Have you ever taken the time to think about what makes the game of baseball America's favorite pastime? Some fans might attribute their love of baseball to their competitive nature, the desire to see their rivals defeated as the home town team walks away victorious, while others will credit the baseball environment full of sunny days, popcorn and roaring fans.
From the competition to the comfort of the stadiums, there's certainly plenty to enjoy about a baseball game, but all of that pales in comparison to the legends who take the field, the players who inspire entire towns and fanbases. Those legends are the reason we tune in to watch the games each week, as they remind us what it's like to hit the highest highs and, sometimes, the lowest lows.
How familiar are you with the former legends of baseball and their accomplishments? Sure, you might recognize names like Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, but can you recall what made them legends? What about modern stars who have only recently established their legacies? Are you going to be able to remember what records they broke or significant moments in their careers?
When you're ready, get started and see if you strike out on more questions than you get right.
Babe Ruth revolutionized the game of baseball when he decided to start swinging for the fences instead of playing the odds with infield hits. In 1920, he had his first 50-plus home run season, a mark he would reach three more times throughout the decade.
Ted Williams' career with the Boston Red Sox was interrupted twice for military service, as he served in both WWII and the Korean War. Williams could have chosen to play baseball for the service teams, but instead, he entered into the Naval aviation program, eventually seeing some action in the Korean War.
Baseball scouts searching for a winner didn't have to look any further than Cy Young, who racked up the most wins in MLB history with 511. A few of his most legendary performances included pitching three no-hitters and a perfect game, which he threw in 1904 against the Athletics.
"The Say Hey Kid" eventually had to grow up, but Willie Mays left behind a legacy that few other MLB players have been able to match. Aside from his 24 All Star appearances, Mays was twice named the NL MVP and won 12 straight Golden Glove Awards.
Ty Cobb was born in Georgia to a father, Will Cobb, who hoped his son would pursue an avenue other than baseball, which was not the lucrative business that it is today. Ty stuck with the sport, however, eventually making his way onto the Detroit Tigers' minor league team located in Augusta, GA.
The only player in MLB history to surpass Hank Aaron's 755 career home run mark was Barry Bonds, who finished with 762 home runs. Bonds' record is controversial, though, because of his association with the steroid era that gripped the world of baseball in the 1990s and 2000s.
Anytime that No. 6 stepped up to the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals, fans knew they were in for a treat. The winner of seven NL batting championships, Stan Musial never disappointed at the plate, finishing his career as the NL leader in several categories including hits and runs batted in.
Lou Gehrig's legendary Hall of Fame career is often overshadowed by his quick deterioration when he left the game in 1939 due to his battle with ALS. Only five years removed from his MVP season in 1936, Gehrig died from the disease at the age of 37.
Sandy Koufax's perfect game against the Cubs was one of only 21 such games since the modern era of baseball began. Broadcaster Vin Scully, a legend in his own right, had the honor of calling the game, providing one of the greatest play by play commentaries in baseball history.
Helping establish the legacy of the Yankees' organization, Mickey Mantle was part of the 1951 World Series championship team. He played in the series alongside other legends like Joe DiMaggio, who was playing his final season.
Competing in his first World Series, Walter Johnson failed to win the two games he started at pitcher, but the Senators managed to push the series to a Game 7, despite Johnson's poor performances. He redeemed himself in the final game when he came in as a relief pitcher and didn't allow a single run.
Playing alongside his father on the Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr. made his first All Star Game in 1990, which was only his second year in the majors. He would go on to earn a spot in the All Star Game every year throughout the '90s and three more times after that.
Some people are just born to be athletes, and that was exactly the case for Jackie Robinson. Before his Hall of Fame baseball career, Robinson starred at UCLA in four different sports: track, basketball, football and of course, baseball.
"Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak lasted from May 15, 1941 until July 17, 1941. The streak, along with the rest of his star studded game, earned him his second of three AL MVP awards.
Honus Wagner never appeared to be the most elegant player on the baseball field. With bowed legs and large feet, Wagner moved around the field awkwardly, but he had exceptional speed, which he often used to steal bases.
The Philadelphia Phillies, who Mike Schmidt spent his entire career with, needed every one of his home runs against he Cubs on April 17, 1976. In a game that came down to the tenth inning, Schmidt helped the Phillies score eight points with his four home runs, winning the game 18-16.
Pete Rose may have had a Hall of Fame career, but he will most likely never make it into Cooperstown due to accusations that he betted on baseball games. The accusations came in 1989, a few years after his retirement, while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds.
