CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 14: Manny Ramirez #99 of the Chicago White Sox takes a swing against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on September 14 2010 in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
This week's power rankings is based on the most interesting player to hit just one home run for the team. This is a good way to sift through Baseball Reference's Play Index and say, "Whoa, I had no idea that ____ played for ____!" several hundred times in one day.
1. Kansas City Royals - Orlando Cepeda (off Luke Walker, 8/14/74)
This is a wake-up call for you. This is a time to rethink your life, and how you will provide for your children. Imagine if your dad bought an Orlando Cepeda/Royals shirsey, tucked it away for 30 years, and then presented it to you today. Magical. Amazing. Transcendent. You would have a Kansas City Royals shirsey with Cepeda's name and number on the back.
Now is your chance. Get that Tejada/Giants shirsey. When Jorge Posada signs with the Astros in the offseason, snatch one of those shirseys up and save it for your kid. He'll thank you later. DON'T PASS UP THIS CHANCE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks - Randy Johnson (off Doug Davis, 9/19/03)
It would be too easy to populate the list with pitchers, so you won't see many of them here. But exceptions are made in special circumstances. Randy Johnson actually hit a major-league home run. This is not widely known. There aren't tributes to this home run before every Diamondbacks game. It's not part of the opening to This Week in Baseball. It should be.
The home run went 385 feet, which is 383 feet farther than Johnson had ever hit a ball prior to the home run. Yet as with most things related to baseball and video, we'll never get the chance to see it.
I would pay $10 for the home-run video, MLB Advanced Media. Why won't you take my money?
3. San Diego Padres - Everyone
You could build a pretty good all-time lineup from the Padres' one-homer club:
2B - Marty Barrett
SS - Ozzie Smith
RF - Al Bumbry
P - Gaylord Perry
Half of those players passed through the Padres on their way out of the game, but half of them passed through on their way into the game. The Padres have always been so generous with their young players.
4. Chicago White Sox - (off , 9/17/10)
George Foster was also on the list, but there's something special about Manny's time with the White Sox. And by "special," I mean "completely forgettable." I remember lines from "Empty Nest" episodes from 25 years ago -- how is it possible that I already forgot that Manny Ramirez was on the White Sox? Next thing you'll tell me is Jim Thome was on the Dodgers.
More importantly, one of the other players on the Dodgers' one-homer list was Jigger Statz.
There are great old-timey names, and then there are names you couldn't make up if you had a focus group filled with the greatest minds of a generation.
Jigger Statz. Let it sink in for a while. Write it on an index card, and check in with it throughout the day.
6. Boston Red Sox - Al Simmons (off Tiny Bonham, 8/29/43)
Simmons is on the short list of the most underrated players of all-time -- a Hall-of-Fame outfielder with a career .334/.380/.535 hitter over 20 seasons. He was with the Red Sox for just 40 games at the end of his career.
But as long we're talking about awesome names, note that Simmons is on the short list of the most underrated names of all-time. Baseball Reference gives Simmons a full name of...
Aloysius Harry Simmons (Bucketfoot Al) born Aloys Szymanski.
This is the second-most Thomas Pynchon character name in the history of baseball. The first, of course, is Mariners minor leaguer Jetsy Jens (Menese) Extrano.
7. Oakland Athletics - Zach Wheat (off Tommy Thomas, 7/15/27)
Just as we're starting to feel sorry for ourselves for not living in an era without a Jigger Statz and "Bucketfoot Al" Aloysius Harry Simmons, comes another Hall of Famer, Zach Wheat. Someone back in the '10s or '20s gave Zach a nickname. "Buck." Zach "Buck" Wheat.
That person then married someone boring and awful, and they had boring and awful kids. Those boring and awful kids had boring and awful kids, and one day, one of those kids said, "Say, if you take the first letter of 'Alex' and the first syllable of 'Rodriguez' and just mash 'em together, you get a great nickname!"
There have always been bad nicknames. We just can't help looking to the past with rose-colored glasses.
Counterpoint: Jigger Statz.
8. Florida Marlins - (off Armando Benitez, 5/24/02)
9. Baltimore Orioles - Tim Raines (off Tim Wakefield, 10/5/01)
Tim Raines's lone homer with the Orioles came during the lone week he was with the club. The Expos traded him to Baltimore with a week left in the season so he could play with his son, Tim Raines, Jr., who played parts of three seasons with the Orioles.
Unfortunately for the family, it got a little weird. Tim Raines, Sr. has exactly one more home run as an Oriole than Tim Raines, Jr. If my dad did that to me, I'd be pissed off for the rest of my life.
10. Cleveland Indians - Sam Rice (off Roy Mahaffey, 6/15/34)
At this point, I'm going to assume that it was a fad for Hall-of-Fame outfielders in the '20s and '30s to play for a random team before they retired and hit a single home run. It was like dancing the Charleston atop a flagpole, but with home runs and a heckuva lot more train travel.
