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Who was/is baseball's ultimate "Natural?"

Every now and then I feel it is my responsibility as your bartender, confidant and an erstwhile pop-culture moron to pass on some important info to you, my beloved patrons.

This is one of those times.

Roy Hobbs is 73.

Actually, Robert Redford, one of those actors who seemingly stayed the same age for about 40 years and then suddenly looks old, turned 73 on Tuesday.

Sharing a birthday with Redford: Dirty Dancing’s Patrick Swayze, who turned 57; and Baltimore’s Edward Norton, who hit the Big Four-Oh Tuesday.

Also turning 40 Tuesday: Creepy actor Christian Slater and rapper Masta Killa of Wu-Tang Clan.

Yeah, I had too much time on my hands Tuesday. I was on a plane to Tampa to cover the Orioles and I accidentally packed my novel in my check-in luggage. So I read every inch of two newspapers (and still had about an hour to kill).

Anyway, back to Redford, who has had many key roles in his esteemed career. But to me he will always be Hobbs, the mythical lead character in, “The Natural,” one of my Top Five baseball movies (Bull Durham and Field of Dreams battle for my top spot).

Quick aside: For nearly two decades I have been in a fantasy baseball league in which the person that finishes last has to attend the following year’s draft in a dress. Yes, it’s an all-male league. One year, a respected journalist who will go unnamed – but was not me: I’ve never had the dress indignity -- showed up as Glenn Close in “The Natural,” complete with the wide-brimmed white hat. Now that is losing in style.)

OK, so to today’s question: The term “The Natural,” has been thrown around a bunch of times over the last few decades to describe a young ballplayer with unlimited promise.

Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters has gotten that moniker from some (I prefer “Savior in Shin Guards,” but that’s just me). Many of the players with that label, however, have failed to meet the lofty expectations. New York Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur, formerly of the Atlanta Braves, is a recent example. But who is baseball’s ultimate natural?

Brief Guidelines: To be a proper “natural,” the player has to have immense God-given talent, has to have hit the big leagues early in life and has to have ridiculous hype surrounding him.

To me, the quintessential natural was Ken Griffey Jr., who was one of the few to live up to the expectations. As for Orioles, Jeffrey Hammonds is the first to come to mind. Injuries stopped him from reaching his potential.

Daily Think Special: Who was baseball’s ultimate natural?

Bonus Think Special: Who was the Orioles’ ultimate natural?

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