In week two of my series, I outline my favourite all-time players from teams located in the A.L. Central.
The “Big Hurt” was one of my favourite players growing up a baseball fan. The man could hit like nobody’s business and his strike zone awareness was uncanny. He always seemed to give the Blue Jays fits and his offensive numbers spoke for themselves.
I am not sure what initially drew me to Thomas but I do remember as a kid on a family vacation to Chicago that I wore my Thomas jersey proudly to Comiskey Park to watch the White Sox take on the Blue Jays. My other family members were wearing Blue Jays gear but I stuck it out and wore the jersey. Can you blame a kid for going against his team to root for his favourite player?
I was optimistic his time in Toronto would work, and he would recapture his MVP form of 93-94. He had a strong 2007 season with 26 home runs and 95 runs batted in but a clash with Manager John Gibbons led to his departure from the team. Thomas will be a strong Hall-of-Fame candidate when he becomes eligible in 2014.
The Indians teams of the mid-to-late 90s had several superstars, such as Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Charles Nagy, and Sandy and Roberto Alomar. But the guy that I liked the most was a rookie who in his first full season hit 26 home runs and drove in 88 and would go on to become one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Ramirez not only hit for power but had a good eye at the plate and hit well with runners in scoring position, evident by his 21 career grand slams and 28 career post-season home runs, which is the most ever. He also drove in 165 runs in a season.
That being said, his suspensions for steroid use, his bad fielding, and prima donna personality may have held him back from accomplishing even more, but watching “Manny being Manny” and hitting like he did was a sight to behold.
As a Blue Jay fan growing up, I was familiar with their rivalry with the Detroit Tigers, as their geographical location made it seem natural. I also remember the cruel September of 1987 when the Jays, needing to win one of the final three games against Detroit to win the division, were swept by the Tigers, who went on to win the division.
That being said, my grandfather was a huge Tigers fan, as he lived in Windsor, so we would watch the Tigers play whenever I was visiting. One player always stood out and that was Trammell. Maybe it was because he played shortstop and was involved in many plays, or that he had power like my favourite shortstop, Cal Ripken. But I think the main reason was that he was so consistent for many years and the fact that him and Lou Whitaker were a double-play combination for 19 straight years is unheard of. Also, he was amazing in R.B.I. Baseball for Nintendo.
My likeness for third basemen continues as my favourite of all-time makes an appearance. I remember the Royals always gave the Jays fits, especially the 1985 season where K.C. came back after being down 3-1 in the American League Champion Series to beat the Jays in seven and win the World Series.
Brett was in the middle of most rallies and offensive performances for the Royals. This guy was super-intense and would never take a play off.
Brett was, in my opinion, the best American League third basemen of the 1980s. He is one of only four players with 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, and a career .300 batting average. He was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in 1999 and only Cal Ripken Jr. (98.5%) had a higher first-year eligibility voting percentage then Brett (98.2%).
With his outgoing personality and energy, as a baseball fan it was hard not to like Puckett. A 10-time All-Star, Puckett put up huge offensive numbers during his time in Minnesota, which culminated in World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. He was also a six-time Gold Glove Award winner for fielding excellence, so Kirby could beat you on offense or defense.
He also had his moments in the clutch, the most famous being his game-winning home run in the bottom of the 10th inning in game six of the 1991 World Series, which forced a game seven and ultimately led to the Twins capturing the World Series for the second time in five years.
Health would force Puckett to retire early, as he developed glaucoma in his right eye and after several attempts to fix the problem was forced to hang up the cleats. Puckett suffered a stroke in 2006 and passed away at the age of 45.
Look for next week’s installment on the A.L. West teams. I am interested to know who your favourite non-Jays are.
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From the couch…