Ways to divide the big new Hall of Fame baseball set into teams
By Glenn Guzzo
OK, you’ve got your hands on the ultra-cool new Hall of Fame baseball cards, Strat-O-Matic’s biggest set of great players ever. Now, how are you going to play them?
There’s dozens of possibilities for the imaginative gamer, but the 238 cards are not divided into teams. Relying on the old computer rosters for eight 24-man squads from the Hall of Fame 2000 set doesn’t account for 46 extra cards in this set. Adding the 18 major leaguers elected to the HOF since then to the HOF 2000 teams overloads the two post-war teams. And where are you going to place the 28 Negro Leaguers?
Fact is, the 24-man teams were already overloaded with lineup players, while having barely enough pitchers and catchers. In a league of superstars, Lou Brock, a man with 3,000 hits, was limited to being a pinch-runner. Brooks Robinson, once a Most Valuable Player, was a defensive replacement. Even big-bat guys like Paul Waner and Arky Vaughan were mostly pinch-hitters.
So the 28-man, 31-card Negro League set is far too formidable for one team in a “league” using most of these 238 cards. Eleven pitchers who each display stats of 180-290 innings pitched is about twice the innings a team needs to play a 154-game season.
The good news: The new cards in this set allow us to divide the full set differently. The HOF 2000 set mostly was divided into seven era teams (Old-Timers, Turn of the Century, Dead Ball, AL and NL Pre-War, AL and NL Post-War), with one very competitive group of “Left Outs” – players like Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane and Duke Snider – too good to sit behind their era contemporaries (Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Willie Mays). The set could not be divided cleanly into franchises, because only the Yankees and Giants had all the positions covered.
Now, however, we can get closer to franchise teams with a bit of imagination. We’ll have the Yanks and Giants, and they will be potent. But so will teams representing Boston (Red Sox and Braves), Chicago (Cubs and White Sox), Philadelphia (Phillies and A’s) and St. Louis (Cardinals and Browns). We’ve got tougher decisions concerning Baltimore, Brooklyn/LA, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Washington, plus the expansion teams.
But before we do this, we’ve got to decide on those Negro Leaguers. Do they form their own team(s), or do they further integrate the Major League franchises? The decision is critical, as you’ll soon see.
First, let’s work out what makes a team where all the players in the league were full-time players. We don’t need 25-man rosters, or 24.
A half dozen pitchers will cover the needed innings. Seven pitchers would be better, eight the max in a league where the pitching cards won’t complete many teams. Around the horn, we can get by with one catcher (two is better) because they are still scarce, a spare infielder or two, and a spare outfielder or two. In other words, 11 will get by, 12 is enough, 13 plenty. In all, teams of 17-21 cards should do nicely.
Now, about those Negro Leaguers. Those 28 men and 31 cards divide nicely into two geographical teams, North and South, but we’ll need a few more players from the Major League set to complete the playing rosters.
Using the booklet written by Negro Leagues researcher/consultant Scott Simkus that was distributed by Strat-O-Matic, we can find the primary team designations for each NL player. We’ll take the guys aligned with New York, Newark and Philly and put them in the North with players from the Midwest (Chicago Cinci, Cleveland, Detroit). The South team gets the players from a geographic “U” starting with Kansas City/St. Louis on the left, swinging low through Memphis and Birmingham and extending up on the right through Baltimore and Washington.
That breaks the Negro Leaguers this way:
P – Leon Day, Martin DiHigo, Big Bill Foster, Rube Foster, Smokey Joe Williams
C – Biz Mackey, Louis Santop … 1B – Ben Taylor … Other IF – Ray Dandridge, Judy Johnson, Pop Lloyd, DiHigo (also P/OF) … OF – Oscar Charleston (also 1B), Pete Hill, Turkey Stearnes, Cristobal Torriente.
