NL wild card in a box   

Updated: September 12, 2007, 2:21 PM ET

  • Comment
  • Email
  • Print
  • Share

In his "Historical Baseball Abstract" the great Bill James does a thing in which he puts each decade of baseball history in a "box," making an idiosyncratic list of each decade's defining features.

Without pretending to be anywhere near as exhaustive or baseball savvy as James, I'm stealing the idea to briefly summarize the teams still fighting for a playoff spot in the tight National League wild-card race (including both the Brewers and Cubs, who are battling it out for the NL Central title).

Say your favorite team is out of the running and you're shopping for a club to throw your emotional weight behind, say you're looking for a jersey to slip on for the stretch drive, maybe a box to stand up and cheer on.

Read these labels as you ponder your commitment. It's penny-for-a-pound stuff, everything in the box you choose is yours to keep.


Padre Zero: Ollie Brown -- 52 home runs and 205 RBIs in three years with the club

Mr. Padre: Anthony Keith Gwynn

Mr. Heartbreak: Frederick Stanley McGriff

Franchise High-water Mark: Comeback win over the Cubs in the 1984 NLCS

Stink They Can't Shake: Chub Feeney, Eric Show and a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese

Old-school Line: Cito Gaston, 1970 -- 29 home runs, 93 RBIs, .318/.364/.543

New-school Line: Jake Peavy, 2007 -- 2.43 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 16-6

Baddest Brother Trucker: Dave Winfield

Samsonian Source of Power: Rollie Fingers

Special Sauce Purveyor: Randy Jones

Stance: Steve Garvey's

Acceptable Throwback Jerseys: Gwynn, Winfield and Goose Gossage; Not Ozzie Smith

Favorite Color: Brown

Best Nickname: Bud "Pepe Negro" Black


Department of Redundancy Department: Team originally named Philadelphia Philadelphias (1883) by owner Alfred Reach

Mr. Phillie: Michael Jack Schmidt

Mr. Heartbreak: Mitchell Steven Williams

Franchise High-water Mark: Tug McGraw's cleats a dime's width above the mound dirt

Stink They Can't Shake: 1964

Old-school Line: Cy Williams, 1923 -- 41 home runs, 114 RBIs, .293/.371/.576; at age 35

New-school Line: Chase Utley, 2007 -- 18 home runs, 92 RBIs, .339/.419/.568; so far, and after missing 30 games to a broken hand

Baddest Brother Trucker: Dick Allen

Number of Guys Named Richie Ashburn Who've Hit the Same Fan With a Foul Ball Twice In One Game, The Second of Which Hit the Poor Mug While He Was Being Taken From the Field to Receive Medical Treatment: One

Delivery: Steve Carlton's

Best Nickname: Bob "Death to Flying Objects" Ferguson

Best Name Straight Out of "Fat Albert": Bake McBride

Acceptable Throwback Jerseys: Schmidt, Ashburn, McGraw, Allen; Not Curt Schilling

Forgotten Hero: Robin Roberts

Suspicious Hero: Lenny Dykstra

Favorite Freaks: Philadelphia Philadelphias Phanatic and Darren Darrens Daulton


Humble Origins: Played in seven World Series before winning in 1955, losing to the Red Sox in 1916, the Indians in 1920, and the Yankees in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953.

Mr. Dodger: Jackie Roosevelt Robinson

Mr. Heartbreak: Ralph Theodore Joseph Branca

Franchise High-water Mark: Kirk Gibson's pumped fist

Stink They Can't Shake: "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"

Old-school Line: "Hi again everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be …"

New-school Line: Russell Martin, 2007 -- 17 home runs, 81 RBIs, .299/.380/.477; and oh yeah, 21 stolen bases

First of His Kind: Robinson

Last of Their Kind: Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell

Playgirl Model: Steve Yeager

Playboy Model Doubleheader: Mike Piazza

Stance: Reggie Smith's

Stunning Fernando Valenzuela Number: 8, as in shutouts, as in of 13 victories, as in at age 20, as in during his first year in the league

Samsonian Source of Power: Don Sutton

Moment You Can't Have Back: "Now pitching, No. 49, Tom Niedenfuer."

Moment You'll Never Let Go Of: 100,000 lights held up at the Los Angeles Coliseum in honor of Roy Campanella

Just for Good Measure: Koufax's perfect game and Hershiser's 59 straight


First Sign That When We Say "Mile High" We Mean "Mile High": In 1993, his first season with the expansion Rockies, Charlie Hayes hits seven more home runs and collects 32 more RBIs than he ever has before.

