IT IS time, as the last baseball season of the 1900s begins, to put together the Baltimore team of the century. That is, a lineup of the best players to have pitched, batted and fielded in this city's behalf.
Such a project could be carried out in committee of the whole (48,876 seating capacity) ballpark, or by any one centenarian. The ensuing argument could carry us into the 2000s.
Rules: to be eligible, a nominee must have played at least one full, pennant-standings inning for a Baltimore team in the American, Federal, Negro or International leagues, in the 1900s (sorry, Judy Johnson, Jimmie Foxx, Al Kaline). Supporting statistics? Not now, anyway; simply not enough space here. Election to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Helpful, but not determining.
Be on your guard for a surprise or two. Otherwise:
First base, Eddie Murray. Second base, Roberto Alomar. Shortstop, Cal Ripken Jr. Third base, Brooks Robinson.
(Regrets to the admirers of Joe Hauser, Jud Wilson, Eddie Robinson, Jim Gentile, Boog Powell, Rafael Palmeiro. Second base? The next best may have been Max Bishop. Shortstop -- we still remember you, Joe Boley, Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger. As for third, both John McGraw and Fritz Maisel were close behind you, Brooks.)
Outfielders: Paul Blair, Frank Robinson, Ken Singleton (omitting many a local favorite, e.g., Pete Hill, Merwin Jacobson, Howie Moss, Brady Anderson, B.J. Surhoff).
Catcher: Roy Campanella (but regards to Shermie Lollar, Gus Triandos, Rick Dempsey).
Pitchers: Here we broaden out, with three starters -- Joe McGinnity, Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove -- and, in relief, Satchel Paige, who pitched awhile for the 1930s Baltimore Black Sox. (You are free to prefer Jim Parnham, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Miguel Cuellar, plus Hoyt Wilhelm.)
No one, not even Jack Quinn, from the Federal League's Baltimore Terrapins? Guess not.
During recent decades, Baltimore has been representing two cities, so in politeness let's add a couple of Washington pitchers. They would be Walter Johnson, of course, and -- hold on to your elbow rests -- George Washington.
To bring in George means enlarging the time frame: 18th century as well as 20th. The idea is not just to point out the 200th anniversary of his death but to atone for the modern tendency to think of Washington as merely an army general and a both-parties president.
A tall, big-boned right-hander, Washington had a great arm, described as "long, large and sinewy." That coin or stone chucked "across the Rappahannock, below Fredericksburg," was a feat of his, yes, but there were others. Once he threw a stone "from the bed of the stream to the top of Natural Bridge" (in western Virginia); another time, "over the Palisades into the Hudson."
This testimony to his arm strength is from the forgotten book, "Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington," by G. W. Parke Custis, a descendant of the Calverts; Custis was Washington's adopted son and as a boy lived at Mount Vernon.
Imagine what a first pitch our first president could've thrown on opening day, in a modern ballpark.
Well, back to the expiring 20th century, and to virtual reality. In the 1900s All-Star Lineup proposed above, one position is unfilled. Who for designated hitter?
Whoever becomes the first Oriole to hit the warehouse on the fair-ball fly during a regular-season game.
Drive a lonnnnngg one to right center, Albert?
James H. Bready, a failed pitcher, is the author of "Baseball in Baltimore: the First 100 Years."
Pub Date: 4/05/99