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Friday Five: Players we never saw

Number retired: June 8, 1969 Yankee/Career stats: .298

Number retired: June 8, 1969
Yankee/Career stats: .298 AVG, 2,415 H, 536 HR, 1,509 RBI
When baseball historians look back at Mantle's career, they all say the same thing: If only he took better care of himself. His lifestyle off the field hurt his 18 seasons in the Bronx, yet he still put up Hall of Fame numbers. His 536 home runs are second in franchise history to Ruth's 659. The 16-time All-Star played in 2,401 games, the most in team history. He will forever be remembered for the 1961 season when he and Roger Maris chased Ruth's single-season home run record. Credit: AP

We did a similar exercise over three years ago - Jim and Steve from South Amboy were among those who participated - but today is Willie Mays' 80th birthday. So we're doing it again, in this more formalized "Friday Five" setting.

So far, the lists here have been debate-generating, if you will: "How could you possibly think that Baltimore is a good baseball city?" That kind of stuff. I'd call today's more discussion-generating. There's no right or wrong answer. It's just personal.

Which five players would you like to see play in person? Obviously, the condition being that you did not see them in person when they were active. My baseball consciousness began in 1977, so that's my point of reference. Anyone who retired before then qualifies for my list.

Here are my five:


He was my top guy back in January 2008, when we initiated this topic, and all the more so now. I read Jane Leavy's outstanding book about Mantle, "The Last Boy," and in addition to really getting into Mantle the person, it all discusses the beauty of his swings - right-handed and left-handed - at length. 

I'd especially love to have seen him during his rookie year, 1951, before his infamous injury in the '51 World Series.

>> Mickey Mantle photos


C'mon. He was The Babe. Do I really need to offer much more of an explanation beyond that? Of course, I'd like to see him pitch as well as hit.

>> Babe Ruth photos


I'd love to see him sprint around the bases for a triple. Or chase down a fly ball, his cap coming off mid-run. And from what I understand, he didn't embarrass himself at the plate, either.

>> Willie Mays photos


I feel like I know so much more about him as a man than I do as a player. But from what I've read of his playing days, he approached the game with a ferocity that took opponents by surprise. What would I like to see Jackie do most of all? Break up a double play at second base.

>> Jackie Robinson photos


What a showman he must have been. I wonder what it was like when he took the mound. Did he carry that "This is my game!" vibe that we used to see from Roger Clemens and we see now from Roy Halladay? I imagine he did.

Who are your five? 

Sorry, no Friday reading this morning, due to time constraints. But I'll check in later from Citi Field, site of this weekend's Bankruptcy Bowl (Dodgers-Mets, of course).

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