Monday, March 13, 2006
Richard Barbieri returns to London
To paraphrase The Beatles, I'll be Back in the UK but just for a week this time, visiting friends. In honor of my visit however, I thought it would be appropriate to do an entry on England's best ballplayers. England (that's England alone, not Scotland or Wales, I'll save those for another day I'm desperate for a topic) has produced just thirty ballplayers. The majority of them came during baseball's early days and were probably immigrants who adopted to early baseball fairly easily from English varieties like rounders and cricket.
The best English ballplayer of time--and it's not even close--was a Sheffielder named Harry Wright. Wright was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953 for having organized, managed and played center field for baseball's first openly professional team. He is credited with introducing, among other things, the concept of hitting fungeos to outfielders pre-game, backing up plays on defense and shfiting defenses to adjust to hitters, although that middle one seems so obvious I can't imagine anyone "invented" it. Wright was a career .272/.303/.338 hitter, which looks just awful, but when viewed in the context of his league averages of .296/.310/.369, it becomes clear he wasn't quite that terrible a player; for good measure Wright also pitched nearly a hundred innings.
The best of the "modern" English players (that is to say, not cricketers) is probably Danny Cox. Cox attended college in the states so I don't know if was born in England and moved to the states or what but in an eleven year career Cox won seventy-four games, including eighteen in 1985 and pitched in three World Series, finally winning on his third try in 1993 with the Jays. The most recent England-born player was pitcher Lance Painter who pitched as recently as 2003. Like Cox Painter went to college in America and thereafter had a largely mediocre career as a middle reliever. These days Painter is working as a pitcher coach at the Mariner's Single-A affliate.
I don't know when the next English ballplayer will emerge, but for now I'll be in London drinking pints and wearing my Yankee shirt. You never know...