As you probably know by now, there's a bat-around challenge going on, asking us bloggers to pick our favorite ballplayers from letters A-Z.
The topic was originally thrown out over at "The Diamond King," and it's a fun topic that sent me scurrying to my binders and scanner to partake in. Still, there's a part of me that's wary of making lists like these for two reasons: a) I'm paranoid about forgetting someone obvious, and b) some of the guys I had to choose between for certain letters seemed unfair and made me downright anxious. But anxiety be darned, because after quite a bit of trepidation, the list has finally been finalized.
In the spirit of this blog, I'm trying to show some of my favorite A-Z dudes in their more unfamiliar uniforms (where applicable) - so ready or not, here we go.
A: Jim Abbott
Aaaaaaand of course the very first letter of the alphabet produced one of those aforementioned battles that gave me heartburn - I kinda assumed Hank Aaron would be my "A" guy without much of a fight...until I remembered Jim Abbott.
Hank has gotten the nod on almost every one of these lists I've read, and rightly so, but I have to go with Abbott here because he's one of just a handful of ballplayers I consider a bona-fide hero.
B: Ernie Banks
With apologies to Johnny Bench, I can't vote down Mr. Cub.
C: Roberto Clemente
My all-time favorite ballplayer, and lightyears ahead of any other "C" despite the presence of stalwarts like Rod Carew and Ty Cobb.
D: Dizzy Dean
One of our cats is named "Dizzy Dean," which should help explain why Diz made my list without much of a fight.
E: Johnny Evers
One of the weaker letters in the baseball alphabet, so I'm taking a ride in the wayback machine and going with Johnny Evers here.
Evers was famously nicknamed "The Crab" for his less-than-jovial personality, and his cards seem to bear that out - this is one of only a couple I own that show him cracking a smile.
F: Mark Fidrych
I could've easily posted one of my Red Sox minor league cards of The Bird, but as far as I know I've never showed this SI cover card on the blog before, which seems obscene.
G: Vladimir Guerrero
The most painful letter of the alphabet for this baseball fan.
Vlad gets the nod - he's long been my favorite player of my baseball lifetime - but it's agonizing to leave off other biggies like Tony Gwynn and Mark Grace.
H: Rickey Henderson
Rickey is the dream for unfamiliar uniform collectors like myself - it almost seems like he wore a jersey for every letter of the alphabet.
I: Monte Irvin
A mediocre cast of "I" players is saved by Monte Irvin, who by all accounts would've been one of MLB's greats had integration come along a few years before it did.
J: Reggie Jackson
As if I needed an excuse to show another Orioles Reggie card.
K: Sandy Koufax
An easy pick, even though I feel bad having to leave Paul Konerko and Clayton Kershaw off the list.
L: Kenny Lofton
One of the rare instances where a hometown uniform is classified in my mind as "wrong" - I remember Lofton's brief stint with the Cubs in 2003, but I have no recollection of his stay with the White Sox the year prior.
M: Willie Mays
Basically a "1a" and "1b" heat between Willie Mays and Stan Musial - I give the ever-so-slight nod to Mays right now, but if I did this list tomorrow it might well be Musial.
N: Hideo Nomo
As I went over my choices one final time, I realized how legend-leaning this list turned out to be, which I suppose makes sense because it takes a while for players to lapse into the annals of the baseball fan's mind as a "past great."
Hideo Nomo's heyday doesn't really seem that long ago to me - I have vague memories of watching him as a young fanatic - but that didn't stop him from cracking this list with relative ease.
O: John Olerud
"O" turned out to be a surprisingly difficult letter - despite strong pushes from Al Oliver and Shohei Ohtani, John Olerud takes the crown.
P: Satchel Paige
If a genie granted me a wish to go back in time and watch one, single baseball player, there's a good chance I'd use that wish to see Satchel Paige pitch.
Q: Dan Quisenberry
Any ballplayer-turned-poet is cool in my book.
R: Jackie Robinson
How could it not be?
S: Ichiro Suzuki
I was tempted to slip Ichiro into the "I" slot, but baseball players aren't like Sting or Cher - they have last names, and I like to use them.
T: Luis Tiant
"T" is a battle between two quirky favorites of mine, with Luis Tiant getting the slight nod over Kent Tekulve.
U: Bob Uecker
See also: "Harry Doyle."
V: Fernando Valenzuela
Of all the Short Term Stops in the world, Fernando Valenzuela on the Cardinals is one I've never quite been able to process.
W: Hoyt Wilhelm
Of course it's Hoyt!
The '90s and aughts produced an inordinate amount of baseball cards shaped like X's, probably to make up for the fact that no big-leaguer has ever had an "X" last name (yet).
Y: Carl Yastrzemski
One of my proudest victories as a baseball fan was the day I learned how to spell Carl Yastrzemski's last name by heart.
Z: Carlos Zambrano
I was a bit lukewarm on Big Z during his playing days, but I've come to appreciate him way more in the years since - I specifically miss watching him hit, which isn't something I can say about most pitchers.
So there's my romp through the baseball alphabet - and I'm fully prepared for that moment I know is gonna come about a week from now when the lightbulb goes off and I say OH CRUD, I FORGOT [insert incredibly obvious name here]!