Full Count: Dream teammate
Players weigh in on stars they’d have liked to play with
By Mychael Urban
You can’t pick your parents, and unless you’re a John Elway type, you can’t pick the team that drafts you, either.
But for 94 big-league baseball players, Week 6 of “Full Count” gave them a chance to pick one teammate. As part of MLB.com’s national question-of-the-week package, which runs every Friday through the end of the regular season, representatives from all 30 teams were essentially asked the following question:
What player from the past would you have liked to play with, and why?
The results, as usual, turned up a variety of names -- 43 in all. From Shoeless Joe Jackson to Joe Morgan, from Dizzy Dean to Dave Winfield, from Ryne Sandberg to Satchel Paige. And as usual, more than a few trends came clear.
More than half of the 34 pitchers who took part in the poll, for instance, named a pitcher from the past -- and yes, overall winner Babe Ruth counts as a pitcher. Six of the nine votes cast for second-place finisher Nolan Ryan came from hurlers, and of the total of 10 votes that went to the other six pitchers named, only one of them came from a non-pitcher.
Middle infielders showed an affinity for middle infielders, too, but positional preferences were far from the only factor. Some of the voting developed along ethnic lines.
To wit: Six of the seven votes for Puerto Rico’s Roberto Clemente came from players with Latin American roots -- “He made it possible for all of us to have the dream of playing in the Major Leagues," said Angels catcher Bengie Molina -- and three of the four votes for Hank Aaron came from African-Americans.
Of all the players of color contacted, however, only one -- Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter -- picked Jackie Robinson, who finished with four votes.
“I'd love to have sat down with him and heard about the things he had to go through," Jeter said.
Another trend related to where the players polled grew up.
World Series hero Francisco Rodriguez tabbed the Big Red Machine’s Dave Concepcion, a fellow Venezuelan. Phillies reliever Turk Wendell, who was born in Massachusetts, named Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski. And while Kirk Rueter works for the Giants, he was raised in Cardinals country, so he was one of the four men who tabbed former St. Louis star Ozzie Smith.
The fourth and final significant theme had a father-knows-best feel to it. Chipper Jones of the Braves, Jason Giambi of the Yankees and Rafael Palmeiro of the Rangers all named Mickey Mantle in part because he was their pops’ favorite player.
White Sox catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. took the dear-old-dad concept to the next level. He named Sandy Alomar Sr., who played for the Braves, Mets, White Sox, Angels, Yankees and Rangers over 15 seasons (1964-78) in The Show.
“It would be kind of unique to play with your father at the same level,” said Sandy Jr. “If I could go back, I would love to be in the same lineup as my dad.”
Some players didn’t want to go all that far back. In fact, Robbie Alomar was named three times, but those votes didn’t count because only retired players were eligible. (An exception was made, however, for 44-year-old Rickey Henderson. Why? It just seemed fair. Rickey is the same age or older than fellow vote-getters Willie McGee, Alan Trammell, Ryne Sandberg, Darryl Strawberry, Bo Jackson and Cal Ripken Jr.)
Other relatively recent retirees -- “recent” meaning they probably wore some hideous uniforms in the 70s and 80s -- who picked up a vote or two included Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, George Brett, Pete Rose, Kirk Gibson, Tony Fernandez, Keith Hernandez and Robin Yount. But the bulk of the votes went to guys who played before many of today’s players were born.
Among those in the top 10 this week: Ruth, Clemente, Robinson, Mantle, Ty Cobb, Aaron and Ted Williams. Also getting votes were old-schoolers Paige, Dean, Young, Roger Maris, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays.
“The coolest part would be just to be able to play back in that time,” said Red Sox pitcher John Burkett, who voted for Ruth. “I'd want to go back in time. I'd just like to see how the game was played back then.”
The consensus seems to be that it was played hard. Very hard.
“That's the way they did it then,” said Minnesota’s Matthew LeCroy, who named Cobb and Robinson. “They played hard all the time.”
And though it's been said that today’s players don’t have an appreciation for the game’s history, check out rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis’ answer: “Ted Williams. He was just a great hitter. He could hit the ball anywhere he wanted. He was just awesome for baseball.”
