Another April has come, and there is still no baseball in Macon.
Even though we havent enjoyed true minor league baseball at Luther Williams Field since the Braves departed for Rome in 2003, we have fond memories of players who came through Luther Williams and made it to the big leagues. With that in mind, I came up with my all-time Macon team, and, as you would expect, it is dominated by the Macon Peaches from the early 1960s and the Macon Braves during their decade-plus time here.
The exception to that time frame is at catcher, where I picked Paul Richards, who played in Macon in 1929 and 1930. While in Macon, he hit .304 with 16 home runs. Although he made it to the big leagues as a player and won a World Series ring with Detroit in 1945, he is better known for managing the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles.
The choices at first and second are no-brainers. The picks are Tony Perez, the only former Macon player to be selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and Pete Rose, baseballs all-time hit king.
Perez, who hit .309 with Macon in 1963 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI, played on three world championship teams. Rose, who is denied induction into the Cooperstown hall due to his gambling issues, is the most decorated ex-Macon player. He had a career .303 batting average with 4,256 hits, was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1963, NL MVP in 1973 and World Series MVP in 1975.
Rafael Furcal is the selection at shortstop and Chipper Jones is the choice at third, although he was a shortstop in his time in Macon.
Furcal, who currently plays with the St. Louis Cardinals, played in Macon in 1999, hitting .337 with 73 stolen bases. Jones was in Macon during the 1991 season and hit .326 with 15 home runs, 98 RBI and 40 stolen bases. He is in his 18th season with the Atlanta and has a career batting average of .304.
The outfielder choices are Al Oliver, Andruw Jones and Jermaine Dye.
Oliver, who spent 18 years in the big leagues, hit just .222 in Macon but had a career .303 average in the majors. Jones, who is still playing with the New York Yankees, had 25 home runs and 100 RBI during the 1995 season in Macon and has a career major league batting average of .256. Dye, who played in Macon in 1994, hit .298 as a Macon Braves player with 15 home runs and 98 RBI. He spent 14 seasons in the majors, with a career batting average of .274.
There have been a ton of pitchers to come through Macon through the years, but my No. 1 pick at that position is Adam Wainwright, currently with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Wainwright was the runner-up for the 2010 NL Cy Young Award after a 20-11 record. He missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing arm surgery. In his lone season in Macon in 2001, after being a first-round pick of Atlanta, he was 10-10 with a 3.77 ERA.
It is worthwhile to note that every one of my selections, with the exception of Paul Richards, played in at least one Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
There are plenty more great players who called Luther Williams home for at least one season, including the likes of pitchers Dock Ellis, Bruce Dal Canton, Kevin Milwood, Jason Marquis, Ray King, John Rocker, Jason Schmidt and Bruce Chen, to name a few. Position players that I also considered were Lee May, Vince Coleman, Marcus Giles, Eddie Stanky, Tommy Helms, Kelly Johnson and Tony Graffanino, among others. I am sure I have omitted players that are deserving, and I invite your nominations.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org