"Baseball, because of its continuity over the space of America and the time of America, is a place where memory gathers."
-- Donald Hall
Losing A Big One
...And so it was on October 9, 1912. [Christy] Mathewson and the New York Giants had battled the Boston Red Sox to a deciding seventh game in the World Series. The Series would have ended sooner, with a New York victory. In the second game, the 32-year-old Mathewson had outpitched three younger foes for 10 innings, but five errors by his fielders cost him the win. He had to settle for a 6-6 tie when darkness ended the contest. Three days later, an error by the Giants second baseman led to a 2-1 loss even though Matty had retired the last 15 batters in a row.
Now the championship was on the line, and once again manager John McGraw handed the ball to Mathewson. The Giants scored a run in the 3rd, and it remained 1-0 until the Red Sox came to bat in the 7th. It was then that the fates played their first trick of the day on Matty, the man who aspired to perfection. With one out, Boston's player-manager, Jake Stahl, hit a fly ball to short left field. The New York shortstop, leftfielder, and centerfielder converged on it. They all arrived in time to catch the ball, but each one waited for another to take it, and it fell between them. With two men out, a pinch-hitter then doubled in the tying run.
Nobody scored in the 8th or 9th, but in the top of the 10th the Giants went ahead, 2-1. Mathewson then walked to the mound, determined to hold on to the lead and take home the prize. The first batter lifted a high fly ball to centerfielder Fred Snodgrass, who had to move only a few feet to make an easy catch. Incredibly, the ball trickled through his hands for a two-base error. The center fielder then redeemed himself by chasing a long fly ball and making a splendid catch.
Matty, whose control had been perfect in the first two games, walked the next man. That brought Tris Speaker, a .383 hitter, to the plate. Speaker hit a routine pop-up near the first-base coaches' box. Catcher Chief Meyers ran up the baseline as Matty came over from the mound. First baseman Fred Merkle, the closest man to the ball, took a few steps toward it. In the silence that shrouded the ballpark, where Boston's hopes seemed suddenly dashed, Matty called out clearly, "Meyers, Meyers," for the catcher to take it. Then somebody on the Boston bench, hoping to confuse the fielders, yelled, "Matty! Matty!" Merkle could have caught the ball easily, but he backed off to avoid running into the others. Mathewson could have caught it in his bare hand, but he had already called on Meyers. And so Meyers, who had the farthest to run, made a desperate lunge for it. The ball dropped to the ground in foul territory, untouched.
Given another chance, Speaker stood in the batter's box and called to Mathewson, "That's gonna cost you this ball game and the championship." And on the next pitch he lined a clean single that drove in the tying run and moved a man to third. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly to left field, and the winning run scored.
Realizing that even the greatest players sometimes make errors, Mathewson never blamed Snodgrass for dropping the fly ball that started his downfall. "No use hopping on him; he feels three times as bad as any of us," was all Matty said.
Sportswriter Ring Lardner, who was at the game, had a lot more to say about it. "There was seen one of the saddest sights in the history of a sport that is a strange and wonderful mixture of joy and gloom," he wrote. "It was the spectacle of a man, old as baseball players are reckoned, walking from the middle of the field to the New York players' bench with bowed head and drooping shoulders, with tears streaming from his eyes, a man on whom his team's fortune had been staked and lost, and a man who would have proven his clear title to the trust reposed in him if his mates had stood by him in the supreme test .... Beaten, 3-2, by a club he would have conquered if he had been given the support deserved by his wonderful pitching, Matty tonight is greater in the eyes of New York's public than ever before ...."
-- Norman L. Macht
Baseball Legends: Christy Mathewson
The disasters that began afflicting the [California Angels] in 1962 lent an air of spookiness to organization operations. In April of that year, outfielder [Ken] Hunt, who had walloped 25 homers in his rookie season the year before, stood flexing his back on the on-deck circle, snapped his collarbone, and never played a full schedule again. In August, veteran reliever Art Fowler was struck in the face by a line drive during batting practice and lost his vision in one eye. In 1964, a car accident put paid to the promise shown by lefty Ken McBride. That same season, the club paid out $300,000 signing bonuses to college stars Rich Reichardt and Tom Egan, only to have Reichardt's potential thwarted by the loss of a kidney and Egan's by a beanball that broke his jaw and cost him his vision in an eye. In 1965, rookie Dick Wantz pitched himself into the rotation in spring training, but was dead of a brain tumor four months later. In 1968, bullpen ace Minnie Rojas lost his wife and two children, and was himself permanently paralyzed, in an auto accident. Other road accidents killed infielder Chico Ruiz in 1972, reliever Bruce Heinbecher in 1974, and shortstop Mike Miley in 1977. In 1978, Lyman Bostock, one of the league's premier hitters, was shot to death as an innocent bystander. After surrendering a game-tying gopher pitch to Boston's Dave Henderson that eventually turned the tide in favor of the Red Sox in the 1986 LCS, relief specialist Donnie Moore suffered bouts of depression that ended in his suicide.
