This team, unlike all the other month teams -- in fact, unlike all the other month teams combined -- has a wide variety of major league players who bear the name of the month itself. I mean, we appreciate you June Greene, thanks for stopping by the booth, Don August, but the fortuitously named "May Bee-Knots" (a no-prize for anyone who designs the uniform logo!) is captained by its best player, a man born in May, who also made his MLB debut in May, who also is the greatest center fielder ever to play the game ... a man named Mays. Nice start.
But before we get into formulating the team wearing the emerald birthstones, let's look a little more carefully into this all-"May" name thing ...
... sticking to our usual rules: first and last names are okay, but middle names and nicknames generally are not, a player is eligible for the team if the word appears anywhere in the name, but alternate spellings and foreign translations are generally not acceptable. So, Willie Mays, John Mayberry, Mayo Smith, you're all eligible; Hector Maestri, Sean "The Mayor" Casey, Dave "Mr. May" Winfield, Willie Mays Aikens and Johnny Maywood Grubb, you need to go home.
Now then ...
The "May" Flowers of Emerald City (at Anaheim)
MGR Mayo Smith
C Milt May
1B John Mayberry*
2B Eddie Mayo
SS Chick Maynard (1922 BOS)
3B Pinky May*
LF Carlos May*
CF Willie Mays**
RF Dave May*
DH Lee May*
C Brent Mayne
IF Edwward H. Mayer (1890-91 PHI)
OF Derrick May
OF Lee Maye
UTIL Buster Maynard (OF/2B/3B, 1940-46 NYG)
RHSP Carl Mays
LHSP Rudy May
RHSP Joe Mays
LHSP Darrell May
RHSP Erskine Mayer (two 20-wins seasons)
RHRP Matt Maysey (1992-93 MON-MIL)
LHRP Jakie May
LHRP Edwin D. Mayer (1957-58 CHC)
RHRP Scott May (1988 TEX. '91 CHC)
*R/SP Al Mays (53-90, 1885-90; unknown RH or LH)
Actually, that's a pretty nice team! But now, onto the rest of our monthly exploration -- as with all the other months (see links below), this is a squad made up entirely of players born in the month at hand, namely May.
The January Blahs || The February Valentines || The March Hares || The April Fools || The May Bee-Knots || The June Cleavers || The July Franks || The August Presence || The September Morns || The October Misters || November's Team Topaz || The December Holidays
You know, Todd Greene is a nice player, though he never became the "Next Piazza" the Angels were touting him as; and at Coors, he has a chance to be a big numbers guy. But who cares? The starting catcher on this team is Yogi Berra. He was pretty good.
An interesting mix of Hall of Famers (19th century star Dan Brouthers, who hit .342 in 19 seasons starting in 1879 and Tony Perez, the former Big Red Machine first sacker who many feel wasn't really deserving of the Hall call) and future Hall of Fame locks (Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell, who share the exact same birthday and until very recently, eerily similar career numbers). That quartet probably precludes any thought of the solid Kent Hrbek or early 20th-century star Joe Judge (.298 with 2,352 hits in 20 seasons) making the team. Do you think The Big Hurt would mind a move to DH on this team?
We love Tony Perez, but for now, Brouthers starts and Thomas and Bagwell are under consideration for bench or DH duty.
With all due respect to Davey Lopes, who was a fine second baseman in his day, the two best May-born second sackers are also the two greatest Detroit Tiger pivotmen in that team's long and glorious history. Sorry, Jim Walewander, though you qualify with a May birthday, we're not looking at you here.
No, of course we're speaking of Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer, who hit .320 with 184 homers in 19 seasons, all with Detroit, and should-be Hall of Famer Lou Whitaker, who hit .276 with 244 homers in 19 seasons, also all with Detroit.
Sweet Lou will have to hope for a bench role on this team, as The Mechanical Man is the obvious choice for the starting lineup.
Here's where we run into trouble -- there is no Trammell complement to the Tiger duo of 2B, and the only Emerald birthstone pure shortstop worth mentioning is former Cub and Giant Billy Jurges, a three-time All-Star with modern comps like Mike Bordick, Ozzie Guillen, Scott Fletcher and Alfredo Griffin. Not bad, but not great.
So we'll have to at least consider cheating a tiny bit, by opting for former NYY IF Gil McDougald. a five-time All-Star who hit .276 over 10 seasons and did play 284 career games at SS, but more than twice as many at 2B and nearly twice as many at 3B.
Or perhaps we can go with Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer Martin Dihigo, whose Cooperstown bio refers to him as "perhaps the most versatile player in baseball history." Legend has it he could play all nine positions -- yes, including perhaps his best work as a RHSP -- equally well and his sketchy career stats show a .290+ hitter with power and speed.
However, if we start Dihigo at short, though that would allow us to run an arm short in the bullpen, we'll definitely need to carry McDougald on the bench to provide defensive options when Dihigo pitches. And since we're carrying McDougald anyway, the more natural infielder starts at short, with Dihigo the superutilityman off the bench and in the bullpen.
