Today, January 31st, is the birthday of three all-time greats and Hall of Famers; Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, and Nolan Ryan. Now, that would be the start of a pretty epic team, so I decided to jump to the Baseball Reference birthday page and see what kind of lineup I could create from guys born on today’s date. I will admit, I have no clue who a lot of these guys are, but I am not gonna let that stop me. So, my lineup for players born on January 31st is:
1) Jackie Robinson – 2B – It is pretty easy to put Jackie at the top of my lineup. He is the Hall of Fame second baseman who broke the color barrier, and was as good an athlete baseball has ever seen. He played just ten seasons, but hit .311, hit 137 home runs, and stole 197 bags, include home 19 times.
2) George Burns– 1B – No, not the comedian, and not the Simpsons character, but instead the first baseman who played for Indians, Tigers, Athletics, Red Sox, and Yankees from 1914-1929. He had a batting average better than .300 and and OBP over .350. He once stole 23 bags in a season, and even had a season with over 200 hits.
3) Ernie Banks– SS – Banks is in the Hall of Fame thanks to hitting more than 500 home runs and driving in more than 1,600 runs. Mr. Cub actually spent more of his career playing primarily first base (10 seasons) than short (9 seasons) but I can’t pass up the opportunity to create the double play combo of Banks and Robinson.
4) Yuniesky Betancourt– 3B – Ok, clearly there is a lack of power when it comes to January 31st birthdays, in fact the only two players with more than 100 career home runs are the two Hall of Fame position players, and Betancourt has the third most, with 80 career dingers. Now, I will have to look past his seven straight seasons with a negative WAR and have him hit cleanup. Who knows, maybe he can revive his career this year in the Japanese Nippon Baseball League.
5) Pinky Hargrave– C – Pinky has a solid name, as does his brother and fellow big leaguer, Bubbles. Pinky played for four teams between 1923-1933. His career triple slash line is .278/.339/.428. He did not make his big league debut until the age of 27, but you gotta like the fact he was just 5’8″ because he was sure to provide a low target for the pitcher.
6) Tim Hendryx– LF – Hendryx was a former New York Yankee when he joined the Boston Red Sox in 1920, the first season following the Babe Ruth trade. Hendryx led the Red Sox in average and RBIs that season, but he wasn’t exactly a power hitter, launching the same number of home runs that year as I did…and I wasn’t born for another 65 years. That same year Ruth hit just 54 home runs, drove in 137, walked 150 times, and had a triple slash line of .376/.532/.847. Regardless, I will stand by the Red Sox and take Hendryx on my squad too.
7) Tex McDonald– RF – Any chance to add a guy named Tex to a lineup, you gotta jump on it. His big league career was brief, lasting from 1912-1915, where, in addition to the Reds and Braves, he played for teams named the Blues, Buffeds, and Rebels, which apparently were actual Major League teams. He had 13 home runs and 134 RBIs, which would be a nice season, but those were his career numbers, Still, his name is Tex, so he makes my lineup.
8) Mel Mazzera– DH – While Mazzera played long before the DH was even a consideration, his final season was in 1940 while the DH was not instituted until the 1973 season, his Baseball Reference page does have one of his positions as a pinch hitter, so that will suffice. He had just 507 career at-bats, where he hit just 10 home runs and drove in less than 70. His average was .268, but slugged over .400, so that is good enough for this lineup.
9) Melky Mesa– CF – True, Mesa has only played eight career games over two seasons, but he is 6/15 lifetime for a batting average of .400. He has yet to hit a home run in his career, but he is entering his age 27 season in 2014, a season in which fantasy players have long argued is a position player’s prime season. I will also admit it, he was one of just a handful of names I actually recognized from the list, so I had to include him.
Nolan Ryan– SP – Yes, my starting pitcher was an easy selection given it is the career strikeout king, and a man who has thrown seven no hitters (which might come in handy with the lineup I put together). He is a Hall of Famer, and grade A badass. While he will probably go all nine innings, I would have Josh Johnson at the ready.