Happy Independence Day, Athletics Nation! Today is the patriotic holiday of all patriotic holidays, America's (approximate) birthday. We'll get to the baseball this afternoon, but first let's do our best to blend American history with America's pastime by constructing a team of players with USA-themed names.
There are at least 1,776 different ways you can go about this kind of thing. I chose a particular one, because I had to have some method, but there are plenty of others so feel free to get creative in the comments. Besides, isn't disagreeing with things in Internet comments sections really the American pastime now?
Here's what I went with. First rule was that they had to play in the 21st century, in order to cut things down from the thousands upon millions upon billions of players who have taken a Major League field over the last 100+ years. (Even better if they're still active. Even more better if they have an A's connection.) For the active roster, I only broke that rule once, out of pure necessity, and only to go back to 1999. For the coaching staff, I went back to 1998 for one guy's last involvement with the sport. Second rule, I aimed for Founding Fathers and then filled in the blanks with other key American names. A few of the names were a real Paine in the neck, a Burr in my side, and so I simply included them in this sentence here so that I could put my John Hancock on the article without feeling like I'd left out too many important people.
Without further ado, our All July 4 team, complete with explanations for those who replaced their high school history knowledge with baseball stats:
Manager: Ron Washington (our first Commander-In-Chief)
Bench Coach: Chip Hale (Nathan Hale, spy, martyr, and replay reviewer)
Pitching Coach: Jimmy Key (Francis Scott Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner)
Base Coaches: Darren Lewis & Will Clark (an expedition around the diamond)
SP: Madison Bumgarner (James Madison, fourth and shortest president)
SP: Tyson Ross (Betsy Ross, probably didn't sew the first American flag but whatever)
SP: Clay Buchholz (Henry Clay, my favorite person from American history)
RP: Brad Lincoln (duh)
RP: Sean Marshall (John Marshall, Chief Justice, Madison v. Marbury)
RP: Chad Bradford (William Bradford, five-time governor of Plymouth Colony)
CL: Grant Balfour (Ulysses S. Grant, like a boss)
C: Taylor Teagarden (Boston Tea Party)
1B: Matt Adams (take your pick: John, John Quincy, Samuel, Abigail ...)
2B: Nick Franklin (all about the Benjamins)
SS: Billy Hamilton (Alexander is on your $10 bill)
3B: Adam Kennedy (duh)
LF: Jon Jay (John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court)
CF: Ben Revere (one if by land, two if by line drive)
RF: Trot Nixon (hey, I didn't say they were all gonna be awesome people)
DH: Craig Monroe (James Monroe, fifth president & first one you can't name in order)
Util IF: Homer Bush (lol)
Util OF: Reggie Jefferson (last played 1999; most recent MLB player named Jefferson)
Retired Number: Grover Cleveland Alexander (22nd and 24th president)
Retired Number: Henry Aaron (Give me homers, or give me death.)
Retired Number: Reggie Jackson (I don't like Andrew Jackson and I don't like Reggie.)
Retired Number: Cool Papa Bell (He could ring the Liberty Bell and outrun the sound.)
Retired Number: Jackie Roosevelt Robinson (by MLB mandate, must be retired)
Retired Number: Red Barber (first winner of the Ford C Frick Award)
Retired Number: Whitey Ford
Retired Number: Vida Blue
National Anthem by Scott Pilgrim, even though he's fictional and Canadian.
OK, a couple reaches in there. I had to move Hamilton back to his minor league position of shortstop because the outfield was too crowded with crucial names. And that logjam removed the possibility of using Josh Hamilton anyway, which is fine because Billy sounds more old-timey than Josh and because screw the Angels. I ran out of usable names without finding a catcher, but the Boston Tea Party will do nicely as a consolation. It's more fun than using Dan Wilson to shoehorn Woodrow into this. I resisted the temptation to include David Wright, though he is both Captain America and the Face of MLB and it just doesn't get more patriotic than that; Adam Kennedy played some third base with the A's, so he fits nicely. Sorry, Mark Teahen, the tea reference was already taken.
The team's not great, but it could be worse. Strong rotation, decent bullpen, solid defense. The lineup is a bit weak, but they'll lead the league in stolen bases (and sacrifice bunts; tell 'em, Wash). It's a bit heavy on lefties, too: Hamilton/Nixon/Adams/Monroe/Jay/Franklin/Kennedy/Teagarden/Revere.
Before I forget, thank you to baseballgirl for helping me brainstorm some of these! Nico gave it his best and came up with Bartolo Colon-y.
So, whaddya think? Who would you have picked differently, whether by my theme or your own? Let's get those fireworks going in the comments! Then go show your (Curtis) pride in America and celebrate our nation's big day in whatever way you choose, whether that be a parade or a BBQ or a marathon of war movies or a simple quiet reflection on how glad you are that you don't live in England. Then, at 1:05 p.m., we'll watch some A's baseball.
Have a safe and fantastic day!