THE BEST OF THE BEST: The all-time Crossroads baseball team
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The Crossroads has produced its fair share of baseball players over the years, several have gone on to play in college, a few from there to the minor leagues. But only a select few have gone on to make a name for themselves at the professional level. They have gone on to be superstars, Hall of Famers, career major leaguers, staff aces and more. They have also been short-lived players getting a small cup of coffee at the pro level, journeymen who donned no fewer than five uniforms in long career and minor league stars in the league's early years who could never quite make it in the pros. We have sorted through the players born in this area, and determined the best there ever was from the Crossroads at each position.
NOLAN RYAN . PITCHER
BORN IN REFUGIO, JANUARY 31, 1947
• CAREER: 1966 to 1993 with the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers
• HONORS: Eight time all-star selection, 1999 Hall of Fame selection
Nolan Ryan needs no introduction. The greatest strikeout pitcher of the last 50 years sat down 5,714 batters in his long career, the most in major league history. Of course, he's also the career walks leader too, at 2,795 free passes. He is currently owner of the Texas Rangers.
• STATS: 324-292, 3.19 ERA in 807 games (773 starts), 222 complete games, 1.24 WHIP
DOUG DRABEK . PITCHER
BORN IN VICTORIA ON JULY 25, 1962
• CAREER: 1986 to 1998 with the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles
• HONORS: 1990 Cy Young winner, selected to All-Star game once
Perhaps the best pitcher yet that Victoria has produced, the St. Joseph graduate was an ace of the Pirates teams that made three straight appearances in the NLCS from 1990 to 1992. He is now the pitching coach for the Class High-A Visalia Rawhide of the Cal League.
• STATS: 155-124, 3.73 ERA in 398 games (387 starts), 21 shutouts, 1,574 strikeouts
DALE MURRAY . PITCHER
BORN IN CUERO, FEBRUARY 2, 1950
• CAREER: 1974 to 1985 with Montreal Expos, Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays
Murray spent his career as a journeyman reliever and sometimes closer for a number of teams. His best year came in 1976 with the Expos, when he led the league in appearances with 81 and had a 3.26 ERA with 13 saves and 113 1/3 innings pitched.
• STATS: 53-50, 3.85 ERA in 518 games (289 finished), 60 saves
EDDIE TAUBENSEE . C
BORN IN BEEVILLE, OCTOBER 31, 1968
• CAREER: 1991-2001 with Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians
Taubensee played his best years with the Reds in the mid and late 1990s, batting .311 with 21 homers in 1999 with 81 RBIs. He also had a career .988 fielding percentage for his career. Although born in Beeville, he went to high school in Florida.
• STATS: .273 batting average, .331 OBP, 94 HRs and 419 RBIs
MARV GUDAT . 1B
BORN IN GOLIAD, AUGUST 27, 1903 (DIED IN 1954)
• CAREER: 1929 with the Cincinnati Reds, 1932 with Chicago Cubs (Minors from 1926 to 1945)
Gudat spent most of his playing career with the Pacific Coast League's San Diego Padres. His best year, though, came as a Cubs minor leaguer with the PCL's LA Angels, where he batted .332 in 164 games. He played baseball at UCLA.
• STATS: .250 batting average, .355 OBP in 69 games
ROCKY BRIDGES . 2B/SS
BORN IN REFUGIO, AUGUST 7, 1927
• CAREER: 1951 to 1961 with the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels
Bridges was a journeyman backup infielder that played in several different places, beginning his career with Brooklyn and finishing with the Angels. His best year was with the Tigers in 1959.
• STATS: .247 BA, .310 OBP, 16 HRs in 919 games; .968 fielding
RON GANT . 2B/OF
BORN IN VICTORIA, MARCH 2, 1965
CAREER: 1987 to 2003 with the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A's, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Anaheim Angels, Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies• HONORS: All-Star selection in 1992 and 1995
The Victoria High alumnus played 16 years in the pros, but is most remembered as a member of the Braves teams that were dominant in the early 1990s. his best year was 1990 with Atlanta, when he batted .303 with 32 home runs, 84 RBIs and 33 stolen bases. He is currently an analyst for the MLB Network. • STATS: .256 BA, 321 HRs, 1,008 RBIs, 102 SB, .336 OBP
MIKE MACHA . 3B
BORN IN VICTORIA, FEBRUARY 17, 1954
• CAREER: 1979 with Atlanta Braves, 1980 with Toronto Blue Jays.