Shawn Green of the Dodgers flashed some solid knowledge in casting a vote for Williams, too.
“He's the best hitter who ever lived,” Green said. “It's hard to argue against [Barry] Bonds or Aaron, but when you consider that Williams missed his prime years to war and still think about what he accomplished …
“I would have liked to have been there."
That was the prevailing sentiment no matter who was getting the votes. Wanting to be in the company of greatness was the common denominator.
Rondell White on Mays: “A player who could do everything. He was unbelievable.”
Royce Clayton on Aaron: “Learning from one of the best players of all time would have been a privilege.”
Jim Thome on Maris: “I would have liked to have seen him play and see how great he was.”
Vinny Castilla on Clemente: “He was a such a great player and a great person.
Alex Rodriguez on Hernandez: “He was just a winning player. And he had a great nickname: 'Mex.'”
On and on it went. But that doesn’t mean today’s players voted solely based on playing prowess.
A’s closer Keith Foulke expressed appreciation for Ryan being a “good-old country boy.” Al Leiter of the Mets would have liked to hang with Ruth “just to see how many hot dogs he really could eat.” John Riedling of the Reds voted for Cobb “because he was just a bad-ass.”
And then there was Chipper, who spoke for thousands of men when casting his vote for Mantle, whose off-the-field fun is as legendary as his exploits between the lines.
“I'd have loved to have done a lot of things with Mickey Mantle,” Jones said. “I think we'd have found some good times together.”
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. Staff reporters from around the league contributed to this feature, which was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Full Count: The AnswersCode:Which player from the past would you have most wanted to play with? Babe Ruth 14 Nolan Ryan 9 Mickey Mantle 8 Roberto Clemente 7 Cal Ripken Jr. 6 Ty Cobb 5 Pete Rose 4 Hank Aaron 4 Ted Williams 4 Ozzie Smith 4 Jackie Robinson 4 George Brett 3 Willie Mays 2 Cy Young 2 Dale Murphy 2 Willie Stargell 2 Sandy Koufax 2 Kirk Gibson 2 Roger Maris 2 Willie McGee 2 23 tied with 1 (Note: Some of the players polled mentioned more than one name, so the number of answers is higher than the number of respondents.)
With whom would you have liked to play?
Ninety-four players representing all 30 big-league teams were asked this week’s Full Count question:
“What player from the past would you have liked to play with, and why?” Here are the answers, team by team:
Pitcher Al Leiter: "I've befriended two of the guys I would want to play with: Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax. My father was born in Manhattan and grew up in Long Island. That's the base for all Mets fans. All of my older brothers -- and I'm one of seven -- they were all right-handed and they all emulated Seaver. I should have emulated Koosman or Matlack, but if you were a Met fan you couldn't help but want to be like Seaver. He was The Franchise. … I also would have loved to play with Steve Carlton. I grew up in the area [South Jersey] and we went to a lot of Phillies games. And the fact that Carlton was left-handed and the style of pitcher he was, it would have been interesting to talk to him at length. He had that power slider and it would have been interesting to pick his brain. … And then there's Babe Ruth. I would have loved to have been around him for a month just to see how many hot dogs he really could eat and beers he could drink or if it were just folklore."
First baseman Jason Phillips: "Roberto Clemente. He was my dad's favorite player. He always said the guy could do everything. My dad always liked him because he had a really good arm. From what's I've seen on film, he looked out of control but he wasn't out of control. I went to the Hall of Fame and took a picture in front of his memorial."
Pitcher David Weathers: "Nolan Ryan just because of who he was and what he did in baseball. I saw him pitch quite a bit on TV when I was a kid, and you always heard so much about him. When you were growing up you always wanted to be like him."
Pitcher Sidney Ponson: "Jack Morris. He always had very good stuff, and I've heard all about him. I'd have loved to pitch on the same team. He was a great pitcher."
Outfielder Marquis Grissom: “Hammerin' Hank. Hank Aaron for sure. He was the greatest."
Pitcher Dustin Hermanson: "Nolan Ryan. I always liked the way he pitched. He was a bulldog guy, which I try to be. I don't have his stuff, but we do have the same mental approach, and I like going after guys like he did."