Note: This piece gave me an idea for a steampunk novel about a group of teenagers who put their Charleston-on-top-of-flagpole videos on some early-20th century version of YouTube. That's all teenagers would have done back then. We'd all be speaking German right now as a consequence. Keep your filthy hands off my novel idea.
11. San Francisco Giants - Tony Lazzeri (off Curt Davis, 6/30/39)
Can the universe create an underrated Yankees Hall of Famer? This is proof that it might be possible.Tony Lazzeri was an excellent second baseman for a long time, but you don't hear his name as much as other Yankee greats.
Also, Lazzeri and the Yankees beat the Giants in the 1936 World Series. Lazzeri on the Giants was the start of Operation Forget-Us-Not, a component of Yankees psychological warfare. The Yankees would plant a broken-down star on the team they defeated in the World Series, subconsciously reminding the world of their dominance.
The Braves tried to do the same thing withthis year, but they were unclear on the concept.
12. St. Louis Cardinals - Rabbit Maranville (off Freddie Fitzsimmons, 6/9/28)
Minnie Minoso was on the one-homer list, and he was probably a better player than Maranville. But Rabbit is in the Hall of Fame, so that broke the tie. Besides, if there weren't an old-timey infielder named "Rabbit" with a mug like this ...
... already in the Hall, we'd have to invent one. His induction just saved us time. Apologies to Jon Bois for nicking his terminology, but that's the most old-time player ever. Look at him. He's ready to stab you if you get too close to his Grape Nuts, just like your great-grandpa would have.
13. New York Yankees - John McGraw (unknown, 1901)
is/was a better player, but McGraw is a bigger overall baseball legend. Plus, this is a great chance to remind everyone that the Yankees were once the Baltimore Orioles. McGraw hit his home run in 1901 for the Baltimore Orioles, who are now the New York Yankees.
So cheer up, Orioles fans! These things automatically reverse themselves every few thousand to few million years, just like the magnetic poles. Any day now. Aaaaaany day now.
14. Cincinnati Reds - Curt Flood (off Moe Drabowsky, 9/25/57)
Most of the players on this were past their prime, but Flood was a teenager when the Reds traded him to the Cardinals for a couple of nondescript pitchers, and he hit a home run in one of his four Cincinnati at-bats. His career OPS with the Reds: 1.250. Take that, !
15. Philadelphia Phillies - Johnny Evers (unknown, 1917)
Evers was a Hall-of-Fame second baseman, mostly known for his work with the Cubs (and the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance poem). I never realized how long the Cubs' title drought really was until this list. It's been so long since the Cubs won the World Series, there aren't even box scores on Baseball Reference for the regular-season games that year. Talk about a way to make a baseball nerd gain some perspective.
16. Los Angeles Angels - Andres Galarraga (off , 10/1/04)
There aren't too many modern players on this list, but of the ones that did make it, this is easily the most forgettable pairing. Galarraga had so many phases to his career. He was an All-Star with the Expos, and he was completely washed up at 30 ... until he went to Colorado and restarted his career. He played until he was 43, and everywhere he went, the fans loved him.
Except Anaheim. He showed up because of an accounting error. The airlines sent his luggage there instead of retirement, and it took seven games to straighten everything out.
17. Atlanta Braves - Ray Boone (off Willard Schmidt, 9/6/59)
Ray Boone is known mostly for his prodigious, baseball-player-producing sperm. At least, he is to me, which is one of the reasons that Baseball Nation has asked that I don't write about Ray Boone too much.
Also, the next time you're feeling sorry for Octavio Dotel or Kyle Farnsworth for being traded so much, remember that Boone played for three teams in 1959. That doesn't give a fella a lot of time to go Cecil Jacobson on the baseball world, so Boone's work was even more impressive.
At the risk of seeming heartless, that's probably how the universe should work. Nice and linear, easy to understand.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates - Tim Wakefield (off Mark Portugal, 7/7/93)
Tim Wakefield is the career home-run leader for his college, Florida Tech. Tim Wakefield is the only player from Florida Tech to make the majors. You would think these two things are unrelated, but you'd be wrong.
Here's what usually happens when Tim Wakefield swings:
20. Chicago Cubs - Willie Wilson (off Roger Mason, 9/6/93)
Willie Wilson had 41 home runs in his career. Thirteen of them were inside-the-park home runs. This is especially impressive considering that Kauffman Stadium has always had pretty vanilla outfield dimensions.
Also, Wilson is seventh on the Cubs' all-time home run list.
21. New York Mets - Brett Butler (off Allen Watson, 7/20/95)
Another lead-off great who hung in just long enough to do a single non-lead-offy thing for a team that no one will ever associate him with. Even though he played for three more seasons after his Mets homer, it was the last home run he ever hit. This is partially because Butler played until he was 40, and partially because Butler stood 4'3".
