Round One S20

albert pujols swinging

More Round One action sees power hitters Albert Pujols, Ivan Rodriguez, Vinny Castilla, and Chase Utley defend the modern era against George Burns, Yogi Berra, Wally Pipp, and Frank Howard – no slouches themselves.

The Hitters

Albert-Pujols-Card Baseballs Greatest Player Playoff

Surefire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols has shown himself to be one of the games truly great hitters. A .300 lifetime average, well over 3,000 hits, and closing in on 700 homers show him a formidable threat in this tournament.

Ivan-Rodriguez-Card Baseballs Greatest Player Playoff

Ivan Rodriguez put up some spectacular number on his way to a Hall-of-Fame career. A lifetime .296 batting average with 311 HRs made him a fearsome competitor to opposing pitchers. Along the way, “Pudge” was a fourteen-time All-Star and picked up thirteen Gold Gloves.

George-j-Burns Baseballs Greatest Player Playoff

George Burns was a solid dead-ball era hitter, primarily for John McGraw’s New York Giants. He had over 2,000 career hits and his 108 three-baggers were his ticket into the tournament.

Yogi-Berra-Card Baseballs Greatest Player Playoff

Colorful sayings and malapropisms aside, Yogi Berra was a heckuva hitter as his 358 lifetime home runs will attest. He won three MVP awards and was a nineteen-time All-Star.

Wally-Pipp-Card Baseballs Greatest Player Playoff

Most famous as the first baseman Lou Gehrig replaced as he began his 2,180 consecutive game streak, Wally Pipp was a pretty tough hitter in his own right. He’s in the tournament based on his 148 lifetime triples.

Frank-Howard-Card Baseballs Greatest Player Playoff

One of my favorite baseball memories is of Frank Howard. He was 6-7, 255 lbs and his playing days long behind him, he was the first base coach for the Milwaukee Brewers in a game at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. My step-father and I had pretty good seats behind first base (easy to do back then) and he yelled out, “Hey Frank, turn sideways… we can’t see the infield.” Crowds being what they were back then, Howard heard him and he turned and smiled back at us. 382 lifetime homers and for 1968-70, he was maybe the most feared right-handed hitter in baseball.

Vinny-Castilla-Card Baseballs Greatest Player Playoff

In a sixteen-year career, third baseman Vinny Castilla cranked out 320 home runs, qualifying him for the tourney.

Chase-Utley-Card Baseballs Greatest Player Playoff

Chase Utley made the tournament base on placing amongst the leaders in Win Probability Added, one of the metrics developed to measure player value. We’ll see how he does.

The Results

Albert Pujols10054.649*WON*
Chase Utley9262.5978.0
Yogi Berra8272.53218.0
Frank Howard7777.50023.0
Wally Pipp7183.46129.0
George Burns7084.45530.0
Vinny Castilla6391.40937.0
Ivan Rodriguez6193.39639.0

Current superstar and future Hall-of-Famer, Albert Pujols took this one, leading in batting and runs scored to out-pace the field.

Although he only hit .195 and stole a total of 9 bases (against 13 caught stealing!), Frank Howard still managed a .500 record and will be moving forward in the tournament.

In one game, a Wally Pipp had 4 hits, including 3 HRs… take that Lou Gehrig! There were 4 no-hitters, including two by different Tom Seavers against Vinny Castilla.

Pujols and Howard are joined by Chase Utley and Yogi Berra in Round 3. The others will have a second chance to move ahead in Round 2.

!!HONK-HONK!! Additional Information!!!

So, it seems that there are TWO George Burns who played major league ball (neither one is the comedian)! One made his big-league debut with the New York Giants in 1911 and retired in 1925 with 108 triples, which by itself qualified him for the tournament. The other joined Detroit in 1914 and played until 1929, hitting .307 lifetime and winning the AL MVP with Cleveland in 1926, so he qualified, too! I conflated the two which explains the disproportionately high seed position for the round. The George Burns who finished 5th in this season is the first one I described. I will add an additional season at the end of this round for the other and fill it with some hitters I like… I don’t expect them to last but we’ll see how they do. In the end, we are only going to have one winner anyway!

Tim Bruno

Tim has been a baseball fan for most of his life and has played a great deal of baseball and softball over the years. Although his playing days are long behind him, he remembers back when he was an extremely fast catcher with an extremely bad arm. He has been playing Strat-o-Matic baseball since he was 14. Tim is currently living in southwest France and writes A LOT about coffee at He has also written Procaffeination: A Coffee Lover's Dictionary, which will be available soon. You can find out more about Tim's writing at and if you want to contact him about the tournament, drop him an email at

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