The danger in compiling a list, at least in my experience, is that there is at least a 97 percent chance that no matter how many times you peruse it and double-, triple-, quadruple-check it, you overlook someone obvious.
So, I won’t lie to you. Yes, I neglected to evaluate Tony Conigliaro when I published my Red Sox all-time top 25 players last week. That said, I don’t know which of my top 25 I’d have thrown out in order to include him. The obvious choice for many, I suppose, would be Smoky Joe Wood. But I have a thing for Smoky Joe Wood and, as I said, it was my list.
There is no right or wrong in these matters. I think the only two things all those who care enough to have an opinion on this subject can agree on are that a) Ted was a pretty good hitter and b) Pedro was a pretty good pitcher. Aside from that, it comes down to rolling up our metaphorical sleeves and stepping outside, if you know what I mean.
Now, let’s have some real fun. Let’s suppose there is a mythical all-time World Series and we need to construct an all-time Red Sox 25-man roster to play seven games for the champeenship of da woild. This time, career longevity does not matter. If you played one game for the Red Sox, you have a chance to be on this roster. Heavy emphasis will be placed on peak value, even if it was one great year, and versatility.
C — Carlton Fisk, Jason Varitek.
1B — Jimmie Foxx.
2B — Bobby Doerr.
SS — Nomar Garciaparra.
3B — Wade Boggs.
OF — Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Manny Ramirez, Tris Speaker, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans.
DH — David Ortiz.
Utility — Johnny Pesky, Pokey Reese.
Starting pitchers — Pedro Martinez, Luis Tiant, Roger Clemens, Babe Ruth.
Relief pitchers — Bob Stanley, Smoky Joe Wood, Koji Uehara, Dick Radatz, Ellis Kinder.
Manager — Terry Francona.
Broadcaster — Ned Martin.
Scribe — Peter Gammons.
Right to the chase: In my 50 years of Red Sox watching, the 2004 Calvin “Pokey” Reese is the best 2B-SS combo defender I’ve ever seen. The ultimate infield defensive replacement. And he can steal a base. Look it up. He may not be Dave Roberts, but he can do the job . . . My four starters are all bred to go nine. If one of them gets hit by a line drive, or foolishly tries to barehand a comebacker, or just plain gets lit up (as remote a possibility as that may be), Stanley can come in and give me three, four, five — heck, seven — quality innings. He averaged 140 innings out of the bullpen from 1982-84. He also had seven career shutouts as a starter. Has to be on this roster.
Kinder (1948-55) also protects me as a multipurpose guy who won as many as 23, and was a superb closer later on. Smoky Joe can get me a strikeout if I need one. Koji eliminates the need for a pure lefthanded specialist (he’s an equal-opportunity K man) while working the eighth in advance of The Monster, who finally plays on a good team.
Varitek people, you happy now? Your guy backs up Pudge, though I can’t see him getting a start. Yaz is, of course, both a left fielder and my backup at first behind Double X . . . Pesky covers me as SS-3B backup . . . Evans will replace Manny in right when the moment comes. That’s in the “duh” category . . . Tito has to be the manager, given that he’s the only skipper in history who is 8-0 in the World Series.
Game 1 batting order (at Fenway, against a righthanded pitcher):
Lynn over Speaker in center field? A matter of thump. I love power in the 2-hole. With three lefties at the top of the order, I thought I’d better get Foxx in the cleanup spot . . . I trust Pudge understands why he’s batting eighth . . . Doerr is a pro. He’ll be fine batting ninth. And how about having a great glove man who once drove in 120 batting ninth? On second thought, dropping Lynn to eighth, with Fisk batting ninth, and the righthanded-hitting Doerr batting second wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. Isn’t it fun to manage this club?
You may have noted there are only nine pitchers, not today’s ludicrous oversupply. First of all, I can expect a shutout or two. Secondly, my “setup” guys are all versatile. Nine hurlers is plenty. I get goose bumps thinking about Koji, with a 10-pitch, 10-strike eighth, handing it over to Radatz for a three-K ninth. I can see those arms raised right now.
No Joe Cronin? I’ll listen to your objection. No Dom DiMaggio? Painful. Another very tough omission was shortstop Vern Stephens. Perhaps he should be here instead of Nomar. I mean, he averaged — ready for this? — 147 RBIs from 1948-50. Problem is, on this team I don’t need him. But the time might come when I may very well need Pokey Reese . . . Had to give some thought to Billy Goodman, who in 1950 led the league with a .354 batting average while playing five positions . . . I also very much wanted to get the 1967 Jim Lonborg on the squad. Good Lord, he threw a one-hitter and a three-hitter in the Series. Decisions, decisions.
That’s my team. What’s yours?