Episode I: Food For Thought
Monday, a new feature will launch on Da Box ... call it Baseball's Hall of Names. Or maybe Name That Team. It's always so tough to come up with a good name for something. In the meantime, here's some background, part essay, part history, part word game.
[Obligatory Confusing Gammonsian Quoted Lyric Lead]:
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I've got a name; I've got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did ...
-- Jim Croce
Like most baseball fans, I grew up talking about the great game with my dad -- yes, per the lyrics above, we have the same name -- who saw DiMaggio at The Stadium and turned 16 the year Mantle debuted. The two Micks (the centerfielder and the psychologist) even share a birthday, though dad is four years younger than the Commerce Comet.
In our conversations -- and they still pop up from time to time -- we would speculate about life's great mysteries. For instance, what current players would eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown? Rose? Obviously. This kid Schmidt? Let's see how he turns out ...
And often, we would spend time trying to create "All-Star" lineups based on arbitrary rules involving names of players throughout the sport's history.
The All-Food Team was a favorite.
As I recall we had a very specific yet arbitrary rule in filling the roster for the All-Food Team that barred players who "only" had food nicknames; you could build a real All-Star team with a pantry full of Pie Traynor, Turkey Stearnes and the like.
So Pepper Martin was out; Cardinals OF Ray Pepper (we had a lot of old Who's Who in Baseball editions about the house) was in; Rabbit Maranville, out; Ruth-era Indians cup of coffee Joe Rabbitt, in. Yeah, so we made allowances for spelling; how else were we going to get Mark Lemongello on the team? This was before Darryl Strawberry's debut, so we had to stretch the rules -- hey, we made 'em up -- at times to decide to admit "food brands" and suddenly Red Sox closer Bill Campbell was eligible, though his teammate Bill Lee (no relation to Sara) was not.
Throughout the ensuing years, I've often come back to this pastime within The Pastime, speculating on whether or not a team of "Regular Joes" (start with Morgan and DiMaggio, and "Bullet" Joe Rogan on the mound) beat a team of Steady Eddies (Murray, Matthews, Collins ... and Plank on the mound)?
Could a team made up entirely of New York natives knock off a team of Californians? The Koufax vs. Seaver matchup alone is delicious ... with, ironically, Dodger Sandy going for the Empire State and the original Mr. Met toeing the rubber for the Granolans.
Much of my speculation has been mere wordplay -- witness the recent sojourns into anagramatics here on Da Box -- while a couple of years ago, I penned (okay, keyboarded) a piece for The Sporting News' Fan Speaks guest section which explored, among many other possibilities, the intricacies of an Abbott & Castillo matchup, a Clark/Kent brawl and of course, the long-awaited AL Central Milton/Buehrle pitching duel.
So while we ponder the literary question "Is it true that a Rose by any other name would still be Pete?," let me explain how this will work.
When a new nominee for Baseball's Hall of Names is ready to go, I'll post it to Da Box, including the aforementioned randomly-decided-upon rules which are to be strictly followed except when they are not.
Then, you can chime in with objections, complaints, obvious errors or omissions ... you know the drill. Someday when these columns are collected into a book, you will all be mentioned in the introduction and subsequently put on the plaintiff's witness list when Kent takes me to copyright court.
So, we'll start Monday. Why Monday? Simple. Monday is March 17, which means my favorite baseball name of all time, former Tiger pitcher John Doherty (no relation) has a decent shot of making the initial team. Not sure what that team might be? One more hint ... Dale Murphy, Paul O'Neill and Nolan Ryan are other names that might just be lucky enough to be makin' a wee appearance.
Anything else you want to know? Just (sorry about this) name it.
Meanwhile, help us fill the Batter's Box pantry -- who else should be on the All Food Team? I'm thinking Bob Lemon will take the mound. Who's in the field behind him?