When you have operated a squad for nearly 150 years, you rack up a pretty expansive collection of players that have taken the field for you. In this series, we look at the best possible lineup you could build that all share one thing in common – a last name that begins with the same letter.
I should have known “E” was going to be a tough team to field. Did you know only three players whose last name begin with an “E” have been elected to the Hall of Fame? One of them will be on this team, but his best days were before he joined the franchise. How hard was it to build this team? I had 33 players to choose from. Of those 33, only 14 were position players. That’s a roster makeup of a 90’s ballclub – with a half-dozen more pitchers.
I had to get a bit creative with this roster as a result. I try to make it a rule to never use a player at a position that he never played for the Braves. As a result, I was left with a center fielder with less than 30 at-bats with the franchise. Or, I could have put my first baseman, who was really a third baseman, in left field because he played three games there. Yikes. My “closer” never saved a game during his time with the franchise. This is just a nutty team from a wide range of years. As always, Team E will challenge our current champion – still Team B – for the right to be King of the Mountain.
Typically, I’ll add a manager or owner or even a general manager. I didn’t find a single one so we also have some limited bonus choices.Lineup
- Yunel Escobar, SS
- Johnny Evers, 2B
- Bob Elliott, 3B
- Darrell Evans, 1B
- Johnny Estrada, C
- Gil English, LF
- Eddie Eayrs, RF
- Bob Emmerich, CF
- Dick Errickson, SP
- Alan Embree, RP
- Ox Eckhardt, Pinch Hitter
Here is a position-by-position breakdown. Be prepared to hear of players you have never heard of before.
Catcher – Johnny Estrada
Known first as “that guy John Schuerholz stupidly traded Kevin Millwood for,” Estrada was a nice prospect in the Phillies system. He was already 26 by the time Schuerholz acquired him, though. The details behind that move are well known. Greg Maddux unexpectedly accepted arbitration and the Braves couldn’t afford to pay Maddux after already building a new rotation. So, they moved the one tradeable starting pitcher they had who also had a salary. They got Estrada out of it. After a year spent mostly at Richmond, Estrada was an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger in 2004. However, he quickly faded out the next year and was replaced by Brian McCann before being dealt to Arizona. Estrada hit .291/.346/.409 as a Brave. Just a bit better than Rowdy Elliott, the only other option. He went 0-for-2 with the 1910 Boston Doves. Close decision, but I feel confident it was the right one.
First Base – Darrell Evans
Okay, Evans was a third baseman. However, he occasionally moved across the diamond so he’ll have to do. Over parts of nine seasons – including one as a 42-year-old – Evans hit .246/.368/.426 with 131 homeruns. He’s an easy choice over Buck Etchison, who became a major leaguer as a 28-year-old in 1943. He was a replacement player during World War II and I highly recommend his profile from SABR. Another possibility for first is, of course, Nick Esasky. For those who weren’t aware, vertigo is more than a thrilling Hitchcock film.
Second Base – Johnny Evers
His best days came with the Chicago Cubs, where, with Joe Tinker and Frank Chance, the trio formed one of the most famous double-play combinations in history. They also kind of hated each other, which is great. Evers should have a special place in Braves’ history, though. In 1914, Evers joined the Boston Braves and slashed .279/.390/.338. He became the first player in franchise history to win an MVP. In his fourth World Series, Evers hit .438 and reached base 50% of the time to help Boston sweep the A’s. Mike Eden, who went 0-for-8 in 1976, will just have to stay on the bench.
Shortstop – Yunel Escobar
Many of his teammates didn’t seem to love him. Or even like him. Or, really, tolerate him. The story goes that when he was traded, the clubhouse gave his replacement, Alex Gonzalez, a standing ovation. That said, Escobar was productive. Over 446 games, he hit .291/.368/.403. Another option could have been Dick Egan, a utility player who had a .606 OPS for Boston in 1915 and ’16.
