Ex-players taking sides for Fall Classic
Former stars Salmon, John speak up for preferred teams
By now, the line has been drawn in the sand for the fans who've eagerly awaited the World Series showdown between the Phillies and Yankees.
You know who you're rooting for. You know who your friends are rooting for. And you probably know who several prominent analysts are rooting for.
That question was posed to the members of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Although they no longer lace up their spikes in the big leagues, these ex-players are still actively involved in the game, and they still get passionate when it comes to the topic of October baseball.
There was a clear favorite among the approximately 150 MLBPAA members who responded, as roughly half are pulling for the Phils to collect their second consecutive World Series championship. The remainder were split between rooting for the Yankees and simply rooting for a great series.
"I hope the young hitters on the Phillies can pull it out," said Tim Salmon, a fan favorite during his 14 seasons with the Angels. "I will be rooting for the Phillies."
For some alumni, rooting interest is shaped by strong feelings that go back to their active playing days and beyond.
"I will be rooting for the Phillies. I have some friends on that team and its always nice to see friends do well," said former All-Star lefty Ross Grimsley, adding, "Really, I have never been a Yankee fan. As a former Baltimore Oriole, we are not big Yankee fans."
Former pitcher Pete Smith, who spent most of his 11-year career with the Braves, was more direct. "I'm from Boston," he said. "Enough said -- go Phillies."
Given that the Yankees have won a whopping 26 World Series championships and 40 American League pennants since 1923, it's understandable that many of these former players can't bring themselves to pull for a team that often finishes on top.
Of course, among the MLBPAA members who spent a good deal of time with the Yanks, many find it hard to shake their affinity for the Bronx Bombers.
"As a player for the Yankees for eight years, how could I root for the Phillies?" said Tommy John, who twice won 20 games in pinstripes. "Especially since I also pitched for the Dodgers and we had some great playoff battles with the Phillies. Go Yankees!"
Even a few of those who suited up for the Yankees' bitter rivals are hoping baseball's most successful franchise finds a way to claim another title.
"As much as I hated the Yanks when I played for the Red Sox in '75,'76 and '77, I used to skip school to stay home and watch them back in the '50s," said Jim Willoughby, who also pitched for the Giants and White Sox. "I roomed with [former Yankees pitcher] Sparky Lyle for two weeks on a promotional tour. I learned more and gained respect for the Yankees I never had as a player."
Then there are those who have no distinct rooting interest, such as former catcher and manager Howard "Doc" Edwards.
"I played for both the Yankees and Phillies and was a coach for the Phillies," Edwards said. "Charlie Manuel was my hitting coach when I was the manager for Cleveland from '87-89. I was proud to have played on the same club with [Mickey] Mantle, [Roger] Maris, [Whitey] Ford and other great players and I admire the way George Steinbrenner has taken care of the people who have worked for him and have been loyal. My respect and admiration for all of these men and these uniforms makes me a fan of both teams, so as long as it is a good series, I will be happy."
Several alumni offered similar sentiments, though it remains to be seen how many of them remain neutral. After all, if this World Series provides the sort of thrilling, see-saw affairs that many expect, there's a good chance these former big leaguers will feel the competitive juices flowing once again and find themselves taking sides.
Here's how the MLBPAA members voted:
Vince Coleman, Bob Smith, Ed Hearn, Dennis Burtt, Ken Grundt, Bob Micelotta, Tom Runnells, Jim Poole, Von Hayes, Jeffrey Hammonds, Doug Clemens, Michael Ross, Julian Javier, Jack Lind, Ross Grimsley, Bob Oldis, Jerome Edwards, Alberto Castillo, John Demerit, Pat Combs, Bill Gogolewski, Steve Scarsone, Bill Heath, Gary Waslewski, Bill Wegman, Tiny Felder, Steven Bourgeois, Frank Dimichele, Eddie Watt, Mitch Williams, Derrel Thomas, Kevin ward, Reggie Jefferson, Garry Jestadt, John Tamargo, Sandy Vance, Larry Burchart, Vernon Thies, Les Lancaster, Albert Taylor, Doug Rau, Larry Dierker, Dave Lemonds, Gary Neibauer, Doug Bochtler, Ernie Whitt, Kevin Gallaher, Pete Smith, Turk Wendell, Roy Smith, Gary Ryerson, Tommy Hutton, Tim Salmon, Terry Harmon, Matt Blank, Steve Bieser, Butch Davis, Warren Cromartie, Tom Kelley, John Leister, Lee Smith, Rich Nye, Art Mahaffey, Scott Forster, Gene Walter, Kory DeHaan, Steve Lombardozzi, Bob Forsch, Jack Baker, Greg Terlecky, Dave Hostetler, Greg Mathews, Doug Drabek, Tom Metcalf, Ed Ott, Don Wert, Duffy Dyer, Craig Lefferts, Tom Tischinski
Rudy May, John Doherty, Greg Washburn, Jerry Hairston Sr., Shawn Boskie, Ed Herrmann, Dave Pavlas, Jim Willoughby, Sam Militello, Domingo Ramos, Larry McCall, Curt Kaufman, Doug Gwosdz, Jerry Bell, Luis Gomez, John D'Acquisto, Keith Lampard, Tommy John, Frank Bork, Will Royster, Ellie Rodriguez, Jose Valdivielso, Jeff Newman, Bill Bethea, George Medich, Mike Fischlin, Ken Singleton, Logan Easley, Carlos Diaz, Benny Ayala, Sonny Ruberto, Glenn Borgmann, Jim Sundberg, Mike Willis, Rick Krivda, Bruce Egloff, Bill Wilkinson, Jeff Cirillo, Javier Ortiz, Danny Coombs, Scott Sanders, Doug DeCinces, William Vanlandingham, Jody Reed, Clay Parker
Jose Alvarez, Gary Dotter, Charlie Mitchell, Gene Hiser, Joe Sambito, Bob Coluccio, Mel Behney, Jim Hannan, Tim Leary, Tim Scott, George Culver, Trenidad Hubbard, Doc Edwards, Billy Cowan, Steve Sinclair, Keith Macwhorter, Dick Burwell, Bob Spence, Neil Fiala, Bobby Grich, Edgar Martinez, Jason Hardtke, Jake Wood, Leo Burke, Jim Sadowski, Larry Colton, Mike Brumley, Frank White
Tim Ott is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.