-- Donald Dewey & Nicholas Acocella
The Return of Joe DiMaggio
It was 1949, a bright summer morning late in June, and in his room at the Edison Hotel in Manhattan, Joe DiMaggio rolled out of bed. When he gingerly lowered his right foot to the floor, the incessant, stabbing pain [from bone spurs] in his heel that had dogged him for the past couple of years had miraculously vanished in the night ....
An operation had been performed to correct the condition over the winter, and the doctors had told him the problem had been cured. Yet when he tried to practice during spring training, there were days when the heel pained him so badly that his lips flowed blood, he was biting them so hard. While his teammates were getting into shape for the coming season, he would sit for hours on the beach of his bungalow home on the Gulf of Mexico, staring at the horizon and at the lapping waves, wondering if and when the pain would ever go away. Before spring camp broke, he finally agreed to return to John Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore for another operation.
DiMaggio, always a distant person, became morose and especially ill-tempered from the discomfort he was in .... When he moved to New York his whereabouts were kept from the public and the press .... DiMaggio disconnected his phone in the Edison Hotel and tried to hide.
In his hotel room he lay in bed and watched the Yankees on television, the new electronic marvel of the day, and he would umpire the pitches on the screen trying to retain his batting eye. But the angle of the camera was misleading and when DiMaggio saw he was consistently calling the pitches incorrectly, he began to fear that he was losing his batting eye ....
Through the months of April and May and much of June, DiMaggio remained in seclusion, waiting for the pain in his heel to subside as the doctors had promised it would. He really didn't believe them until the sunny morning in June when he arose to find that the pain had finally disappeared.
June 28 was a sunny afternoon in Boston, and though the heat had eased for the past couple of days, still there was no rain to bring relief to the parched Massachusetts Bay city. On street corners newsboys hawking the Herald and the Globe and the Record were announcing that Joe DiMaggio would be playing in the upcoming three-game series beginning here tonight, his initial appearance of the season after having missed the first sixty-five games....
There were bad feelings between the Yankees and the Red Sox, and more than thirty-six thousand people, the largest crowd ever to attend a night game in Fenway Park history, were crunched into the little antiquated Boston bandbox to see the matched skills of the two teams.
Inside the Yankee clubhouse, in the bowels of the park beneath the stands, there was an uncharacteristic revelry. DiMaggio, a man who rarely joined in the pranks or the joking, preferring instead to remain aloof, wrestled with Charlie Keller and clowned with Phil Rizzuto. He displayed an unconcealed joy just to be playing again, and his teammates could feel a lightening of their load by his mere presence. Without DiMaggio they would not have been able to survive over the long, protracted schedule, but with him back, they now had a real chance....
The Yankees jumped out to a quick three-nothing lead in the second inning on a home run. In the third inning Phil Rizzuto singled, and then DiMaggio, standing at the plate with his feet spread wide and parallel, his bat held back and stock still, snapped his wrists at a fast ball and pulled it on a high arc into the screen which tops the six-story high, left-field wall for two more runs. Rizzuto, on first, started jumping up and down as he raced around the bases, shouting, "Holy cow, holy cow," and after DiMaggio rounded third and loped toward the plate, the rest of the Yankees met him and escorted him back to the dugout....