Mr. Rockie: Todd Lynn Helton

Mr. Heartbreak: Michael William Hampton

Franchise High-water Mark: Um ... uh ... Brian Bohanon's NL-Best 2.79 road-ERA in 2000? (Unfortunately his home-ERA was 6.57)

Stink They Can't Shake: See Franchise High-water Mark

Old-school Line: Larry Walker, 1997 -- 49 home runs, 130 RBIs, .366/.452/.720, and 33 steals

New-school Line: Matt Holliday, 2007 -- 27 home runs, 113 RBIs, .334/.394/.576

Stance: Andres Galarraga's

Delivery: Byung-Hyun Kim's

Acceptable Throwback Jerseys: None. No disrespect to Walker and Galarraga, but it's a purple thing…

Guys You Forgot Were Once Rockies: Dale Murphy, Howard Johnson, Bret Saberhagen and Darryl Kile

Double-secret Mojo Bonus X factor: Best ballpark dogs in all the land

Samsonian Source of Power: Royce Clayton

Bon Scott Power Drain: Todd Helton


The Sonics and Oklahoma City? That Is So 1970: Four days before the start of the 1970 season, Bud Selig bought the bankrupt Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee

Mr. Brewer: Robin Yount

Mr. Heartbreak: Pat Listach

Franchise High-water Mark: Seventh-inning two-run single by Cecil Cooper to give Brewers the lead for good in the clinching game of the 1982 ALCS. All the better for the David Banner and the satellite-dish style specs he was wearing at the time.

Stink They Can't Shake: Bud Selig's 2001 threat to contract the Minnesota Twins

Old-school Line: Robin Yount, 1982 -- 29 home runs, 114 RBIs, .331/.379/.578

New-school Line: Prince Fielder, 2007 -- 43 home runs, 104 RBIs, .288/.386/.611

Stance: Paul Molitor

Name Straight Out of Tolstoy: Vukovich

Never Mind the Cowboys or the Braves, This Is America's Team: In addition to moving cities, the Brewers have moved from the American League West to the American League East in 1972, to the American League Central in 1994 and to the National League Central in 1998. Frosty mugs for ALL my people!!

Best Nickname: Harvey's Wallbangers

Something They Need To Go Back To, Like Yesterday: The Barrel Man logo!!!

Double-secret Mojo Bonus X factor: It's hard to quantify the amount of extra juice a team in a playoff race with a wooly-mustachioed mascot guy sliding into a frosty mug of beer can count on. This isn't a conversation you have in the language of cause and effect. This is a conversation you have while noting the team has won seven of 10, and bending your mug-clutching right arm at the elbow.

Just For Good Measure: Hank Aaron retired a Brewer. Just saying ...


"They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago Way": According to James, Cap Anson is largely responsible for saving baseball in Chicago, and for saving/creating major league baseball, period. "He trolled other leagues which were operating at the same time ... and began stealing their best payers," James writes. "Anson organized the process of identifying and acquiring the best players from other leagues ... and that forced other National League teams to do the same."

Mr. Cub: Duh

Mr. Heartbreak: Leon "Bull" Durham

Poster Boy For Righteous Indignation Society of Greater Chicagoland Area, And I Do Mean Righteous Indignation: Ron Santo

Old-school Line: Hack Wilson, 1930 -- 56 home runs, 191 RBIs, .356/.454/.723

New-school Line: Carlos Marmol, 2007 -- 1.40 ERA, 57.2 IP, 79 strikeouts

Hot Streak: Big Z has a temper, but he's no Lee Elia, ladies and gentlemen: "I tell you one ------- thing, I hope we get ------- hotter than ---- just to stuff it up those 3,000 people that show up every ------- day. Because if they're the real Chicago ------- fans, they can kiss my ------- ass right down town!"

Cool Breeze: Derek Lee

Franchise High-water Mark: Next ...

Stink They Can't Shake: The thing you have to reckon with, more than the cat, the goat or the poor mope in the headphones is the paranoid doubt, the enduring belief that they're snake-bitten ... that's the killer.

One Of A Kind: Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown

You Know He Was Good But You Forget How Good: Ryne Sandberg

Dubious Achievements: Traded away Cy Williams for Dode Paskert (look him up) in 1917, and in 1964 traded Lou Brock (along with Jack Spring and Paul Toth) for Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens.

Acceptbable Throwback Jerseys: Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins; Mark Grace not so much.

Eric Neel is a columnist for Page 2. You can reach him here.



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?