Creating a “Baseball Greats Chess Set”

Click the image to see the full chart, including rosters.

An interesting idea struck me the other day: could I come up with a set of chess pieces made up of baseball legends, greats, and near-Hall of Famers that also considered a player’s personality when assigning their role on the board?

Okay, I know it’s a strange question, but hear me out. The first part is easy: with so many great players to choose from, one could probably make 10 or 12 chess sets’ worth of pieces. But I don’t want the set to be just the 30 greatest players in history. That’s boring and, besides, we’ve seen those lists hundreds of times. Plus, if you try to tell me that Ty Cobb makes sense as a bishop, or that Jackie Robinson is a pawn, I’d say you were crazy. I want the players on my chess set to reflect the personalities of the piece they represent. If the player is a rook, I want him to be powerful and tough; if he’s a pawn, I want him to be valuable but underrated, and so on.

The board above describes the two “teams” that I created. Black is a modern era team, taking players from the ~1960s and on. Gray is the historic team, taking players from 1900 through the ~1960s. I had a tough time deciding where the line should be between the teams, so I used kind of a blurry edge. If a player played from, say, 1955 to 1972, he could find himself on either squad.

You can click through to see the full chart of who is what piece, but I think it’d be more fun if you tried to guess who each piece represented before doing so. Here are the rules/guidelines I set for myself:

(Click “Read More” to continue reading.)

  • The eight pieces (ie, non-pawns) must reflect eight different positions. The queen is always the pitcher. The king’s pawn must fill in the ninth position. The remaining pawns can be any position (there are no pitchers among the pawns). I was generally strict in outfield positions, but the centerfielder on the Black team spent most of his career in left (he did spend a few seasons at center).
  • I tried to do as little duplication of teams as possible, but for some players it seemed unavoidable.
  • I also tried to be as inclusive of the eras as possible. I didn’t want teams stacked with 1920s live-ball guys or 1990s steroid-era guys.
  • Each player must reflect the personality of the piece he is assigned. Those personalities are:
    • King/Queen: the best players in the game. The King is the best player, the Queen is the best pitcher.
    • Rook: Powerful and hard-nosed.
    • Knight: Versatile and disruptive.
    • Bishop: Respected, revered, and typically good leaders.
    • Pawn: Useful and underrated. Players who are considered the greatest of their era probably won’t fit here. This is more for players who either should be in the Hall of Fame but aren’t or who barely squeaked into the Hall. Also, players who had incredibly great careers but who seemed to be forgotten these days might find themselves here. In other words, Ty Cobb = no, Ron Santo = yes.
That’s about it. The pieces in the image are marked with era-specific logos (or the closest approximation I could find). As I said before, you can click on over to the large image to see the rosters I came up with or, if you’re in a sporting mood, you can make some guesses down below. And if you want to tell me who you think better represent the various chess pieces, I’d love to hear it.


Larry Granillo

About Larry Granillo

Larry Granillo has been writing Wezen Ball since 2008 and has dealt with such touchy topics as Charlie Brown's baseball stats and Ferris Bueller's day off. In 2010, he got the bright idea to time every home run trot in baseball; he has been missing ever since.