DiMaggio had less dramatically demonstrated his leadership in other ways. Early in the game Johnny Pesky, the combative Red Sox second-baseman, raced from first to second base trying to break up a double play on a ground ball hit to second-baseman Coleman. Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto raced to second to take the pivot, fearlessly firing to first to complete the play. As he did, Pesky slid into him with a hard rolling block, tumbling the little shortstop to the ground, kneeing him in the face, and knocking him unconscious for several minutes. The shaken Rizzuto was able to continue, and by the eighth inning most of the specators had forgotten the incident when DiMaggio led off the inning for the Yankees with a walk. The next batter hit a ground ball to the infield, and Red Sox shortstop Vern Stephans glided over toward second to take the throw. As he did so DiMaggio threw a vicious block at Stephans, hurtling him to the ground and separating him from the ball and most of his senses. The Boston fans booed the play, but DiMaggio was only retaliating, giving notice to Pesky and any of the others that if there was going to be any funny business, they would have to answer to him personally.
Another large crowd arrived for the second contest of the series and there was much whooping and hollering when the Red Sox opened a 7-1 lead after only four innings. DiMaggio, who awoke stiff and swollen legged, was having a more difficult time .... In the fifth inning two men reached base before DiMaggio came to bat, and for the second time in two days he snapped a fast ball for a home run making the score 7-4 and drawing a nice hand from the Boston crowd. The Yankees scratched out three more runs to tie the score at 7-7. There were two outs in the eighth inning when DiMaggio dragged himself to the plate. After taking the first pitch, he pulled a high curve ball and lined [it] a good ten feet above the Fenway Park wall and screen for a third home run and the ball game. [Casey] Stengel bounded up the steps of the dugout at the crack of the bat, and as DiMaggio unemotionally glided around the bases, the Yankee manager raised his arms high and began bowing like a Moslem praising Allah. In the stands the deafening ovation for DiMaggio transcended all partisan lines ....
Afterward in the crowded, sweaty visitors' locker room, the reporters mobbed around DiMaggio's locker. Many of these men had predicted that DiMaggio would never play again, and they were staring at him in unprofessional awe. One asked, "Joe, you only had eight workouts before you came here. You've hit three home runs in two games. What's the secret?"
DiMaggio, exhausted, sitting back in his locker sipping beer, considered the question and somberly answered between sips, "You merely swing the bat and hit the ball."
-- Peter Golenbock
Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964
It Takes a Thief
Baseball has had its share of unsavory characters, but the game's magnates have always been loath to take on players they know to have a criminal record. In the 1930s, the Washington Senators sent a shudder through the major league community when they scouted and signed a convict named Alabama Pitts. To the relief of most, Pitts proved unable to hit top-caliber pitching. Ron LeFlore recalled memories of Pitts when he joined the Detroit Tigers in 1974. A product of the Motor City ghetto, LeFlore came to the Tigers only after serving a prison stint for armed robbery that made him a persona non grata to most of the other teams in the majors. Tigers skipper Ralph Houk, though, swiftly recognized that the fleet LeFlore was the answer to the club's center field hole. In 1976, LeFlore's second full season, he led the club in hitting with a .316 batting average. Two years later he paced the American League in runs and stolen bases. Convicted of thievery, LeFlore spent nine years in the majors being paid for being a thief, swiping an average of 50 bases a season.
-- David Nemec & Pete Palmer
1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts
Casey at the Bat
"The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day..." So began "Casey at the Bat, A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888," a poem that appeared in the fourth column of page 4 of the Sunday, June 3, 1888 San Francisco Examiner. The poem that would become the most famous American verse ever written was bylined "Phin" and sandwiched inconspicuously between editorials on the left and Ambrose Bierce's weekly column on the right.
Ernest Lawrence Thayer, or "Phinney," as such classmates as William Randolph Hearst and George Santayana called him, had been the editor of the Harvard Lampoon. After Hearst was kicked out of Harvard for sending personalized chamber pots to several professors, his father gave him the Examiner to run, and the errant heir soon asked Thayer if he would write a humor column for the paper.
It took Thayer half a day to write "Casey." The piece might have been forgotten altogether had not a novelist named Archibald Clavering Gunter clipped it and given it to his actor friend William DeWolf Hopper, who was performing a comic opera entitled Prince Methusalem at New York's Wallack Theatre on August 14, 1888. The Giants and White Stockings had been invited to the show, and Hopper thought the new piece particularly appropriate. Before beginning, though, he congratulated Tim Keefe, who was in attendance, on his feat of 19 straight victories.
Hopper, whose fifth wife was gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (their son Paul Hopper played Paul Drake in the Perry Mason television series), later described his first reading of the poem in his autobiography, Once a Clown, Always a Clown: "When I dropped my voice to B flat, below low C, at 'the multitude was awed,' I remember seeing Buck Ewing's gallant mustachios give a single nervous twitch. And as the house, after a moment of startled silence, grasped the anticlimactic denouement, it shouted its glee."
