My Most Favorite Baseball Players in the Whole Wide World, Part I

You’re in for another treat, as the day of lists and bullet points at NotGraphs continues. You’re welcome I’m so sorry.

Last week, “in these very electronic pages,” as the ever eloquent Chairman Cistulli likes to say, I mentioned that upon watching Melky Cabrera high-five Joe West, and then pick something off his bat and eat it, I had to make some changes to My Most Favorite Baseball Players in the Whole Wide World list. Well, what kind of writer basement-dwelling blogger would I be if I didn’t share said list with you?

Now, please keep in mind, I grew up, and remain, an ardent supporter of Toronto’s Blue Jays. I was a freshly minted 10-years-old when the World Series trophy began its two-year northern vacation in 1992. In celebrating Toronto’s back-to-back championships, I was so hopped up on sugar I might as well have lined up and snorted the stuff.

Part I, players 10 through six on the list, is below, and not as Blue Jays centric as Part II will inevitably be. Shall we? We shall.

10. Melky Cabrera

He high-fived Joe West. He picked something off his bat and ate it. You’re damned right that was enough, at this moment in time in the universe, to crack my top 10 list.

9. Kirk Rueter

I was enthralled by Rueter’s 1993 debut with the Montreal Expos, Toronto’s baseball cousins, whom I always kept a close eye on. Rueter didn’t allow an earned run in his first two career starts, and finished his dream rookie season 8-0. Back then, pitcher wins weren’t everything. They were the only thing. Though he spent the majority of his career in San Francisco, Rueter, the furthest from a power pitcher, was the reason I rocked, for a short period of time, a blue Expos hat.

8. Paul O’Neill

It’s funny, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always despised the New York Yankees. It’s in my contract as a fan of another team in the AL East. But I could never find it in me to hate Paul O’Neill. He played the game — wait for it — the right way. At least that’s what it always looked like. In the late 90s, O’Neill was the consummate Yankee; America at its finest. And watching him play game four of the 1999 World Series hours after his father died was about as emotional as baseball has ever been for me. There’s a reason no Yankee wears #21. And, let’s be honest, the brilliant Seinfeld cameo helped. O’Neill hit two home runs for little Bobby!

7. Tony Fernandez

It was always the way Tony Fernandez threw the ball, from short to first, the side-armed flick, that endeared him to me, and so many others. He could field like nobody else. So smooth. Even the way he held his bat was different. An influential part of the up-and-coming Blue Jays of the late 80s, even in departure, traded to San Diego with Fred McGriff for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, Fernandez left his mark; the trade was the most crucial the Blue Jays have ever made. And Fernandez, for his part, always thought of himself as a Blue Jay. You could tell. It’s what made his return to Toronto in 1993 so special, as the Jays set out to repeat. In 48 games with the New York Mets to begin the season, Fernandez’s wOBA was a disappointing .293. After being reacquired by the Blue Jays, Fernandez, home again, hit .306 the rest of the way, with a .354 wOBA. Home, as they say, is where the heart is, yo. After winning the 1993 World Series, Tony was off on his way again, with stops in Cincinnati, New York, and Cleveland. Until he came home, to Toronto, again, for the 1998 and 1999 seasons. As much as Fernandez couldn’t get enough of Toronto, we couldn’t get enough of him. I’ll never forget June 1999, when, three months into the season, Fernandez flirted with .400. After a season in Japan, and a quick tour of Milwaukee in early 2001, Fernandez came back to Toronto again, a third time. It was only fitting. Fernandez had to retire a Blue Jay. Thanks for the memories, Tony.

6. Mark McGwire

The first non-Blue Jays jersey I ever purchased was a red, St. Louis Cardinals Mark McGwire one. It was the summer of 1998, when McGwire and Sammy Sosa were Chasing Maris. Like so many people, the home run brought me back to baseball, too. I ain’t mad at you, Mark.

This exercise, and the agonizing decisions that came with it, was a lot more difficult than I originally imagined. Who makes up the latter half of your top 10? Tell me in the comments below. Please? (I have to, I’m Canadian.)

And stay tuned for Part II, dropping in the coming days. And, one more thing: Follow me on Twitter. Why, you ask? I say: Why not?

Image courtesy LIFE, via — who else? — Google.



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Navin Vaswani is a replacement-level writer. Follow him on Twitter.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Matt Collins
Guest

El Guapo Rich Garces has gotta be on the list. Just the definition of fat & jolly.

Joe P.
Guest
Joe P.

He’s on my list! Every year, my fantasy team sports the Handsome One’s moniker.

Chet Utley
Guest

Nice first half of your list. I just hope that your readers don’t brand all Canadian fans of MLB as Blue Jays fans. I find the Toronto announcers to be terrible homers and sometimes misinformed. And when Bob McCown of Prime Time Sports went on and on about Luis Aparicio being one of the greatest second basemen of his time I was laughing for days. Aparicio played every inning of his career at SS.

Love your site and will always be coming back. As for my favorite player of all time, it is none other than Cesar Cedeno. Yes, he was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend, but Dominican justice wasn’t really justice in the early seventies.

Go Red Sox !! (A fan since 1975)

weebs
Member
weebs

That’s being scored a triple for Paul O’Neill with a throwing error!

Chris Thompson
Guest
Chris Thompson

Greg Maddux, he looked nerdy and I loved him

Stringer Bell
Guest
Stringer Bell

You wouldn’t love him if you were a rookie in the shower.

Chris Thompson
Guest
Chris Thompson

ha! I googled “maddux rookie shower” never heard that story before, that’s not right.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I got a Tim Naehring baseball card when I first started following the Boston Red Sox. For whatever reason that card always stuck in my mind and 20 years later I have it tucked safely away in my wallet.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich

Of current players, I may have to go with Adam Dunn at #1. Anyone who enjoys baby seal clubbing jokes wins some solid points in my book.

Honorable mention to Tim Lincecum for missing his first All-Star game with “Flu-like symptons.” It must have been one great night to be too hung over for your first All-Star game.

Braden spotts
Guest
Braden spotts

10. Jose Canseco. Nobody was cooler than him when I was in grade school.
9. Randy Johnson. Watching him pitch to John Kruk in that all star game is one of my best baseball memories.
8. Sid Bream. 1992 NLCS. I still get goose bumps when I see that clip.
7. Francisco Cabrera. See above.
6. Orel Hershiser. The Bulldog.

William
Guest
William

Robinson Cano. Have you seen him twirl a bat? He looks like a Penn State Majorette. And he’s the next Rod Carew, so that counts for something. Plus he’s best friends with Melky.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Much love for the Rueter pick, I was never sure why, but for some reason I always liked him, probably for the same reasons I liked Dave Burba. Rueter will forever be my favorite SF Giant.

Temo
Member
Temo

Quilvio Veras. The master of the 12 pitch, 9 foul ball at bat.

25th_Hour
Guest

Tony was my first favorite baseball player. I still remember being a kid playing box baseball and calling out “I’m Tony.” I used to mimic his ritual at the plate. The slow looping of his bat so effortlessly and smoothly. Hell on my varsity baseball team in high school I even successfully attempted his swinging bunt base hit once. He was so much fun to watch.

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