Herald Journal Columns
June 19, 2006, Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch

Historical interleague play in Major Leagues

By Matt Kane

The Twins entered the second round of interleague play Friday when they traveled to face the mighty Pittsburgh Prates.

I’m not a huge fan of interleague play — I am a believer that the once bitter rivalry between the American and National league made the World Series all the more intriguing.

Number one on a player’s mind might be to get a ring for himself, but there was also a pride that went with representing the entire league.

Before 1997, the year interleague play spread through Major League Baseball, spring training, the all-star game and the World Series were the places to see the best pitcher from one league face the best hitter from the other.

The Twins just completed a series with the Pirates and the upcoming interleague schedule includes games against the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers.

There certainly are good players on all four of these teams, but, besides Greg Maddux with the Cubs, none of the rosters include legendary, sure-fire hall of famers.

That got me thinking. What if the lineup cards of the Pirates, Astros, Cubs, Dodgers and Brewers were filled with the names that made these clubs recognizable.

When considering who would be playing for these teams, the lineups are seriously impressive.

Pittsburgh’s card would feature Roberto Clemente, Willie “Pops” Stargell, Barry Bonds, Bill Mazeroski, Ralph Kiner, Honus Wagner, and the “Cobra,” Dave Parker.

Guys like Doug Drabek, Bert Blyleven, Dock Ellis, Kent Tekulve and Vern Law would take the mound.

Heck, just put the “We are family” team of the late 1970s on the field and everybody would stay entertained — and happy.

This week’s schedule starts tomorrow in Houston, where perennial all-star Craig Biggio is waiting with his Astro buddies.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, Houston has a sure-bet hall of famer as well, and he is scheduled to pitch June 22 against the Twins.

The “Rocket,” Roger Clemens will take the rubber in his first start of the year, with Biggio most likely behind him at second base.

Now imagine Jeff Bagwell back at first base, Cesar Cedeno, Kevin Bass and Jose Cruz in the outfield, and either Glenn Davis or Bob Watson at first base. And don’t forget hall of famer Joe Morgan — known for his days with the Big Red Machine — started his career with Houston, when the Astros were the Colt .45’s.

The Astros’ offense may not strike fear into an opponent as much as the Pirates’ does, but the Houston pitching staff is another story.

Pick your ace. Roger Clemens or Nolan Ryan? I’ll take Ryan, simply because of the seven no-hitters. So that puts Clemens in the two-spot in the rotation, followed by Mike Scott and J.R. Richards. For a fifth starter, one couldn’t go wrong with Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Danny Darwin or Jim Deshaies.

Don’t hit a ground ball with less than two outs and a man on first against the Cubs. Tinker to Evers to Chance will quickly clear the bases with a legendary double play.

There is some good power in the Cubs’ lineup. Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and “The Hawk” Andre Dawson are middle of the order guys. And the pitching staff would consist of Fergie Jenkins, Rick Sutcliffe and Maddux, with Lee Smith as the closer.

Just mention the Dodgers, and thoughts of Koufax, Drysdale, Campy, and The Duke shoot to the forefront of the mind.

Send the “Bulldog” Oral Hersheiser, out on the third day, followed by some Fernandomania, and Don Sutton, and close the game out with Eric Gagne.

Did I forget to mention a guy named Jackie Robinson at second base, and his double play partner, Pee Wee Reese, wasn’t bat either.

Maury Wills can lead off, and Kirk Gibson will drive him in with some pinch-hitting heroics.

The Brewers are often considered the rival to the Twins, probably because of the proximity of Milwaukee to Minneapolis.

The Brewers have produced some good ball players like Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, and the rest of “Harvey’s Wallbangers,” from the 1982 team.

And the home run king, Henry Aaron, started and finished his major league career in Milwaukee — starting with the Braves and finishing with the Brewers.
Sutton pitched with the Brewers, as did Rollie Fingers.

The Twins could probably hold their own, with the likes of Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Kirby Puckett and Earl Battey. And the pitching staff would include Jim Kaat, Johan Santana, “Mudcat” Grant, Frank “Sweet Music” Viola and “The Big Train” Walter Johnson.

These names from the various clubs certainly stir up memories, but, unfortunately, only three of these players — Biggio, Clemens and Santana — will be in uniform over the next two weeks.

But I guess Clemente, Ryan, Campinella and Aaron all had to start somewhere. So, maybe in 20 years, when I write the second version of this column, I will include Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel and Francisco Liriano on the lineup card with Killebrew, Oliva and Kaat.

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