My original column on the topic of players with two first names led to reader Professor Longnose (which I assume is a pseudonym) to ask:
Can you create a major league lineup whose names link together in a chain such that the last name of one is the first name of the next one, and all nine positions are covered?
Well, this sounded like a fun challenge, and I actually came up with a lineup more quickly than I anticipated. However, I was a bit more lenient with this team than the first one when it came to the name rules. For example, a last name of Edwards was paired with a first name of Ed(win). Hey, this was tough enough as it was; I wasn’t going to make it more difficult on myself.
Alas, between the time I put the list together and the time I started writing this article, the list went missing. I had e-mailed it to myself, but that e-mail apparently is somewhere on the information superhighway without a GPS, because I couldn’t find it anywhere.
The solution? Recreate the list. I remembered some of the names because they were famous and/or current players, and I recalled others because of the particular names I had paired up. After a fair amount of digging around on Baseball-Reference.com, I had reconstructed the lineup.
My new problem? I didn’t want any current players on the team because I plan to do a current all-first-name team down the road. A couple of key links in the chain needed to be cut out and replaced, which was another challenge. However, substitutes were found, and I’m sure you’ll recognize their names. (They’re the center fielder and right fielder.)
One last note: the list does not wrap around in an endless loop. A team like that may be possible, but I have a starting point and an ending point. (My apologies in advance if this isn’t quite what you meant, Professor.)
With all that background taken care of, let’s get to the nine players who comprise this squad.
Shortstop: Gene Michael
Don’t expect this list to be made up entirely of superstars, okay? The most renown Eugene Richard Michael achieved in his career was that he spent seven seasons with the Yankees. Unfortunately for him, this was 1968 through 1974, one of the Bronx Bombers’ few fallow periods. And Michael’s performance was part of the reason why New York wasn’t so hot back then.
As a shortstop in the ’60s and ’70s, Michael wasn’t expected to contribute much with the bat, and he met those expectations. He had only two seasons in which he batted over .233, his on-base percentage topped .299 twice, and he never slugged .400. Granted, this was the second deadball era, but Michael still put together a career OPS+ of only 67.
I don’t mean to disparage him too much, though. He played nearly 1,000 major league games and batted more than 3,000 times, targets most professional players will never achieve.
And most importantly for this team, he provides a link to the next fellow.
Second baseman: Mike Edwards
Perhaps Michael Lewis was inspired to write about the Oakland A’s in Moneyball after stumbling upon Michael Lewis Edwards, who played for the A’s in the 1978 through 1980 seasons after a cup of coffee with the ’77 Pirates. (Coincidentally, Gene Michael’s initial big league time also was logged with Pittsburgh.) Okay, maybe he wasn’t the primordial source of the best-selling book and Oscar-nominated movie.
Edwards was simply a decent keystoner for a few years in Oakland, not much more or less. He slapped the ball to the tune of a .250 career batting average with little patience or power (two career homers!) to go with it. A team could do worse than a 64+ OPS, though.
Perhaps the most notable thing about Edwards’ career is that the man who took his place as the A’s second baseman in 1981 was a guy named Shooty Babitt. Who? You got me, though Babitt’s team did go to the playoffs that year (though without Babitt on the postseason roster).
FYI, there’s been another Mike Edwards in the majors, also playing with the A’s and Pirates—plus the Dodgers—from 2003 to 2006.
Third baseman: Ed Charles
Here’s the little cheat I mentioned earlier. This fellow’s full name is Edwin Douglas Charles, but I hope you won’t hold this breach of protocol against me. A third sacker with the Kansas City A’s for the bulk of his career, Charles is our first entrant to make a postseason appearance, going to the World Series with the 1969 Miracle Mets, though he batted only .133 (2-for-15 with a double) in four games.
That brief playoff appearance didn’t represent Charles’ ability with the lumber, however, as he reached 15 home runs in four different seasons in a major league career that spanned most of the 1960s. He cracked a 100 OPS+ four times, too, maxing out at 128 in 1968.
One peculiarity about Charles is that instead of joining the long line of players shuffled from KC to the Bronx, he instead was dealt to Queens. Obviously, the Yankees didn’t exactly see Roger Maris when they looked at Ed Charles.
Left fielder: Charlie Frank
It’s time for a trip in the WABAC Machine as we head to the 19th century to find our left fielder. And honestly, I wasn’t even sure Charles Frank was a left fielder until I found this post about him. You see, Frank played so little and so long ago that accurate records are difficult to come by.
What we do know is that Frank spent two seasons, 1893 and ’94, with the St. Louis Browns, now the Cardinals. He had a nice first year, batting .335/.408/.427, but he slumped to .279/.372/.398 in his sophomore season, and apparently St. Louis and every other team thought they’d seen enough of Frank, who never played in the majors again.