Pitcher Kirk Rueter: “Probably Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee, because I grew up watching them. Playing with them would have been awesome.”
Second baseman Ray Durham: “Rickey Henderson, in his prime. Stealing all those bags, man, that would have been fun to watch up close.”
Shortstop Royce Clayton: “Hank Aaron. I was there for Mark [McGwire's] chase of the single-season home run record, and I was very excited. Just to see what Hank was able to accomplish and overtake Babe Ruth's record, and to be there and witness it and be a part of it, would be special. I would always listen to Dusty [Baker] tell stories about how playing with Hank was unbelievable and how he hit all those home runs and helped him out as a player. Learning from one of the best players of all time would have been a privilege.”
Pitcher/outfielder Brooks Kieschnick: “Babe Ruth. There's a piece of artwork at a place in Milwaukee that I'm thinking about buying. It's a drawing of Babe Ruth with a check that he signed at the bottom. He was unbelievable. He basically changed the game of baseball. Everything he did was full-board.”
Pitcher Glendon Rusch: “Sandy Koufax. I got to meet him when I was with the Mets. He came out and talked to me a few times about my curveball, and it would be neat to be a teammate and to see what he was all about.”
Second baseman Fernando Vina: "There's so many guys, you know? I think it has to be Ozzie Smith. A shortstop that you could play up the middle with, and watch him do his thing, you know? … He was obviously in tip-top shape. Diving for balls, spectacular plays, he really went hard."
Catcher Mike Matheny: "One of my favorite players as a kid was Dale Murphy. I used to pick up their games like everybody else, pick up the Braves. And I always heard that he was a pretty upstanding person as well as a very good player. That would probably be the guy."
Pitcher Steve Kline: "Pete Rose. I just think, from hearing [Eduardo Perez] talk about how he taught him the game, I would like to learn the same things. The things that Pete picked up on the game. He was great on the field. The guy hustled and dove and played hard like you're supposed to. I saw him in Philly. That was all you ever heard, ‘Charlie Hustle.’ I think he taught Eddie the game more than anyone. Eddie told me he used to sit there and [mess] around with Griffey Jr. and all those guys, and Pete got [mad] and said, ‘Get over here and sit with me the whole game.’ He made them watch every pitch the pitcher threw, told them to start picking up the pitches. He would ask them, ‘OK, what pitch is the pitcher gonna throw?’"
Catcher Gregg Zaun: "George Brett. He was my boyhood idol growing up, and I was fortunate enough to get to work with him when I was a Kansas City Royal, but I would have loved to have played with him. He rubbed off on me as a hitter a lot. I had two of my best years when he was around. I would have loved to have been with him out there every day. He was a gamer. Jamie [Quirk] tells stories about him all the time. He was really my kind of guy."
Pitcher Jose Jimenez: "I would say Willie McGee. I got to play with him a little at the end of his career. I got called up in '98 [for three games]. He loved the game. He was always watching, concentrating, and he'd talk to you about the game, what he was doing. Plus, you could see that he loved to work hard. But the great thing was he was always the guy who could come and talk to me and make sure I understood the things that I really didn't at that point. He was just a great guy."
Pitcher Denny Stark: “Probably Alan Trammell. The closest big-league team growing up [when I was growing up in northwest Ohio] was Detroit, and that was during the 80s. They had some really good teams, and he was the shortstop there for years. He was always an idol of mine growing up. I played shortstop; I wore No. 3 for the longest because that's what Alan Trammell wore. I would have liked to have played with him because of the way he went about his job. He was a solid player for a long time. Year-in, year-out, he always had solid numbers. You think back to '84 when they won the World Series, he was the MVP. He was a guy you could always count on."
First baseman Jim Thome: “Roger Maris. Because I would have liked to have seen him play, and see how great he was. I would have liked to see how he handled that  season.”
Pitcher Turk Wendell: “Carl Yastrzemski. Because he was my favorite player growing up [as] a Red Sox fan. I still am. It would be amazing being on the same team with him and watching him play every day.”
Pitcher Kevin Millwood: “Babe Ruth. Because of all the hype that was around him, I'd like to see how it would compare to a Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa or someone like that. With him in New York, it would be neat to see how he handled it. He was baseball's greatest player.”