P – Ray Brown, Andy Cooper, Jose Mendez, Satchel Paige, Bullet Joe Rogan, Hilton Smith
C – Josh Gibson (also 1B/OF) … 1B – Buck Leonard, Mule Suttles (also OF) … Other IF – Mendez (also P/OF), Jud Wilson (also OF), Willie Wells … OF – Cool Papa Bell, Willard Brown, Rogan (also P/IF).
Love those versatile players, but we’re still a bit short. Only five pitchers in the North. Only one catcher in the South, where the 14 players include barely enough infielders and outfielders that include guys who sometimes are needed to pitch.
The solution? Bring back HOF Major Leaguers who began their careers in the Negro Leagues. The South gets all it needs with former Baltimore Elite Giants catcher Roy Campanella, former Birmingham Barons OF Willie Mays and former Kansas City Monarchs IF’s Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks. That’s an 18-man team ready for anybody. If anything, it’s too loaded with choosing between Campanella and Gibson at catcher and between Banks and Wells at shortstop.
The North has star power, too, with former Indianapolis Clowns OF Hank Aaron and former Newark Eagles stars Larry Doby and Monte Irvin. [NOTE: In Newark, Doby and Irvin were middle infielders, converted to outfielders in the Major Leagues.]
This 19-man team is locked and loaded but still would lack a pitcher. Where to find him? From the original Negro Leagues set? From a 1950s set that included former Negro League pitcher Don Newcombe? Either way would taint the purity of a league consisting only of Hall of Famers. There are three black HOF major leaguers – Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins and Juan Marichal. None were Negro Leaguers. Gibson, from Omaha and pitching for St. Louis, doesn’t fit the North well. Jenkins’ big-league career started considerably later than the Negro Leagues. Marichal, who started earlier, was a Giant, and would join fellow Hispanics DiHigo and Torriente in the North, seems the best fit.
But what a controversy this allocation would cause! Kidnap Mays and Marichal from the Giants? Pilfer Aaron from the Braves? Taking Campanella from the Dodgers would remove their only catcher.
There will be other tough calls on how to assign players who did well with two different franchises. We’ll resolve some of those by putting them on teams that need them the most to complete a playable roster. But this is why we need to decide how to use the Negro Leaguers before going much further.
What follows are some possibilities for teams:
P – Jack Chesbro, Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, Goose Gossage, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Red Ruffing, Babe Ruth … Or does Ruth pitch in Boston, play OF in NY?
C – Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey … 1B – Lou Gehrig … Other IF – Home Run Baker, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri, Phil Rizzuto … OF – Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson (possibly to A’s), Wee Willie Keeler, Mickey Mantle, Ruth, Dave Winfield … That’s way too many OF.
P – Carl Hubbell, Tim Keefe, Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, Gaylord Perry, Amos Rusie, Mickey Welch … Giants can afford to lose Marichal
C – Roger Bresnahan, Buck Ewing (also IF/OF) … 1B – Orlando Cepeda (also OF), Roger Connor, George Kelly (also IF/OF), Willie McCovey (also OF), Bill Terry … ridiculous overload … Other IF – John Ward, George Davis, Travis Jackson, Freddy Lindstrom (also OF) … OF – Monte Irvin (also 1B/to Negro League?), Willie Mays (to Negro League?), Mel Ott, Ross Youngs … If Irvin and Mays leave, Hack Wilson from Chicago could come to play CF for Giants … Possible Negro League integration: Pitcher Smokey Joe Williams, Catcher Santop.
