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Initially Speaking, That Is  (Part 3: G-J)

Back in August of '05, we started what we then termed "an interesting twist on the Hall of Names (initially speaking) ... who are the best double-initial players for each of the first 23 letters of the English alphabet?"

Unfortunately, after the first two installments, AA through CC and DD through FF, we just sort of ... stopped. But we're back, moving on from Barry Bonds and Frankie Frisch to the likes of Gary Gaetti, Harry Heilmann and Joe Jackson. Yes, we're skipping the vowel, and changing the above declared goal to read ...

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In the recent Bicentennial Men Hall of Names feature here on Batter's Box, which formed a fine All-Star team made up of big leaguers all born in the year 1976 a number of people stepped up with alternate all-year teams, and so we also met at least partial squads from, among others, 1957, 1959, 1980, 1982 and 1983. [Wednesday 7/5 Update: already added to this story are teams or partial teams for 1903, 1934, '35, 1945, '46, '47, '49, 1951, '55, '58, 1963, '64, '65, '66, 1970, '75, '77, '79 and 1981.]

Nice teams, one and all. But what's the very best year for producing big league talent? I'm going to set the bar pretty high with the year ...

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Believe it or not, this is the 200th installment of Batter's Box Interactive Magazine's Hall of Names. The complete archive is shown on one page here. Admittedly, I can't take full credit for the list of 200; 23 have been written by guest contributors while four more I have co-authored with someone. Anyway ...

How to celebrate such a milestone, if indeed we can label it as such? Well, anyone in or near the U.S. reading this who can remember the year 1976 will remember the utter overload and preponderance of the number 200, especially in lists.

That year was the birthplace of baseball's 200th birthday as a nation, or "bicentennial." (Subject of a previous Hall of Names entry, here.) It was the second of back-to-back titles for the Big Red Machine. It was the year of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych in Detroit. It was an MVP year for Joe Morgan and Thurman Munson and meant Cy Young Awards for Jim Palmer and Randy Jones. It was the year before big league baseball landed in Toronto.

It was also the year of the birth of a 104 major league ballplayers -- so far, anyway ...

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These days, we don't think much about Cuba as a provider of major league baseball talent; other than the rare exception of a Hernandez brother or a Contreras, there simply aren't many natives of our neighboring island to the south who make the big leagues any more.

But that's all about politics. And the truth of the matter is, a lot of very fine players throughout big league history have been born in Cuba; no less than 150, in fact, still the fifth most of any country in the world outside the USA, and half again more than the larger and friendlier Mexico, the most recent country visited for Baseball's Hall of Names.

But Cuba? Sure, how would you like a team that looks like this? ...

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Some of you may recall an odd take on the Hall of Names called Happy New Year's Eve, from this past Dec. 31 (the title should've at least suggested that) in which the lyrics to the traditional new annum carol "Auld Lang Syne" provide a place for dozens of links to "lyrical" ballplayer names at Sean Forman's standard-bearing BaseballReference.com Web site.

It's summer time in Mudville (and on Da Box) and as such, also time to try it again, only with a verse not set to music, and one every baseball fan knows from the time he or she can sit at the TV to root on the Cooneys, Barrows, Flynns and Blakes of the modern game.

That's right, it's time to hearken back to ...

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Earlier this week, we returned to the legendary Hall of (Place) Names with an All-born-in-Japan Turning Japanese? (I Really Think So). It was our 13th foray into such a team-building exercise, one that has mostly visited US cities like St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit, with occasional looks into cities on foreign shores like Santo Domingo (D.R.) and of course the legendary San Pedro de Macoris.

Only twice before our excursion into Japan have we peered into an entire foreign country -- Canada, of course, and Colin Jaffray's British Isles (England/Scotland/Wales) trifecta.

Since we've at least dabbled in the home countries (or large cities of those countries) of the three most prolific foreign producers of big league players (Dominican Republic, 410; Puerto Rico, 215; and Canada, 205 through the end of the 2005 season), let's take a look at the next three on the list this next week or so -- Venezuela at 181; Cuba at 150; and our #6 foreign exporter, today's feature with 98 ballplayers having reached the majors, our friendly neighbors to the south ...

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Today is Hideki Matsui's 32nd birthday. Is it just me, or does that seem awfully young for Godzilla, arguably the greatest Japan-born position player in Major League Baseball history? (You like Ichiro better? That's fine.)

But it comes down to just those two and Padre speedster Dave Roberts (born in Okinawa) and any other "best of" candidate was or is a pitcher. But Matsui and Ichiro flanking Roberts? That's a fine starting OF. Now, can we fill out a complete roster of MLB players born in Japan?