Pitcher Danny Patterson: "Babe Ruth ... as a pitcher. Because he was bad, man. He could've been one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and obviously one of the most prolific home run hitters as well. But everyone talks about the home runs. I always wanted to be there to see the pitching. I'm a little biased, I guess, being a pitcher and all."
Second baseman Warren Morris: "Babe Ruth. Nobody here has seen him play. He's legendary. He hit more home runs than the whole league, or a lot of teams."
Catcher Brandon Inge: "Cal Ripken. Growing up, he was just one of my favorite players. He was one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game. And I wasn't a catcher growing up. Looking back, I didn't really idolize any catchers."
Outfielder Jay Gibbons: "I definitely would have liked to play with Mickey Mantle. He was a lefty, like me. And he fought injuries and all kinds of other stuff and made it out there every day. He could run the bases, hit for power, just a good all-around player. And the movie ‘61*’ was a great movie. I have watched a lot of tape of Mantle, and he was an awesome player.”
Pitcher Rick Bauer: "Babe Ruth. Any man who could tip his hat after a home run was cool. He was a definite showman. It's always cool to watch him in action. I am not sure if I would have wanted to pitch to him. The game is way different now. And I am not sure if I wanted to be on that list of 714."
Outfielder Luis Matos: "Oh, that would be [Roberto] Clemente. I would love to play with him the most. He could do everything, and I don’t think the films do him justice. It would be great to play next to him and watch him for 162 games. That would be a dream."
Outfielder Todd Zeile: “Sandy Koufax. He threw a perfect game against the Cubs on the day I was born, 9-9-65. My dad used to watch him pitch and would talk about him. He was a humble guy, and it would have been great to see how good he was up close, since I used to catch."
Catcher Brian Schneider: “Ernie Banks. My dad used to love him, and I got to meet him once at a card show. He played the game hard and he had a great love for the game. He just seemed like a guy you'd love playing with.”
Shortstop Alex Rodriguez: "There are so many great players out there that I would have liked to played with, but the one that really sticks out is Keith Hernandez. He was a gamer and he played great on both sides of the ball. He was just a winning player. And he had a great nickname, 'Mex.'"
First baseman Rafael Palmeiro: "Mickey Mantle. That's the player that I grew up watching. My dad was a very big fan of his, and all I ever heard was that Mickey Mantle was the greatest player of all time. So in my mind he is the greatest player that ever lived. I think Mickey Mantle would be the one."
Third baseman Hank Blalock: "Jackie Robinson. He was a pioneer and a great player. It would have been great to be one of his teammates. That would have been awesome, dude."
Pitcher Dontrelle Willis: "Ted Williams. He was just a great hitter. He could hit the ball anywhere he wanted. He was just awesome for baseball. Another player is Dave Stewart. Just his mound presence. Even when he was struggling, he knew how to work around something."
Pitcher Josh Beckett: "Nolan Ryan. He is my idol. I just think it would be great to pitch against him. Would I have liked to step in and hit against him? Sure. I'd like to see what he was all about."
Outfielder Juan Pierre: "Darryl Strawberry. He's just my favorite player ever. I just love the way he played. I know he has off-the-field stuff, but he was my favorite player ever. Darryl Strawberry is the one. I always liked him. I wasn't a Mets fan. I was a Darryl Strawberry fan, basically. My game is nowhere similar to his. He was just one of those guys I really enjoyed watching."
Shortstop Angel Berroa: "I would have loved playing with Tony Fernandez. When I saw him play, he gave it 120 percent every day. He always went to the field and did the best he could."
Outfielder Rondell White: "The guy I would have loved playing with would be Willie Mays. There's a player who could do everything. Steal bases, make great plays, hit with power. He was unbelievable."
Pitcher Jimmy Gobble: "I'd probably have to say Ryne Sandberg. I grew up in a small town, and we got the Cubs games on cable. So I saw a lot of them growing up, and Sandberg was always one of my favorites. He was really smooth in everything that he did."
Designated hitter Josh Phelps: “I'd have to say Babe Ruth. When he hit home runs, nobody else hit them, you know what I mean? It had to be such a remarkable thing for everyone to see, because it was so different. Nobody had ever seen anything like that at that time.”