Third Base – Bob Elliott
Let’s talk a bit about Bob Elliott, who doesn’t get nearly enough love. Over five seasons in Boston after being picked up from the Pirates, Elliott averaged 20 homers. To be fair, by the time he came to Boston, Braves Field was much more hitter-friendly (it opened with the walls 400 feet down the lines). Nevertheless, Elliott went from a dependable player with the Pirates to Mr. Team with Boston. In 1947, he won the Braves’ first MVP since Evers in 1914. His timely hitting helped to win the NL Pennant a year later and he hit .333 with a pair of homers against the Indians in the World Series.
Left Field – Gil English
The outfield is where this team gets a little desperate. In 1937-38, English hit .274/.335/.336 with Boston, stealing four bases in the process. He picked up 477 of his 859 career plate appearances with the Braves. An infielder by trade, he logged 27 innings in left. And…that was good for enough for me.
Center Field – Bob Emmerich
On September 22, 1923 in St. Louis, Bob Emmerich ripped a single off future Hall of Famer Jesse Haines. He also stole second and scored Boston’s only run in a 1-1 tie. Two days later, he picked up another base hit – possibly off another future Hall of Famer, Pete Alexander. And that sums up Emmerich’s highlights as a major leaguer. 13 games, 27 PA, 2-for-24, a steal, a caught stealing, two walks, three K’s, and a sacrifice bunt. Oh, and 51 innings in center field. Which is 51 more innings than practically anyone else on this roster.
Right Field – Eddie Eayrs
Born in 1890, Eayrs brings a left-hand bat to the team. Not that this squad really needs to worry about platoons. In really his only expanded major league role, Eayrs hit .328/.410/.377 as an outfielder and part-time pitcher for the 1920 Boston Braves. He was Babe Ruth without power. Though, to be fair, nobody was hitting it out of Braves Field at that time.
He originally made it to the majors in 1913, pitching in two games with the Pirates. It took him seven years to get back to the majors. In addition to his big offensive numbers in 1920, he pitched seven times, including three starts. He wasn’t very good, walking more batters than he struck out and finishing with a 5.47 ERA. He’d play in 15 games with Boston the next season as a pinch hitter and pitcher, before finishing his career with eight plate appearances with Brooklyn. He’s a career .306 hitter. This team will take it.
Starting Pitcher – Dick Errickson
When your last name is Errickson, you end up with a Viking-centric nickname like Lief. It’s a rule, apparently. Errickson pitched 155 times, including 77 starts, with Boston from 1938 until 1942. That includes six shutouts. One of those came against the aging future Hall of Famer, Carl Hubbell, in a 2-0 win where Errickson masterfully handled the triple threat of Babe Young, Harry Danning, and Mel Ott. Errickson had a 3.84 ERA over 712.1 innings with the Braves.
Here are a few other options – none of them that intriguing. Tom Earley was a teammate of Errickson, pitching 91 times. Mal Eason had a solid 27-start run in the 1902 season before jumping to the Tigers. Jamie Easterly made 91 largely forgettable appearances for the Braves during the mid-to-late 70’s. And yes, you’re right. These options aren’t good.
Relief Pitcher – Alan Embree
The choices were pretty miserable so I went with Embree, who had a great 1997 with the Braves and a poor follow-up before being traded. And yes, he has no saves with the team, but the non-existent manager for this squad believes in him. All told, Embree pitched in 86 games with the Braves with a solid 3.06 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning. Embree was still early into a 16-year career. In 2004, he was part of the World Series-winning Red Sox.
Pinch-Hitter – Ox Eckhardt
I hate the term “professional hitter.” I mean, aren’t they all? But here’s a random factoid for you. Ox Eckhardt holds the professional record for batting average at .367. Oh, you thought it was Ty Cobb? You fool! Unlike Eckhardt, Cobb’s minor league numbers hurt his career batting average. For you “hits matter” fans, Eckhardt had 2,783 of them. It just so happens that only ten came in the majors. And two of them came with the Braves in 1932 when he went 2-for-8 as a 30-year-old rookie. He never used his glove with the Braves. Four years later, he’d pick up his other eight hits, including a home run.
Best Team By Letter: Team B vs. Team E
Once again, Team B survives to move on. The beginning of Team E’s lineup with Escobar/Evers/Elliott/Evans isn’t all that bad, but it falls off considerably from there and the edge in the Lew Burdette vs. Errickson matchup significantly favors Team B.
Agree or disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts.
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