You could look it up

By ALAN LUPO  |  October 9, 2008

The basic defect in the traditional selection process, again, is that players are picked for ability. How mundane. I would ask, as they allegedly do in the method schools of acting, “But what’s your motivation, bubbeleh? What’s your motivation?” Moe Berg had motivation. I know he wasn’t the greatest catcher that the Dodgers, White Sox, Senators, Indians, and Red Sox ever had. I know that in 15 years of playing catcher and four other positions, he hit over .300 only once—in 1938, when he played in only 10 games. I know all that. But Moe Berg liked to read books, and he spoke in tongues other than English. Such inclinations alone made him a strange and wondrous jock. More important, of course, is what we now know about Moe—he was a spy, working for US intelligence. So there is no question that Moe Berg goes on my All-Time, All-Star Boston Red Sox squad.

He will join Clyde “Dutch the Clutch” Vollmer, because nobody with that kind of nickname should be left off anything. They, in turn, will join Ted Williams, who a) did not wear ties; b) spat publicly; c) made colorful hand gestures to the assembled multitudes at Fenway; and d) also, like Berg, spoke in alternative tongues, his being alluded to as swearing—whatever one chose to call it, Williams brought to it a color and poetry rarely heard even in a locker room.

My choice for right field—to alternate with Dutch the Clutch—is Wally Moses, who played 48 games for the 1946 pennant-winning Sox and hung around for two more seasons before returning to Philly, where he had started out in 1935. By then, Wally Moses was pushing 39, but he looked almost as old as Charlton Heston did when Heston thought he was Moses. Wally Moses was 40 when he retired, but he looked 60; I am 44, and I feel 60, so Wally Moses is my right fielder.

My back up for Berg is Ossee Freeman Schreckengost, who arrived from Buffalo in 1901 to hit .320. He was off to Cleveland and then Philly in 1902, and I do feel that anyone who would leave Boston for Philly in those days or for Cleveland on any day lacks good taste. But his name was Ossee Freeman Schreckengost, so, by Gott, he’s on my team, and he’s got his parents to thank for that. And for the same reason and without going into any needless detail, Robert Alexander Unglaub is my back up third basemen, so eat your heart out, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, et al.

My utility outfielder is George “Catfish” Metkovich. I could have believed a Catfish Hunter, or a Catfish Jones, or Billy-Joe-Bob Catfish-Longstreet, and I could have handled a Sergei “Smoked Salmon” Metkovich, or an Illyich “The Reindeer Are Freezing in the Tundra” Metkovich. But Catfish Metkovich? He’s in.

I have not yet settled on all the remaining positions, but without question, my third baseman will be Jim Tabor and my first baseman Rudy York. Both were alleged to have imbibed too much for their own good. They missed playing on the same team by a couple of years. The idea of them securing the same infield after a busy Friday night always intrigued me, for the same reason that the Ritz Brothers and early Martin and Lewis movies entranced me.  

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