It’s the Battle of the Area Codes: 717 vs. 415

A few days ago, I got an email from a reader named Fredrico Brillhart who saw my starting line-up of combat veterans for the Baseball in Wartime blog and wanted to know why I failed to include Negro League veterans. He sent information that seemed noteworthy enough to merit a follow-up post.

Shortly after my post went live, Fredrico emailed regarding third basemen who’d seen combat (Al Rosen, Billy Cox and Buddy Lewis to anyone who’s interested) and also offered this closing bit:

I live in the ( 717 ) area code & have enclosed the 717 Area Code All-Stars on attach file. I wonder if any other area code in the country could compete ?  What a pitching staff we have !!!

I scanned the information Fredrico provided on players from the 717 area code (which is in southern Pennsylvania) and for pitching at least, he may be right. His five-man rotation reads like a dream Deadball Era staff, every man in the Hall of Fame. The pitching staff is:

1. Christy Matthewson
2 or 3. Eddie Plank
2 or 3. Ed Walsh
4 or 5. Chief Bender
4 or 5. Stan Coveleski
Closer: Bruce Sutter
Setup: Gene Garber
Long relief, spot starting: Mike Mussina

Fredrico’s batting order is:

LF – Spottswood Poles
2B – Nellie Fox (HOF)
CF – Oscar Charleston (HOF)
DH – Vic Wertz vs RHP/ Steve Bilko DH
RF – Rap Dixon
1B – Jake Daubert vs. RHP/ Vic Wertz vs LHP
C – Johnny Bassler
SS – Hughie Jennings (HOF)
3B – Billy Cox

Overall, it’s an impressive team, but I know at least rival one area code: the 415. Currently, it covers San Francisco and Marin County, though it was much bigger in the past. I didn’t know this until I moved to the Bay Area, but it used to cover the East Bay, the Peninsula (south of San Francisco), and, in fact, much of California. Today, it seems there’s a million different area codes in my home state, but at one point, the 415 was one of three.

An all-time great batting line-up could be made from guys who were either born in the 415 — at least, in an area considered to be part of it at their time of birth — or spent their formative years there. My lineup is:

SS – Jimmy Rollins
3B – Joe Cronin (HOF)
CF – Joe DiMaggio (HOF)
LF – Barry Bonds
RF – Frank Robinson (HOF)
DH – Lefty O’Doul
1B – Harry Heilmann (HOF)
C – Ernie Lombardi (HOF)
2B – Tony Lazzeri (HOF)

I’m guessing this lineup would average .330 and have multiple .400 hitters. For context, here are some hitters who didn’t crack the order: Ping Bodie, Dolph Camilli, Dom DiMaggio, Ferris Fain, Curt Flood, Keith Hernandez, Willie McGee, and Vada Pinson as well as Hall of Famers Chick Hafey, High Pockets Kelly and Willie Stargell. Were these latter three substituted in and DiMaggio switched to shortstop, his first position in the Pacific Coast League, it could be an all-Cooperstown batting lineup. Hernandez and Dom DiMaggio could also make crack defensive substitutions, among the best all-time at first base and center field, respectively.

My pitching staff is less impressive and features:

1. Randy Johnson
2. Lefty Gomez (HOF)
3. Dave Stewart
4. Tom Candiotti
5. Ray Kremer
Closer: Dennis Eckersley
Setup: Tug McGraw
Long relief, spot starting: Dutch Ruether

I wonder which team would win. I’m guessing it would be a slug-fest unless Deadball Era baseballs were allowed, in which case it could get bleak for my 415 hitters. Maybe home field advantage determines what era baseballs are put in play or if Bonds gets to take steroids or if the fact that Ty Cobb lived in Atherton, California late in life makes him eligible for the 415 team. I’m saying no, but I might try to sneak him on if things got tight.

I also wonder if anyone could offer a better baseball area code. Perhaps it’s 213 back when it covered all of Southern California and produced players like Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams, but that’s a post for another time.

Related post: My visit to Joe DiMaggio’s boyhood home in North Beach