Had Casey hit the ball out of the park, we might never have heard of Thayer or Hopper or been subjected to the countless parodies of "Casey at the Bat." Hopper hit upon its appeal when he wrote, "There is no more completely satisfactory drama in literature than the fall of Humpty Dumpty." He would go on to recite the poem more than 10,000 times, each time in five minutes, 40 seconds....
-- Daniel Okrent & Steve Wulf
Touching All the Bases
Baserunning blunders are common. Touching all bases is one of baseball's primary rules, but mishaps occur on the basepaths.
....Yankee slugger Lou Gehrig, trotting around the bases after hitting the ball over the fence, lost the 1931 home run crown when teammate Lyn Lary -- on base at the time -- proceeded from third base to the dugout rather than completing the circuit to home plate. Gehrig, who didn't see the play, was ruled out for passing Lary and was credited with a triple, as he had only touched three bases safely. That year, Gehrig and Babe Ruth each hit 46 home runs to share the home run title.
Hank Aaron was involved in the strange ending of Harvey Haddix's twelve-inning perfect game, which he pitched for Pittsburgh against Milwaukee in May 1959.
In the last of the thirteenth, Felix Mantilla was safe on an error by Don Hoak (ending the perfect game). Eddie Mathews sacrificed him to second and Aaron was intentionally walked to set up a potential inning-ending double play. But Joe Adcock foiled the strategy by slamming the ball over the fence, an apparent three-run homer and the only hit off hard-luck Haddix.
Mantilla scored, but Aaron, rounding second, saw the ball disappear over the wall and was so stunned that he forgot to continue his circuit of the basepaths. He headed directly for the dugout, and Adcock, making a grand home run trot, was ruled out when he passed the spot where Aaron had made his departure. Instead of a 3-0 victory, the Braves wound up 1-0 winners -- and Adcock had a double instead of a home run.
A strange footnote to the game was the pitching of Lew Burdette, who yielded twelve hits but no runs in thirteen innings to win. Haddix gave up one and lost.
Baserunners must stay alert at all times. On August 15, 1926, Babe Herman tripled into a double-play when he didn't.
In the seventh inning, with one out and the bases loaded, Herman slammed a pitch toward the right field fence. The ball might have been caught -- and the runners had to wait and see if it would be -- but Herman put his head down and ran.
The Dodger runner scored from third, but pitcher Dazzy Vance, running from second, mysteriously slowed down as he rounded third on his way home. Chick Fewster, running from first, had caught up to Vance but knew he couldn't pass him on the basepaths.
Herman, closing in on Fewster and Vance, looked like he would pass both runners. Coach Mickey O'Neil yelled "Back! Back!" to Herman, but Vance -- not used to running the bases -- answered the cry. He turned back toward third and slid in from the home-plate side. Herman slid in from the second base side. Fewster stood stock still on the base and watched.
Third baseman Eddie Taylor grabbed the ball and tagged all three runners. The umpire ruled Vance entitled to the bag but called Fewster and Herman out, ending the inning.
Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson was beside himself. But it wasn't as bad as the time Herman stole second while runners were at second and third.
Gary Geiger of the Red Sox suffered an embarassing moment in 1961 when he hit a run-scoring triple in the bottom of the eleventh inning against the California Angels. Thinking his hit had won the game, Geiger headed for the clubhouse. An Angel infielder tagged him for the first out of the inning. Geiger's hit had actually tied the game and he would have been on third with nobody out.
-- Dan Schlossberg
The Baseball Catalogue
Stats: Triple Crown Winners -- Batting
Top marks in a league for batting average, home runs, and RBIs in a single year.
