Dream 'Birds



As our beloved Redbirds celebrate their 10th season in Memphis, the occasion seemed right for that most time-honored of baseball conversation starters: an all-star team. Herewith, Frank Murtaugh selects the nine players that belong on our lineup card as we reflect over a decade of hits (and a few misses) at Tim McCarver Stadium and AutoZone Park. (A note for the historical record: While Albert Pujols is certainly the greatest player yet to wear a Redbirds uniform, he played a total of 14 games for Memphis. Not enough to make this team.) >>>

Catcher

— Keith McDonald (1998-2002)

Only a catcher could assume the moniker "Fatty" and have it be considered a term of endearment. The backstop for the 2000 Pacific Coast League champions, McDonald carried as much influence in the clubhouse — both among teammates and the media — as he did on the field. In 355 games as a Redbird, McDonald hit a fairly pedestrian 40 home runs. But in July 2000, he became the second player in major-league history to hit home runs in his first two at bats.

First Base

— Ivan Cruz (2002)

A career minor-leaguer, Cruz made the most of his one season at AutoZone Park, drilling 35 home runs, driving in 100, and earning recognition (albeit as a DH) on the PCL's postseason All-Star team. Cruz's home run total led all of the minor leagues, and he remains one of only two Redbirds to drive in 100 runs in a season.

Second Base

— Stubby Clapp (1999-2002)

A folk hero come to life. From the pregame backflips to the name (Clapp would have been enough, but Stubby!), the pride of Windsor, Ontario, was the heart, soul, and fists of the 2000 PCL champs. Torn between his devotion to Ozzie Smith and Ozzy Osbourne, Clapp was the perfect player at the perfect time for Memphis professional baseball. He remains the franchise leader in runs scored (258) and is second in both games (425) and hits (418).

Third Base

— Scott Seabol (2003-05)

There are Memphis fans who will scream for Loooooooooou Lucca at the hot corner, but as crowd-pleasing as Lucca may have been, he bows to Seabol for this team. A late addition to the 2003 squad, Seabol batted .300 and hit 16 home runs his first year as a Redbird, then followed that with a monster 2004 campaign (.304, 31 homers, 78 RBIs, 92 runs scored). Seabol's career home run total (56) and RBIs (169) are second in club history.

Shortstop

— Adam Kennedy (1998-99)

Kennedy was overshadowed at Tim McCarver Stadium by J.D. Drew and Rick Ankiel, but he remains the finest shortstop among a less-than-stellar group the Redbirds have fielded. After hitting .305 over 74 games in 1998, Kennedy led the club with a .327 average and 20 stolen bases in 1999, when he was the Cardinals' minor-league player of the year. After seven years in Anaheim — where he was MVP of the 2002 ALCS — Kennedy returned to the Cardinals over the winter and will play second base for St. Louis in 2007.

Outfield

— John Gall (2003-06)

He never seemed to have enough to stick in St. Louis, but Gall exuded dignity during his four years as a Redbird, even after being demoted to Double-A after a slow start in 2003. Twice named the Cardinals' minor-league player of the year, Gall is the Redbirds franchise leader in games (454), hits (476), home runs (57), and RBIs (255).

Outfield

— Joe McEwing (1998)

It may have been the summer of Big Mac in St. Louis, but "Little Mac" was the star for the Redbirds' inaugural team. After a midseason promotion from Double-A, McEwing hit .334 with 110 hits in only 78 games. He won the second-base job in St. Louis a year later, largely with the gritty play Memphis fans had come to adore. After being traded to the New York Mets before the 2000 season, Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa asked to keep McEwing's spikes for his office, a reminder of a player who honored the sport with his determined approach to every game.

Outfield

— Ernie Young (2000)

Over their first two seasons in the Bluff City, no Redbird hit as many as 20 home runs. So when Ernie Young slammed 35 during his short stay in Memphis, he became the first real slugger in franchise history. Young also drove in 98 runs and stole 11 bases in helping the Redbirds march to the PCL playoffs. Ironically, he wasn't around when the Redbirds won the championship. Young was busy in Sydney, Australia, earning a gold medal for Team USA at the Olympic Games.

Pitcher

— Rick Ankiel (1999)

Larry Luebbers is the franchise leader in wins (24). Adam Wainwright and Anthony Reyes went on to World Series stardom in St. Louis. But no pitcher has electrified Memphis baseball fans the way Rick Ankiel (then but 20 years old) did in the final summer of baseball at Tim McCarver Stadium. With a fastball that had lefthanded batters dancing in the box, and a curveball that fell off that proverbial table, Ankiel struck out 119 hitters in only 88 innings. At season's end, he was named Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America.

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