As the legend of Chicago White Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise grows, it's clear the Columbia native has etched his preservation of Mark Buehrle's perfect game into Palmetto State baseball lore.
The highlight of the 2009 baseball season will do that for a guy.
Maybe South Carolina has had fewer than its share of stars, though exceptions include Larry Doby, Jim Rice, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Marty Marion and Gorman Thomas.
Instead, we specialize in big leaguers better known for a single achievement, odd name or colorful character.
No other state can boast of one player who wore his hometown on the back of his jersey and another who served as a punch-line in Jim Bouton's tell-all "Ball Four."
We're talking Gookie, Mookie and Pokey.
A delightful dozen, in chronological order:
1. Flint Rhem. Born in: Rhems. MLB career: 1924-1936. Sounds more like a trail hike destination, but Clemson's first pro sports star went 105-97 in the majors. He is best known as the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who disappeared for a few days during a key part of the 1930 season, claiming he was kidnapped by Brooklyn Dodgers fans and forced to stay drunk.
2. Bobo Newsom. Born in: Hartsville. MLB career: 1929-1953. Probably the best player on this list, with 211 victories (222 losses) and four All-Star Game selections. Bobo being Bobo overshadows anything statistical. Bobo frequently referred to himself in the third-person by first name.
3. Van Lingle Mungo. Born in: Pageland. MLB career: 1931-1945. Went 120-115, mostly for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and won fame and infamy as a hot-tempered party dude. His name is the title of a wacky Dave Frishberg song of the 1970s.
4. Bill Voiselle. Born in: Greenwood. MLB career: 1942-1950. Yes, Greenwood. But Voiselle grew up in nearby Ninety Six and wore the number on the back of his jersey. Fifth in the 1944 National League MVP voting as a New York Giant and pitched for the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series.
5. Hurricane Hazle. Born in: Laurens. MLB career: 1955-1958. Also known as "Bob." The real Hurricane Hazel, deadlier than Hugo, struck the Carolina coast in 1954. The baseball version burst out of the minors and helped the Milwaukee Braves reach the 1957 World Series. Hazle hit .403 with seven home runs in only 41 games, including a 10-game win streak.
6. Ken Harrelson. Born in: Woodruff. MLB career: 1963-1971. Hit 131 home runs and was a dangerous slugger for the Red Sox and Indians but "Hawk" is better known as a flashy dresser who considered quitting baseball to try professional golf. Or as the partisan White Sox broadcaster prone to such phrases as "Grab some bench" when an opposing player strikes out.
7. Dooley Womack. Born in: Columbia. MLB career: 1966-1970. When pitcher Jim Bouton is traded during his 1969 "Ball Four" diary season from the Seattle Pilots to Houston, he is stunned by the deal. "Dooley Womack? Holy mackerel. ... I'd hate to think that at this stage of my career I was being traded even-up for Dooley Womack." Womack was 19-18 overall but 2-1 for the Astros in 1969 after "The Trade."
8. Willie Mays Aikens. Born in: Seneca. MLB career: 1977-1985. The drug suspension and federal penitentiary part of Aikens' life are not amusing. But with four home runs for the Royals in the 1980 World Series, Aikens briefly basked in the spotlight. He's out of jail now, working a road construction job in Kansas City.
9. Mookie Wilson. Born in: Bamberg. MLB career: 1980-1991. You can hear Vin Scully now ... "Little roller up along first ... It gets through Buckner!" And with one shaky swing of Mookie Wilson's bat — the most significant of his 1,397 hits — the Mets won Game 6 of the 1986 World Series a night before teasing the Red Sox in Game 7.
10. Gookie Dawkins. Born in: Newberry. MLB career: 1999-2003. Aka Travis Dawkins. Aka Cincinnati Reds second-round draft pick who got only 98 at-bats in the majors before departing with a .163 career batting average. Still active, Gookie plays for the triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs in the Marlins organization.
11. Pokey Reese. Born in: Columbia. MLB career: 1997-2004. Won a pair of Gold Gloves playing second base for the Cincinnati Reds. Strangely, his last at-bat came in his only plate appearance of the 2004 World Series as he helped the Red Sox crush the curse.
12. Dewayne Wise. Born in: Columbia. MLB career: 2000-present. Do you realize he has a career batting average of only .210? Wise has played for the Blue Jays, Braves (2004) and Reds. But he is a White Sox ninth-inning defensive replacement, forever.
Coincidentally, Hawk Harrelson had the TV call on July 23: "Back, back, back ...What a play by Wise! Mercy!"
What a list.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at email@example.com or 937-5593.