1878 (NL) -- Paul Hines (PRO) .358, 4, 50
1894 (NL) -- Hugh Duffy (BSN) .440, 18, 145
1901 (AL) -- Nap Lajoie (PHA) .426, 14, 125
1909 (AL) -- Ty Cobb (DET) .377, 9, 107
1922 (NL) -- Rogers Hornsby (STL) .401, 42, 152
1925 (NL) -- Rogers Hornsby (STL) .403, 39, 143
1933 (NL) -- Chuck Klein (PHI) .368, 28, 120
1933 (AL) -- Jimmie Foxx (PHA) .356, 48, 163
1934 (AL) -- Lou Gehrig (NYY) .363, 49, 165
1937 (NL) -- Joe Medwick (STL) .374, 31, 154
1942 (AL) -- Ted Williams (BOS) .356, 36, 137
1947 (AL) -- Ted Williams (BOS) .343, 32, 114
1956 (AL) -- Mickey Mantle (NYY) .353, 52, 130
1966 (AL) -- Frank Robinson (BAL) .316, 49, 122
1967 (AL) -- Carl Yastrzemski (BOS) .325, 44, 121
BSN: Boston Braves PHA: Philadelphia Athletics PRO: Providence Grays
IMAGE: Nap Lajoie
Year in Review: 1902
The N.L. -- Another year of war with the American League brought an element of battle fatigue to the National League in 1902. A three-man Executive Committee, chaired by John T. Brush, directed the war effort during the season, chalking up its greatest triumph when it purchased the Baltimore American League team and sabotaged it by releasing its better players to sign National League contracts ....
A hollow victory was won when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that Nap Lajoie, Bill Bernhard, and Chick Fraser had to leave the Philadelphia Athletics to return to the rival Phillies, to whom they were bound by the reserve clause. Fraser returned, but Lajoie and Bernhard evaded the court order by joining the Cleveland American team and keeping out of Pennsylvania all season. In addition to not retaining these two, the Phillies lost Elmer Flick, Ed Delahanty, Red Donahue and Al Orth to further American League raids. Outside of Pennsylvania, state courts generally ruled against the reserve clause and, thus, in favor of the new loop.
The Pittsburgh Pirates managed to avoid any losses to the American League's raiding tactics for the second consecutive year, and the strong Buc squad trounced all the weakened competition in waltzing to a repeat championship by a margin of 27 1/2 games over distant runner-up Brooklyn. The Pirate total of 103 wins topped any team's record in the 27-year history of the league .... League batting champion Ginger Beaumont, manager Fred Clarke, and Honus Wagner all swung hot bats through the year, and Jack Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, and Deacon Phillippe gave the Bucs three 20-win aces, with Chesbro's 28 wins topping the league's hurlers. In addition, third sacker Tommy Leach led the circuit in home runs with six clouts.
Brooklyn's second-place finish was due in good measure to Willie Keeler's .338 batting and good pitching by Frank Kitson and Wild Bill Donovan. After losing its entire offense and top pitchers to the new league in two years, Philadelphia dropped into seventh place. The New York Giants got off to a dismal start, and even the infusion of Baltimore talent could not stop a basement finish; nevertheless, new manager John McGraw, Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan, and Don McGann would all serve the Giants well in the years to come.
....Events followed each other rapidly after the conclusion of the playing season. New raids by the American League stripped Brooklyn of Wee Willie Keeler, Frank Kitson, and Wild Bill Donovan, relieved Pittsburgh of Jesse Tannehill and Jack Chesbro, and took Sam Crawford off Cincinnati's hands. The controlling ownership of the New York Giants was pirchased by John T. Brush, and his position as head of the Executive Committee was rendered obsolete by the election of Harry Pulliam of Pittsburgh as President of the National League in December.
The A.L. -- Midway through its second season, the American League found its Baltimore outpost in the hands of the enemy, making the completion of the loop schedule a muddy issue. Baltimore manager John McGraw was constantly running afoul of League President Ban Johnson. Several times during the 1901 and 1902 seasons he was suspended by Johnson for harassing the league umpires and when the Little Napoleon continued his arbiter-baiting, Johnson dry-docked him indefinitely in July. McGraw decided not to take such treatment lying down and started negotiations which resulted in the Orioles being bought by John T. Brush, Chairman of the National League Executive Committee. With the enemy within its walls, the American League suffered a severe body blow; the new owner released McGraw, Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan, Dan McGann, Cy Seymour, Joe Kelley, and Jack Cronin to sign with the National League clubs, leaving Baltimore with a skeleton crew. When, on July 17, the Orioles could not field a team to meet St. Louis, Johnson used a league regulation to revoke the Baltimore franchise. He planned to operate the team for the rest of the season on league funds, arranged for each team to contribute players to stock the sabotaged team, and appointed local hero Wilbert Robinson to manage the reconstructed squad. The Orioles finished last, but that they finished the schedule at all represented a triumph of American League resiliency and solidarity....
