If you're paying attention, you know that one of the Hall of Names stories that ran earlier this week was an All-Mickey team; as we follow it here with what is essentially an all-Willie team, you can guess the next logical step, right? If you know anything about New York City baseball in the 1950s, it should be obvious, especially with the added clue that it's all leading up to a very special musical rendition of Baseball's Hall of Names soon to follow.
But we're not just giving this team the Willies, as it were ...
... but we're also giving them also the Wills, Bills, Williams and Billys. Now let's lay some ground rules.
We find a couple of multiple-time All-Stars in William Walker Cooper (see Rule 2 above) and Bill Freehan, but they'll both go home in favor of a couple of Hall of Famers in Bill Dickey and William "Buck" Ewing. Dickey starts primarily because he actually went by the name "Bill."
A lot of really fine first basemen aren't even going to get a sniff of making this team ... Bill White, Bill "Moose" Skowron, William (Eddie) Robinson, Bill Buckner -- All-Stars each and every one. But they all take a back seat to the greatest 1B in the long and storied history of the Giants ... not so fast, Willie McCovey, no not you Will Clark ... that's right, it's the NL's last .400 hitter -- Bill Terry, come on down!
In 1962, 2B Billy Moran, who I admit I'd never heard of, was an All-Star; 20 years later, the fine Red and Astro second sacker Billy Doran never was one, which was another surprise. Bill Mueller has a batting title, but has not yet been an All-Star; he might belong more with the 3B group anyway. But who do we go with at the keystone? One of the scrappy All-Star players who gained far more fame managing, Billy Martin and Bill Rigney? Billy Herman? Another 2B/3B in Toronto fan favorite Bill Madlock? I know ... let's go with the Hall of Famer who hit the most dramatic home run in World Series history (apologies to Kirk Gibson and Carlton Fisk) ... Bill Mazeroski.
A weak crop, for sure. Billy Hunter? Um, no. Billy Jurges? Would you believe that at first glance, the greatest Will-full shortstop in big league history is none other than ex-Dodger outfield prospect Bill Russell? Actually, Jurges appears at the #3 position in Russell's BBRef most similar career list (Russell, oddly, does not appear on the Jurges list at all). So it's close; both even made three All-Star teams. Russell had 313 more hits and retired with a career batting average five points higher than Jurges'. Plus he has a namesake who is one of the five greatest basketball players to ever live, so he gets the nod. But poor Bill -- nine position players in the starting lineup, eight Hall of Famers -- cue "One of these things is not like the others ..."
For a long time, Bill Melton was the White Sox all-time home run leader -- and he retired with 160 so that should tell you something! -- while Billy Johnson was a defensive whiz who wore Yankee pinstripes to the 1947 All-Star gala. But the greatest hot corner denizen to bear the name "William" -- and you'd never guess it from his more commone nickname -- is arguably the best third baseman in Negro leagues history, Hall of Famer William "Judy" Johnson.
Let's just set the All-Hall-of-Fame outfield right now, shall we? It's Willie Mays in CF, flanked by LF Billy Williams and RF "Sliding" Billy Hamilton. A fourth Hall of Famer, LF "Wee" Willie Keeler, is also on hand to pinch hit 'em where they ain't. If we're looking for a fifth outfielder who can be a bat off the bench, then there's Bill "Swish" Nicholson, the Adam Dunn of his day, or more likely, a late-inning glove man like Willie Davis.
There are a couple of extremely versatile Williams, including Billy Goodman, who bounced around the infield and outfield and did pretty much everything excecpt pitch, catch and, oddly enough, play much at short, while a guy who did catch plenty early on in his career and since has done everything but pitch is William "B.J." Surhoff. Keeler or Skowron -- well, maybe McCovey -- is probably the best option as a DH, given the lack of a "true" DH in the Edgar martinez mold named William.
We mentioned that Clemens fellow earlier -- "Rocket Will Clemens" just doesn't have the same ring, does it? -- while Hall of Famer and reputed curveball inventor Candy Cummings also was born "William." Another nickname-laden William is Bucky Walters, who won 26 one year for the Reds and nearly 200 for his career. We're unlikely to go more than three deep from the right side in the rotation, but in case we do, we're covered with former All Star Bills Monboquette, Voiselle, Singer, Loes and Stoneman while Bill C. Lee -- not the Spaceman -- is also around.
The only Hall of Famer in this bunch is former Negro League star Bill Foster, while the next best lefty in this clash of Wills is Billy Pierce. The Spaceman, Bill F. Lee, does show up here, as do other former All-Stars like Wild Bill Hallahan, Billy Hoeft, Bill Walker and Bill Travers. Another lefty All-Star who swung between starting and relieving is Billy O'Dell.
The closer is a southpaw in all-time William saves leader Billy Wagner, who had 246 entering 2005. Bill Henry made an All-Star team closing for the Cubs, while setup man extraordinaire William Michael Stanton is still pitching in Washington. Billy McCool fills out the options from the left side, while righties Bill Dawley, Bill Caudill and one of the first big-money free agents, Bill Campbell, are also contenders for bullpen spots.
Upstairs, under the watchful eye of the brilliant Bill Veeck, Hall of Fame executives Will Harridge and William Hulbert can run the show, while three Hall of Fame umpires (Billy Evans, Bill Klem, Bill McGowan) are also around to offer consulting services. Two guys have actually made the Hall as managers with the proper name for this squad, in Bill McKechnie and William "Harry" Wright. Even though McKechnie last managed 59 years ago and died while Sandy Koufax was still pitching, he's still got nearly a century of baseball knowledge on the elder non-aviation Wright brother. So McKechnie manages while Harry sits next to him as his bench coach and "Wright hand man."
Finally, here's where we find out ...
Where There's A Will ...
**indicates Hall of Famer
MGR: Bill McKechnie**
Bench Coach: Harry Wright**
C Bill Dickey**
1B Bill Terry**
2B Bill Mazeroski**
SS Bill Russell*
3B Judy Johnson**
LF Billy Williams**
CF Willie Mays**
RF Billy Hamilton**
DH Willie McCovey**
C Buck Ewing**
MID IF Billy Goodman*
COR IF Bill Melton*
OF Willie Davis*
OF Willie Keeler**
UTIL B.J. Surhoff*
RHSP Roger Clemens*
LHSP Bill Foster**
RHSP Candy Cummings**
LHSP Billy Pierce*
5SP- Bucky Walters*
CL-L Billy Wagner*
RHRP Bill Campbell*
LHRP Bill Henry*
RHRP Bill Caudill*
LHRP Billy O'Dell*
What say you, Bauxites? "Will" this team be any better, or are the "Bills" ... paid in full?