The starting lineup for my youth

Johnny Bench

The 1968 National League Rookie of the Year, Johnny Bench was a two-time N.L. MVP. He hit 389 career home runs — 195 at home, 194 on the road. Bench’s final HR came Sept. 17, 1983 — “Johnny Bench Night” at Riverfront Stadium. In the bottom of the third inning with the Reds down 2-0, Bench’s round-tripper off Houston’s Mike Madden tied the game. It was the 146th time he had homered with the Reds trailing. (He also hit 146 HRs when the Reds were ahead.)

Don Mattingly

Donnie Baseball had a cup of coffee with the Yankees in 1982. Three seasons later, he was the American League MVP. Between 1984-86, Mattingly was a top-five MVP candidate — averaging 219 hits, 30 HR, 123 RBI with a .340 batting average. While the Yankees won more games than any other team in the 1980s (854-708), Mattingly’s best years were spent as a playoffs bystander. His swansong season in 1995 was his only playoff appearance.

Ryne Sandberg

Ryno was shipped along with Larry Bowa from Philly to Chicago in exchange for Ivan de Jesus on Jan. 27, 1982. It may not measure up to Brock-for-Broglio — but the Cubs were on the winning side of that ’82 swap. Sandberg was the National League MVP in 1984. He cemented his name in Wrigley lore on June 23, 1984, by hitting game-tying home runs off baseball’s premier closer, Bruce Sutter, in the ninth and 10th innings as Chicago won in 11 on NBC’s game of the week.

George Brett

The epitome of consistency, George Brett won American League batting titles in three decades — 1976, 1980, and 1990. Brett was the A.L. MVP in 1980 and the runner-up in ’76 and ’85. He was a tough out regardless of the situation; 317 HRs — 106 with no outs, 103 with one out, 108 with two outs. Aside from his stats prowess, Brett also is known for hemorrhoids (removed himself from Game 2 of the 1980 World Series) and the infamous Pine Tar Incident in 1983.

Cal Ripken Jr.

The Iron Man was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1982. He added A.L. MVP awards in 1983 and ’91. Ripken set the mark for consecutive games played with 2,632 between May 30, 1982, and Sept. 19, 1998. (Note: 3,713 players went on the DL during The Streak.) Ripken was remarkably consistent during his 21-year career. In the 1980s, his season averages: 156 hits, 23 home runs, 83 RBI with a .277 batting average. In the 1990s: 159 hits, 20 HR, 83 RBI, .278 BA.

Rickey Henderson

Rickey would like you to know, as far as base stealers go, that Rickey is “the greatest of all time, thank you.” Henderson led the American League in stolen bases 12 times, including a single-season record 130 in 1982. He also paced the league with 66 in ’98 when he was 39. Henderson holds the all-time mark with 2,295 runs and 1,406 steals. He was named the A.L. MVP in 1990. Of his 297 career HR, an MLB-record 81 were lead-off shots (but only one was inside-the-park).

Dale Murphy

A two-time National League MVP (1982-83), Dale Murphy spent the first four seasons of his 18-year career bouncing between catcher and first base. In 1980, he moved to the outfield and won five Gold Glove awards. Murphy was a middle-of-the-order mainstay for Atlanta; between 1982-87, he averaged 110 runs, 36 home runs, 105 RBI, and a .289 batting average. He hit 60 HR off San Diego pitchers, including No. 1 (Randy Jones) and No. 398 (Craig Lefferts).

Dave Parker

The Cobra moved into the Pittsburgh lineup in 1975, taking over in right field with Richie Zisk bumped to left (Willie Stargell moved from LF to first base). For nine seasons, Parker was a key member of the family lumber company — averaging 76 runs, 18 HR, 79 RBI, .307 BA — and was the 1978 National League MVP. A four-time all-star with the Pirates, Parker is most remembered for throwing out Jim Rice and Brian Downing in the 1979 All-Star Game.

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