F is for Feller, Franco and Fingers

Monday, August 08 2005 @ 10:00 PM EDT

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Okay, let's get the team name out of the way right now. Do we dub these guys, a roster full of major leaguers whose last or family name starts with the letter "F," in honour of a passable mid-1960s comedy western starring Ken Berry and Forrest Tucker, the "F Troop"? Should we be worried about the inevitable F-U matchup? Well, probably, as we'll just give in and name these guys, inevitably, "The F-Bombs."

It's a surprisingly strong team, with a starting rotation entirely made up of Hall of Famers and a bullpen that any of the other 24 all-letter teams will have a hard time matching; a very Fox(x)y infield -- abetted by a shortstop Canadian baseball fans know well -- and no less than three 50-homer guys in the starting lineup.

It will be hard to F this one up, kids ...

... so let's start by looking at some of the all-time statistical leaders among our F-Bombs:

SIDEBAR: All-Time "F" Career Stats Leaders
Major Statistical Categories (Entering 2005)

Maybe you start to get a little concerned scanning the list of F-leaders if the names Bob Fothergill, Russ Ford and Dave Foutz jump off the page first and don't ring any bells. But you should start to calm down as the more familiar names -- Franco, Feller, Whitey Ford, Foxx, Frisch, etc. scroll past. And thanks to the little lefty from St. John's, Rollie Fingers doesn't even make the list!

All-Time "F" Career Leaders
Major Statistical Categories (Entering 2005)



F-Stops ... Elmer Flick is starting in CF -- that's Hall of Famer Elmer Flick, one of the "Ghosts of Cooperstown" you've never heard of; a career .313 hitter, Flick had just 1752 career hits, and his most similar player according to BBRef, is Earle Combs, who didn't even make the all-C team since, as noted then, he was a borderline Hall of Famers at best ... Yes, that's the Fordham Flash manning the hot corner, and though Frank Frisch is best remembered primarily as a 2B, he came the big leagues with the Giants at a time he was blocked by Laughing Larry Doyle and thus was originally a 3B ...

RHSP Red Faber is another one of those "He's in the Hall of Fame?" names, but he probably deserves to be there, amassing a career mark of 254-213 and matching up with most similars like Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton, both Hall of Famers of more recent (though perhaps in both cases, scuffed) vintage ... Two other Hall of Famers in the rotation, joining the more familiar Bob Feller and Whitey Ford, along with Faber, are half brothers and Negro League stars Rube Foster, a righty, and Bill Foster, a lefty. The former, a stalwart on the recent All-Rube Hall of Names squad, was also a successful manager (like Frisch) and founder of the Negro National League.

The aforementioned Fothergill, nicknamed "Fats," only played more than 115 games in a season once in his 12-year career, but retired with a career batting average of .325 in just shy of 3300 at-bats, and edges out Foxx for the all-time F lead in that area by less than half a percentage point ... On the hill, Chuck Finley won exactly 200 games (and lost 173), while Bob Friend won 197 (and lost 230!) while Foutz palyed almost 1000 games in the field and had a couple of 100-RBI seasons while posting a 147-66 pitching mark that matched Whitey Ford's 236-106 percentage point for percentage point as the all-time F-leader ...

The only reason Foutz doesn't make the team as a RP/UTIL guy is the need for a second lefty in the bullpen, so that roster spot goes to Woodie Fryman, who was good enough to make two All-Star teams, win 141 and save 58, and was once traded for Tony Perez ... Fryman didn't quite hang around Detroit long enough in the mid-1970s to be teammates with the most Flamboyant F-hurler, in Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, and but for chronic arm problems, who knows if Fidrych could have cracked this team's rotation? ...

It's not due to Fryman's presence, of course, but the F-Bombs have one of the great bullpens possible, with Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers closing, set up by the all-time leader in saves by a lefty, Johnny Franco, and former Pirate righty All-Star Roy Face, who as recently as 1963 was the all-time leader in saves, period ... Along with Fryman from the left side, the long man is righty Eddie Fisher, he of the 85 wins and 81 saves, including an inspiring 15-win, 24-save All-Star season for the Angels in 1965 ...

Because of the relative preponderance of Hall of Fame hurlers to fill out the F-rotation, a number of Fine pitchers were not considered, including Jeff Fassero (who very nearly beat out Fryman for the long lefty position), Alex Fernandez, Sid Fernandez, Wes Ferrell (possibly a better player than brother Rick, though only Rick is in Cooperstown), Jack Fisher (you have to be good to stick around long enough to be 86-139), Freddie Fitzsimmons (217 wins), Mike Flanagan, the Forsch brothers (the only siblings each to have tossed a no-hitter), George "The Other Rube" Foster (58-34), Chick Fraser (175-212), and LHSP Larry French, who was 197-171 and second only to Feller among F-players with 40 career shutouts ...

With the ageless Julio Franco on the bench, we have a guy with more than 400 games each played at 1B, 2B and SS (not to mention DH), so there's plenty of versatility ... Some people have made the argument that George Foster in 1977 with Cincinnati and Cecil Fielder in 1991 with Detroit are each league's last "legitimate" 50-homer hitter, and whether or not that's true, they join Jimmie Foxx in a fearsome middle of the lineup -- Nellie Fox and Frisch should score a lot of runs at the top of the lineup ... A propos of nothing, both lefties in the bullpen have namesakes on the F-bench, in unrelated pairs John and Julio Franco and Woodie and Travis Fryman ...

It starts to get a little weak as we dive deeper into the F scrolls, though it's Feasible to wonder if Bill Freehan should make the team as the backup catcher ahead of Hall of Famer Rick Ferrell, and 1B Jack Fournier was a .313 hitter over 15 seasons ... Outfielders Steve Finley, Cliff Floyd and Dee Fondy and infielders Tim Foli and Gene Freese aren't making the team ... An outfield of Curt Flood flanked by Carl Furillo and Flick moving to LF would be one of the better defensive outfields ever to set foot on a ballfield ...

So who manages? Frisch? Rube Foster? The all-time leader in managerial wins by an F-skipper is Jim Fregosi with 1028, and he's on the bench already in a utility infielder role. If we're going to avoid a player/manager situation, should we move to Herman Franks (second on the F-list with 605 wins) or maybe Jim Frey (323 wins, and like Fregosi, two divisional wins, one pennant, but no titles)? ... Actually, Frey and Franks can serve as coaches under the man who led Red Sox nation out of their eight-decade nightmare in 2005, Terry Francona, whose tombstone might read "He wasn't Grady Little and Boston loved him for it" ...

That's enough for now. Let's meet ...

** indicates Hall of Famer
* indicates All-Star

MGR: Terry Francona*
Bench Coaches: Jim Frey, Herman Franks
C Carlton Fisk**
1B Jimmie Foxx**
2B Nellie Fox**
SS Tony Fernandez*
3B Frank Frisch**
LF George Foster*
CF Elmer Flick**
RF Carl Furillo*
DH Cecil Fielder**

C Rick Ferrell**
IF Jim Fregosi*
IF Travis Fryman*
OF Bob Fothergill
OF Curt Flood*
DH/UTIL Julio Franco*

RHSP Bob Feller**
LHSP Whitey Ford**
RHSP Red Faber**
LHSP Bill Foster**
5SP-R Rube Foster**

CL-R Rollie Fingers**
LHRP John Franco*
RHRP Elroy Face*
RHRP Eddie Fisher*
LONG-L Woodie Fryman*

Okay, Bauxites, over to you ... can you F-ect this team with positive changes?