Don't jump off these Cliff(s) ...

Sunday, January 31 2010 @ 12:03 AM EST

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

With all the news about Cliff Lee recently -- he was involved in a series of trades that Blue Jay fans paid some attention to, as I recall -- I found myself wondering if we could build a full roster of MLB "Cliffs."

The short answer is "yes." The longer answer is "wow, this team is a lot better than I expected it to be." The disorientingly long final roster-driven answer follows if you just click through ...


Let's set the ground rules -- thanks to the greatness of, we were able to identify every MLB veteran in the history of the game who either had the given first or middle name "Clifford" or who otherwise went by the name "Cliff." Some other players didn't quite fit either category -- sorry, former 'spo backstop Barry Clifton Foote -- and were not considered.

We ended up not only with a standard 25-man roster (after some scrambling due to a dearth of middle infielders), but also a full lineup card (nine men) of players who were considered and dismissed, and another 15 or so cuppajoe guys (not shown) who played parts of just one or two seasons in the big leagues ...

For those wondering about family names, there have been two men surnamed Cliff to play minor league ball, 20 more named Clifford and one named Cliffords, but none has made it to the big leagues as yet, and the only one active, OF Peter Clifford, hit just .236 at AA in Arizona's system last season, so that doesn't seem likely to change any time soon ...

Well, as much as I'd like to, we can't name this team THE BIG RED DOGS, because that childhood cartoon hero was named "Clifford" and here we are considering other forms of the name as well, so instead, let's greet ...

** indicates Hall of Famer
* indicates All-Star

Player/Manager: Fred Clifford Clarke** (1602-1181, LOU, PIT, 1897-1915)
Player/Coach: Clifford "Gavvy" Cravath (91-137, 1919-20 PHI)
Player/Coach: Joyner Clifford "Jo-Jo" White (1-0, 1960 CLE interim)

C Cliff Bolton (.291 in just over 1000 PA, parts of 1931-41)
1B Clifford Earl Torgeson (.265, 149 homers, 1947-61)
2B Clifford "Pat" Crawford (also 1B/3B; .280, 1929-30 NYG, CIN, 1933-34 STL)
SS Cliff Pennington (also 2B; .267, 4 HR, 11 SB for OAK since '08)
3B Clifford Nolen Richardson (also SS; .247, parts of six seasons, 1929-39)
LF Cornelius Cliff Floyd* (.278, 233 homers since 1993)
CF Fred Clifford Clarke** (.312, 1015 RBI, 5-6 SB, 1894-1911, '13-15)
RF Clifford "Gavvy" Cravath (.287, 119 home runs, 1908-09, '12-20)
DH Cliff Johnson (C/1B; .258, 196 homers, seven teams, 1972-86)

OF/1B/C Clifford W. Lee (.300 career hitter, five teams, 1919-26)
IF/OF Cliff Cook (.201, 1959-63 CIN, NYM; part of 1962 expansion Mets)
OF Cliff Heathcote (.275, 448 SB, 1918-32)
OF Cliff Carroll (.251, 197 SB, 1882-93, six teams)
OF/1B John Clifford "Lefty" Watwood (.289, 1929-33, '39)

LHSP Clifton Phifer Lee* (90-52 since 2002, mostly with CLE; 2008 AL Cy Young Award)
RHSP Floyd Clifford "Bill" Bevens (40-36, 1944-47 NYY) 
LHSP Cliff Melton* (86-80, 1937-44 NYG)
RHSP Clifford "Connie" Johnson (40-39, parts of 1953-58 CHW, BAL)
RHSP Raymond Clifford Phelps (14-7 as '30 BRK rookie; 33-35 career through '36)

RHRP Cliff Politte (22-23, 15 saves, 1998-2006, four teams)
RHRP David Clifford Wickersham (68-57, 18 saves, four teams, 1960-69)
LHRP Cliff Young (5-4, 1 save, 1990-91 CAL, '93 CLE)
LH-LONG Cliff "Lefty" Chambers (48-53, 1948-53, three teams)
RH-LONG Cliff Curtis (28-61, four teams, 1909-13; 6-24 for 1910 BSN)

