* HALL OF FAMERS
Exhibiting an understated style that became his trademark, Hank Aaron became the all-time home run champion via one of the most consistent offensive careers in baseball history with 3,771 hits. He hit 755 home runs, a record that stood for more than 30 years, and still holds Major League records for total bases, extra-base hits and RBI. He was the 1957 National League Most Valuable Player, won three Gold Glove awards for his play in right field and was named to a record 25 All-Star games. Curt Simmons once said of Aaron, “Trying to throw a fastball by him is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster.”
Noted for his cheerful disposition, excellent all-around play and powerful home runs, Ernie Banks was a favorite among Chicago Cubs fans. A 14-time All-Star, he was twice voted National League Most Valuable Player and knocked 512 home runs during his 19-year career with the Cubs. The shortstop and first baseman twice led the league in home runs and RBIs. “Mr.Cub” displayed his perpetual love for the game with his signature phrase, “Let’s play two!” Famed sportswriter Arthur Daley wrote about Banks: “He rejoices merely in living, and baseball is a marvelous extra that makes his existence so much more pleasurable.”
In 1969, Ted Williams autographed a ball for Johnny Bench, “To a Hall of Famer for sure.” Perhaps the best defensive catcher of all-time, Bench won 10 straight Gold Glove awards and popularized the one-handed style of catching. Bench crushed 389 lifetime home runs and batted .267 for his career. He led the National League in home runs twice, RBI three times and total bases once. He won the N.L. Most Valuable Player Award in 1970 and 1972 and the World Series MVP in 1976. With Bench behind the plate, the Cincinnati Reds won four pennants and two World Series championships.
In 21 seasons with the Kansas City Royals, George Brett topped the .300 mark 11 times, becoming the first player to win batting titles in three decades; 1976 (.333), 1980 (.390) and 1990 (.329). He led the American League in hits three times, finishing his career with 3,154, including 665 doubles, 137 triples and 317 homers. The 13-time All-Star was the A.L. Most Valuable Player in 1980 and earned a Gold Glove Award in 1985, the same year the Royals won their first World Series championship.
When Bob Feller said of his pitching, “I just reared back and let them go,” he accurately described his blazing fastball. “Rapid Robert” set the standard for generations of future fireballers. During his 18-year career, spent entirely with the Cleveland Indians, Feller amassed 266 victories, leading the league in wins six times and strikeouts seven. After enlisting in the Navy in 1941, Feller missed nearly four full seasons to serve the country. As a Navy gun captain, he earned five campaign ribbons studded with eight battle stars. Feller authored three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters, winning 20 or more games six times.
During 17 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bob Gibson won 20 or more games five times with an intimidating, dignified presence. Regarding his enormous talent, the nine-time All-Star said: “It is not something I earned or acquired or bought. It is a gift. It is something that was given to me.” He won nine Gold Glove awards, along with the 1968 National League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards after posting a 1.12 ERA. Gibson set World Series records with seven consecutive wins and 17 strikeouts in a game, and won two World Series MVP awards (1964 and 1967).
A baseball “lifer” for more than 50 years, Pat Gillick made the transition from a sore armed minor league pitcher to a team executive, brilliant at recognizing talent and building ball clubs. Scouting and player development stints with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees led to 27 seasons as a general manager with four teams, earning 11 postseason berths and 20 winning seasons. Gillick’s leadership brought the Toronto Blue Jays their first-ever Fall Classic titles in 1992 and 1993, took the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners to the playoffs and earned a championship crown for the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.
RICHARD "GOOSE" GOSSAGE*
With his blazing fastball and intimidating scowl, Richard “Goose” Gossage redefined success for relievers. After breaking in with the White Sox in 1972, Gossage found his role when manager Chuck Tanner made him his bullpen ace in 1975. Gossage saved 26 games that season and another 26 in 1977 after a trade to the Pirates. He left for free agent riches in New York in 1978, helping the Yankees win the World Series that year by saving 27 games and winning 10 more. Then in 1984 – in his first season with the Padres – Gossage saved 25 games to help San Diego win its first National League pennant. He finished his 22-year big league career with 124 wins, 310 saves and nine All-Star Game selections.
A star baseball and basketball player in college, Tony Gwynn opted for the diamond and fashioned a stellar 20-year career with the San Diego Padres. Gwynn’s mastery of slapping the ball between the third baseman and shortstop, what the lefty called the “5.5 hole,” propelled him to 3,141 career hits, a lifetime .338 batting average and eight batting crowns, a National League record he shares with Honus Wagner. A true student of hitting, Gwynn was an early advocate of using videotape to study his swing, while his five outfield Gold Glove awards, 319 career stolen bases and 15 All-Star Game selections attest to his superior all-around play.
