Baseball fans got a special treat in the Christmas edition of The New York Times, thanks to a column by Tyler Kepner. His gift to us was a quiz of fifty baseball trivia questions, thirty of which I answered correctly.
The question that intrigued me the most was about the history of the Most Valuable Player awards, an answer that required five names. That number represents the number of MVPs whose first and last names contained four letters, and I’m proud to say I identified all five: Babe Ruth, Pete Rose, Vida Blue, Fred Lynn and Jeff Kent.
Even without those five MVPs, one could build a great team made up of players whose first and last names have exactly four letters. This is what such a list would look like.
Starting left-handed pitcher: Rich Hill
He teamed up with Clayton Kershaw to give the Dodgers a great pair of lefties, who were a major reason Los Angeles won the pennant in 2017.
Starting pitcher: Jose Rijo
Cincinnati swept the Oakland Athletics in the 1990 World Series, primarily because of this ace’s dominance of the Reds’ rotation.
Starting pitcher: Rick Wise
One of the most dominant pitchers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wise was also a prolific hitter.
Relief pitcher: Gary Bell
Although a reliable reliever for a variety of teams, it was his short-lived tenure with the Seattle Pilots that led to Bell being immortalized in Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four.
Closer: Jose Mesa
The unorthodox reliever was one of the main reasons the Cleveland Indians captured two pennants in the 1990s.
Catcher: Tony Pena
Peña, one of the best defensive receivers of his generation, spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
First Base: Norma Cash
The slugger helped the Detroit Tigers claim the pennant in 1968, providing much of the offense that contributed to Denny McClain’s 31 wins.
Second baseman: Dave Cash
Not only was he a skilled fielder in both Montreal and Philadelphia, he served as a potent base threat at the top of the batting order.
Shortstop: Joey Cora
Cora and her brother Alex formed a literal fraternity of great middle infielders.
Third baseman: Jake Lamb
By having him play All Star Paul Goldschmidt, the Arizona Diamondbacks have one of the best tandems of corner infielders in the game today.
Left field: Jose Cruz
His sweet swing and clutch hitting were key elements that made the Houston Astros a contender in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Center Garden: Alex Rios
He burst onto the scene with several great seasons in Toronto, where he displayed a rare combination of speed, power and arm.
Right field: Matt Kemp
Barely missing the chance to win an MVP for Ryan Braun, Kemp was traded back to the Dodgers this winter.
Designated Hitter: Adam Lind
Providing consistent power from the left side, Lind was a key addition that helped the Washington Nationals win the NL East last season.