Shortstop Mike Bordick: “That's a tough one. Ty Cobb. I'd just want to see how he played the game, because I've heard about how hard he played in everything he did. I would've liked to be there and see it.
Catcher Kevin Cash: “I would've liked to catch Nolan Ryan. You can go back older, Mickey Mantle and all those guys, but I really would've enjoyed being on Ryan's team. Just watching him would be great, and maybe even being able to catch him.”
Outfielder Darin Erstad: "George Brett or Kirk Gibson. Both were tenacious, intense guys. I loved the way they played, and from the stories you hear about them, I'm pretty sure I can relate to some of that stuff."
Second baseman Adam Kennedy: "Mickey Mantle. The things he did on the field speak for themselves, but he seemed to be quite a character and a great teammate. It would have been nice to see how that was in real life."
Pitcher Francisco Rodriguez: "David Concepcion. He was my idol growing up in Venezuela."
Catcher Bengie Molina: "Roberto Clemente. Every kid in Puerto Rico wanted to be like Clemente. He made it possible for all of us to have the dream of playing in the Major Leagues."
Outfielder Rocco Baldelli: “Cal Ripken Jr., just because of what he was able to do. That level of consistency is so impressive to me.”
Outfielder Al Martin: “Willie Stargell. I got to spend some time with him earlier in my career, and he was just such a positive person. He was always talking about making your dreams come true. He’s a big reason I made it.”
Outfielder Adam Piatt: “Bob Uecker. Why? Why not? How funny would that dude have been to hang with?”
Third baseman Chipper Jones: "I'd say Mickey Mantle because he's the guy I was kind of brought up in the mold of. He was my dad's favorite player. I got a chance to meet him back in 1992, and I'll never forget it. I wish I could have had more time to spend with him, but never got the opportunity. I just would have loved to have picked his brain a little bit. Arguably, he's the best switch-hitter of all-time. There's a lot to learn from a guy like that. … I'd have loved to have done a lot of things with Mickey Mantle. I think we'd have found some good times together.”
Shortstop Rafael Furcal: "I'd love to have the opportunity to play with Ozzie Smith or Joe Morgan. But Ozzie was always my favorite when I was growing up. I think it would be great to see what he did every day. That guy was unbelievable."
Third baseman Vinny Castilla: "Roberto Clemente because he was a such a great player and a great person. Having the chance to see him play every day would have been very special. But from what everyone says about what kind of guy he was, he's also somebody you'd want to be around.”
Shortstop Omar Vizquel: "Well, Pete Rose. Yeah, Pete Rose was the kind of guy who was always out there. He'd get you going; he'd always make something happen on the field to get you going. These are the type of guys that you really wish you could play with, you know? They'd get you going every day. No excuses, just be in the lineup every day."
Second baseman John McDonald: "Jackie Robinson, because of the things he endured in crossing the color line and for bringing a whole new dimension to the game of baseball."
Pitcher Terry Mulholland: "Cy Young, just because of the era that he played in. I'm curious as to what it was like back then and how he was able to pitch as many games as he did."
Pitcher Matt Mantei: "Lee Smith. He was out here once before a game and seemed like a real classy guy, real personable. I would have liked to have seen how he went about his business every day."
Pitcher Brandon Webb: "Nolan Ryan. He was a fierce competitor. He handled his business, and the attitude he carried with him to the mound was incredible. It would have been neat to have been around that."
Pitcher Curt Schilling: "Willie Stargell. I got to meet him when he got done with his playing career, and he was a great guy. I've never heard anyone say a bad word about him. That's amazing."
First baseman Mark Grace: "Babe Ruth. He'd be fun to play with on and off the field."
First baseman Jason Giambi: "Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth. That would be cool. I grew up idolizing Mickey, and Babe seemed like he had a lot of fun. I've watched tape of them playing, but it would have been great to see them in person, see the things they could accomplish. What Babe did in his era was incredible."
Shortstop Derek Jeter: "Jackie Robinson. He's meant a great deal to the history of the game, and he was a great player. I'd love to have sat down with him and hear about the things he had to go through."