Unlike shortstop, this position is going to provide us with some hard, hard choices. Let's not even embarrass Tony Perez by pointing out that he came up as a 3B because he has no shot at winning the hot corner job here and we've already cut him once.
Jumpin' Joe Dugan hit .280 in 14 seasons and played before the All-Star Game existed or surely would have made a few; same for Lave Cross, who hit .292 with 2,645 career hits in 21 seasons from 1887-1907. In fact, Cross played every position but pitcher, so might be a good bench candidate. But neither of these guys is going to make the team as the third baseman. Neither, unfortunately, is another ex-Tiger who hasn't received the Hall of Fame consideration he deserves, 414-homer man Darrell Evans.
That's because there are a couple of guys named Brooks and Brett who were born in May. No, kids, not Hubie Brooks and Bret Barberie -- Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and George Brett. In an ideal world, Brooksie wins the job and Brett is the DH, but we've already seen a variety of DH candidates for this team, and we're not even to the star-studded outfield yet.
The outfield is so deep that we actually have to consider not starting Willie Mays or moving him to DH (told you the Brett move wasn't a slam dunk). Seriously, wouldn't an outfield of Manny Ramirez and Tony Gwynn flanking Cool Papa Bell look great? Or maybe Turkey Stearnes, who was the greatest Negro League CF if Cool Papa wasn't, surrounded by Reggie Jackson and Al Simmons? Additional Hall of Famers include another CF in Earle Combs, RF Edd Roush and LF Earl Averill -- so there's a third full outfield, again all Hall of Famers, with one more Hall of Famer, Zack Wheat, left over for good measure.
Poor simple All-Stars like Eric Davis and Kenny Lofton don't even get a sniff in this derby. Okay, we can't bring ourselves to not have Mays in CF, so he starts there with Bell and Stearnes the first two OF off the bench; Reggie Jackson is in RF, Tony Gwynn is in LF, showing the clear modern-day bias against greats like Simmons. Maybe he and Ramirez can battle it out for that DH slot which we've promised to about ten different guys by now.
My goodness, there are a lot of options for this rotation ... six Hall of Famers, two or three more guys who arguably should be in the Hall, and some youngsters too far off to yet tell if they are headed to Cooperstown. Keeping in mind that the rotation on a Hall of Names team traditionally has two righties, two lefties and a fifth starter that can be either, it will be hard to choose; but looking ahead a little, we can also see that the bullpen cupboard, while not quite bare, is much thinner -- and completely lacking in southpaws. So we'll keep that in mind.
Hall of Famers:
RHSP Red Ruffing** (273-225 career)
RHSP Chief Bender** (212-127 career)
RHSP Amos Rusie** (245-174 in just nine full seasons)
RHSP Ed Walsh** (195 wins, career ERA of 1.82!)
LHSP Eppa Rixey** (266-251 career)
LHSP Hal Newhouser** (207-150 career)
Coulda-been Hall of Famers:
RHSP Dennis Martinez* (El Presidente won 245 games; Hall of Famer?)
RHSP Jack Morris* (maybe he'll get that second asterisk someday)
RHSP Babe Adams (194-140, 2.76 from 1906-26, mostly with PIT)
LHSP Tommy John* (288-231 career)
Nice Careers, But Not Quite:
RHSP Milt Pappas* (More than just traded for F. Robby - 209 wins)
RHSP Dennis Leonard (three-time 20-game winner never an All-Star)
RHSP Jose Rijo* (1990 WS MVP)
LHSP David Wells* (Boomer had 212 wins heading into 2005)
LHSP Tom Zachary (186-191, only remembered for Babe's #60)
LHSP Mike Cuellar* (125 wins in six-year period, 1969-74 BAL)
Too Soon To Tell:
RHSP Roy Halladay* (#1 comp so far is Pat Hentgen)
RHSP Josh Beckett* (Just 26-26 career through '04; 2003 WS MVP)
LHSP Barry Zito* (Comps so far are Hampton, S. Fernandez, Darling)
Gosh, how does that shake out? Well ... let's stick with the Hall of Famers, Newhouser and Rixey from the left side an Walsh, Rusie and Ruffing from the right. Poor Chief Bender is the odd man out, the only Hall of Fame SP not to make the rotation -- or the team, for that matter.
Every noted reliever born in May we located is right-handed, which means we'll have to borrow from the abandonded starting pitchers above to fill out the relief corps. Here are the closer/short relief candidates, more or less in order:
RHRP John Smoltz* (future Eck-like HOFer had 154 saves in 3.5 seasons)
RHRP Wilcy Moore (19-7, 13 saves for 1927 NYY)
RHRP Clay Carroll* (143 saves)
RHRP Francisco Cordero* (49 saves in 2004)
RHRP Jose Mesa* (Four 40+ save seasons, once most dominant closer in AL)
RHRP Duane Ward* (45 saves in 1993, never another one after that)
Not much in the way of front-office types, though a couple of Hall of Famers -- former NL President Warren Giles and former umpire Nestor Chylak -- are May babies. But the managerial talent runs deep this month!
