Well, we haven't revisited an all-letter team in our Hall of Names stroll through the alphabet since June 21, when we looked at an All-K team. We have generally accepted that the best team so far has been the All-R squad, with perhaps a challange from the various iterations of the All-M team(s).
Now, meet the Killer B's. No, not just Bagwell and Biggio -- though hey, those two just might wind up making this team, what say? -- but an all-time team made up entirely of players whose last or family name begins with the letter "B."
If only every position were as deep as C for the B's ...
... but even so, let's take a look.
There are some interesting names to consider, like six-time All-Star Smokey Burgess, baseball pioneer and Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan (you want for "pioneer"? This guy invented shin guards!) and even The Catcher Was a Spy hero Moe Berg, arguably the most interesting personality ever to play the game at ANY position.
But there are a couple of guys named Berra and Bench who are two of the top five catchers ever, and the only thing we have to figure out here is who starts.
Dan Brouthers earned his place in the Hall of Fame with a .342 career batting average compiled mostly in the 19th century. Jake Beckley hit "only" .308 from 1888 through 1907, but also landed in the Hall of Fame. Bill Buckner -- hold off on the '86 jokes, the man had 2,715 hits in a career and needed a cane to run the bases. George H. Burns hit .307 with 2,018 hits of his own for five teams from 1914-39. Oh, if you're waiting for the mention of a certain Mr. Banks, though he actually played more games at 1B than anywhere else, he's going to play elsewhere for this team.
Then there's Bagwell; one of his most similars at BBRef is Rafael Palmeiro, and though Bagwell is going to fall short of 3,000 hits and end up with about 100 fewer homers than Palmeiro, he may be evne more of a lock for the Hall of Fame.
This is not a terribly deep position for the "B Team." Sure, Bret Boone is part of a legendary baseball family -- and the only member of that family who will have a real chance of making this team at all -- and Carlos Baerga looked like he would be a Hall of Famer for a while there. (He, um, won't be.)
But second base on this team belongs to Bagwell's Killer Buddy, a man Bill James overenthusiastically once ranked as the 35th best player in the entire history of the game, Craig Biggio. He's not that good, but he's also far more than the human target his HBP record makes him out to be.
Sure, Frank "Home Run" Baker is a Hall of Famer. Bret Boone's grampa Ray and the middleman in another baseball family dynasty, Buddy Bell, were both fine players at the hot corner. Maybe third base has some sort of genetic homing signal to it, as brothers Ken and Clete Boyer were both great defensively, while Ken (moreso than Clete) held his own at the plate as well. There are lots of other "3-B" All-Stars, ranging from Ossie Bluege to Sal Bando and now Hank Blalock.
But not even Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, he of the 3.010 career hits and .328 career average, will start for this team. The B-all and End-All at the hot corner is a fellow named Brett. George Brett.
Lou Boudreau is a Hall of Famer, maybe a candidate to manage this team, and is likely to his chagrin, remembered most for inventing the Ted Williams shift. Dave Bancroft crossed the 2000 hit mark in 16 seasons through 1930 and is also in the Hall of Fame. Dick Bartell has more hits and a better career average than Bancroft, but has never sniffed Hall of Fame induction, though he did play in the very first All-Star game. Donie Bush played a ton of games in the 1950s, Larry Bowa and Rick Burleson were All-Stars in the 1970s and Mike Bordick played in the Midsummer Classic in 2000.
But remember that Banks fellow we mentioned a few paragraphs ago? Well, the greatest ballplayer ever to come out of the Dallas area -- sorry, Vernon Wells -- was named an All-Star in eleven seasons, and in seven of those, he was primarily playing short.
Barry Bonds. Any questions? I mean, Lou Brock was a great. great player -- 3000 hits and the pre-Rickey all-time career and single-season steals leader. Jeff Burroughs won the 1974 AL MVP and Pat Burrell is a nice player. Hank Bauer was an All-Star staple in his Yankee years and Dusty Baker is a better manager than he was a player -- and he was a fine, fine player. George Bell stole the 1987 AL MVP from Alan Trammell and Wally Berger had 194 of his 262 career homers by the end of his age 30 season. But Barry is the best, regardless of clear or cream.
Bonds is also the best CF candidate for this team -- daddy Bobby Bonds, that is. Sure, he played for about a dozen teams and was never the "next Willie Mays" he was made out to be, but Bobby Lee Bonds hit 332 homers, stole 461 bases, single-handedly "invented" recognition of the 30/30 season and had the best power/speed number in the majors nine times in an 11-hear period. Sure, Paul Blair could flash leather with the best of them. Sure, Ginger Beaumont hit .311 leading off for the turn-of-the-last-century Pirates. Lyman Bostock was carving out an All-Star career when it was tragically cut short. But the bottom line here is that two-thirds of our outfield will be father-and-son.
