There was a recent “copy and paste” post going around on FaceBook which is something I don’t usually participate in. However, this particular post was “List Favorite MLB Players By Position During “Your” Lifetime.” I completed this one and posted it up with some thought but not real in depth consideration. I have gone back and reconsidered the list and thought I should modify it somewhat. Once I revisited the idea, I realized that I had gotten most of them right the first time but there were couple of glaring omissions in my initial attempt. And as is a Dub Mentality staple, I also thought that I should include a card that was memorable for me of the player. It wouldn’t be as much fun without some cards. These are not their best card issues but they are ones that immediately pop in my mind when I think of the player and when I collected.
I’d like for you to review my list and let me know what you think but I also want to hear what you have to say in the comments of this post. Obviously there is no right or wrong answer as we can’t control who others’ favorite players are. Remember, this is your “favorite” players, not necessarily the greatest at the position of all time. That is another discussion entirely. So in order for you to fully complete the process, let me lay out some basic parameters for the task. While it’s not easy and you will second guess every position at times, it’s a really fun thought process.
• Positions include C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, OF, OF, DH, RHSP (Right Handed Starting Pitcher), LHSP and RP.
• There is some room for “cheating the system” with the DH and RP spot if players moved to those positions later in their careers. Be as liberal with your list as you would like but don’t list Ken Griffey Jr. as your favorite SS ever.
• The title includes “your lifetime” so you can choose players that retired if you were 2 years old if you want to but I stuck with players that I collected heavily and/or saw play.
• Trust me; this is harder than you think. Just wait until the last paragraph that outlines some of the players that had to be left out.
This may seem like an odd selection to some but there is a reason that I always think of Tony Pena when I think about catchers. First, he was pretty dang good. He was a 4x All-Star and 4x Gold Glove Winner. He also was the master of the fake intentional walk! But that’s just part of the reason he is on this list. When I first started watching baseball, I was drawn to jersey color. I was a young kid and was entertained by some of the louder colors like the Astros and Pirates. My Braves were powder blue and I loved it. But I remember watching the Pirates on a family vacation to Atlanta. They had Bill Madlock, Willie Stargell and Dave Parker at the time. Their catcher was Tony Pena and the way he sat behind home plate with his one leg straightened out caught my eye. I thought he was awesome! I followed his career as I grew up and always liked him. Of course, the card that catches my eye every time is the ’85 Donruss pictured above.
This one was pretty easy for me but I almost swung him to DH to add another 1B to the list. Turns out, I had to do that when I got to the OF position because it is loaded. The Big Hurt was from Columbus, GA, which is about an hour and a half from where I grew up. He then went on to play at Auburn, which is clearly a rival for Georgia but is my favorite team in the SEC West (except for the Cam years). He was at Auburn the same time as Bo Jackson in 1986 and was recruited to play football as a tight end. He went undrafted in baseball out of high school and called it the worst moment of his life. He wanted to play so badly that he once said, “I could have been drafted for a dozen baseballs and a couple of fungos.” He played only one season of football at Auburn, catching 3 passes for 45 yards. He suffered an ankle injury preparing for the ’87 season and turned his focus to baseball. Coach Pat Dye pushed him to pursue the baseball career after the baseball coach told him he would be a 1st round pick but he kept him on football scholarship. He won the triple crown twice at Auburn and the rest is history. Frank is and always will be a top 5 favorite player regardless of position. The Braves had the 5th pick in that ’86 Draft and chose Kent Mercker. What could have been…. The card I chose for Big Frank was the ’93 Ultra All Star. I love this subset!
I have written about watching the cubbies growing up on the blog so this one had to go to Ryno. It was actually kind of close with Craig Biggio but my youthful days of watching the Cubs after school won out. I collected Cubs along with the Braves when I stared in ’89 because of my familiarity with them. They were loveable losers like us too at the time. Ryno’s stats speak for themselves and he might be the greatest 2B to ever play the game but that isn’t what this list is about. He was a career .285 hitter with 282 home runs, which is good for 4th all time among 2B. Biggio is #3 on that list by the way. He was also a 10x All-Star, 9x Gold Glove and 7x Silver Slugger winner. Is there much more to say? I watched him play every day on my TV and he was a star. That pretty much seals it. And my favorite card of him is the ’89 Topps for nostalgic reasons.
While this started as a tough one, it was turned out to be an easy selection. SS is a position that I paid a lot of attention to growing up and there were some great ones. Barry Larkin and Cal Ripken Jr. immediately come to mind. But the player that I always loved and still do was The Wizard. While Bleacher Report ranked him 2nd behind Omar Vizquel, I think he is the greatest SS of all time. The smile was so memorable too. He looked like he enjoyed the game and made me want to play! He won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves and holds the record for career assists. Then there’s the backflip too!! Check out this video if you want to experience The Wizard at his best. If you’re clicking videos, here’s Here’s a great one with Will Clark. The Ozzie pictured above is the best looking card I have of him. The powder blue pants, the red border, the spring training top. I love this card.
Did you honestly think there would be another choice here? Sure, there are several great third sackers that could have made this list and there are quite a few that I really like. But Chipper is a Brave and he is one of the all time greatest. He was an 8x All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger, NL MVP, Batting Champion and World Series Champion. And he played his entire career in Atlanta, which is very rare in this day and age. Admittedly, there were times when he wasn’t my favorite player on the team but I never wanted him anywhere else. He was a gamer and one heckuva team player. So while 3B is loaded with talent, Chipper gets the nod for me. And the card chosen was his 1991 Macon Braves Classic card. I thought this card was going to be worth $1MM one day. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Of course Ron Gant is on my list. Don’t act surprised. I have waxed poetically about #5 before on the blog and you can read that here. My favorite Gant card is this ’89 Donruss. Love the colors!