Macha was drafted 10th overall in the January Secondary Draft in 1976 by the Braves out of Rice University, but would earn just a cup of coffee in the pros, first with Atlanta then again with Toronto.
• STATS: 2 for 21 at the plate in 11 games as a pro
JIM BUSBY . OF
BORN IN KENEDY, JANUARY 8, 1927 (DIED IN 1996)
• CAREER: 1950 to 1962 for the Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Houston Colt .45s
Jim Busby played everywhere, but started for several years in the 1950s. His best year was 1953 with Washington, when he batted .312 in 150 games. He is the cousin of pitcher Steve Busby.
STATS: .262 BA, .314 OBP, 75 HRs and 435 RBIs in 1,352 games
ROSS YOUNGS . OF
BORN IN SHINER, APRIL 10, 1897 (DIED IN 1927)
• CAREER: 1917 to 1926 with New York Giants
• HONORS: 1972 Hall of Fame induction (Veterans committee)
John McGraw said Youngs was "the greatest outfielder I ever saw on a ball field." Unfortunately, his life was cut short in 1927 of Bright's disease. Worth noting: He was also considered the best golfer in the Major Leagues at the time he played.
• STATS: .322 batting average, .399 OBP, 592 RBIs
CURT WALKER . OF
BORN IN BEEVILLE, JULY 3, 1986 (DIED IN 1955)
• CAREER: 1919 to 1930 with the New York Yankees, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds,
Walker took a little time to stick with a team, but finally landed with the Reds in the mid 1920s and started for them for five years. His best year was in 1929, when he batted .313, had an on-base over .400 and added seven homers. • STATS: .304 BA, .374 OBP, 64 HRs and 1,475 hits
OX ECKHARDT . UTIL.
BORN IN YORKTOWN, December 23, 1901 (DIED IN 1951)
CAREER: 1932 with Boston Braves, 1936 with Brooklyn Dodgers
Eckhardt's MLB stats are meager; he only played just 24 games in the league. But below that is an amazing minor league career in which he's the all-time batting average title holder when you include minors, batting .366 overall. He also played pro football in 1928. • STATS: 10 for 57 in 24 games with a home run as a pro
WAYNE GRAHAM . MGR
BORN IN YOAKUM, APRIL 6, 1936
• CAREER: Coach at San Jacinto College from 1981 to 1991, coach at Rice University 1992 to present
Graham, born in Yoakum, had a cup of coffee as a player in the early 1960s in the pros. But its as a college coach, he made his most indelible mark. He won five straight NJCAA national titles from 1985 to 1990 at San Jac, then won the 2003 College World Series with Rice. He won his 800th game as a Division I coach in 2009, and has picked up more than 1,000 wins as a college coach in general. He has also produced countless major leaguers in his programs. • STATS: 953-321 in 21 seasons as coach at Rice
ABOUT PICKING THE TEAM
There were some key things that were kept in mind when this team was picked:
• PLAYERS ARE POST-1903: It's not necessarily that the era before that point are lesser, but the goal was to pick from the World Series era onward. Most players from the Crossroads region that have played in the majors played during this time anyway.
• PLAYERS HAVE TO HAVE MADE IT TO THE PROS AT SOME POINT: Career minor leaguers, college players and so forth are excluded for exactly that reason. Making it to the Major Leagues, even if it was for a short moment (as was the case with a few players who made this list), was considered a benchmark for staying here. Countless number of baseball players were drafted and played around this country, but to earn a spot on this team, a player had to crack a professional roster for at least one game in his career.
• PLAYERS MAY NOT BE AT THE POSITION THEY ARE MOST KNOWN FOR: They had to play at that position at some point in some meaningful way. Ron Gant is most known as an outfielder, but was called up as a middle infielder. Marv Gudat didn't play much, but when he did, it was mostly as a pitcher or in the outfield. But he played several games with the Cubs at first base. Position moves were made in the interest of filling out the roster with people at each position.
• MUST HAVE BEEN BORN IN THE CROSSROADS: There were many ways we could have chosen players - attended high school here, born here, played here, so forth. We chose born here because it was the most easily verifiable thing we could use. Yes, the likes of Frank Howard played for the Rosebuds in the Texas League here, and others were born elsewhere but played here. But we chose location of birth because we could check it for accuracy, and it allowed us to have enough players for the team without struggling.
[NOTE: Corrections added to text for Drabek's date of birth, Ryan's total number of All-Star Game appearance, fix of spelling mistake. -jh]