St. Louis replaced Milwaukee in the 1902 circuit, and the new club raided the St. Louis Cardinals, of the old league, for several top players, luring Jesse Burkett, Bobby Wallace, Dick Padden, Snags Heidrick, Jack Harper, and Jack Powell into its fold. St. Louis represented the fourth city in which the two leagues both fielded teams and, in every instance, the new team outdrew the National League team. High salaries continued to induce stars to join the American League teams....
Connie Mack won his first pennant by directing the Athletics to a good second half, which gave them the championship over the new St. Louis Browns. Even with the loss of Lajoie, Mack could field a hard-hitting lineup led by third baseman Lave Cross, and rightfielder Socks Seybold; six .300 hitters dotted the Athletics scorecard, making Lajoie's loss less noticeable. The pitching staff survived the loss of Bernhard when Mack purchased lefty Rube Waddell in May from Los Angeles of the California League. Daffy to a fault and colorful to an extreme, the brash Waddell used a blazing fastball to post a 24-7 season mark with a league-leading 210 strikeouts. Steady Eddie Plank developed into a star in his second season by chalking up 20 victories. St. Louis, Boston and Chicago pursued hotly but could not catch the stretch-running A's. Washington's Ed Delahanty led all batters with a .376 average, while Cy Young of Boston again paced the pitchers with 32 wins.
At the season's end, the Baltimore situation was settled by transferring the franchise to New York, where players for the new squad were pirated from the senior loop. This move, along with the other calamities during the season, convinced the National League [that] peace was cheaper than war and in January 1903 the National League proposed to sit down and talk to the American League. The senior circuit first proposed a merger, which Johnson wisely refused. After many words and abandoned strategies, the final treaty recognized both leagues as majors, agreed to respect the contracts and reserve clauses of all teams, and allowed the American League to keep practically all the players it had corralled from the National League. When the negotiations were over, the senior circuit was not certain what it had won, but only that it had neutralized the enemy. And that was a victory.
--David S. Neft, Richard M. Cohen, Michael L. Neft
The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball (22nd ed.)
Player Profile: Hank Aaron
Nickname: "The Hammer"
Born: February 5, 1934 (Mobile, AL)
ML Debut: April 13, 1954.
Final Game: October 3, 1976.
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Hall of Fame: 1982 (Baseball Writers; 406 votes on 415ballots; 97.83%)
Played for Milwaukee Braves (1954-1965), Atlanta Braves (1966-1974), Milwaukee Brewers (1975-1976)
Postseason: 1957 World Series, 1958 World Series
All Star 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975.
NL MVP 1957
Gold Glove 1958, 1959, 1960
Henry (Hank) Aaron was 18 years old when he began his professional baseball career as a shortstop for the Negro League's Indianapolis Clowns. Though he was slight of build (160 lbs.) and hit cross-handed, his contract was purchased by the Boston Braves f0r $10,000 in June 1952. He would be the last Negro Leaguer to jump to the majors. Aaron spent a couple of years in the minors before starting for the Braves -- now in Milwaukee -- in left field, replacing the injured Bobby Thompson. While in the minors, with the Jacksonville Tars, he was the South Atlantic League's MVP with a .362 batting average and 115 RBIs, and the following season was the Northern League's Rookie of the Year. In his first season with the Braves, Aaron compiled a .280 average with 13 home runs before breaking his ankle in September. By 1958 he had increased his weight by twenty pounds and was a legitimate power hitter. That year he was league MVP with 44 homers and 132 ribbies. The Braves beat the Yankees in a seven-game world series in which Aaron hit .393 with three homers and seven RBIs.
In twenty seasons -- 1955 through 1974 (during which time the Braves moved to Atlanta) -- Aaron hit 20 or more home runs every year, with 30 or more in fifteen of the seasons, and 40 or more in eight. His best home run season was 1971, when he hit 47. He batted over .300 fourteen times. (His best season batting average was .355 in 1959.) As the 1974 season opened, Aaron had accumulated 713 homers -- one short of Babe Ruth's record. The Braves intended to keep him benched during the opening series at Cincinnati so that he could break Babe's record in front of a home crowd. But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered the club to use Aaron in Cincinnati. He tied the record on his first trip to the plate. In his first home game of the season, on April 8, Aaron hit his 715th homer off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his career Aaron appeared in a record-tying 24 All Star Game. (Stan Musial and Willie Mays also appeared in 24.)
