The ShysterBall All-Stars

It’s a slow news day, so building off of the previous post in praise of Jose Oquendo, Mike Gallego, and knuckleball, I offer you my all-time idosyncratic, oddball, knucklehead, misfit, reject team. This team doesn’t consist of my alll time favorite or exciting players — stabs at those can be found here and here — and it certainly isn’t a team I think could win anything. Like a commenter said this afternoon, this is my version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Something fun to watch and be around, but not anything that represents good baseball in any real sense. For what it’s worth:

C: Sal Fasano — It’s all about the mustache.

1B: Dimitri Young — I’m guessing he knows how to keep things light. Besides, I’m going to be managing this team and I’m going to need someone around like ‘Da Meat Hook so I’m not the worst looking guy in a uniform.

2B: Davey Lopes — we’re three guys in and all three have mustaches. Hmm, maybe I should talk to my psychiatrist about this. Beyond the facial hair, however, I put Lopes in because (a) I have to have some competent baseball players on this team; and (b) I can’t have a second basemen worse than Oquendo or Gallego, or else I’d be tempted to give them more playing time than I want to. Like I said this morning: I want them around to shoot the breeze with me in the dugout, coach a little, and to go in and be the catcher in the 7th inning or something. They can’t be expected to do that if they’re starting regularly.

SS: UL Washington — Hmm, Gallego and Oquendo would probably be able to start ahead of Washington. I’ll risk it, though, because I plan on eating a lot of corned beef sandwiches on the bench and I may need to borrow a toothpick from him to get the caraway seeds out of my teeth.

3B: Richie Hebner — Lots of reasons. The gravedigger thing is obvious — he probably has some good stories to share along those lines — but he has a mustache too, and that’s apparently a big deal on this team. Oh, and he’s the guy that authored that line about how hitting Phil Neikro’s knuckleball was like eating soup with a fork. Given the composition of my pitching staff, it will be important for team chemistry to have around someone who respects and fears the knuckly arts like Hebner does. UPDATE: Many have noted that the soup with a fork line was said by Willie Stargell, not Hebner. That seems to be borne out by some Googling, but Hebner’s Wikipedia page credits him. I’m going to assume that this is an instance in which Hebner himself is spreading self-aggrandizing lies via his own Wikipedia page. If that’s the case, he’s even more welcome on this team because that’s the kind of subtle chaos I can get behind.

RF: King Kelly — He played everywhere, so in some ways he was a proto-Oquendo. Different era, of course, so we’ll stick him in the outfield where he played more than anywhere else as far as these things can be determined. A mustache to rival Fasano’s, and behavior that would make Dimitri Young look like Dale Murphy.

CF: Dale Murphy — The only position player without a mustache would be forced to room with Young and Kelly on road trips because, oh God, that would be awesome. Murphy gets the roll-away bed.

LF: Lonnie Smith — Oquendo, Gallego and I are going to get bored during those innings the ShysterBall All-Stars are giving up 15 runs because the prevailing winds aren’t helping our knucklers, and watching Skates fall all over the outfield will provide numerous opportunities to laugh and/or gamble.

Bench: Oquendo and Gallego of course. I’ll forego much more of a bench for the time being because (a) those two can backup anyone; and (b) Lopes, Hebner, and Murphy are the only guys who seem like they’d exert themselves all that much, so not too much rest will be required. Besides, we’re probably barnstorming with this crew, so there will be a lot of days off built in, forfeits, days the bus is broken down, etc., so no one is going to be too gassed. Which reminds me: our strength and conditioning guy will be Bob Horner.

Starters: Phil Niekro, Joe Niekro, Charlie Hough, Ed Cicotte and, because we don’t want batters digging in too much, Steve Dalkowski.

Relievers: Jim Bouton, Hoyt Wilhelm, and whichever of the starters aren’t going that day. The beauty of the knuckleball: keeps payroll low.

I think we’d have fun with this crew, don’t you?

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  1. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Eh—if he gets discouraged Dale Murphy has some experience catching Niekro.  We can make it work.

  2. Steve Stein said...

    I don’t know how you can have an all-time team of misfit idiosyncratic guys and not have Jimmy Piersall on it.  And I know you want to have knuckleballers, but hey, how can you keep Bill Lee off this team?

    There’s a case to be made for Manny Ramirez as well, I guess.

  3. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    Thinking about it, I think we need some Rickey.  I mean, for the post-game press conferences and all.

