I LOVE BASEBALL! When you live in Florida you can’t help but get excited about baseball season when Spring Training rolls around. But I’m a transplanted Hoosier from the heart of Basketball country.
In Indiana you spell Basketball with a capital “B”. Basketball was a way of life. Every kid I knew had a Basketball goal in his driveway or attached to his barn (I knew some girls too but never paid attention to whether they had a Basketball hoop in their yard). When your parents sent you outside to play there was no question what you would be doing… every house in the neighborhood had at least three Basketballs.
There was a time in my life when I could recite every Mr. Basketball recipient in the State of Indiana. A list of the most important people from Indiana included Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Steve Alford, Scott Skiles, Shawn Kemp, Damon Bailey, Glenn Robinson and Kojak Fuller (the last one is for all you Anderson Indian Fans)… if James Dean is ever mentioned as an “important Hoosier” people are quick to remind you that he wasn’t just a great actor but was also a pretty solid Basketball player. A regular topic of conversation in Indiana is whether class Basketball should be abolished (and for the record, class Basketball is the greatest travesty of sports).
As I reflected on my cultural and geographic origins I couldn’t help but wonder how I ever came to love baseball. Indiana doesn’t have an MLB team. Where I grew up the kids who feigned interest in baseball rooted for regional teams like the Cincinnati Reds or the Chicago Cubs… or the ever-popular Yankees… or, because of their success in the early 90’s, the Braves were a popular choice. MLB games weren’t terribly accessible on television back then.
I suspect my admiration for baseball can be attributed to Little League ball and the 3000 baseball cards I collected throughout my childhood (in other news I have 3000 worthless baseball cards for sale if anyone is interested- a special thanks to Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Upper Deck, Score, and Bowman for taking my hard-earned allowance and flooding the trading card market with garbage). Regardless of the reasons for my infatuation with America’s pastime, I will always remember talking about my favorite baseball players in the Little League dugout or with my brothers while negotiating a Fred McGriff for Wade Boggs trade.
I have assembled my all-childhood team below. Note: The players I have listed in each position are not based on statistics or any real measurable attributes, rather it is a collection of the players most important to me, a Hoosier, during my childhood (consequently these players make up a disproportionate number of my baseball card collection- buyer beware).
Without further adieu, Adam Stohler’s All-Childhood Baseball Team – team names represent teams I remember them playing for when I was a kid, not every team they played for:
C – Pat Borders, Toronto Blue Jays (oddly enough Pat Borders lives in the same town I do)
Honorable Mention – Benito Santiago, Padres/Marlins
1st – Don Mattingly, NY Yankees (fellow Hoosier);
Honorable Mention: Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox
2nd – Ryne Sandberg, Chicago Cubs;
Honorable Mention: Craig Biggio, Houston Astros
SS – Cal Ripken, Jr., Baltimore Orioles;
Honorable Mention: Ozzie Smith, St. Louis Cardinals
3rd – Chris Sabo, Cincinnati Reds;
Honorable Mention: Wade Boggs, Red Sox/Yankees
OF – Ken Griffey, Jr., Seattle Mariners
Honorable Mention: Ricky Henderson, Oakland A’s
OF – Jose Canseco, Oakland A’s
Honorable Mention: Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins
OF – Bo Jackson, KC Royals (come on who wasn’t on the Bo Jackson train- we all played Tecmo Football)
Honorable Mention: Darryl Strawberry, NY Mets/LA Dodgers/NY Yankees
Nolan Ryan, Texas Rangers (and a million of other teams)
Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox
Dennis Eckersley, Oakland A’s
David Cone, NY Mets
Jim Abbott, California Angels (fascinated that he only had one arm)
Dwight “Doc” Gooden, NY Mets
Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves
Charlie Hough, Florida Marlins/Texas Rangers (I don’t know why… maybe the knuckleball)
Greg Maddux, Atlanta Braves
Andy Benes, San Diego Padres (fellow Hoosier)