Friday, July 8, 2011

The Beer League All Stars

Baseball has had a long standing connection to drinking. As two of America’s past times it is only natural they go hand in hand. From the Busch family’s almost 60 year involvement with the Cardinals, to Coors Field and Miller Park, to a 10-cent beer promotion gone awry, to the current (approximately) $93 beers at Fenway Park, it is impossible to think of one without the other.

In honor of Andrew Miller’s third win on the season*, I am going to take a look at baseball’s booziest players. This won’t be a look at who the best drinkers in baseball history are like Wade Boggs and Mickey Mantle. Instead, I am going to search for players who, like Miller, share a name with what you find on the shelves of your local package stores (liquor stores for you non-New Englanders). These are the Beer League All Stars.

*Quick analysis on Miller thus far: He’s done everything the team has needed in light of all the injuries, but with his high walk rate and low strikeout rate (4 BB, 0 K last night) I would expect him to put up a few bad performances over the next couple months especially if he faces a real good offense.

1. Miller Huggins, 2B and Manager, 1904-29: Since we need someone to run the ship, we will go with the Hall of Fame manager over all the other choices for “Miller” (including Boston’s Andrew). At 5’6”, Miller was known as “Mighty Mite.” He had a pretty solid career as a player with the Reds and Cardinals and took over as player-manager for the Cardinals in 1913. After his playing career ended in 1917 he took over as manager of the New York Yankees. When Huggins took over, the club was just another team in the American League. They had yet to win a championship and were overshadowed by their dominant neighbors the New York Giants and league rivals (and 5 time champion) Boston Red Sox. In 1920 that all changed when the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. In 1923 the team won its first ever World Series and Huggins was at the healm. In 1927, Huggins led what is widely considered to be the greatest baseball team of all time to a second championship. They would win a third a year later. During the ’29 season, tragedy struck as Huggins passed away from an eye infection at the age of 50. Let’s all pour one out for Mighty Mite.

2. Bud Harrelson, SS, 1965-80: Harrelson is a two time All Star who played the majority of his career with the New York Mets. In his career, Harrelson hit a whopping 7 home runs. He has the third fewest home runs for any player in baseball history with at least 5,000 plate appearances and the fewest for any player since the dead ball era. It seems like he would be more aptly known as Bud “Light” Harrelson. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

3. Kevin Bass, RF, 1982-95: Bass was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1977. What looked like the perfect beer marriage never came to fruition as he was traded to Houston just before he made his Major League debut.

4. Harmon Killebrew, 1B, 1954-75: The Killer wasn't only killing brews, he was also killing major league pitching. Killebrew ranks 11th on the all time home run list with 573 and he led his league in homers six times.

5. Steve Yeager, C, 1972-86: The favorite of college boys everywhere, Yeager carved out a very long career as a backup catcher. Maybe if he came along after the invention of Red Bull he would have had a better chance of starting.

6. Mike Busch, 3B, 1995-96: The big burly third baseman (6’5”, 241 lbs.) represents the family behind my favorite beer. Busch had a September to remember (copywrite: every car dealership in America) in his first taste of the big leagues in ’95 for the LA Dodgers. On September 10th, Busch entered the game in the seventh inning to pinch hit with his team trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3. It was his 12th plate appearance on the season. With nobody on base, Busch took a Mike Dyer pitch over the fence to tie the game for the Dodgers, which they would go on to win. The win kept the team tied with the Colorado Rockies for first place in the NL West. The Dodgers entered the final game of the season a half game ahead of the Rockies needing a win to clinch the division outright. Busch entered the game in the fifth inning as a defensive replacement for first baseman Eric Karros (I assume as an injury replacement). In the seventh, the game was tied 1-1. With two outs and runners on first and third, Busch stepped to the plate to face San Diego’s Brian Williams. On a 2-0 count, Busch deposited the ball over the wall giving the Dodgers a 4-1 lead that would hold up as the game’s final score, clinching the pennant for LA. I’d like to think the team doused him with Busch Heavy and Busch Lite in celebration while Tommy Lasorda grabbed him by the shoulders and looked into his eyes and said, “You’ve done good, kid.”

7. Jack Daniels, LF, 1952: I am honored to say that Mr. Daniels played for my family’s team, the Boston Braves. I knew there was a reason Sadie Sloe Gin felt so connected to me. He also sported the very cool nickname "Sour Mash Jack".

8. Johnny Walker, DH, 1919-21: Johnny follows his buddy Jack in the lineup, but never in taste, class or respectability.

9. Buzz Murphy, CF, 1918-19: Murphy is our only double shot of booze on the list for the state of mind (Buzz) and beer brand (Murphy’s). He was also from Colorado so he was able to tap the Rockies whenever he wanted.

Icehouse Wilson, Joe Rossi, Les Hennessy, Ed Pabst

Chief Bender, SP, 1903-25: The Hall of Famer becomes the anchor of our staff. A Chippewa Indian, Bender may not appreciate being on a list about drinking, but I couldn’t help myself. He is often times credited with inventing the slider.

Homer Bailey, SP, 2007-11: One of the great names in baseball history, Bailey would also land on a list of most oxymoronic names with guys like Grant Balfour and David Riske.

Doc Reisling, SP, 1904-10: Reisling plays a huge role on this team beyond number 3 starter. In addition to going great with chicken and fish, the Doc comes in handy when Chief takes his benders a little too far, Harmon has killed a few too many brews and Murphy gets too buzzed.

Johnny Lush, SP, 1904-10: Talk about a homonym with wildly different meanings. Johnny could either be a full, green rain forest or this guy.

Rod Beck, Closer, 1991-2004: Beer last name? Check. Double entendre first name? Check. Mullet? Check. Handlebar mustache? Check. Lived in an RV outside the baseball stadium? Check. The late Beck serves double duty as bullpen ace and team mascot. RIP dude.

Clarence Beers, RP, 1948: The captain of our team with the all encompassing name pitched a whopping two thirds of an inning for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948. Had he made this appearance just 5 years later, the first year the Busch family owned the Cardinals, I would have fingered this for a cheap opening day promotion. But it appears ol’ Clarence Beers came by this appearance honestly.

Wedo Martini, RP, 1935: A treat for the drunks and the stoners, Martini must have been on both for his brief major league career. In 6 1/3 innings, Martini gave up 13 runs and 11 walks. He has the 12th worst career ERA and BB per 9 innings of any player with at least 5 innings pitched.

Sloppy Thurston, RP, 1923-33: Our mop up guy enters the game to clean up the sloppy mess when a starter has had enough. Although with a name like "Sloppy" I have to wonder if he'd even be able to make his way to the mound.

Lefty O'Doul, LF, 1919-34: Your .02% alcohol content is not welcome here.

So that is the Beer League All Stars. A special thanks to Sexy Boston Sports Head of Spirits Research Joe Black who found about 75% of the names on this list. This Bud's for you!

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