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June 11, 2012

BP Unfiltered

These Aren't the Hall of Famers You're Looking For

by Ben Lindbergh

Last week, while I was writing a chapter on Bernie Williams for Marc Normandin and Sky Kalkman’s Hall of Very Good book, I typed “Bernie Williams” into Baseball-Reference approximately 87 times. Each of those times, this is what I saw:

If I were smarter, I would have started typing in “Bernabe Williams,” or even just left the damn tab open for five seconds. But instead, I kept pulling up the page and searching the same thing. And each time, I was taken to that page and had to click again to get to the one I wanted. That’s a lot of extra clicks.

The Bernie Williams who played from 1970-74 was an actual major leaguer. Not a very good one, but a major leaguer nonetheless. Someone, somewhere, could conceivably decide to search for his player page. But even if bootleg Bernie Williams had been a career minor leaguer, or a player in the independent leagues, or a draftee who never played professionally, B-Ref still would have shown me both results as if they were equally likely to be the one I was looking for. Unless you want to pretend bootleg Bernie Williams and every other off-brand baseball player never existed, that’s how it has to be.

So, inspired by bootleg Bernie Williams, here are five other players who’ve cost a lot of people a lot of clicks:

This is the kind of Mickey Mantle you can get on Canal Street. He looks just like the real thing at first, and then you get him home and take a closer look, and you realize, “Aw, man, it’s Mickey E. Mantle. No wonder he was so cheap.”

Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves at third base, where he retired with a .971 fielding percentage, at the time the highest ever. Bootleg Brooks Robinson played nine games at third base, where he made two errors in 22 chances for a .909 fielding percentage. After at least one of those errors, someone undoubtedly said, “He's not exactly Brooks Robinson over there,” and then wore a self-satisfied smirk for the next three innings.

This Ty Cobb was almost certainly named after the one you know, the noted nice guy and top-notch namesake material who played for the Tigers. If he wasn’t, it was quite a coincidence, since he even had the same middle name. That’s where the similarities ended, though, since Tupelo Ty Cobb couldn’t hit. He passed away at age 36, eight years before his namesake, who was 29 when he was born. The original was even better at being alive.

When fans of the unsanctioned Say Hey Kid talk about “the Catch,” they don’t have to specify which one. It was the only one he ever made.

Update: Worse Willie Mays was Willie Mays' father, so this falls into the Ken Griffey class of dads who weren't as good as their same-named sons. Sometimes, the bootleg is better quality than the source material.

Bootleg Ernie Banks hates doubleheaders. He had to play in both ends of one on September 5, 2008 for the low-A Jamestown Jammers, and he hasn’t been seen in the minors since.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

I've often wondered how many people confused Babe Herman with Babe (George Herman) Ruth back in the day.

Jun 11, 2012 14:29 PM
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

He was one of the first guys I thought of, but B-Ref takes you right to the more famous Babe when you search for him.

Jun 11, 2012 14:41 PM
 
stevemillburg

The Willie Mays you list was the father of the "real" Willie Mays. I live near Birmingham, Alabama, not far from where both Willies grew up. Oldtimers have told me that Cat was faster than his son and, some say, maybe even a better fielder, though nowhere near the hitter.

Jun 11, 2012 14:31 PM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Good point. Added a line to reflect that.

Jun 11, 2012 15:17 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Tim Raines and Tony Gwynn could confuse younger baseball fans.

Jun 11, 2012 18:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Pat Folz

Being young(ish) and not well-versed in baseball history, I frequently get thrown when "the other" Frank Thomas gets mentioned.

Jun 11, 2012 19:59 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I thought about including Frank Thomas, but there were way too many of them. Six search results, plus a Franklin.

Jun 11, 2012 20:15 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

This thread inspires me to remember the days when we had two Alex Gonzalez in the same league.

Jun 11, 2012 22:31 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

It makes me remember the days when we had two mediocre pitchers named Bobby Jones in the same league.

Jun 11, 2012 22:34 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

And of course, Greg Harris.

Jun 11, 2012 22:35 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Geoff Young
BP staff

On the same team, in the same game: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SDN/SDN200208060.shtml

Jun 12, 2012 09:54 AM
 
gweedoh565

Not just two Alex Gonzalez's, but two slick-fielding, poor-hitting, middle-infielder Alex Gonzalez's.

Jun 12, 2012 06:36 AM
rating: 2
 
misterjohnny
(925)

Memories of the end of fantasy drafts:
Owner A: Alex Gonzalez
Owner B: Which one? The bad one or the really bad one?
Owner A: What's the difference?

Jun 12, 2012 11:31 AM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

The one who might be a 20/20 player or the one who might be anything?

:)

Jun 12, 2012 15:58 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Good stuff, Ben.

And for those who don't know, you can get to the legitimate HOFers by typing in "the" before the player name. "The Mickey Mantle" will find the right one.

actually, it takes you to the most popular page for any search, so "the mick" would work too. "The mays" or "the may" or "the will" or even probably "the m" would all take you to the correct Willie Mays too.

I use "the ryan braun" a lot...

Jun 12, 2012 06:30 AM
 
DavidHNix

The first Bernie Williams was the most dominant American Legion player I ever saw. He was on a powerhouse team from Oakland that blitzed it way through the regional tournament I was covering for several newspapers.

Jun 12, 2012 08:10 AM
rating: 2
 
brewitnow

I remember the days when the league was full of Molinas...or was that Alous?

Jun 12, 2012 08:41 AM
rating: 0
 
bhalpern

Baseball has a long way to go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutter_family

Jun 12, 2012 09:05 AM
rating: 0
 
KJOK

How could you leave off Bob Gibson?!

Jun 12, 2012 09:34 AM
rating: 0
 
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