Greatest Baseball Players

My friend Mike Bridensine, a fellow writer at and hilarious standup in Chicago, recently posted a list of his favorite baseball players, mostly focusing on the best and most consistent players from the 1980s. I posted a reply with my favorite players of all time, a group of mostly drunks and eccentrics, who barely managed to keep themselves alive, let alone achieve success in baseball:
  • Ed Delahanty: arguably the best hitter of the 1800s (hit over .400 three times). His playing career abruptly ended after he died trying to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
  • Rube Waddell: perhaps the most talented left-handed pitcher in baseball history, despite a complete lack of common sense. He drank so heavily, his manager refused to pay him in increments greater then $10, after Waddell missed most of his first three seasons on drinking binges. To recoup the difference, Waddell offered to wrestle any animal for money, receiving most of his income in alligator fights. He rarely finished games, often running after fire trucks in mid-pitch and stopping to play with children. Opposing managers discovered his fascination with “shinny things” and routinely distracted him with toys, a particularly successful strategy since he often pitched drunk and once even passed out on the pitching mound. He contracted pneumonia after building a damn without wearing shoes and died at 35.
  • Bid McPhee: often cited as the greatest second baseman of the 19th century, he played his entire career without a glove even though they were used by all other fielders of the time. He considered gloves to be feminine and, instead, soaked his hands in salt water to “toughen them up”.
  • Lou Novikoff: a confessed botanophobe who lacked the courage to even approach plants, Novikoff was, amazingly, drafted by the Cubs for the outfield in Wrigley Field- where he was immediately despised for never even attempting to catch balls that neared the ivy walls. Additionally, his wife attended each game and, according to teammates, “hated the man“, loudly and awkwardly heckling him each time he batted. Despite having poor speed, he often attempted to steal bases in order to distance himself from his wife’s angry screaming.
  • Cool Papa Bell: a Negro league star who claimed to be the fastest man on the planet. He often complained of running into his own hits, since he traveled faster then the ball and told roommates that he could “turn off the lights and reach the bed before it got dark”.
  • Steve Dalkowski: owned both the greatest fastball and worst command ever seen in baseball. Dalkowski regularly pitched at speeds beyond 105 Mph, but enjoyed zero major league success since he walked over a batter an inning and was a violent alcoholic who may have been mentally handicapped. He once struck out 24 batters in a game (a professional record), but lost 8-4 after issuing 18 walks, six wild pitches and four hit-batsmen.
  • Steve Sparks: a former All Star who’s career collapsed after separating both shoulders while attempting to motivate his team by tearing a phone book in half.
  • Darren Daulton: one of the best catchers of the last decade, Daulton now claims to travel through time and command the ability to leave his own body. Daulton, who is particularly fond of visiting the Dutch Enlightenment, discovered these talents after singling down the third base line at Wrigley Field one day, saying “I never single down the third base line, so clearly it was not me who hit the ball”, but, rather, a separate person from the fifth dimension. His wife, who has filed for divorce, considers Daulton insane, but he replies, “she just doesn’t understand metaphysics”.

Our lists did, however, share one player: Rickey Henderson. Mike has Rickey Henderson on his list since Henderson is the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history. I have him on my list because Henderson has the most hilarious speech patterns and bizzare behavior in modern baseball:

  • Henderson refers to himself in third person, not only in interviews (“that’s not how Rickey swings”) but also in conversation, once begning a phone message for Padres GM Kevin Towers with, “This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey”.
  • He talks to his bats and refers to them as “bad boys”- commonly asking, “which of you bad boys has a hit in ya?”
  • he contracted frost bite after falling asleep on an ice pack.
  • The Oakland Athletics couldn’t account for a one million dollar revenue surplus during his MVP season- it was later discovered that Henderson framed his bonus without cashing it.