A methodical, authoritative umpire in the National League for more than three decades, Doug Harvey became so revered that players, managers and even fellow umpires dubbed him “God.” Harvey joined the Senior Circuit’s umpiring crew in 1962, the last umpire hired in the big leagues who did not attend umpire school. Working 4,673 games over 31 years, 18 as crew chief, Harvey often drew assignments to the game’s biggest events, including six All-Star Games, nine National League Championship Series and five World Series.
By the time he stepped away from baseball in 2014 after a historic 20-year career with the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter had established himself as one of the most respected men to ever have played the game. His reputation is that of an unmatched leader both on and off the field, his name synonymous with hard work, dedication and class.
Jeter is a five-time World Series Champion and joined baseball’s exclusive 3,000-hit club on July 9, 2011. He has received numerous accolades in recognition of both his on-field skill and his commitment to community service, including: World Series MVP (2000); 14-time MLB All-Star; 5-time Gold Glove award; 5-time Silver Slugger award; AL Rookie of the Year (1996); Roberto Clemente award (2009); Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award (2009); the Sporting News Good Guy in Sports award (2002); Michigan association of School administrators Champion for Children award (2005); Joe Torre Safe at Home MVP award (2010); Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (2010). In 2012, Siena College recognized Jeter with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his leadership, accomplishments on the baseball field and dedication to improving the lives of young people through the Turn 2 Foundation.
Undeniably the hardest throwing pitcher of his era, Walter Johnson was celebrated as much for his character as for his heroics on the mound. In a career which spanned from the rowdy deadball era through the Jazz Age, the “Big Train” always behaved in a noble and gentlemanly fashion, both on and off the field. “I throw as hard as I can when I think I have to throw as hard as I can,” he reasoned when endlessly questioned about his fastball. Pitching his entire big-league career with the Washington Senators in the nation’s capital, Johnson finished his career with 417 wins, second only to Cy Young, and 3,509 strikeouts, a record that stood for 56 years.
Al Kaline featured a rifle arm and a lethal bat in his repertoire throughout a 22-year major league career, all with the Detroit Tigers. “Mr. Tiger” was highly respected by both colleagues and fans. “The kid murders you with his speed and arm,” enthused Casey Stengel. Ted Williams added of Kaline, “He’s the best right-handed hitter in the [American] league.” Kaline was named to 18 All-Star teams, won 10 Gold Glove awards and totaled 3,007 hits. He was a key cog on the Tigers 1968 World Series championship team.
An overpowering left-hander, Sandy Koufax enjoyed s six-year stretch as perhaps the most dominating pitcher in the game’s history. Koufax captured five straight ERA titles and set a modern record with 382 strikeouts in 1965. His fastball and devastating curve enabled him to pitch no-hitters in four consecutive seasons, including a perfect game in 1965. He posted a 0.95 ERA in four World Series, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to three World Series championships. Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell once said: “Trying to hit (Koufax) was like trying to drink coffee with a fork.”
A fierce competitor renowned for his baseball smarts, Joe Morgan could almost single-handedly beat opposing teams. A two-time National League Most Valuable Player (1975 and 1976), he was a terror on the base paths, topping the 40-steal plateau nine times. His superior batting eye enabled him to lead the N.L. in on-base percentage and walks four times each. The five-time Gold Glove Award winner packed considerable power into his compact frame, hitting 449 doubles and 268 home runs, a record among second basemen when he retired.
With a dominating fastball and an unsurpassed work ethic, Nolan Ryan’s career spanned four decades and culminated with 5,714 strikeouts. Ryan threw so hard – and could be so wild – that Reggie Jackson described the Texas native as “the only guy who could put fear in me. Not because he could get me out, but because he could kill me. You just hoped to mix in a walk so you could have a good night and go 0-for-3.” Often among the league leaders in strikeouts, Ryan won 324 games and pitched a major league record seven no-hitters, three more than any other hurler in history.
Tremendous power and a keen batting eye led Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter to call Mike Schmidt “the best hitter in the game.” In 1980, the 12-time All-Star won his first of three National League Most Valuable Player awards, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series title. His flair for dramatic and titanic clouts resulted in 548 career home runs, while steady fielding earned him 10 Gold Glove awards, including nine straight, at third base.