Number 6 in series takes us to Left field
Let me reflect for a minute. I have not actually done this series in the proper numerical order of positions. I started the series at 1st Base, but on the scorecard, it is listed as number 3.
So when you keep score the pitcher is 1, the catcher 2. We know what 1st Base is. 2nd base is number 4. I then wrote about 3rd base, because it is listed as number 5. The original scorers skipped shortstop in the order of things since the position was an add-on to fill in the gap between second and third. Thus in scorebooks it became number 6.
Did I make sense? I don’t know! But the outfield is easy. You go from left to right in order and the positions are 7,8 and 9. The battery (the pitcher and the catcher respectively) is numbers 1 and 2. However, I am in a quandary. I have yet to see a number for the Designated Hitter. I’m assuming he’s number 10. Do you know?
Enough drivel! let’s get down to the meat of today’s column… the best leftfielders. There have been some really good ones. I have selected my three favorites… again remember, I saw them play:
When scouts talk about left field, they say, it is where you put the outfielders with the weakest arms… since they have the shortest distances to throw. However, when you are talking about the all-time best left fielders, most of them not only were strong hitters, but they knew how to play defense. Their arms may not have been the strongest, their accuracy made up for any perceived lack of arm power.
As usual, there is a crop of young leftfielders making noise in the majors. There are stacks of good ones. I have only seen two of the top five that have been constantly mentioned. I have seen Ryan Braun (Brewers) and Mike Trout (Angels) and both of them are extremely impressive. I have not seen Yoenis Cespedes (Oakland A’s), Matt Holliday (StL), or Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado ). They are all All-Stars and putting up big numbers.
So, let me get to the top3. I must admit first and second place are probably interchangeable. However. I selected my favorite basically because over the years, I have been his fan.
May number 3 is Rickey Henderson (Oakland, Toronto). I think he was probably the best leadoff man of all time. He’s the all-time leader in stolen bases (1406) and runs scored (2,295). He hit .279, but his on base percentage a magnificent .401. The reason was the fact that he is the all-time leader in walks. His career spanned 24 years and thus he was called, “The Man of Steel”. He played on two World Series winners: Oakland and Toronto.
Number 2 Stan “the Man” Musial. I feel he is just a teeny step below number 1. He was the symbol of the St. Louis Cardinals for generations. He passed earlier this year, but still remains revered.
Musial hit better than .310 in each of his first 16 seasons. Like number 1, he lost time away from the game serving in the Military during World War II. Number 1 never enjoyed a World Series title. Musial enjoyed three. Most impressive in his lengthy career, he had a .331 average; hit 475 homers enjoyed 1,951 RBIs.
Number one, as I said was a pretty close call between he and Stan Musial. I must admit my Boston devotion helped ion my selection of Ted Williams as number 1. There is a case for both.
Ted had a lifetime batting average of .344, .482 on-base percentage, a .634 slugging percentage and 521 homers. Those numbers were all great. However, what gave him the edge was the fact that between World War II and The Korea War, he missed over three and a half years serving in the military as a fighter pilot… which all happened during the prime of his career.
If you guesstimate that he would have hit 25 homers during those war years, (by the way, a low mark for the standards he had already set), he possibly could have hit close to 700 Home Runs.
We all know he was the last player to hit over .400 (.406 in 1941). Oh by the way, his career OPS (on base plus slugging) was 1.116. That stands second only to the great Babe Ruth.
I don’t mean to slight others, but the Red Sox produced 3 other among my top ten: Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez. At Pittsburgh, prior to being tainted, the young Barry Bonds was something.
Next time, let’s look at center field!
Number 6 in series takes us to Left field