Off the Cuff Vol. 5: Greatest Pop Culture Lineup of All Time

Posted on September 15, 2011

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By Geoff Ratliff and Jeremy Sickel

In sticking with this week’s theme of baseball stars and pop culture, we decided to throw out a list that we’ve been thinking about for quite some time. If you were to fill out a starting roster of the top baseball players at each position of all time, there’d be a lot of debate over quite a few positions. Catcher, First Base, and Starting Pitcher would be particularly controversial, but we aren’t really interested in solving that debate. What we want to know is, who are the top pop culture icons of all-time and who would be their positional counterparts if made into an actual lineup card? We’re trying to have a little fun with this one folks so don’t get bogged down in the minutiae and have a laugh with the Pop Fly Boys!

Catcher: Nicolas Cage as Mike Piazza – Both had famous fore bearers in their respective trades, and neither was destined to be particularly successful either. Piazza was a 62nd round selection as a favor from his Godfather and Cage changed his name to escape the shadow cast by Uncle Francis. Piazza went on to become only the greatest offensive catcher of all-time, while Cage went on to make millions, co-star in one of the greatest action movies of all time (“Face Off”), and win a Best Actor Oscar. Not bad fellas.

First Base: Jay-Z as Albert Pujols – Hov has 11 #1 albums, matched only by The Beatles. Pujols can claim the best 11-season start to a Major League career in history. You could argue that neither is the best ever, yet – Jay has a better claim than Prince Albert, but he has a lot less competition – but they are both still cranking out great material/seasons, while padding their Hall of Fame stats. And just like Live Nation set Mr. Carter up with a nice payday a few years ago, Pujols is about two months away from banking some major coin of his own. Who knows, maybe he’ll even celebrate at the 40/40 Club.

Second Base: Morgan Freeman as Joe Morgan – Besides the fact that their names serve as great bookends (I swear we didn’t realize this when we first made the connection but it works, so there), both put up strong careers in ensemble casts without a true leading man role. Both have also gone on to have great second careers with their voices, Joe as a standout in the broadcast booth and Freeman as the King of Voiceovers.

Shortstop: Frank Sinatra as Derek Jeter – We just gave Jeter an entire column so besides pointing out that Old Blue Eyes made a famous song about the city that Jeter has made his career in, we’ll simply state that they were both the supposed leaders of famous packs of men that were talented in their own right.

Third Base: Jack Nicholson as Mike Schmidt – Both incredibly talented guys that performed as if they were grinders. Sure Schmidt’s blue collar career in Philly is a far cry from Jack’s basking in the glow of Hollywood – be it on the silver screen or court side at the Lakers’ games – but these guys never mailed it in. Even as his contemporaries – yeah you, DeNiro and Pacino – seemingly take bad roles just to prove that they still have a pulse, Nicholson chooses his roles sporadically, and never leaves us feeling cheated.

Left Field: Elizabeth Taylor as Rickie Henderson – Look, PEDs or not, nobody’s going to convince us that Barry Bonds isn’t the greatest left fielder ever. But since Ricky switched uniforms and swiped bases faster than Cleopatra changed husbands, Taylor’s final pairing will be with the guy who gave us the most unexpectedly great Hall of Fame induction speech in recent
memory.

Center Field: Elvis Presley as Ty Cobb – Both unarguably great. Both reputed racist. Enough said.

Right Field: Michael Jackson as Babe Ruth – The King of Pop as the King of Swing aka the Sultan of Swat? Too easy! Both put up numbers that their contemporaries could only dream of, but their rarest common trait? Both had unprecedented crossover success, MJ as an R&B and Pop star and Ruth as an all-star pitcher and hitter.

Designated Hitter: Sly Stallone as Jim Thome – We considered going with The Govenator here, but if you really think about it, Stallone’s attempts to step out of the action realm were about as successful as Thome’s effort to play first base. Regardless, both had tremendous careers; among the best at what they did. It feels a little weird comparing a noted steroid user to one of the most successful clean players ever, at least we don’t have to deal with a love child scandal too. We’ve got that much love for ya Jimbo!

Starting Pitcher: Madonna as Satchel Paige – Madonna was able to change her musical style to remain relevant throughout three decades. Paige was able to use his craftiness and knowledge of the game to play 22 professional seasons, including becoming the oldest rookie in Major League history at 42-years of age.

Closer: Steve Buscemi as Mariano Rivera – Buscemi isn’t flashy, and he isn’t particularly versatile, but every time he shows up on film, he crushes it – I mean just absolutely owns his role – and each movie is markedly better because he was in it. Steve if you happen to come across this column, I publicly apologize for not catching Boardwalk Empire yet. I’m going to rectify that immediately. Like Buscemi, Rivera has never been the main man on the Yankees, and he’s made a career out of nothing more than that vicious cutter, but there’s no question that they are a better team with him, even during their down years.

Manager: Martin Scorsese as Tony LaRussa – There was a time when both of these famous Italians were thought to be past their prime. Scorsese went years between hit movies and LaRussa was nearly run out of town seemingly every year in St. Louis for a stretch of time. Then out of nowhere, both seemed to get their mojo back just like that. Oh, and they both happened to be helped out considerably by a pair of megastars; a couple of guys named DiCaprio and Pujols?

So there you have it, our greatest celebrity lineup of all time. Quibble if you’d like, but we’ll take our shot at a ring or two with this squad!

Posted in: Off the Cuff