It’s been nearly two months since the Boston Red Sox disposed of the St. Louis Cardinals and wrapped up their third World Series title in the last ten years.
But it wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that Major League Baseball seemed to get into the holiday spirit. Fenway went frozen, both Jonathan Papelbon and Max Scherzer rocked some ugly, ugly sweaters and, finally, National League MVP Andrew McCutchen gave his girlfriend the greatest gift of them all.
All that aside, the question on my mind is this…what’s in a name this holiday season?
Since Major League Baseball was founded 140 years ago, close to 20,000 men have stepped between the foul lines and taken their turn at America’s pasttime. Thankfully, a handful of them have done their best to keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the baseball season.
So, with all apologies to my Jewish brothers (you already got your Hanukkah post, fellas) allow me to regale you with some thoughts on the longstanding partnership between baseball and December 25. I mean, what would the dog days of summer be like without such popular holiday staples like Ebenezer “Ed” Beatin, Frosty Thomas or even George Bailey?
And what about Charles Dickens Bold? I don’t know if he could write a story, but I do know that in his only at bat with the St. Louis Browns, well…he struck out.
Perhaps the classics aren’t your thing and you’d rather hear a song?
You’d be hard pressed to find a Santa or a Claus that played ball (Hall of Famer Ron Santo, former infielder Billy Klaus or onetime pitcher Al Clauss probably come closest), but let’s face it…without his four-legged friends, he’s kinda worthless. And yeah, I’m talking about Dasher Troy, Rolff Dancer, the “Cuban Comet” Minnie Minoso, Cupid Childs and Joe “Blitzen” Benz.
But what about “the most famous reindeer of all”?
Anyway, in the spirit of former catcher Steve Christmas…here are The Hall’s Top Five Major Leaguers to remember this holiday season.
MATT HOLLIDAY, Outfield
Colorado Rockies (2004–2008), Oakland Athletics (2009) and St. Louis Cardinals (2009–present).
Holliday will enter 2014 with a career batting average of .311, 251 home runs and 966 RBI. The six-time All-Star was, in 2007, awarded the NLCS MVP. Not too shabby.
J.T. SNOW, First Base
New York Yankees (1992), California Angels (1993–1996), San Francisco Giants (1997–2005), Boston Red Sox (2006) and San Francisco Giants (2008).
Known as a spectacular fielder, Snow won six-straight (1995-2000) Gold Gloves throughout his 16-year career. His career numbers…a .268 batting average, 1509 hits, 189 home runs and 877 RBI.
IVAN DeJESUS, Shortstop
Los Angeles Dodgers (1974-1976), Chicago Cubs (1977-1981), Philadelphia Phillies (1982-1984), St. Louis Cardinals (1985), New York Yankees (1986), San Francisco Giants (1987) and Detroit Tigers (1988).
Perhaps the most noteworthy accomplishment of DeJesus (other than somehow lasting 15 years in the Majors and leading the National League in runs scored in 1978)…being the punchline to the question “who did the Phillies trade future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg for again?”
JON GARLAND, Pitcher
Chicago White Sox (2000–2007), Los Angeles Angels (2008), Arizona Diamondbacks (2009, Los Angeles Dodgers (2009), San Diego Padres (2010), Los Angeles Dodgers (2011) and Colorado Rockies (2013).
Quietly, Garland strung together a streak of nine consecutive years (2002-2010) with double-digit victories and for his career, the member of the 2005 World Champions has 136 victories and a 4.37 ERA.
COOKIE ROJAS, Second Base/Manager
As a player…Cincinnati Reds (1962), Philadelphia Phillies (1963–1969), St. Louis Cardinals (1970) and Kansas City Royals (1970–1977)
As a manager…California Angels (1988) and Florida Marlins (1996)
Rojas was a five-time All-Star in his 16 year playing career…and even made it to four straight games (1971-1974) while with the Royals. While with the Phillies, Rojas played at least one game at all nine positions in the field, including pitcher and catcher. As a manager, he posted a career 76-79 record.
As previous mentioned…you could put together an entire team of Bells. That said, Gus, Buddy, David and Mole make up a rare three-generation Major League family. In his 15-year career, Gus Bell hit .281 and was an All-Star four times. His son Buddy managed close to the same batting average (.279), while stacking up more than 2500 hits. From 1979 to 1984, he brought home six Gold Gloves. In 2004, when David Bell hit for the cycle during his sting with the Philadelphia Phillies, he joined his grandfather to become the only grandfather-grandson duo in Major League history to accomplish the feat. Lastly, there’s Mike. Well…Mike appeared in 19 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 2000. Good enough?
And yeah…Merry Christmas, everyone.