Monday, February 18, 2013

Baseball Players and Presidents

A federal holiday honoring George Washington began in 1879, when all government offices in the District of Columbia were closed on February 22, Washington's birth date. In 1971 the Uniform  Monday Holiday Act took effect, moving all federal holidays to designated Mondays. The holiday is now most commonly known as Presidents Day, but is still officially designated "Washington's Birthday." It is celebrated on the third Monday in February (odd, since that means it never falls on Washington's actual birthday), which is why I'm not at work today. To honor the highest office in our nation, I'm putting together a baseball team, made entirely of players who share their surname with a U.S. President.

There have been 38 different presidential surnames (plus a second Adams, Harrison, Roosevelt, Johnson, and Bush, and two separate stints by Grover Cleveland. Of those 38 names, 27 of them have also been held by at least one Major League Ballplayer. The eleven that have not: Polk, Fillmore, Arthur, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, Coolidge, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Obama. There have been 107 different Major League players by the last name of Johnson, included eleven that have appeared in at least one All-Star Game.

Here are the top ten ACTIVE presidential players:

1) Josh Johnson
2) Jack Wilson
3) Adam Kennedy
4) Austin Jackson
5) Kelly Johnson
6) Edwin Jackson
7) C.J. Wilson
8) Ian Kennedy
9) Matt Harrison
10) Reed Johnson

None of them make my team and only two of them merit honorable mention at this point, but many of them are young, and I'm sure more of them will merit "mention" eventually. Who knows, maybe one of them will even earn a spot on the team eventually (only Austin Jackson seems plausible, and he's got a ways to go).

Here are my choices to fill out the Presidential Team:

STARTING ROTATION:

1) WALTER JOHNSON (1907-1927) - The Big Train won two MVP Awards, holds the all-time record for shutouts, is among the top ten in wins, innings, strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA+, led the league in strikeouts a record twelve times and has a very strong case as the great pitcher of all time, by any name.

2) RANDY JOHNSON (1988-2009) - The Big Unit might have been the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history. He won five Cy Young Awards and finished 2nd three other times. He is 2nd in history in strikeouts and 1st in strikeouts per inning. He was a 10-time All-Star and a World Series MVP.

3) WHITEY FORD (1950-1967) - After a fantastic rookie season, Ford spent the next two years serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He returned to baseball in 1953 and pitched in ten of the next twelve World Series. He finished among the top ten in the A.L. ten times apiece in ERA+ and strikeouts.

4) BILLY PIERCE (1945-1964) - Almost as good as Ford, but far less famous because he spent most of his career with the White Sox, instead of pitching in the World Series year after year with the Yankees. Place in the top ten in the A.L. in ERA+ seven times and strikeouts nine times.

5) LARRY JACKSON (1955-1968) - An All-Star in four different seasons, Jackson had good control (top ten in BB rate eight times) and was a workhorse (top ten in complete games eight times). He pitched for the Cardinals during a relative down time and then for the Cubs and Phillies, never reaching the postseason.

Honorable Mention: Babe Adams, Bullet Joe Bush, Guy Bush, Mudcat Grant, Danny Jackson, Josh Johnson, Ken Johnson, Si Johnson, Syl Johnson (the Johnson family makes for one hell of a rotation), Brickyard Kennedy, Dummy Taylor (he was deaf-mute), Jack Taylor, Lefty Tyler, Don Wilson, Earl Wilson

CLOSER:

MIKE JACKSON (1986-2004) - One WAR (Win Above Replacement) is a very solid season for a relief pitcher. Jackson had ten such seasons, only seven relief pitchers in history have had more than that (topped by Mariano Rivera, with 16). His 1998 season with the Indians was one of the best ever by a closer.

Honorable Mention: Mike Adams, Grant Jackson, Jim Johnson, Chuck Taylor, Brian Wilson

CATCHER:

GARY CARTER (1974-1992) - An eleven-time All-Star, Carter also finished in the top ten of the MVP vote four times. His 324 career home runs are tied for fifth most among catchers, he is among the top ten in most other major categories as well and was also a strong defensive player.

Honorable Mention: Frankie Hayes, Charles Johnson, Terry Kennedy

FIRST BASE:

BEN TAYLOR (1911-1929) - Taylor played in the Negro Leagues, compiling a .318 lifetime average according to the records at Baseball-Reference.com. Also said to have been a fine fielder, Bill James ranked him as the 3rd-best first baseman in Negro League history.

