Wednesday, December 26, 2012


This is a day late (and I'll let you determine both the value and the type of currency involved in its being short...), but it's too many days to sit on the idea for another go-round...after all, doing so would put into play the 50-50 chance that it would be completely forgotten.

Way back in the posts you'll find a series that dealt with what was called a "Birthyear Showdown." (That's "birthyear," not "birther," by the way.) We did do some simulation for those teams, and were hoping to migrate it into another venue, but those talks trailed off, leaving that in a lingering limbo.

Some of the players on the 12/25 team are as mysterious as the good ol' Shroud
of Turin... where those half-lives can actually help find out how old things are...
if they don't disappear before your very eyes, that is.
When messing with variants of the idea, one that came up was a set based on player's birthdays, but the first-blush reaction was that such would be unlikely to produce teams that could actually be fielded--at least not with resorting to impossibly obscure players with careers no longer than the half-life of highly volatile radioactive substances.

But it's the Christmas season, which means that suspension of disbelief is still ambient in the slipstream, so what better day to dip one's toe into this idea, yes-no, no-yes?? 'tis. The Christmas Day Team. It's unwieldy, but not without its interest.

No bout a doubt it: for this team to have any chance of winning, they
are going to have to give Rickey as much time in the whirlpool as he wants...
For example, there are three Hall of Famers born on Christmas: Rickey Henderson, Pud Galvin, and Nellie Fox.

Alas, in terms of real-life, on-field "chemistry," we are in "Houston-we-have-a-problem" territory...since we will have to play one of baseball's most unrepentant racists, Ben Chapman, next to Henderson in the outfield.

Also, one of the players with a long career (Manny Trillo) is blocked at his natural position by a better player (Fox).

It is a team virtually bereft of home-run power, which gives one pause in terms of setting up the batting order...Rickey Henderson, consummate leadoff man, is easily the best overall hitter on the team and is also by far the team's best power hitter. Where do you bat him?

Here's what we're going to do:
Nellie Fox, trying to decide between smokin' and chewin'...

1. Nellie Fox, 2b
2. Manny Trillo/Walter Holke, 1b
3. Rickey Henderson, lf
4. Ben Chapman, cf
5. Vince Dailey, rf
6. Bill Akers, ss
7. Gene Robertston/Jim Doyle, 3b
8. Gene Lamont/Chris Krug, c

Now raise your hands and tell the many of you had any recollection of the following names: Holke, Dailey, Akers, Robertson, Doyle, Krug? Gene Lamont you should remember, but as a manager and a coach, not for his brief playing career.

These are obscure journeymen (Holke, highly regarded by John McGraw when he first came to the Giants, but cast aside for, of all people, Hal Chase); AAAA players (Akers, just not quite good enough in the field to hold SS for Tigers in the early 30s); mysterious presences from baseball's misty past (Dailey, still so shrouded in a cloud of unknowing that no one, not even David Nemec, knows which way he batted).

But they're going to have to "make do" and create their own strange stories without the help of Pu Songling, the chronicler of ghost tales from seventeenth-century China who'd be oddly suited to manage this ballclub (regardless of the fact that his only link to baseball is an odd dream that he had late in his life, forced in his slumbers to play a game that was kind of a combination of "celestial town ball" and an odd, sinister variant of the Mesoamerican ball game).

Rounding out the position players on the roster are Joe Quinn (we gotta have a backup SS); Jo-Jo Moore (the player not in the starting lineup with the longest career, as the fourth OF); and Gerry Davis (outfielder was blocked in the Padres system during their brief flowering under Dick Williams: he'd bring some pinch-hitting HR pop that's totally lacking otherwise).

We are going to go with all eleven of the pitchers we've found in the list (which, BTW, can be accessed at Forman et fil) who won't inordinately embarrass themselves:

Ted Lewis, a fine pitcher who went on to finer things...
Right-handed starters: Pud Galvin, Ned Garver, Ted Lewis, Charley Lea, George Haddock
Left-handed starter: Lloyd Brown
Right-handerd relievers: Hideki Okajima, Jack Hamilton, Charlie Beamon, Sr.
Left-handed relievers: Alex Jones, Jeff Little

To have some decent prospects in the bullpen, it might be necessary to make lefty Brown into at least a swingman; this team will have to try some complex patterning for their starters to get an edge (namely trying like hell to get Galvin 40+ starts and doing something similar with Lewis, a genuinely fine hurler lost in the mists of the 1890s offensive explosion).

The 12/25ers should have a decent closer/set-up combo in Okajima and Hamilton, and it will be rather interesting to find a role for Beamon, the least-remembered (as in almost completely forgotten) of the young pitchers who popped up for the Paul Richards Orioles in late 50s. (That this might be due to the fact that he was black is something to ponder--but not to discuss with Ben Chapman).

Young Charlie Beamon, Sr., playing in his
hometown for the Oakland Oaks in 1954...
the A's should honor father and son at the
Boneyard this year.
What makes Beamon into a figure of genuine romance, however, is that his first big league start--which occurred on September 26, 1956--he threw a complete game four-hit shutout against the soon-to-be world champion New York Yankees, winning by a score of 1-0, and beating Whitey Ford to boot. (The only run for the O's came on a wild pitch by Ford.)

The other reason you've never heard of Beamon until now is in his pitching line for that game--while he allowed only four hits, he walked seven over nine innings. He didn't master his control problems, and was quickly lost in the shuffle of the other young pitchers, who were whiter and (at least marginally) less wild. Beamon's son, Charley Jr., was a very solid minor-league hitter who got lost in the glut of the Royals' early farm system riches: he got a brief shot in Seattle in 1977-78, but he didn't hit for power and didn't show much in his small opportunity, and was shuttled off to the other expansion team (the Blue Jays), where he met a similar fate.

I think manager Songling will find a use for the elder Beamon, however. The 12/25ers aren't going to go far in a vast 366-team round robin, but they'll be in the hunt for awhile, we suspect. Now comes the task of deciding whether such an insane project, born from the ingestion of too many sweets on Christmas Day, is worth contemplating. As Pu would say to his charges from his perch in the dugout, however...stranger things have happened.