The Kid. This was a unanimous decision in a sea of uncertainty when I started looking through the outfielders. But there was no way I could leave him off of this list. He had the most beautiful swing of anybody that ever held a baseball bat. He had a smile like Ozzie that would just make you understand how fun the game could be. We don’t even have to bust through the stats but he was an All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and Home Run Leader more seasons than some players actually play in a career. I was able to see him play in person once in Atlanta when he was with the Reds. We watched the game from our outfield seats but with the game out of reach, the stands started emptying so Mrs. Dub and I made it to some prime real estate behind the plate to see his final at bat. He laced a double into the left center field gap and I was a stones throw away from that sweet swing. I will see that ball flying into the night sky for the rest of my life. It was truly one of those baseball moments that make me love the game. For my childhood memories, you can’t beat the Ken Griffey Jr. Dream Team Card.
With Gant and Griffey locked in, my challenge was to find one OF to fill the final spot. My list was about 20 players long too. This one may not be a unanimous decision but I couldn’t go in any other direction when all was said and done. Canseco was the first cards in my binder for many years at the beginning of my collection. Plus, I’ve told the story about dressing up as him in the 7th grade to do a public speaking autobiography. He was the king of baseball in the late 80’s and could mash a ball like nobody’s business. We found out why that was the case as his career started going off the rails. He also had the humiliating baseball off of the head for a home run incident. But nobody was more fun to watch at the plate during his heyday. Because of what he meant to me when I started this hobby, he made the cut for the final OF spot. The 1987 Topps was the first card of Jose I owned and remains a favorite of mine.
This is where I had to pull another outfielder in. I could not have a list of favorite players that didn’t include Bo. He had a shorter career than most but it was as explosive as any. He was as big as an ox, fast as a deer, could play the outfield with the best of them, mash the ball with the power hitters and steal bases like a leadoff hitter. And none of that even touches his other abilities like flattening Brian Bosworth on the gridiron. Bo was truly robbed of a more fruitful career when he suffered his hip injury but sports fans all over the world were also robbed of seeing his otherworldly talent on display. A great 30 for 30 is “You Don’t Know Bo” and I would definitely recommend giving it a watch. Bo is a dude’s dude, a man’s man. The aforementioned coach at Auburn, Pat Dye, was asked who the greatest athlete he ever coached was. His answer, “Bo Jackson was the best athlete I ever coached. Frank Thomas was the second best athlete. And I might have had it reversed.” Both of them made my list. My absolute favorite Bo is the ’87 Topps. It could be my favorite card of all time but that’s a bold statement off the cuff like that.
This is one I got wrong on my first attempt. To be honest, I missed Ryan during my list process and I have no idea why. My first choice was Doc Gooden and he remains my second choice but Nolan Ryan moves to #1 without much debate. The Ryan Express threw so hard, he broke his catcher’s finger on a routine basis. He was throwing harder in his mid 40’s than a lot pitchers when they were 23. The thing I always heard about his fast ball was that it was heavy. It was thrown so hard, it just felt heavy when it was hit or caught. I shared my TTM success from earlier this year on him and I couldn’t have been more excited about the return. Even though I like Robin Ventura as well, my favorite Nolan Ryan moment was this. The card of choice here is the 1989 Upper Deck Football Toss.
Tom Glavine is an Atlanta great. He should have been a Brave for life but that didn’t happen. Glavine was a key component on the Braves teams that made so many memories for me as a kid. He was an artist on the mound and could hit pretty good too. The one blemish he has for me is that whole “Player’s Union Rep during the ’94 Strike” thing but I can get passed that as I understand what his role was at this point. It doesn’t diminish what he did on the field for my team. I also got a chance to meet Glavine at a Braves game a few years ago and he signed for me, which was really cool. He finished his career with 305 wins, 10 All-Star appearances, 4 Silver Slugger Awards and a World Series MVP. He also led the NL in wins 5 times. He would have been more decorated today had he not been sandwiched in the rotation by Greg Maddux and John Smoltz for all those years. My favorite Tom Glavine card is actually a John Smoltz card, sort of.
RP – John Smoltz
Speaking of a John Smoltz card, this was another unanimous decision, even though I was accused of cheating on FaceBook when I listed Smoltz as a Relief Pitcher. While he was a stellar starting pitcher with 213 wins, Marmaduke was also lights out in the closer role for many years for the Braves, notching 155 saves. He remains the only pitcher in history to have 200 wins and 150 saves in a career. He is also the only pitcher I can think of that made the move from SP to Closer and back to SP effectively. Dennis Eckersley was moved from SP to RP but his days as an SP were over. Number 29 will always be my favorite Braves pitcher of all time. He was what our organization was all about in the 90’s. My favorite Smoltz card is the ’89 Upper Deck. I would not have wanted to be in the batters box for that photo.
That is really about the best I can do without driving myself insane. The names I had to leave off of this list are a who’s who of baseball royalty from the 80’s and 90’s. I had to pass over Benny Santiago, Pudge, Bagwell, McGriff, Mattingly, Biggio, Cal, Larkin, Boggs, Hawk, Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Puckett, Clemens, Maddux, Doc, Big Unit and Eckersley! Some of these players could be on the list but I am sticking with this final draft. What about you? Let me know in the comments who your favorites were!