Let's see ...

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A few days ago, we ran the Hall of Names All-Birthday June 6 (6/6/6) edition, appropriately entitled Aw, Hell. The only Hall of Fame player born on that day was noted Yankee backstop Bill Dickey.

Oddly, though, then starts an unlikely run of four straight days, June 7-10, on the calendar on which NO Hall of Famer has ever been born. (Someone want to calculate the odds of that?) That's right, the very best players born on those dates are, in this writer's view, Thurman Munson (June 7), Van Lingle Mungo (June 8), Dave Parker (June 9) and Ken Singleton (June 10). Fine players, all -- but not a Cooperstown denizen among them.

Which leads us to this reader's challenge ...

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Today is June 6, 2006.

That's right, it's 6-6-6. And presuming that's not a final sign of the Apocalypse and we are all still here to read and write on Batter's Box, it provides an opportunity to add still another wing to baseball's Hall of Names, though not of the Mark "The Bird" Fidrych variety (though we have previously given baseball the bird in a similar exercise), as well as issue a Batter's Box reader's challenge.

No, this team ...

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In the recent "All-ALF" Hall of Names piece (ALF ... on, so Long Ago), Bauxite Geoff asks the leading question, "In other news: Has Chacin yet become the most accomplished player named Gustavo?"

The short answer is "yes." The longer answer is that he is the only player in major league history to actually go by "Gustavo," and only five others have even had the name -- two as a first/given name (the best of whom was Gustavo Karim Garcia, sorry Gus Polidor), while three bore it as a middle name, the best of whom is probably Rainer Gustavo "Ray" Olmedo, who is 3-for-9 this year with the Reds between Triple-A stints.

So yes, Chacin's career (updated) 20-12 record outshines them all, including Garcia's 66 homers over 10 years. Hooray. Ah, but lest anyone accuse the Hall of Names of promulgating the "Gloomy Gus" stereotype, let's take a look ...

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Okay, so Edgardo Alfonso (read the headline out loud) doesn't have a hit yet. Maybe some "Hall of Names mojo," if there is such a thing, will spur him to three homers and seven RBI next time the Jays play. And when Batter's Box posted a poll earlier this week seeking a new nickname for the former All-Star, more than half of those who responded essentially voted to retain his ongoing nickname, "Fonzie."

Running a distant second at less than 17 percent of the vote was "Alf" -- hmm, maybe Bauxites, despite the success of our previous All-Star Trek team, don't care much for the idea of Alien Life Forms. But setbacks like that have never stopped the Hall of Names! In fact, did you know that if you enter "Alf" into BBRef's Player Search, you'll get more than 100 returns?

We might end up with a heck of a team here, with no less than nine All-Stars and/or Hall of Famers ...

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Today is Memorial Day in the U.S.A., a holiday that owes its historical legs to, among others, the backing of one General John J. Murray. Which leads us to the fact that there have been 33 men (32 players and one manager) in major league history with the first, middle or last name "Murray." It remains to be seen ...
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You'd think an All-Reggie Hall of Names team would be filled with colorful and talented players like that most famous of Reggies, Mr. Reginald Martinez Jackson.

And you'd be wrong.

Actually, you can put together about half of a pitching staff and a heck of an All-Star outfield, but the rest of the roster is quite ... well, just pick the adjective most similar to "barren" you like best.

Okay, you back? Then it's time to take a bite out of ...

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Yes, it's time to put on your G-rated thinking caps, Bauxites, and compete for the coveted Batter's Box No-Prize. You know how there are certain ballplayers, when you say their names under your breath, you feel a little bit like you're swearing?

Let's see if we can't come up with a full roster, along the lines of "25 Names You Shouldn't Say if Your Non-Baseball-Loving Nana is Around." As you might imagine, there are a few rules, not to mention some starter examples ...

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So today Roy Halladay -- that's "HLH" to you, Bauxites -- fires a gem against the Bosox and I started idly wondering if it "heralded" his return as the finest ballplayer named Harold ever to pitch in the major leagues.

Of course, Doc's real first name is "Harry," not "Harold," so the answer is "duh, no." Alas. But according to our friends at Baseball-Reference.com, no less than 133 men bore "Harold" as their given first or middle name into a major league ballgame. Most, it seems, went by "Hal" (including at least one hurler who might've kept Halladay from the aforementioned "best" label anyway) and four Hall of Famers.

But it's at Cooperstown that the line must be drawn ...

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