Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The A to Z Player Challenge

The Diamond King recently posted his favorite card for his favorite player A to Z and challenged others to follow suit. I thought it seemed like a fun idea, so thought I would jump in. Along with each player is an actual card from my collection.

A - Grover Cleveland Alexander

Old Pete Alexander was a complex and troubled man, but a highly talented pitcher. He won 373 games and closed out game 7 of the 1926 World Series for the Cardinals at age 39. He was also a star pitcher for my Cubs for 9 seasons. Still need a Cub card of him.

Other favorite: Hank Aaron

B - Ernie Banks

Banks is a true legend. There are some other players that I really like, but I can't argue with Mr. Cub.

Other favorites: Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Jim Banning, Jeff Bittiger, Kris Bryant, Chief Bender

C - Chris Coste

From my hometown, Coste was my favorite non-major leaguer growing up when he played for our city's independent minor league team. He later went on to make the major leagues. 

Other favorites: Tony Campana, Ty Cobb, Roberto Clemente

D - Dave Dravecky

Dravecky's biography Comeback was one of the first baseball books I read and was really inspiring. I later got a chance to meet Dave, and he is a truly good guy.

E - Darin Erstad

Another local favorite, Erstad grew up about 90 miles from my hometown. A favorite memory is him and the Angels winning the 2002 World Series. He also won Gold Gloves at first base and center field and had 240 hits one season.

F - Julio Franco

I always liked Franco's batting stance and as well as players that seemed to play forever. Fun fact: Franco hit .222 in 27 at-bats playing independent baseball in 2014. He was 55 at the time.

G - Mark Grace

A close second for my favorite Cub, behind Ryne Sandberg. Grace played the game hard, had an awesome swing, was a great fielder, and just a true pro for many years. I was upset when he left Chicago for Arizona, but loved seeing him win it all in 2001 with the Diamondbacks.

Other favorites: Mudcat Grant, Tom Glavine, Dave Goltz

H - Rick Helling

A graduate of my high school (14 years my senior), Helling had a solid pitching career and even won 20 games one year.

Other favorites: Travis Hafner, Billy Hamilton (21st century player), Charlie Hough

I - Monte Irvin

Not many to choose from for this letter, but you really can't go wrong with this Hall of Famer. Plus, he was a Cub for a year!

J - Bo Jackson

Bo was a once in a generation talent. 

Other favorites: Walter Johnson, Jay Johnstone

K - Sandy Koufax

Koufax had one of the best, if not THE best, 5 year stretch of any pitcher ever. Plus, he's a really interesting guy in my opinion.

Other favorites: Harmon Killebrew, Jim Kaat

L - Nap Lajoie

This guy was so great he got a team named after him (the Cleveland Naps). Incidentally, I'd love to see that be their "new" name. Would be cool if this card wasn't a reprint.

Other favorite: Kenny Lofton, Michael Lorenzen

M - Roger Maris

I really like a lot of "M" players. But Maris is pretty much a no brainer here. An alumnus of my high school and a legend in my town.

Other favorites: Gus Munch, Greg Maddux, Minnie Minoso, Jamie Moyer, Christy Mathewson, Darryl Motley, Biz Mackey

N - Phil Niekro

Not a ton of players to choose from here, but can't go wrong with a guy who was effective into his late 40s. 

O - Buck O'Neil

I honestly don't know the purpose of having a Baseball Hall of Fame without having this guy in it.

Other favorites: Sadaharu Oh, Tony Oliva, Shohei Ohtani

P - Deacon Phillippe

To my surprise, this turn of the century great who won nearly 200 games played a season in my hometown, Fargo, ND. He was one of the players I researched when I wrote my book on the 1897 Red River Valley League. This is the oldest card in my collection, too.

Other favorite: Satchel Paige

Q - Dan Quisenberry

Not many to choose from here, but Quiz was a cool dude with an awesome delivery.

R - Old Hoss Radbourn

This pick is due in large part to a  fantastic baseball read called 59 in '84, by Edward Achorn. Radbourn is now credited with 60 wins for the 1884 season. He also gave a subtle middle finger to the camera nearly a century before Billy Martin did on his 1972 Topps card. In fact, that's the photo featured in the card shown above.

Other favorites: Nolan Ryan, Anthony Rizzo, Jackie Robinson

S - Ryne Sandberg

Ryno's my all-time favorite. A no brainer here.

Other favorites: Ron Santo

T - Jim Thorpe

Thorpe was the original all-around athlete. Baseball was not even close to his best sport, yet he still played parts of 6 seasons in the majors.

Other favorite: Luis Tiant

U - Bob Unglaub

This one's due to a local connection. Unglaub had just finished his third season as player/manager of the Fargo-Moorhead Graingrowers when he died in a tragic accident while repairing a locomotive. He was just 36 years old. I'm in the market for a non-reprint of Unglaub.

V - Omar Vizquel

I was never an Indians fan, but Vizquel was just too good not to like. 

W - Kerry Wood

Kerry Wood stole the hearts of many Cubs fans in 1998 as a dominant 20-year-old. Striking out 20 Astros in a game certainly helped. 

Other favorites: Maury Wills, Rube Waddell

Y - Michael Young

I became a Rangers fan in the mid-2000s after getting a chance to visit the Ballpark in Arlington. Young and Mark Teixeira were my favorites.

Other favorite: Cy Young

Z - Ben Zobrist

I first liked Zobrist when he helped the Royals win the World Series, so I was excited when he signed with Chicago. He came up clutch for the Cubs in 2016, too.

Other favorite: Bill Zink

Thanks for reading!


  1. Some really great stuff here. I am a big fan of the early century stuff, nice to see some here. Great mix of old, new and personal tie ins.

  2. I think you have the most unique picks of any list I've seen so far.

    We have 5 the same though.

  3. I've been loving reading these posts around the blogs lately. It's even better to see a Chris Coste cameo on your list! Love those late-blooming prospects - he didn't reach the majors till he was 33 if I'm remembering right.

  4. I think this list has the most names I didn't recognize with four: Chris Coste, Deacon Phillippe, Old Hoss Radbourn, and Bob Unglaub. I'm stocked to see Dave Dravecky make someone's list though.

  5. Wow some super-OLD guys on this list. I'd have to do some serious reading before putting someone like Lajoie on there.

  6. That Deacon Philippe card is awesome! You are clearly someone who does not have to have seen the player play to enjoy them.