Buddy Bell's daddy Gus was a four-time All-Star. Tom Brunansky never quite measured up to expectations in St. Louis, Boston or Minnesota. John McGraw once called George J. Burns "one of the most valuable ballplayers that ever wore the uniform of the Giants." Jay Buhner has had a good career and is either cursed or blessed by being best remembered as (a) having a funny shaped head and (b) Jerry Stiller screaming his name in an episode of Seinfeld. Jesse Barfield had a cannon in right field for the Blue Jays and Yankees. In fact, we're going with Jesse as the starting RF ... Jesse Burkett, that is. Never heard of him? The Hall of Famer hit .338 and had 2850 hits from 1890 through 1905. He won three batting titles, including seasons of .409 and .410 in 1895-96.
Ellis Burks started and ended his career in Boston and spent his 18 years in the majors splitting his time roughly evenly four ways -- among the three OF spots and at DH, where he actually appeared more than any other position, while hitting 351 homers. That's 13 more homers than Don Baylor hit and just 33 fewer than Harold Baines jerked out of the park, but where DHing is concerned, it goes more like Baylor-Baines-Burks, and you can make an argument that, if not for the efforts of Edgar Martinez, they have been the top three DHs of all time.
Looking to fill other utility slots? Well, Gates Brown was a PH extraordinaire for the Tigers in the 1960s and 1970s, while Bob Bailey hit .257 with 189 homers in 18 seasons as a 1B/3B/OF while Hubie Brooks was a two-time All-Star SS who also spent a lot of time at 3B and in the OF. Then there's Pete Browning, mostly an OF who did everything (including one game on the mound) except catch in the big leagues -- and it's a good thing he was a .341 hitter over his 13 19th-century seasons because apparently he was pretty bad defensively everywhere.
So which Hall of Fame righty do you want at the front of the rotation? The crazy U.S. congressman and 224-game winner in Jim Bunning? The early 1900s 239-game winner with the deformed pitching hand and the nickname to match, Mordecai "Three Finger" brown? The 212-fame winner who won 10 more (and lost 10 as well) in the World Series while bearing what would now be called a racially insensitive nickname, Chief Bender? How about the guy with 287 wins who can't seem to get the Hall call, Bert Blyleven?
Or maybe six-time All-Star (so far) and post-season hero Kevin Brown? Speaking of All-Stars, how about choosing among Tommy Bridges (194-138, six All-Star teams), Lew Burdette (203-144, two), Ewell Blackwell (just 82-78 but six All-Star trips), Charlie Buffinton (48-16 in 1884, 233-152 career), Guy Bush (176-136) and no relation, Bullet Joe Bush (195-183) -- both Bush boys, like Buffinton, had their heydeys before there actually was an All-Star Game.
There are no lefty B Hall of Famers, but some awfully good talent anyway ... There's Vida Blue (209-161, six All-Star selections and the 1971 AL Cy Young and MVP). Harry Brecheen was 133-92 and made two All-Star teams.
Ken Brett was only the second-best hitter in his family, but managed to rack up 83 careeer wins and was an All-Star before George ever was. Tommy Byrne was just 85-69, but also was an anchor to 10 Yankee staffs in the midst of Stengel's amazing run of pennants. Perfect Game author Tom Browning won 20 as a rookie in 1985 and 123 in his career.
Okay, so the right-handers are better.
How's this for the back of a BBBullpen? All-time B saves leader Rod Beck (286 through 2004) set up by righties Armando Benitez and former Cy Young winner Steve Bedrosian on the right side with Jim Brewer (69 wins and 132 saves) and Tom Burgmeier (79 wins, 102 saves) from the left. Ready to take a roster space should one open up are guys like Jeff Brantley, Danyz Baez, Pedro Borbon Sr., Doug Bair, Tim Burke and, of course, Miguel Batista. In fact, Batista might be a better match than Bedrock since El Artista had much more success as a starter and could better swing into a long man role if needed.
The all-time leader among B managers in victories is Boudreau at 1162, with Dusty Baker (1017 through 2004) closing fast; in third place with 781 (through 2004) is another active skipper in Bruce Bochy. There are a lot of potential coaches or player/managers in addition to Boudreau, as Don Baylor, Buddy Bell, Yogi Berra and Bob Boone are just a few of the other B's who have taken a turn at the helm of a big league club.
So now let's meet ...
The Killer B's
* indicates Hall of Famer
** indicates All-Star
MGR: Dusty Baker*
C Johnny Bench**
1B Jeff Bagwell*
2B Craig Biggio*
SS Ernie Banks**
3B George Brett**
LF Barry Bonds*
CF Bobby Bonds*
RF Jesse Burkett**
DH Don Baylor*
C Yogi Berra**
Cor IF Frank Baker**
Mid IF Lou Boudreau**
OF Lou Brock**
OF Paul Blair*
UTIL Pete Browning
RHSP Bert Byleven*
LHSP Vida Blue*
RHSP Mordecai Brown**
LHSP Harry Brecheen*
5SP-R Jim Bunning**
CL-R Rod Beck*
LHRP Jim Brewer*
RHRP Armando Benitez*
LHRP Tom Burgmeier*
RHRP Miguel Batista
Okay, Bauxites, here's the obvious question ... are there any changes that would help this team "B" all it can be?