Catcher Jorge Posada: "Roberto Clemente. He's a guy I grew up idolizing. He's no longer with us, and I would have liked to have met him, talked to him about baseball. He was a great player, and to play with him would have been amazing."
Second baseman Alfonso Soriano: "Cal Ripken. He was a great player who went out there every day. I admired that."
First baseman Sean Casey: “George Brett. I loved watching him hit. He was a great hitter and had a lot of passion for the game. They won a lot when he was there, too."
Pitcher John Riedling: “Ty Cobb. Because he was just a bad-ass. He didn't care what he said or what anybody said about him."
Pitcher Danny Graves: “Ozzie Smith. That's my guy. I idolized him growing up. He was unbelievable. He was The Wizard, you know?”
Outfielder Gabe Kapler: "Ty Cobb. He had that aggressive approach. I would have liked to have seen if he was really the guy they said he was off the field, or if that was just all hype and speculation. There's a large amount of mystique associated with him. It was so long ago that you wonder how accurate everything you heard was. I did a book report on him when I was in elementary school, so that made me have a little bit of affection for his story. And I started out with the Tigers, so that made me have even a little more interest. The final game at Tiger Stadium, we all wore the numbers of the position we were playing. The guy who played right field wore Al Kaline's number. And I wore Ty Cobb's number, which was no number. I had no number on my jersey, which was kind of cool."
Pitcher John Burkett: "It would have to be Babe Ruth. Everything about him, all the stories about him. The partying, and he just seemed like a free-will kind of guy. It would have been fun to hang out with him. I don't think he really called that shot at Wrigley Field. I think he was just kind of saying he had one more left. I believe that side of the story. I think people just exaggerate. I think it's kind of hard to believe he would point to the exact spot he hit it. The coolest part would be just to be able to play back in that time. I wouldn’t want to play with Babe Ruth during this era. I'd want to go back in time. I'd just like to see how the game was played back then. That would be as interesting as playing with him."
Second baseman Todd Walker: "It would be Roger Maris. Actually both of those guys -- Maris and Mickey Mantle. From what you hear about it, they were two totally opposite personalities, and I think that would be interesting to hang out with both of them. Of course, they probably weren't themselves during that whole run for 61, but it would still be fun to see what they were like."
Shortstop Jack Wilson: "Nolan Ryan. I want to play behind him and watch him smoke people. I'd like to play shortstop behind him while he's pitching. It would just be fun to watch him pitch every fifth day."
Pitcher Brian Boehringer: "I'll go with Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean. They were characters, and I would have liked to have seen some of the stuff that they did."
Shortstop Jose Hernandez: "Being Puerto Rican, it's got to be Roberto Clemente. I never saw him play because I was only 2 years old when his plane crashed, but from what everybody says and seeing videos of him, he was an unbelievable player."
First baseman John Olerud: "There are a lot of guys and it's hard to single out one. Ted Williams would be one. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron and even Babe Ruth are other guys I would have wanted to play with, just to see how good they were. But if I had to narrow it down to one, it would be Ted Williams during the year he hit .400. I think I would gain a new appreciation for what he did. It would be great just to see what that was like, especially the last day of the season when he goes out and plays in a double-header even though it might have cost him [a .400] average. He was more concerned about helping his team win than the stats, and you really have respect that."
Pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki. "Babe Ruth. It would have been fun to play with him just to see how good he really was. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows who he is, and it just would have been a lot of fun to be his teammate."
Outfielder Randy Winn. "Willie Mays. I never got a chance to watch him play, but when I heard arguments about who the greatest all-around player in the history of the game was, his name was always sprinkled in there. To play with someone who is arguably the greatest ever would be a thrill. Especially since I'm an outfielder and so was he."
Pitcher Kerry Wood: "Pete Rose. Basically just because of the way he played the game."
Pitcher Mark Prior: "Nolan Ryan. I'd like to see what it was like to be on his team and watch him every day and how he worked and why he was so good and what made him so good."