P – John Clarkson, Kid Nichols, Phil Niekro, Old Hoss Radbourn, Warren Spahn, Vic Willis … possible “ringers”: Babe Ruth pitching card, Carl Mays from the old HOF 2000 set
C – Carlton Fisk … 1B – Carl Yastrzemski (also OF) … Other IF – Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Rabbit Maranville, Wade Boggs, Jimmy Collins, Eddie Mathews … OF: Hank Aaron (to Negro Leagues?), Hugh Duffy, Harry Hooper, Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Tommy McCarthy (also IF), Jim O’Rourke (also C/IF)
P – Three Finger Brown, Ferguson Jenkins, Red Faber, Ted Lyons, Al Spalding, Ed Walsh, Hoyt Wilhelm
C – Gabby Hartnett, Ray Schalk … 1B – Cap Anson, Frank Chance … Other IF: Ernie Banks (to Negro Leagues?), Luis Aparicio, Luke Appling, Nellie Fox, Ryne Sandberg, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, Billy Herman (to Dodgers?) … OF: Kiki Cuyler, Andre Dawson, King Kelly (also C/IF), Billy Williams, Hack Wilson (to Giants?) … Possible Negro League integration: Ps Rube Foster and Big Bill Foster; OFs Hill, Torriente.
PHILADELPHIA (and all A’s)
P – Pete Alexander, Jim Bunning (to Detroit?), Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Chief Bender, Lefty Grove, Eddie Plank, Rube Waddell, Catfish Hunter (to Yanks?), Dennis Eckersley (to Boston or Cleveland?), Rollie Fingers … 11 pitchers – lots of “trade” material to re-allocate
C – Mickey Cochrane (to Detroit?) … 1B – Jimmie Foxx … Other IF: Dave Bancroft, Eddie Collins, Mike Schmidt … OF: Richie Ashburn, Ed Delehanty (also 1B), Billy Hamilton, Rickey Henderson, Chuck Klein, Al Simmons, Sam Thompson … Possible Negro League integration: Catcher Biz Mackey, IF Judy Johnson. ... For re-allocation purposes, this team could lose all its Oakland A’s: Hunter, Eckersley, Fingers and Henderson (plus Reggie Jackson from the Yankees), without roster trouble.
ST. LOUIS (Cards and Browns … Orioles, too?)
P – George Haines, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Bruce Sutter … possible additions are Oriole Jim Palmer and Dodger Burleigh Grimes.
C – Rick Ferrell … 1B: Jim Bottomley, John Mize, George Sisler … plus Eddie Murray? … Other IF: Frankie Frisch, Rogers Hornsby, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, Bobby Wallace … plus Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson? … OF: Lou Brock, Jesse Burkett (to Cleveland), Chick Hafey, Joe Medwick (to Dodgers?), Stan Musial (also 1B), Enos Slaughter … Possible Negro League integration: 1B/OF Suttles, SS Wells, IF/OF Wilson, OF Bell
This is a nice eight-team league with the two Negro League squads, but it still leaves many, many all-time greats (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnson, Satchel Paige) on the shelf.
It’s going to take some creativity to stick to the geographic theme. Detroit and Pittsburgh lack catchers and pitchers. Cincinnati has the catching, but no pitching. Cleveland has the pitching and outfielders, but no catcher and lacks corner infielders. The Dodgers have pitching, but are very thin positionally. Baltimore and Washington can’t go it alone.
In many cases, we will have to borrow from the teams above and/or dismantle the two Negro League teams. We may also have to use expansion-team players (Gary Carter, Tony Gwynn, Nolan Ryan, etc.) as wild-card roster supplements without a geographic fit. For instance:
P – Don Drysdale, Burleigh Grimes, Sandy Koufax, Rube Marquard, Don Sutton, Dazzy Vance
C – Campanella … 1B – Dan Brouthers … Other IF: Jackie Robinson (also 1B/OF), Pee Wee Reese, Bill Herman (from Chicago) … OF: Duke Snider, Zack Wheat, Joe Medwick (from St. Louis), Joe Kelley (also 1B/IF from Cincinnati or Baltimore), Tony Gwynn (southern California expansion player) … Possible other weak links: P Nolan Ryan, 1B/2B Rod Carew, OF Dave Winfield (southern California expansion teams)
OHIO (Cincinnati and Cleveland)
P – Stan Coveleskie, Bob Feller, Addie Joss, Bob Lemon, Eppa Rixey, Tom Seaver, Early Wynn, Cy Young (to Boston?) … also Candy Cummings (or Baltimore)
C – Johnny Bench, Ernie Lombardi … 1B – Jake Beckley (to Pittsburgh?), Tony Perez (also 3B) … Other IF: Lou Boudreau, Nap Lajoie (also 1B), Bid McPhee, Joe Morgan, Joe Sewell … OF: Earl Averill, Larry Doby (to Negro Leagues?), Elmer Flick, Joe Kelley (also 1B/IF, or Baltimore or Dodgers), Frank Robinson (also 1B/to Baltimore?), Edd Roush, Tris Speaker … possible “ringer”: IF/OF Pete Rose from the HOF 2000 set … Possible Negro League integration: Pitcher Satchel Paige.
BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON (plus Minnesota?)
P – Walter Johnson, Jim Palmer, Hoyt Wilhelm (from Chicago), Candy Cummings (or Cincinnati) … still pitching-thin with Wilhelm, Cummings and Negro Leaguer Ray Brown (below)
C – Campanella (from Dodgers) … 1B: Eddie Murray … Other IF: Rod Carew (also 1B, Minnesota), Hughie Jennings, Harmon Killebrew (also 1B/OF), Paul Molitor (Minnesota), Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson … OF: Goose Goslin, Wee Willie Keeler (from Yankees), Joe Kelley (also 1B/IF from Cincinnati), Heinie Manush, Kirby Puckett (Minnesota), Sam Rice
Possible Negro Leagues integration: Pitcher Ray Brown, catcher Josh Gibson, 1B Buck Leonard, IF/OF Jud Wilson … This integration necessary to build this team, keep Dodgers intact with Campanella
Well, that leaves us with two franchises – Detroit and Pittsbugh – that have strong nuclei, but both lack pitching and catching, so they are not complementary. There are some great spare parts, however, from a Negro Leagues breakup (notably, Oscar Charleston and the pitching from the Kansas City Monarchs) and from unaccounted-for Major League expansion players – catcher Gary Carter, 3B George Brett and SS/OF Robin Yount.
For the record, here are the possibilities for the Tigers and Pirates:
P – Hal Newhouser, Jim Bunning (from Philadelphia)
C – Cochrane (from Philadelphia) … 1B: Hank Greenberg (also OF) … Other IF: Charley Gehringer, George Kell, Hughie Jennings (was Tiger manager) … OF: Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann, Al Kaline, Goose Goslin (from Washington), Heinie Manush (from Washington) … Possible Negro Leagues integration: Outfielder Turkey Stearnes
P – Pud Galvin
C – None … 1B: Willie Stargell (also OF) … also Beckley from Cincinnati … Other IF: Bill Mazeroski, Pie Traynor, Arky Vaughan, Honus Wagner … OF: Max Carey, Fred Clarke, Roberto Clemente, Ralph Kiner, Lloyd Waner, Paul Waner … Possible Negro Leagues integration: Pitcher Paige, catcher Gibson, 1B Leonard, CF Bell, and others primarily played for other Negro League teams, but also played for the mighty Pittsburgh Crawfords.
Catcher Gary Carter could be assigned arbitrarily to Pittsburgh or Detroit. SS Yount would be needed more in Detroit. 3B Brett isn’t needed much on either team. Wouldn’t the long-time Kansas City Royals player be a fun addition to the Negro League South team with all their Kansas City Monarchs?
Unaccounted for on any of these teams if there is a Negro League breakup:
P – Cooper, Day, DiHigo (also IF/OF), Mendez (also IF/OF), Rogan (also IF/OF), Hilton Smith … there is enough pitching here to fill out Washington/Baltimore and either Detroit or Pittsburgh
1B – Taylor … IF: Dandridge, Lloyd … OF: Willard Brown, Charleston