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Arkansans made their marks: natural state-born ballplayers have left mark on national pastime.

Picking an all-time team made of Arkansas-born baseball major leaguers is not as easy as it would seem. But we have made a good-hearted stab at it this month.

Brooks Robinson or the late George Kell? Bill Dickey or Sherm Lollar? Arky Vaughan or Travis Jackson?

Tough decisions tip and down the lineup.

As with any all-time team, we set parameters and stuck primarily with those born in Arkansas (though Bill Dickey was born in Bastrop, La., he spent most of his life in Arkansas). That eliminated former Travelers who passed through in the minor-league system, and former Razorbacks--unless, of course, they were Arkansas-born like outfield Kevin McReynolds.

Two positions that had glaring holes to fill among the all-Arkansans were at first and second base so we made a couple of position switches, moving shortstop Don Kessinger (beaten out by Arky Vaughan) and third baseman George Kell (beaten out by Brooks Robinson) to positions that they at least played some throughout their major league careers.

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KINDER LEFT OUT

ELLIS KINDER, BORN IN ATKINS

Kinder pitched 12 seasons for four teams. The peak of his career was an eight-year stretch from 1948-55 with the Red Sox, when he went 23-6 with six shutouts in 194g on the way to earning the Sporting News' Pitcher of the Year Award. Two season Later he was converted primarily to a closer, and he would Lead the American League in saves twice (1951 with 14 and 1953 with 27). He finished his career with 102 wins, a 3.43 earned-run average and 102 saves (which at the time would have put him in the top five all-time, he has since fallen to 112th on the all-time list.)

NOTABLES

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Honorable mentions

How can you pick a team that leaves out a Hall of Famer?

That's what happens when you try to pick a "best of" anything.

Hall of Fame shortstop TRAVIS JACKSON was born in Waldo (Columbia County) in 1903 and played 15 seasons with the New York Giants from 1922-1936. He amassed 1,768 hits and finished with 929 RBI, which was good enough to be selected by the Veteran's Committee for enshrinement into Cooperstown in 1982.

Tough to argue with those credentials, but we went with Arky Vaughan.

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Another notable exception would be current New York Yankee pitcher A.J. BURNETT. The North Little Rock native's numbers are very comparable to those that did make the cut and--who knows?--if Burnett keeps up the good start he has had so far in 2009, he'll be on the list sooner rather than later.

Other names left off the list were outfielders WILLIE DAVIS (born in Mineral Springs) and RICK MONDAY (born in Batesville), who both played more than 18 seasons and made names for themselves in the outfield, both spending time with the Los Angeles Dodgers; or Little Rock-born TAYLOR DOUTHIT, who had more than 1,000 hits from 1923-33; or longtime Toronto Blue Jay LLOYD MOSEBY (born in Portland in Ashley County); or three-time Gold Glove winning catcher SHERM LOLLAR (born in Durham in Washington County), and last, but not certainly least, 1954 Rookie of the Year WALLY MOON of Bay in Craighead County.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Rickey connection.

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Pine Bluff has always prided itself as a baseball town, and rightly so.

With Los Angeles Angels centerfielder TORII HUNTER doing the city proud with every Gold Glove that he collects, Pine Bluff also can Lay claim to one of the game's greatest Lead-off hitters and its all-time base-stealer--RICKEY HENDERSON.

Henderson, who will be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 26, Lived in Pine Bluff for a short time with his grandmother.

The 10-time all star was born on Christmas Day in 1958 in Chicago and, after his father left his family, Henderson's mother moved him and his seven other siblings to Pine Bluff to Live with his grandmother while she moved to Oakland, Calif., to Look for work.

While in Pine Bluff, Henderson attended Coleman Elementary School in the Watson Chapel School District and played youth baseball in Pine Bluff.

He left Pine Bluff in 1965 to Live with his mother in Oakland.

Though Henderson's stay in the Natural State was a short one, he would go on to become baseball's all-time Leader in stolen bases and run scored. --Philip Seaton

RELATED ARTICLE: Bill Dickey and the Arkansas Gazette

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When Brooks Robinson was inducted in baseball's Hall of Fame in 1983, he had a special guest in fellow Arkansan and Hall of Famer Bill Dickey.

Dickey, a Lifetime .313 hitter, played along New York Yankee greats Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. And, though born in Bastrop, La., Dickey Lived in Little Rock.

When Robinson was a youngster he had a paper route for the Arkansas Gazette, but there was one house in particular that would always get a little extra special attention from the wannabe major leaguer. That was Dickey's home.

"He Lived right before you get to the [train] depot there, he grew up there," Robinson said. "Every time that I would go by there, I would give that paper a Little extra flip. I wanted to make sure that I got up it on the porch.

"I got to know Bill pretty well before he passed away [in 1993]. He told me at my induction that I was the only reason why he was there. I thought that was a wonderful tribute for Bill to say that."--By Philip Seaton
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Article Details
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Author:Seaton, Philip
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:928
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