In 1975 Aaron returned to Milwaukee and the city's new club, the Brewers. He played two more years before retiring. He held the ML records for extra base hits (1,477), total bases (6,858) and RBIs (2,297). Aaron later went to work in the Atlanta Braves' front office and became vice-president in charge of player development.
-- Jason Manning
"The best thing you can say about him is when you walk on the field and you are playing against Hank Aaron you know you're in the big leagues." -- Pete Rose
"Trying to sneak a pitch past Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster."
-- Joe Adcock (or Curt Simmons)
"Hank never showed any emotion. The most he would do was clear his throat every once in a while. He was fantastic. He was the best line drive hitter I ever saw. He could have been a .400 hitter if he didn't try to beat Eddie [Mathews] in homers. There was definite competition between the two. Mathews had won the homer title and Hank kept trying to match him. He became a consistent homer hitter, but I think he would have homered just as often by hitting line drives -- to all fields. But he wanted to get more loft on the ball. He had great forearms and wrists. He could be fooled completely and be way out on his front foot and the bat would still be back and he'd just roll his wrists and hit the ball out of the ballpark. He had control over his body. Aaron was the best all-around ballplayer I ever saw -- better than Mantle or Mays. Mays was great, but Aaron did everything he did without the flair .... Willie would pick the ball up in the outfield and throw it into the seats sometimes, while Hank always made perfect throws. He was just nonchalant."
-- Lew Burdette
We Played the Game
Most career home runs (755)
Most career RBI (2,297)
Most career extra base hits (1,477)
Most career total bases (6, 856)
Only player to hit at least 30 home runs in 15 seasons
Only player to hit at least 20 home runs in 20 seasons
First player to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
Led NL in home runs four times
Led NL in RBI four times
Led NL in batting two times
They Played the Game
(1871-77, 1879, 1881)
Second baseman Ross Barnes played for the Chicago White Stockings in 1876 (the first major league season), and became the first National League batting champion with a .429 BA, scoring 126 runs in 66 games. At the time, any ball that hit fair and then rolled our bounced into foul territory was considered a fair ball, and Barnes had perfected the art of doing just that. When the rule was changed in 1877 requiring that a hit ball pass a base before being considered fairly struck, Barnes ceased to be an offensive threat.
BORN 5.8. 1850, Mount Morris, NY .359, 6, 350
Borden has the distinction of being the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a professional game when his Philadelphia Whites defeated the Chicago White Stockings 4-0. A year later (1876), Borden recorded the first no-hitter in the National League.
BORN: 5.9.1854, Jacobstown, NJ 13-16, 2.60
Playing for the Cardinals, Coleman set a rookie record by stealing 110 bases. He set another record by swiping 100 or more bases in three consecutive seasons (1985-87). In 1988 and 1989 he collected yet another record by stealing 50 consecutive bases without being caught in each year.
"Vincent van Go" Born 9.22.61, Jacksonville, FL .264, 28, 346 (752 SB)
All-Star 1988, 1989 1985 NL ROY
Stubing's career as a player lasted just five games in 1967 with the California Angels. In 1988 he was called upon to manage the Angels for the last eight games of 1988 following the firing of field general Cookie Rojas. Stubing lost all eight games, tying George Creamer (1884, Pittsburgh Alleghenys) for the record of most managerial losses without a win.
BORN: 3.31.38, Bronx, NY
Gwynn became the first NL hitter since Stan Musial (1952) to win three consecutive batting crowns, with averages of .370 in 1987, .313 in 1988, and .336 in 1989. The 1987 average of .370 was the best in the NL since 1948, while 1988's .313 was the lowest ever to win a NL batting title.
BORN: 5.9.60, Los Angeles, CA .338, 135, 1138
All-Star 1984-87, 1989-99 Gold Glove 1986-87, 1989-91 Silver Slugger 1984, 1986-87, 1989, 1994-95, 1997
THIS MATERIAL IS REPRODUCED FOR NON-PROFIT EDUCATIONAL AND SCHOLARLY PURPOSES ONLY, WHICH COMPLIES WITH THE DOCTRINE OF FAIR USE AS EXPRESSED IN THE COPYRIGHT ACT OF 19 OCTOBER 1976, EFFECTIVE 1 JANUARY 1978 (TITLE 17 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE, PUBLIC LAW 94-553, 90 STAT. 2541.)