22. Colorado Rockies - (off , 4/17/07)
So one day, Finley was sitting at home, thinking about his nickname -- "Slut of the NL West" -- and feeling guilty that he never really earned that nickname. How could he, if he never played for the Rockies? So he called up his agent, got a gig with the Rockies, hit a single home run, and retired, comfortable in the knowledge that he had truly earned the "Slut of the NL West" moniker.
Well, that should be his nickname.
23. Milwaukee Brewers - Tony Fernandez (off Bruce Chen, 5/16/01)
I feel like this is the twist of an Encyclopedia Brown mystery. Did Bugs Meany give himself away by saying that Tony Fernandez was still playing in 2001? Or did he give himself away by saying Bruce Chen has been in the league for ten years? One of the two can't be true, and that's going to break the case wide open. Maybe I'll just have Sally Kimball punch him in the junk. Bugs Meany, I mean. Not Fernandez. He didn't do anything wrong. Except maybe boot a ball in the World Series when he probably shouldn't have.
Fernandez hit his only home run as a Brewer in his last game as a Brewer, which is good, because otherwise you'd be sitting here reading something about one of the Jeff D'Amicos, and I don't have the time to figure out which one was which.
24. Washington Nationals - Felipe Alou (off Mike Paul, 9/19/73)
And as he rounded the bases for he the last time in his career, he overheard relievers in his own bullpen laughing at him. It was then that he decided to wage a secret war on relievers and their fragile, precious little arms. Somewhere right now, Jim Brower is still warming up in case the other team pulls within seven runs.
That's probably a joke that only a Giants or Expos fan would get. But the best way to explain it is this: Alou pinch-hit for Ron Fairly in this game. As far as bad managers and bad announcers go, that was like Elvis meeting Nixon in the White House - a summit of absolute titans.
25. Seattle Mariners - Vince Coleman (off Todd Van Poppel, 9/22/95)
In his career, Todd Van Poppel faced Cecil Fielder, Kirby Puckett, Jose Canseco, Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Andre Dawson, Harold Baines, Don Mattingly, Manny Ramirez, Ellis Burks, Derek Jeter, Scott Rolen, George Brett, Eddie Murray, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Robin Yount, Adam Dunn, Matt Holliday, Victor Martinez, and Barry Bonds. He did not allow a home run to any of those players.
26. Minnesota Twins - Jason Tyner (off Jake Westbrook, 7/28/07)
Tyner had 1220 at-bats in his career before July 28, 2007. With this home run -- the only one of his career, much less the Twins -- he dropped down to 19th on the Kuiper List. Let's take a look at the home run:
Well, of course. You can't pitch Tyner there.
27. Detroit Tigers - Ruben Sierra (off Andy Pettitte, 8/9/96)
28. Toronto Blue Jays - Ruben Sierra (off Steve Karsay, 6/7/97)
At the trading deadline in 1996, the Yankees traded Sierra and the #12 prospect in baseball for Cecil Fielder. Sierra was 30 years old, but he was about five years removed from his last good season. He must have felt pretty down. Then in his first game against his old team, he hit a home run and drove in all five runs in a 5-3 win. He probably said something like, "Yeah! Rubes stilllll got it! Suck it, Yankees!"
Then Sierra resumed being terrible. The Yankees won the World Series.
29. Houston Astros - Keith Ginter (off Jimmy Haynes, 9/30/00)
This one doesn't mean anything to anyone else, but I remember being so jealous of the Astros and Keith Ginter. He was a middle infielder with all kinds of power in the minors. Turns out his breakout season was in the Texas League when he was 24. There are enough red flags there to welcome a cosmonaut home.
You could also build a pretty sweet rotation just from one-homer pitchers who went through Houston in the late-'90s and early '00s: Andy Pettitte, Darryl Kile, Russ Ortiz,,
30. Tampa Bay Rays - Hank Blalock (off Bud Norris, 5/23/10)
The Rays don't have a super-long history, so it was unlikely that there would be a Hall of Famer on the list. But they did have two former Home Run Derby contestants: Blalock (2004) and Damion Easley (1998) both hit just a single home run as Rays. To break the tie, I matched their totals in the Home Run Derby against each other. Blalock had three home runs. Easley had two. Blalock gets the nod.
In other news, there were only eight players in each league during the 1998 and 2004 baseball seasons. You'd think that you'd hear more about that, what with all of the games being cancelled and all. But no. What a fascinating time in the sport's history.
Power Rankings of Yesteryear:
8/10 - Ballpark quirks
8/2 - General manager conversations
7/26 - Trade deadline strategies
7/19 - Ballpark names
7/5 - Mascots
6/27 - Promotional giveaways
6/21 - Health inspection reports
6/13 - Random ex-major leaguers in minor-league system
6/6 - Awesome names in draft history
5/31 - Team logos
5/24 - Annoying people
5/17 - Song titles
5/10 - Hair metal bands
5/3 - Sitcom locations
4/24 - Team names