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Who’s your favorite player? And why?

May 13, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

Alan Trammell

John Paschal of The Hardball Times interviewed several baseball writers — including me — about their favorite baseball players. Boyhood favorites and, if we have one, favorites as an adult.

It’s a good read less so for who the players are — mine were Alan Trammell as a kid, Greg Maddux from my late teens-on — but for how the concept of “favorite players” evolves. How the idea that ballplayers are heroes goes by the way side as we learn about human nature and human frailty. Or, in the case of some people, as they work around ballplayers each day, how favoritism turns more into an appreciation.

The idea of ballplayers as heroes seems anathema to me now, and if my kids started truly idolizing athletes I’d be worried. But I still have my own fanboy moments and still have that more mature-feeling appreciation thing going on with a lot of guys. It’s always changing, really.

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on why your favorite player is your favorite player.

121 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. josemartez - May 13, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Mine has been Paul Molitor for as long as I can remember.

  2. tfbuckfutter - May 13, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    I don’t have a favorite because I’m a grown up and the idea of worshiping other men is very bizarre.

    As a kid I would probably have listed Ryne Sandberg as my favorite even though I’d regularly get into fights with idiots who thought his name was Ryan.

    • tablescrappy - May 13, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      Having a favorite player to watch and “worshipping” a player don’t have to go hand in hand.

      • tfbuckfutter - May 13, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        Ok….a system involving ranking other men based on my enjoyment of how they do their job is odd to me too.

  3. Rich Stowe - May 13, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    As a kid it was Don Mattingly – being a Yankees fan in the 80s, he was the Yankees.

    As I got older, it became Derek Jeter.

    My overall all-time favorite players though are Lou Gehrig and Walter Johnson. Even though I never got to see them play, in my mind, they epitomize everything about being a baseball player.

  4. pinkfloydprism - May 13, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    It was Bo Jackson when I was 12, and then I moved on to Tony Gwynn because he was a hitting machine. As an adult, I really enjoyed watching Pujols, and now I am gravitating towards Mike Trout. It is funny how favorites change over time… but Gwynn is still tops on my list.

  5. beefytrout - May 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Michael Young. The dude elevated the entire locker room.

  6. Stephen Bacchetta - May 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Mike Piazza. Growing up as a Mets fan in the late ’90s and early 2000’s, it really couldn’t be anybody else. He led my team to the only World Series appearance of my lifetime and that home run on September 21, 2001 is still the most vivid memory of my childhood.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 13, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      2001 = childhood…*sigh*

      • Francisco (FC) - May 13, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        For me 2001 = Yay! I graduated

      • renaado - May 14, 2014 at 3:02 AM

        Man, I was still 5 durin that time…

    • sdelmonte - May 13, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      I feel old now. But yeah.

      John Franco’s role as the Mets spokesman during those terrible days and weeks makes him one of my favorites, too.

  7. gmkev - May 13, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Chase Utley is my favorite player. There are a few ways to determine what makes a player great. It is easy to look at statistics and accolades such as all star games and World Series rings but to really determine greatness you need to look at how they play the game. Utley has the statistics and accolades that stand up against many of the games greats. He plays games in April as if they were October. He doesn’t talk much, rarely shows emotion, and methodically goes out there each game and plays his hardest. Arguably one of the best second basemen of all time and well on his way to the Hall of Fame. If you want to watch baseball played the right way, watch Chase Utley.

  8. andreweac - May 13, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Ryan Howard. Because he has tWtW – something this new breed of front office folks will never understand as they spend all day in front of computer screens and not talking to the people that know greatness when the hear the sound of the ball hitting the bat.

  9. berseliusx - May 13, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    Sosa, still my favorite. Nothing can top the buzz at Wrigley (or any other stadium) when he came to bat.

  10. rugdaniels - May 13, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    I loved Bo Jackson when I was in my early teens, he was a superhero come to life to me. I have loved Chase Utley since he came up to the bigs. Watching him take an extra base on a single or turning a double play was a joy.

    I still feel like I missed out on the greatest baseball generation. From hearing my father talk about Willie Mays when I was first getting into baseball I know that I never have or will have that connection with a ball player. Same for the guys who grew up worshiping Snider, or Musial or Mantle.

  11. goskinsvt - May 13, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Cal Ripken Jr. – As a kid born in the early 80s, being an Orioles fan and languishing through the tough years the Orioles went through, going to the ballpark was always an exciting experience for me; not because I hoped they would win that day, but because I got to see Cal play. Knowing that there was someone out there who cared, day in and day out, performed to his highest level every year knowing that the pieces weren’t there around him to make a deep playoff run, it made me respect the heck out of him.

    Off the field, learning about his founding of the Lifelong Learning Center which teaches adults how to read, he always struck me as a genuine guy who really cared about the community he lived in.

    And to top it off, the fact that he spent his entire career with the team that (almost) always finished near or at the bottom of the division, just showed his loyalty to the fanbase and the area.

    Simply put, he was a true baseball role model and my favorite player.

    • ricardorobertasq - May 13, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Ripken as well for me. First game I watched as a kid was on TV with the O’s and Ripken. I loved not only his talent, but his professionalism, his drive and of course the Streak!