Current managers Felipe Alou, Buck Showalter and future Hall of Famer Bobby Cox are all of the emerald birthstone, as are others of recent vintage like Bobby Valentine, Jim Frey, Joe Altobelli and the late Billy Martin and the late Dick Howser. Of, ah, less recent vintage are a couple of former Red Sox skippers, Dick Williams who piloted the 1967 "Miracle Season" AL champs, and Ed Barrow, another Hall of Famer, who despite a career record of just 310-320, took the Sox to their most recent championship before last year, back in 1918.
SIDEBAR: FA-MAY-LY TREES
We always give props in this space to family ties and family trees in the great game's history, and though this month we have nary a Bell or a Boone (well, there's Lute Boone, but he's no relation), there are plenty of brothers and sons to speak of.
For instance, May brought us Ben (son of Tom) Grieve, Rene (brother of Marcel) Lachemann, Aaron (brother of Daryl) Harang, Felipe (father of Moises, brother to Matty and Jesus) Alou, Pascual (brother of Melido and Carlos) Perez, Ozzie (father of Ozzie) Virgil, Todd (son of Mel, brother to Mel Jr.) Stottlemyre, Ken (brother of Clete) Boyer, Todd (son of Randy) Hundley and Jerry (son of Jerry, brother of Scott) Hairston. Oh, and in the spirit of the month, we also have Carlos (brother of Lee) May.
SIDEBAR: YOU MAY CALL ME ...
We also pay homage each month to some of the great names we run across in building these teams, starting with a quick nod to the month's two-sport athletes; May brought us former Michigan QB Rick Leach and Michigan State WR Kirk Gibson (eventually Tiger teammates), and the greatest of them all, Jim Thorpe, All-American.
Before we move into the catchy names overall, let's stop and pay our respects to two men who share a May 7 birthday ... 1926 PHA and 1932 PIT OF Dave Barbee and 1936-38 BSN RHRP Art Doll. That's right, and with today being May 7 and all, let's all be sure to celebrate baseball's Barbee-Doll holiday!
None of the following names are made up and are simply presented for your consideration roughly in the order of date of birth: Heinie Meine, Robinson Cancel, Ted Turner (no, not that one -- 1.1 IP for 1920 CHC), Keefe Cato, Dasher Troy, Herb Hippauf, Chippy McGarr, Monte Pfylv, Milo Netzel, Boze Berger, Wimpy Quinn, Sailor Stroud, Ivanon Coffie, Stubby Overmire, Porfi Altamirano, Skippy Roberge, Nub Kleinke, Bob Giallombardo, Fritz Von Kolnitz, Ollie Klee, Jess Buckles, Herold Juul, Mule Shirley, Carl Spongberg, Charlie Loudenslager, Pinky Woods, Hooks Cotter AND Hooks Warner, Otey Clark, Pop-Boy Smith, Will Pennyfeather, Doc Ozmer, Tip O'Neill, Lip Pike, Dixie Upright, Twink Twining and Tony Von Fricken
May was a rich month for Baseball's Hall of Names!
FINALLY: MEET YOUR MAY BEE-KNOTS
The presence of Dihigo on the bench gives us the versatility to cut the pitching staff back to a post-expansion unthinkable total of just nine. John gets the last spot on the pitching staff to move another lefty into the clubhouse. Green and Jurges are seemingly the weak links, both from bench spots. Jackson beats out Ramirez for a roster spot, but really he beats out Wheat and Roush in RF, with both Gwynn and Simmons ahead of Manny in LF. Your 25-man roster, then ...
** Hall of Famer
MGR Bobby Cox
Bench Coaches: Dick Howser, Dick Williams, Buck Showalter
C Yogi Berra**
1B Dan Brouthers**
2B Charlie Gehringer**
SS Gil McDougald*
3B George Brett** (Sorry, Brooksie)
LF Tony Gwynn**
CF Willie Mays**
RF Reggie Jackson**
DH Frank Thomas* (by virtue of actually DHing more than 900 times)
C Todd Greene
MID IF Billy Jurges* (more versatile than Whitaker)
COR IF Brooks Robinson**
OF Turkey Stearnes**
OF Cool Papa Bell**
P/UTIL: Martin Dihigo**
RHSP Ed Walsh**
LHSP Hal Newhouser**
RHSP Red Ruffing**
LHSP Eppa Rixey*
RHSP Amos Rusie**
CL John Smoltz* (R)
SET-R Wilcy Moore
LOOGY Mike Cuellar*
LONG Tommy John*
Okay, now -- I guess the truth is, this team "may or may not" be as good as it could be. So how can it be better?