He continued to find work in the minors for several more seasons, spending time in Toledo, San Francisco, Memphis, Minneapolis, Columbus, Grand Rapids and St. Paul. Hey, he sure got to see a broad swath of the country, didn’t he?
After his playing career was over, Frank took to managing, and he added another portion of the nation to his tour, piloting teams in Memphis, New Orleans and Atlanta. From his first minor stop in Mobile in 1889 to his last managerial gig in 1921, that’s over three decades in pro ball. Could you really ask for much more?
First baseman: Frank Thomas
Okay, superstar time. This isn’t the strong-hitting outfielder/third baseman/first baseman from the ’50s and ’60s. This is the thunderous slugging first baseman/designated hitter from the 1990s and 2000s, Frank Edward Thomas.
What can I add about The Big Hurt that you don’t know? He won back-to-back MVPs in 1993 and ’94, finished in the top 10 in the voting seven other times, cranked 521 homers (tied with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey) and had a career OPS+ of 156.
Simply put, this one-time Auburn tight end was a beast at the plate. Thomas’ defense was never anything to get excited about, but his batting eye was one of the most impressive of the last quarter century. He hit .301/.419/.555 over 19 seasons, reaching the 100-walk mark 10 times. Thomas topped 100 RBI in 11 seasons and ripped 30-plus homers in nine campaigns and scored 100-plus runs an equal number of times.
If you were around to witness Thomas at the plate, you saw one of the game’s great hitters. If you’re too young to have appreciated his peak in person, that’s your misfortune.
Pitcher: Tommy John
Is being immortalized for being broken a good thing? Well, it is for Thomas Edward John.
After all, not only does John have a famous medical procedure named after him, said procedure allowed him to pitch another 14 seasons, racking up 164 of his 288 career victories, including 20-plus wins three times. In fact, John was so good after his eponymous surgery that wiped out his 1975 season, he finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting four straight years from 1977 through 1980.
One of John’s best traits was his ability to limit the long ball. He led the league in homers-per-nine innings three times and gave up only 0.6 HR/9 in his 26-year career. Yes, 26 years, second only to Nolan Ryan’s 27 for the most major league seasons ever played.
Not blessed with a blazing heater, particularly after going under the knife, John was good enough to accumulate stats that made him a perennial Hall of Fame candidate. He’s not gotten the call—at least not yet—but this four-time All-Star certainly wouldn’t be the worst inductee in Cooperstown’s Hall.
Catcher: John Henry
No, this is not the folk hero about whom songs and stories have been written. And it’s not the 1888-90 left fielder and pitcher. It’s John Park Henry, the 1910s backstop nicknamed “Bull.”
Spending nearly all of his career with Washington, Henry must have been very solid behind the plate, because he didn’t keep his job for what he did when standing beside it. Over 2,247 plate appearances, he batted .207/.303/.254, which actually does demonstrate a very good eye. And if you can hit only .207, knowing when not to swing is a very handy trait.
Almost totally devoid of power (two homers among his 397 career hits), he had the distinct pleasure of catching Walter Johnson for several seasons. Aside from being on this team, I’m not sure what greater pleasure he could have derived from the game of baseball.
Right fielder: Hank Aaron
Do I really need to tell you about Henry Louis Aaron? A quick recap: 755 homers, including eight seasons of 40 more and 15 of 30-plus; the all-time record of 2,297 RBI; a .305/.374/.555 triple-slash line and 155 OPS+; 6,856 total bases, more than 12.3 miles more than second-place Stan Musial.
That’s just dipping our toes into his list of accomplishments. The Hammer, who played 23 seasons, almost all for the Braves—about half in Milwaukee and half in Atlanta—is, quite simply, one of the greatest players the game ever has, and ever will, see.
And Aaron carried himself with amazing grace and class during a very difficult time in our nation’s history, when many didn’t want to see a black man usurp the all-time home run mark of perhaps the game’s best—certainly its most famous—player.
Center fielder: Aaron Rowand
Talk about your rough transitions. But aside from being a borderline-obscene bat waggler, Aaron Ryan Rowand was a pretty good ballplayer. He was a solid producer for the White Sox, Phillies and Giants over an 11-season career, going to the playoffs once with each franchise and winning titles with Chicago and San Francisco.
Never excelling in any one area, Rowand did a good amount of everything. He had a decent .273/.330/.435 career line, which equates to a 99 OPS+. He hit for adequate power, topping out at 27 homers in 2007, and he stole some bases, maxing out at 17 in 2004. His defense was good enough to earn him one Gold Glove, and he was an All-Star during that prime ’07 season, as well.
In researching this article, I found out that Rowand is a cousin to Royals pitcher James Shields. I’m not sure how Shields holds his bat during interleague games, but if he picked up any mannerisms from his cousin, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to find out.
References & Resources
Thank you, Baseball-Reference.com!