Pitcher Mike Remlinger: "Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Cy Young. Ruth, because he symbolizes greatness as far as hitting as well as being a good pitcher. He was one of the best hitters ever. Williams, he didn't hit the home runs Ruth did, but everyone who saw him play or played with him thought he was one of the most phenomenal hitters ever, if not the greatest hitter ever. Cy Young, obviously, to have done what he did, you'd like to have been able to watch him. That's one thing being in Atlanta made me appreciate was just being able to watch people of that caliber on a daily basis. It was pretty fun. Ty Cobb, I think he's the epitome of baseball. Hard-nosed and mean on the field -- and he was probably mean off the field, too. To him, the game was everything."
Pitcher Billy Wagner: “Dale Murphy. Just because I grew up watching him. Classy guy. I watched the Braves when they were worth watching -- when they stunk. They were a real team.”
Catcher Brad Ausmus: “Shoeless Joe Jackson. I've read a few books about him, and I'd like to see what he was like in person.”
Pitcher Jared Fernanadez: “Bo Jackson. Great athlete, offensively and defensively. Just an all-around great athlete.”
Designated hitter Matthew LeCroy: "I'm going to go out on a limb and say Ty Cobb. The reason why -- you hear all the stories how'd he holler at other players, that he was competitive and mean, and just the way he talked about winning. I'd like to see if that really was true. That's the way they did it then. They played hard all the time. … Also Jackie Robinson. Just to see what he went through and watch him play hard like he did. You could tell he just took his aggression out on the field, which was awesome."
Pitcher Juan Rincon: "Cal Ripken. I’ve read a lot about him. I never had a chance to meet him. I heard he was a really good guy and a good teammate. He tried to help everybody on his team to be good."
Infielder Chris Gomez: "Babe Ruth comes to mind. That's probably what everyone says. To me, he barely even seems real. He's almost like a character out of a movie. You hear about all the stories and the home runs and stuff like that. To actually see him in person and play with him, it'd be incredible."
Catcher Sandy Alomar Jr.: “Sandy Alomar Sr. It would be kind of unique to play with your father at the same level. If I could go back, I would love to be in the same lineup as my dad.”
Pitcher Tom Gordon: “Dave Winfield. As a kid, I really liked his game. I liked the way he played the game and approached the game. When I came up, I was a Winfield fan. I always enjoyed watching him play.”
First baseman Frank Thomas: “Hank Aaron. I would have liked to watch him hit home runs all the time. … It was nothing unusual. He didn’t hit them that far, but they always went over the gate. It would have been great to play with that consistent of a guy.”
Pitcher Keith Foulke: “Nolan Ryan. He seems like a good old country boy. He probably liked to drink beer and stuff like that, too."
Outfielder Eric Byrnes: "Pete Rose. I would just have liked to have been around his intensity day-to-day. I think a player like that can lift an entire team."
Second baseman Mark Ellis: "Cal Ripken, just to see what he went through every day, the dedication it took to play in that many consecutive games."
Outfielder Mark Kotsay: “Kirk Gibson: Pretty much any of the Hall of Famers, but Gibson is the one guy I remember as a kid, hitting that home run in World Series.”
Second baseman Mark Loretta: “Cal Ripken Jr.: I know Cal a little bit and I know guys who have played with him, and they really enjoyed learning a lot from him. Obviously his consistency and his durability. He's one of the good guys of the game.”
First baseman Ryan Klesko: “Nolan Ryan: He's just the all-timer. I never got the chance to even face him and would have loved to. But I would have loved to play with him.”
Third baseman Ron Coomer: "Robin Yount. I never played with him, but one of his best friends is Paul Molitor. I played with [Molitor], and he was the best teammate you could ever have. And he explained that he learned from Yount. He was two years older than Yount, but Yount already had three years big-league experience when Paul got there. Yount mentored him as a teammate. Dick Such was a coach for me, and he said, ‘Watch Yount and see how the game should be played.’ He said he was worth the price of admission alone. That's good by me."
Outfielder Shawn Green: "Ted Williams. He's the best hitter who ever lived. It's hard to argue against Bonds or Aaron, but when you consider that Williams missed his prime years to war and still think about what he accomplished, I would have liked to have been there."
Second baseman Jolbert Cabrera: "Roberto Clemente for everything he did. For all the stories I've heard about him. Every time you hear of a great player today, they make comparisons to Clemente. He must have been something special. He died just before I was born."
Staff reporters from around the league contributed to this feature, which was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.