Honorable Mention: Ron Jackson, Cliff Johnson, Nick Johnson

SECOND BASE:

BILL MONROE (1896-1914) - One of the great African-American players from the turn of the century, Bill James put him 5th on his list of the greatest second basemen in Negro League history and Hall of Fame manager John McGraw is reported to have said of Monroe, " He was the greatest infielder I ever saw."

Honorable Mention: Frank Grant, Davey Johnson, Tony Taylor

THIRD BASE:

JUDY JOHNSON (1918-1936) - One of the first half-dozen Negro League Stars to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Johnson was a fine fielder and hit for a good average (though not much power). Bill James ranked him as the 2nd-greatest third baseman in Negro League history.

Honorable Mention: Bobby Adams, Howard Johnson, Jud Wilson

SHORTSTOP:

TRAVIS JACKSON (1922-1936) - Jackson spent his entire career with the New York Giants, playing very good defense and finishing in the top ten of the MVP vote four times. Jackson had great power for a shortstop in his days. At the time of his retirement, his 135 career home runs were a record for the position.

Honorable Mention: Donie Bush, Abe Harrison, Jack Wilson

LEFT FIELD:

SHOELESS JOE JACKSON (1908-1920) - Famously banned from baseball for taking money to lose the 1919 World Series, Jackson was an all-time great hitter. He finished among the league leaders in most categories most seasons. His lifetime batting average of .356 ranks 3rd all-time and his 170 OPS+ ranks 8th.

Honorable Mention: Joe Carter, Bo Jackson, Bob Johnson

CENTER FIELD:

HACK WILSON (1923-1934) - He didn't have a long career and never did much but hit, but in his prime, he sure did hit. From 1926 to 1930 his batting line was .331/.419/.612, an OPS+ of 160. In 1930 he set a National League record with 56 home runs and drove in 191 runs, a Major League record that stands to this day.

Honorable Mention: Lance Johnson, Mookie Wilson, Willie Wilson

RIGHT FIELD:

REGGIE JACKSON (1967-1987) - Dubbed "Mr. October" after hitting three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, Jackson was a fourteen-time All-Star and the 1973 A.L. MVP. He led the league in home runs four times on his way to 563 career long balls (the sixth-highest total at the time of his retirement). He was such a great hitter that few people held it against him when he attempted to assassinate the Queen of England ("I must kill... the Queen").

Honorable Mention: Von Hayes, Trot Nixon, Claudell Washington

There you have it, baseball's Presidential Team!

Internet friend Christopher Kamka (Comcast SportsNet Chicago's research man) pointed out a few other players who might have been included. These are guys I came across in my research but ultimately decided against (a stickler for my surname rule): Grover Cleveland Alexander and Theodore Roosevelt Lilly are among the players clearly named after Presidents. Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish was clearly named after quite a few people, I'd like to see his name stitched onto a jersey. In a similar vein, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson and Oscar McKinley Charleston may both have been named after a President too (Charleston was born two weeks BEFORE McKinley was elected, so perhaps his mother was a big supporter). Those are two of the very best players in history, and along with Alexander, they could form the foundation of a rival team!

I'll leave you with a few leaderboards:


Most Hits
Most Home Runs
Most Stolen Bases
Rank
Player
H
Rank
Player
HR
Rank
Player
SB
1
Reggie Jackson
2584
1
Reggie Jackson
563
1
Willie Wilson
668
2
Willie Wilson
2207
2
Joe Carter
396
2
Otis Nixon
620
3
Joe Carter
2184
3
Gary Carter
324
3
Donie Bush
406
4
Gary Carter
2092
4
Bob Johnson
288
4
Lance Johnson
327
5
Bob Johnson
2051
5
Deron Johnson
245
4
Mookie Wilson
327
6
Tony Taylor
2007
6
Hack Wilson
244
6
Claudell Washington
312
7
Claudell Washington
1884
7
Howard Johnson
228
7
Von Hayes
253
8
Donie Bush
1804
8
Cliff Johnson
196
8
Tony Taylor
234
9
Joe Jackson
1772
9
Preston Wilson
189
9
Joe Carter
231
10
Travis Jackson
1768
10
Charles Johnson
167
9
Howard Johnson
231

Happy Presidents Day!

2 comments:

  1. Oscar McKinley Charleston. Nice work, sir. Also, Davey Johnson for manager?

    - CK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, he probably deserves the nod over Ron Washington and Kevin Kennedy.

      Delete