Nine Not Making the Cut (Pushed Off the Cliffs?)
C/1B Cliff Blankenship (.225, 1905 CIN, '07, '09 WAS)
OF Joyner Clifford "Jo-Jo" White (.256, 1932-33, mostly DET)
OF/1B Matthew Clifford Luke (.242, 15 homers in 269 AB, four teams, 1996, '98-99)
C Clifford "Tacks" Latimer (.221 in 86 AB, five teams, 1898-1902)
OF Cliff Mapes (.242, 38 homers, 1948-52, three teams)
OF Clifford "Trey" Beamon (.253, 1996-98 PIT, SDP, DET)
OF Mark Clifford Funderburk (.294, 1981, '85 MIN)
RHRP Cliff Markle (12-17, parts of 1915-24 NYY, CIN)
RHRP Cliff Fannin (34-51, 1945-52 SLB)

Yes, yes, we'll call this next part ...

Cliffs Notes ... Cravath was the pre-Ruthian-era King of Clout, with 119 homers in fewer than 4000 career at-bats. He belted an astounding (for the time) 62 homers from 1913-15 (19, 19 and 24 those seasons) and led the NL in homers six times in eleven big league seasons -- all that, and he didn't play regularly until his age-31 season! ... Cliff Melton won 20 games as a 1937 Giants rookie -- and that same year, led the National League in saves (with seven) ... That's a combination we're unlikely to ever see again! ... Bolton, our starting catcher, managed to leg out 11 triples in 1935, which placed him among the league leaders; he only had seven more three-baggers in his entire career ... That one season didn't even place Bolton first in the AL among Cliffs, though, as Jo-Jo White had 12 triples in the 1935 American League ...

In one of the biggest trades in early baseball history, back in December of 1899, Fred Clarke -- there's one Cliff connection -- was traded by the Louisville Colonels with Bert Cunningham, Mike Kelley, Tacks Latimer (another Cliff!), Tommy Leach, Tom Messitt, Deacon Phillippe, Claude Ritchey, Rube Waddell, Jack Wadsworth, Honus Wagner and Chief Zimmer to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Chesbro, Paddy Fox, Art Madison, John O'Brien and $25,000. That might well qualify as the trade with the most future Hall of Fame inductees involved, ever ...

On our bench, Clifford W. Lee had some fine seasons, mostly as an OF for the Phillies in 1922-23 (.322/28/124 combined those two campaigns), but as noted above, earlier in his career, he caught quite a bit for the 1919-20 Pirates, so he could conceivably team with Clifton P. Lee to give this squad an All-Cliff-Lee set of battery mates ...

Remember Cliff Young? The Jays acquired the reliever from the Expos late in 1985 for Mitch Webster, in one of the few All-Canadian-team trades in MLB history, then shipped Young off to the warmer climes of Anaheim before the 1989 season for De Wayne Buice ... Wickersham won 19 games for the '64 Tigers, but was on his way to Pittsburgh before the '68 season when the Tigers put it all together ...

Other than current All-Star Lee, the only other pitching Cliff that lists as "active" is LHRP Cliff Bartosh, who cameoed with the Tribe and Cubs about five years ago, but the Duncanville, Texas High School grad (hey, my wife went there, gotta do the shout-out) has not been back to the majors since 2005 ... From the position-player side, actives include Floyd, Pennington and ... um ... that may be all ...

In 1962, Cliff Cook was traded by the Cincinnati Reds (with Bob Miller) to the New York Mets for the inimitable Don Zimmer ... In 1947, Bevens came within one out of throwing the first no-hitter in World Series history, but Cookie Lavagetto singled, the Dodgers rallied and beat Bevens that day, and Don Larsen took his place in history the next decade in a matchup of the same two teams ...

We don't have a standard full-time catcher to serve as Bolton's bench caddy, but with Johnson as the DH and C.W. Lee on the bench, there are enough catching options to make manager Clarke, who skippered his teams to four pennants and one (1909) World Series title, comfortable ... In 1951, Cliff Chambers was traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of a package that acquired, among others, a young Joe Garagiola ... In case you missed it on skimming the roster above, Chambers had the kinda cool distinction of pitching from '48-'53 and finishing with a career won-loss of 48-53 ...

So that's it for the Cliff-Divers. Did we miss anyone? And how would this team do in, say, the 2010 NL West?