Baseball fans were given 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 fifty question quiz on baseball trivia, thirty of which I answered correctly.
The query that most intrigued me was one about the history of the Most Valuable Player awards, an answer that required five names. That number represents the amount of MVPs whose first and last names both contained four letters, and I am proud to say that 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 consisting of players whose first and last names have exactly four letters. Here is what such a roster might look like.
Starting Lefthanded Pitcher: Rich Hill
He teamed with Clayton Kershaw to give the Dodgers a great pair of southpaws, who were a big 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 the dominance of this ace of the rotation of the Reds.
Starting Pitcher: Rick Wise
One of the most dominant hurlers in the late Sixties and early Seventies, Wise was also a prolific hitter.
Relief Pitcher: Gary Bell
Although a reliable reliever for a variety of teams, it was his tenure with the short-lived Seattle Pilots that led Bell to be immortalized in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four.
Closer: Jose Mesa
The unorthodox reliever was a big reason the Cleveland Indians captured two pennants in the Nineties.
Catcher: Tony Pena
One of the best defensive catchers of his generation, Pena spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
First Base: Norm Cash
The slugger helped the Detroit Tigers claim the pennant in 1968, providing much of the offense that contributed to the 31 wins of Denny McClain.
Second Base: Dave Cash
Not only was he a slick fielder in both Montreal and Philadelphia, but he served as a potent on base threat at the top of the batting order.
Shortstop: Joey Cora
Cora and his brother Alex made a literal fraternity of great middle infielders.
Third Base: Jake Lamb
Having him play across from All Star Paul Goldschmidt, the Arizona Diamondbacks boast 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 turned the Houston Astros into contenders in the late Seventies and early Eighties.
Center Field: Alex Rios
He burst onto the scene with several great seasons in Toronto, where he displayed an uncanny combination of speed, power, and arm.
Right Field: Matt Kemp
Barely missing out on winning an MVP to Ryan Braun, Kemp just this winter was traded back to the Dodgers.
Designated Hitter: Adam Lind
Providing consistent power from the left side, Lind was a key addition that helped the Washington Nationals run away with the National League East last season.