Bobby Pope

Pope: Picking Middle Georgia’s All-Star baseball team

As a kid growing up, there was nothing better than the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. I knew the players and what teams they played for. You got to see the best players in the NL battle it out against the top performers in the AL.

Back in those days, you would always expect to see from the AL Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees, Nellie Fox of the Chicago White Sox, Ted Williams the Boston Red Sox star, Al Kaline and Harvey Kuenn from the Detroit Tigers and Vic Wertz from the Cleveland Indians.

The NL’s best always seemed to include Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves (and later Aaron with Atlanta), Stan Musial from the St. Louis Cardinals, Willie Mays from the New York and San Francisco Giants and Sandy Koufax and Duke Snider from the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.

But through the years, the game has lost a lot of its flavor. This year’s Mid-Summer Classic will be played Tuesday at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, and I probably won’t even watch it. While it was once a great honor to be included in the game, today’s players would rather have the day off, and often times some of the top ones opt out of the game.

In observance of the All-Star Game, I came up with a Middle Georgia major league all-star team. The only criteria is that the player had to attend an area high school and play at least one game in the big leagues.

The strength of the squad would be on the mound. I have five starting pitchers and two relievers. Two of the hurlers, Kevin Brown and “Blue Moon” Odom actually were on major league All-Star Game rosters. Brown, who played at Wilkinson County, was a six-time All Star during his 20-year big league career, which included stops with the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, Dodgers and Yankees. “Blue Moon,” a product of Ballard Hudson, was an All-Star in l968 and 1969 while playing for the Oakland A’s. He also pitched in Cleveland, Atlanta and the White Sox. Brown had a 211-144 career record with a 3.28 ERA, while Odom was 84-85 with a 3.70 ERA.

The remainder of the pitching staff includes starters Bobby Hendley, (Lanier), Danny Cox, (Warner Robins) and Michael Mimbs (Windsor). The relievers are Eddie Solomon (Perry) and John Rocker (FPD).

Hendley was 48-52 in six seasons playing for four different teams. Cox was 74-75 in 11 years also with four different clubs. And Mimbs was 12-19 in three seasons with the Phillies. Solomon pitched 10 years in the majors and had a 35-42 record with six different teams and Rocker, who played for four teams, had 88 saves with a 13-22 won-loss record.

Mark Johnson (Warner Robins) is the pick at catcher. He was primarily a backup for the White Sox, A’s, Milwaukee Brewers and Cardinals during his career, hitting .218.

The infield is made up of first baseman Russell Branyan (Stratford), second baseman Rico Washington (Jones County), shortstop Inman “Coot” Veal (Lanier) and third baseman Willie Greene (Jones County). Branyan played for 10 different franchises and had a .232 batting average with 194 home runs. Washington played just 14 games in the bigs and batted only .158 for the Cardinals. Veal, a defensive standout, batted .236 in six seasons with three clubs, and Greene hit .234 while playing for four teams.

In the outfield, we have Kal Daniels (Northside), Rondell White (Jones County) and Milton Cuyler (Southwest). Daniels played seven years in the big leagues with the Reds, Dodgers and Cubs. He batted .285 with 104 home runs. White, who was an NL All-Star in 2003, had a career batting average of .285. He had 198 homers and 768 RBI while playing for seven different teams in 15 seasons but primarily with the Montreal Expos. Cuyler spent six seasons in the majors with the Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Rangers. He hit .237 with 10 home runs and 119 RBI during his career.

I suspect with this team you would have to rely on small ball and hope the pitching could get you by.

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