    • madhatternalice - May 13, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      100x this. You’ve stated it perfectly.

  12. koufaxmitzvah - May 13, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    I invited Steve Sax to my bar mitzvah.

    • 18thstreet - May 13, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      You’re Jewish? Huh.

    • indaburg - May 13, 2014 at 8:32 PM

      Did he come?

      • koufaxmitzvah - May 13, 2014 at 9:36 PM

        I didn’t even get a reply. I was hoping for some cool tickets and an autograph. The night I addressed the invite, he had a horrendous game at 2nd, throwing a couple balls away, and he heard some boos. According to the paper, he got a lot of fan mail in response, so I’m making excuses for the guy and saying he probably just didn’t see the extra large, extra thick envelope with about 3 inserts. It was my fault, really, for choosing a neutral envelope color, or something.

  13. badwolf76 - May 13, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Brooks Kieschnick

    • 18thstreet - May 13, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      I saw him at the AAA All-Star game in 2000! My friends and I said (in a deep voice) KEEEEEEESH every time he came up. I think we were sitting close enough that he heard us.

      Good times.

      • badwolf76 - May 13, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        The only time I saw him he was pinch hitting for the Brewers against the Phillies at the Vet. The stadium was mostly empty, and I swear I was the only guy in the whole stadium cheering when he drew a 9th inning walk which was of no consequence at all.

  14. Pat Richardson - May 13, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    It was Maddux for me as well, and I think that it wasn’t every day was the biggest charm. I’m in the AZ time zone (where we scoff at the laws of God and Men and daylight savings), so basically one day a week I would get home from school, make a PB&J, and sit down to watch TBS for 3 hours.

  15. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 13, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    I liked Butch Wynegar as a kid (man some of those 80’s Yankees teams were terrible) because I was a catcher in little league.

    I don’t know if “favorite” is the right word, but if I could watch one guy pitch for the rest of my life it would be El Duque. From the almost ballet-like leg kick to never knowing what was going to come after it, there was nobody more fun to watch on the mound.

    On the hitting side, prime Bernie Wililams was fun, Vlad Guererro was always worth the price of admission and I never got tired of Sheffield and his ultra-violent swinging ways.

    • moogro - May 13, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      Oh yes. Growing up, if you put on the mask, it was always as Butch or Johnny Bench.

  16. Alex K - May 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    My all-time favorite is Vlad. Jonah Keri put it best…for a while he was the baddest MF’er on the planet.

    My current favorite is Hanley Ramirez. There is something about great hitting SS that draws me in. He’s not what he used to be, but he’s still pretty darn good.

  17. renaado - May 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Jason Heyward.

    If it weren’t for him and his 3 run homerun back in opening day 2010( And that TV in an appliance store where they showed the highlight of it) I wouldn’t be a Baseball fan as I am now. I’m really thankful for him.

  18. jm91rs - May 13, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    It’s hard to worship a guy now that I’m an adult, but Eric Davis was my favorite as a kid.

  19. georgewashingtonsghost - May 13, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Trammell for sure while he was playing. Haven’t really followed anyone like that since he hung up the spikes. Whomever I currently have on my fantasy team, I suppose.

  20. moogro - May 13, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Rod Carew. Copying his batting style always worked really well.

    • koufaxmitzvah - May 13, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      He would have been a great bar mitzvah invite, but alas I’ve always been an NL snob.

    • unclemosesgreen - May 13, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      Haha – reminds me of how I tried to copy Carl Yastremski’s batting style when I was a kid. Didn’t go too well for me since I was no good batting lefty. But that bat twirl – had that down pat.

  21. blabidibla - May 13, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Shook Willie Mays hand when I was just 4 years old, while waiting outside of Candlestick with my dad.

    The “Say Hey Kid” will always be my favorite for that memory alone.

  22. danwilliamsmlb - May 13, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    Yadier Molina for me; not because I worship him, but because I respect and admire him. He’s a born leader and through sheer determination and hard work, has transformed himself from an “all glove, no bat” player into an offensive threat.

    • moogro - May 13, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      He’d look great in drag. Those eyebrows.

  23. muttonmark - May 13, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Mine was Lance Parrish. Even though I was in my pre-teens when he played for the Tigers, he made me realize how intrumental a catcher is in managing so many factors of the game. I became a catcher in the organized leagues that I played in, and I feel that he was a big part in the understanding of the game that I have today.

  24. gonderfan - May 13, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Jesse Gonder became my favorite player back in 1964. And through the rest of his career as a ballplayer, and beyond, I always knew I ‘picked’ the right guy….( I’m not sure who was my favorite before then, probably Floyd Robinson…. And in the years since, I think the only time I had a current ‘favorite’ was Frank Thomas, when he first came up with the White Sox.)

  25. tablescrappy - May 13, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Rickey Henderson. I was six when he arrived in Oakland to play for the green and gold, so my formative years as a fan revolved around watching his career unfold. When I worked for the A’s I got to meet him and, of course, hear all the crazy Rickey stories. When he took a public speaking class to make sure his HOF induction speech was remembered for being classy instead of boastful, he cemented himself in my mind as the best combination of person/player I’ve ever followed as a fan.

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