In the most recent Advance Scout, Da Box's own Alex Obal pegged Minnesota's Jason Kubel "already one of the ten greatest position players to ever come out of South Dakota, and may even be in the top five after a full season." Is that so? Sounds like a Hall of (Place) Names challenge, the first we've undertaken since the All-Mexico squad back in mid-June.
But let's not limit ourselves to South Dakota, hmmm? After all ...
... though 36 big league ballplayers were born in SoDak, according to our good friends over at BaseballReference.com, another 14 MLB players have been born in North Dakota as well. We ought to be able to Kubel -- er, cobble -- together a 25-man roster from a total of 50 candidates, hey?
The best from North Dakota has almost certainly been Darin Erstad, though Travis Hafner is doing his best to change that. Ken Hunt played a little outfield and Toronto's own Tim Johnson played some major league middle infield, while the best pitcher out of ND, and the only one with more than 33 wins, is Rick Helling. (Insert obligatory "Dakota Arms" joke here on your own time.)
Lynn Nelson, who spent parts of seven seasons in the 1930s mostly with the Cubs and A's, is the 33-game winner, as well as being the NoDak all-time leader in saves with six. Nelson, one of just six North Dakotans with at least 100 career base hits (he had 103) is actually third (among those who had more than one big league hit anyway) in career batting average, at .281 -- trailing only the aforementioned Erstad and Hafner. Entering 2005, Erstad had 1,484 career hits, while the rest of NoDak's progeny had combined for just 1,148.
Ah, but down South, the SoDaks bring a lot to the table; for instance, two pitchers with more wins than Helling and four with more saves than Nelson; nobody from South Dakota has more hits or homers than Erstad, but hey, the old college punter is a two-time All-Star. Dave Collins' 395 career steals makes him the reigning Dakota speedster, with Erstad second at 169 swipes.
But before we get into the minutiae of the Dakotas, let's just go ahead and see what a roster looks like when we assemble (sorry about this) ...
The Dakota Fannings
** indicates Hall of Famer
* indicates All-Star
MGR: Sparky Anderson** (2194 wins, five pennatns, three rings)
Bench Coach: Terry Francona (one ring so far -- with Boston)
C James "Truck" Hannah (.235, 1918-20 NYY)
1B Travis Hafner (.293, 76 homers through 2005)
2B Mark Ellis (.276 through 2005)
SS Tim Johnson (.223, 1973-79)
3B Del Paddock (.287, 1912 CHW, NYY)
LF Dave Collins (.272 in 16 years; more SB than RBI)
CF Darin Erstad* (.287, 114 homers through 2005)
RF Carroll Hardy (.225 in eight years)
DH Jason Kubel (.300 in 2004)
C John Hoffman (3-for-21 for 1964-65 HOU)
C Len Rice (.223, 1944 CIN, '45 CHC)
1B/OF Terry Francona (.274, 1981-90)
IF Sparky Anderson** (.218 with 1950 PHI)
OF Ken Hunt (.226, 1959-64)
RHSP Death Valley Jim Scott (107-113, 1909-17 CHW)
LHSP Floyd Bannister* (134-143, 1977-92)
RHSP Rick Helling (93-79 through 2005)
LHSP Brandon Claussen (13-19 through 2005)
LHSP Raleigh Aitchison (12-7 for 1914 BRK; 12-12 career)
CL-RH Keith Foulke* (190 saves through 2005)
LH-SET Terry Forster (127 saves, 1971-86)
RH-SET Kerry Ligtenberg (17-20, 48 saves through 2005)
RHRP Justin Duchscherer (16-12, 5 saves through 2005)
RHRP Lynn Nelson (33-42, six saves, 1930-40)
LHRP Mark Lee (5-5, 3.82, 1988-90-91-95)
DakotaNotes ... Scott won 20 in a season twice, including the rare double in his 1913 20-20 mark; in 1915, he was 24-11 ... Terry Forster never made an All-Star team, but was nicknamed "Fat Tub of Goo" by none other than David Letterman ... Lynn Nelson's nickname was "Line Drive," never a good sign when you're a pitcher ... Raleigh Aitchison gets the fifth starter's role as he provides another southpaw on the staff, but there are no great choices to fill the role ...
Carroll Hardy, of course, is the only man ever to pinch-hit for Ted Williams, but did you know he once also pinch-hit for Carl Yastrzemski? ... Travis Hafner has one of MLB's historically confusing nicknames, "Pronk" ... Francona may have a good case to start at DH over Kubel ... A disproportionate numher of Dakotans have been pitchers, so we'll go with a short bench and a six-man bullpen on our 25-man roster.
So Bauxites, can this team be improved? Could it win 25 games in a 162-game set with Mexico?