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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

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