  4. Travis M. Nelson said...

    I read somewhere that the quote about hitting knuckleballers was from Willie Stargell, and it was drinking coffee with a fork.  Not that it matters. 

    Anyway, for idiosyncracy, you could go with Wade Boggs at 3B.  He had the chicken-eating superstition thing, and when running always looked like the bottoms of his feet were recently sunburned.  Plus, unlike most of your lineup, he could hit.  As it happens, he also threw a knuckle ball, which the Yankees used a couple of times in blow-outs.

  5. Brian said...

    Surely you can find a place in your pen for Al ‘The Mad Hungarian’ Hrabosky.  Not only is he a world-class oddball, but he has probably the most impressive facial hair of anyone in this crew!

  6. APBA Guy said...

    How can you leave the goateed Bob Wickman off the team? He started, he relieved, and he ate: all three in profusion during his long career. He could work the dugout barbecue.

  7. J. McCann said...

    You could really use another (real) back-up catcher, while King Kelly would catch sometimes anyway.

    Who was the best ever at catching (or stopping) the knuckler?

  8. Craig Calcaterra said...

    J. McCann—I can’t check at the moment, but I’m guessing whoever caught for the Braves in the 70s would be a good choice.

  9. Craig Calcaterra said...

    I appreciate Wakefield’s craft, but unless I expand the staff to seven or eight starters, he’s not making the cut.  Not sure why, really.  Maybe because we still see him all of the time so he wouldn’t be as big a gate attraction.

  10. Chris Simonds said...

    You want odd AND exciting? And intimidating as well? How about Ryne Duren? And anybody born in a town called Cazenovia in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin has to be good for a laugh.

  11. Tim Kelly said...

    I too was thinking about back-up catcher, and with this team of oddballs I thought there would be no better fit than Benny Distefano, the last (as far as I remember) left-handed throwing catcher…

    Of course, Darren Daulton would be a good fit too, but that’s just because he’s certifiable…

  12. Bob Rittner said...

    Ah, Germany Schaefer. One of the funniest stories I ever read was in Ritter’s “The Glory of Their Times”. It was about the time Schaefer was called on to pinch hit, and it is one of those about which it is irrelevant whether or not it is true. It should be true.

    Here is Ritter’s story as transcribed from his interview with Davy Jones:

    “Well, Schaefer walked out there and just as he was about to step into the batter’s box he stopped, took off his cap, and faced the grandstand,
      ‘Ladies and gentlemenn,’ he announced, ‘you are now looking at Herman Schaefer, better known as Herman the Great, acknowledged by one and all to be the greatest pinch hitter in the world. I am now going to hit the ball into the left field bleachers. Thank you.’
      Then he turned around and stepped into the batter’s box. Of course, everybody’s giving him the old raspberry, because he never hit over two or three home runs in his life. But by golly, on the second ball Doc White pitched, he did just exactly what he said he would: he hit it right smack into the left field bleachers.
      Boy oh boy, you should have seen him. He stood at that plate until the ball cleared the fence, and then he jumped straight up in the air, tore down to first base as fast as his legs would carry him, and proceeded to slide head first into the bag. After that he jumped up, yelled ‘Schaefer leads at the quarter!’ and started for second.
      He slid into second-yelled ‘Schaefer leads at the half!’-and continued the same way into third and then home. After he slid into home he stood up and announced: ‘Schaefer wins by a nose!’ Then he brushed himself off, took off his cap, and walked over to the grandstand again.
      ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he said, ‘I thank you for your kind attention.’ ”

    Jones tells another story that he was on 3B and Schaefer on 1B when Schaefer flashed him a sign for a double steal. Schaefer stole 2B but Jones could not try to score because the throw did not go through. So on the next pitch, Schaefer let out a scream “Let’s try it again”, and stole back to 1B. Apparently it worked, because on the following pitch, he tried again, and this time Jones did score.

  13. Bob Rittner said...

    Seems to me that Cesar Tovar could be a utility player on your team. He once played all 9 positions in the same game. (Someone else may have done that as well, but I remember Tovar in particular. I know Buster Posey did it in college, but he isn’t eligible yet.)

    And if you are looking for outrageous personalities, Rube Waddell has to be in your rotation. I know he was not a knuckleballer, but his strangeness should compensate, not to mention that he might actually give you a chance to win when he pitched. Of course, you might not be able to find him when his turn in the rotation came up.

  14. John Walsh said...

    Old-timey oddballs: Rabbit Maranville, Casey Stengel, Germany Schaeffer.  There were many, many others…

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