 ERA. An interesting stat—he started 242 games and completed 241. Not sure what happened that other game, but I hope he had a good excuse.
Although listed at 5'9" and only 120 pounds, the guy (usually) finished what he started.
In lieu of a violin, we have a pretty well-tuned Viola who crafted some sweet music during a solid 15 year career as a frontline pitcher.
Viola's best seasons were as a member of the Minnesota Twins, including a 24-7, 2.64 campaign that earned him the 1988 Cy Young. The three time All-Star did also win 20 games in 1990 with the New York Mets, and earned two of his three All-Star appearances as a Met.
Career Record: 176-150 with a 3.73 ERA
A close second here would be John "Candy Man" Candelaria, a 6'7", side arming lefty who may have posted better pure career numbers than Sweet Music—172-122, 3.33.
Candy Man's only All-Star campaign (1975) was a monster season—20-5 with a league-leading 2.33 ERA at age 23 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He finished fifth in Cy Young balloting that year, and probably should have been first or second.
He never had another season quite that dominant again, but he was a good pitcher for a lot of years.
I couldn't deny a spot on my all-time All Valentine's Day squad to Edward Haughton (Slim) Love. Would you have?
With a name like Slim Love, you better be good or big, and he was the latter, standing an imposing 6'7" and 195 pounds. That was quite big in his heyday, from 1913-1920. Here's another very cool factoid gleaned from baseball-reference.com Slim was born in Love, Missouri.
Here's the skinny on Slim. He had a career mark of 28-21 with an ERA of 3.04. His best season was 13-12, 3.07 with the 1918 Yankees.
One downside was Love's career WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 1.403.
Yes, it seems like one had more than a fat chance of getting to first base with Slim Love. Such generosity should be applauded this time of year.
Apparently, no Romeos made it to the bigs, but Paul Casanova flirted with success in a 10 year career.
Not as well traveled as the legendary Casanova (that would be Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, if you're scoring at home) the Cuban-born catcher spent his major league career with the Washington Senators and Atlanta Braves.
Casanova did (somehow) make the AL All-Star team as a Senator in 1967, but his career was not all that distinguished.
PC never won a Gold Glove or had another all-star season.
Speaking of that All-Star game, the NL won 2-1 in 15 innings on a homer by Tony Perez off Catfish Hunter.
At least Casanova can't be blamed. Manager Hank Bauer elected to go with starting catcher Bill Freehan all 15 innings that day.
Speaking of All-Star games, here's the famous shot of Pete Rose barreling into Indians catcher Ray Fosse in the 12th inning of the 1970 Midsummer Classic, played in Riverfront Stadium, Rose's home ballpark.
The National League, on the strength of three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, and Charlie Hustle's all-out (dirty?) play won 5-4.
By the way, Fosse, who was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in both 1970 and 1971, was never quite the same player after that incident. He was only 23 at the time.
As for Rose, you know about his brilliant and controversial career.
Every Rose, however splendid, has its thorns, and Peter Edward had more thorny issues than most.
Sorry of this slide is getting you all thorny.
Ah, does anybody resemble young love more than the aptly (for this squad, anyway) named Clarence Lemuel (Cupid) Childs?
But Cupid, all 5'8" and up to 190 pounds of him, was apparently quite the player. Also nicknamed Dumpling, Childs was one of the best second baseman in the game from 1888-1901, spending his best years with the Cleveland Spiders of the National League.
Perhaps, Cupid received that moniker because of his angelic face, but the guy had a lot of game Cupid was great at getting on base (a career .416 OBP) and stealing once he got there (269 career thefts).
His defensive stats were excellent, and a case could be made to get Childs into Cupidstown—I mean Cooperstown.
D'Arcy Raymond (Jake) Flowers was a decent utility player (2B, SS and 3B) during his 10 year Major League Baseball career, played mostly in the 1920s.
Flowers' career slash line was .256 / .333 / .350, with an OPS of .683.
He was a member of two World Champion St. Louis Cardinals teams (1926 and 1931) and his robust .276 career postseason OPS had to be a major reason why the Cards won those titles.
But all sarcasm aside, voters thought enough of him to vote him 18th in the MVP balloting of 1928. And the man has/had those two rings (did they give rings back then?) and 1964 more plate appearances in the big show than I ever had.
To review our All Valentine's Day infield, we have Candy and/or Sweet Music on the hill, and Casanova behind the dish.
The infield is set with a Rose, a Cupid and Flowers, so if we add a Baker, that should be good for a home run, don't you think?
And we don't have just any old baker, we have John Franklin "Home Run" Baker.
As the third baseman for the Philadelphia A's, Baker clouted 42 total home runs between 1911 and 1914. That may only sound like a very good season's worth today, but he led the AL in every one of those seasons.
Perhaps, Home Run Baker was a generous choice for the Hall of Fame (1955 by the Veteran's Committee) but he has many impressive offensive, defensive and postseason stats to testify to the fact that he was a terrific player.
Besides, we need one of our corner infielders to be a Hall of Famer.
Candido Guadarrama (Candy) Maldonado was a good, if well-traveled, outfielder who played in the show from 1981-1995.
That's a pretty long career, in which Maldonado achieved this slash line—.254 / .322 / .424 (.746 OPS) with 146 homers and 618 RBI.
Candy, sometimes an everyday player and often a fourth outfielder, compiled these stats with the following clubs (in order)—Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs, Indians (again), Blue Jays (welcome back) and Texas Rangers.
Was Candy too sweet to pass up, or not sweet enough to keep around?
This demands more research, and when I finish my research, I'll try not to sugar coat my answer.
Wow, an active player made our team, and he's a two time all-star to boot.
Hart is only 28, and a key cog in the Milwaukee Brewers' potent offense.
The 6'6" Hart has a terrific combination of power and speed, posting back-to-back 20-20 seasons in 2007 and 2008.
Corey is more of a right fielder than a center fielder, but I preferred my right fielder's bazooka of an arm.
Ellis Valentine was a gifted player who came up with the Montreal Expos (remember them?) in 1975 at age 20, but was out of baseball only 10 years later.
Valentine spent his best years as part of a wonderful young Expos outfield that also included Warren Cromartie and future Cooperstown inductee Andre Dawson.
Ellis only had three seasons with more than 350 plate appearances, but he did a lot of damage in those years.
Valentine was an All-Star in 1977, and won a Gold Glove in the following year.
He topped 20 homers in each of his three full seasons, and had terrific range as a right fielder.
His most impressive stat? Valentine, with that rocket arm of his, threw out 25 runners in 1978, easily the best mark for a right fielder. Incredibly, his teammates Cromartie (LF) and Dawson (RF) also led the league in assists that year.
Can we give him just a little love?
Octavio Victor (Cookie) Rojas had an impressive 16 year major league career as a player, and also became only the third Cuban born major league manager.
Rojas was versatile enough to play (and he did) every major league position, but had his best years as a second baseman. How good was he? Rojas made the AL All-Star team from 1971-74, representing the Kansas City Royals.
Cookie was eventually supplanted by Frank (Academy) White in 1976, but stuck around for two more seasons as a utility player, before his second career as a scout, coach, manager and executive.
Rojas spent most of his early career with the Phillies, where he often played second base next to shortstop Bill Wine.
That era, if you will, was referred to by a Philadelphia sportswriter (I believe it was newly inducted Hall of Fame scribe Bill Conlin) as "The Days of Wine and Rojas."
So,on that upbeat note, that completes my All-Time All-Valentine's Day team.
Feel free to agree, disagree, and of course, show me some props for researching and compiling this list. It was a labor of love.
For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, other writings and appearances, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org