Once the highest paid player in baseball, Alex Rodriguez proved on offense why is deserved every penny he got when he signed a 10 year deal with the Rangers in 2001. He finished his career with 696 home runs, 3,115 hits and 2,086 runs batted in. If you're wondering, those are the numbers of a legend.
Most MLB fans recognize the accomplishments of Nolan Ryan, but those fans who cheered for him after he left the Mets have a special place in their hearts for the All Star pitcher. Ryan had his number retired by three of the four teams he played for, while also being selected to each of their Hall of Fames.
Believing he had a future in baseball, Jimmie Foxx left high school early to join a minor league team, who eventually sold his contract to the Philadelphia Athletics. When Foxx finally made his debut with the Athletics in 1925, he was only 17 years old.
In the 1970s, the Cincinnati Reds put together a dominant team known as the "Big Red Machine," with Johnny Bench starring as a catcher and hitter. This team, consisting of several MVP caliber players, competed in four World Series, winning back to back titles in 1975 and 1976.
Rickey Henderson once said, "If my uniform doesn't get dirty, I haven't done anything in the baseball game," and that's exactly how the All Star played. Henderson was known for his competitive nature, using any opportunity to gain an advantage in a game, like stealing bases.
Both Jim Lonborg and Bob Gibson were 2-0 against the other team going into Game 7 of the 1967 World Series, having not competed against one another yet. Gibson had the benefit of receiving an extra days rest, and it showed as he out pitched Lonborg all night, winning the game 7-2.
While the Yankees were winning four World Series in the span of five years, the Astros were still trying to build a championship team at the end of the '90s. They might've gotten closer had they drafted Derek Jeter, who was part of all four Yankees' titles, even winning the World Series MVP in 2000.
In a battle of legends, featuring Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby, Game 7 of the 1926 World Series came down to the final inning with the Yankees down 3-2. In a fitting end to the game, Ruth was tagged out while trying to steal a base, giving the Cardinals their first World Series championship.
You're not going to find a more consistent arm than the one locked onto the shoulder of Roger Clemens. Relying on his fastball before further developing his style as he aged, Clemens was well known for completing games, even throwing 18 complete games in 1987.
Tony Gwynn was on the downside of his career when the San Diego Padres made a run at the 1998 World Series. Facing a loaded New York Yankees' team, the Padres went down in only four games, losing both Game 3 and 4 at home.
The height of Frank Robinson's career was behind him when he was named the player-manager for the Cleveland Indians in 1975. However, during that career, Robinson's height exceeded most others, as he won just about every award and recognition a player could.
Playing 23 seasons in the majors, Greg Maddux set a record for the most Golden Gloves won by a player at any position. Demonstrating the duration of his stardom, he won his final Golden Glove Award in 2008, his last year in the league.
Phil Linz was recognized by his Yankees' teammates for his skills on the harmonica, an instrument he carried with him everywhere. Though it's been denied by multiple parties, an argument over Linz playing the harmonica is often cited as the reason for Yogi Berra's firing as manager of the Yankees.
When the legendary right fielder wasn't playing, Roberto Clemente was involved in charity work off the field, particularly in Latin American countries, as he was from Puerto Rico. After his death, the Roberto Clemente Award was established to honor players for their philanthropic efforts.
Sure, you might not know him for hitting the most home runs or winning multiple World Series, but Cal Ripken Jr. will always be remembered as one of the hardest working players in MLB history, exemplified by his 2,632 game streak. Ripken chose to end the streak himself in 1998 rather than waiting for an injury to end it for him.
Carl Yastrzemski had the tall task of replacing Red Sox legend Ted Williams, who retired one year prior to Yastrzemski joining the team. Luckily, he lived up to the hype, making 18 All Star appearances on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Standing 6 feet 10 inches, Randy Johnson was easy to spot anytime he took the mound, where he displayed one of the strongest arms in baseball. However, early in his career, "The Big Unit" struggled with his control over the ball, until he sought help from Nolan Ryan, another Hall of Fame pitcher.
Having won his first Cy Young Award a year prior, Pedro Martinez was already an accomplished pitcher by the time he was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1998. The trade pushed his career to a new level, as he put together multiple 300 strikeout seasons and earned the Triple Crown in 1999.
Making the All Star Game as a rookie was only the beginning for Tom Seaver, as he played his way into seven straight All Star selections before missing the game in 1974. To add to his early legacy, Seaver led the league in strikeouts three times in those first seven seasons.
The "Black Sox" scandal that ended the career of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson involved the throwing of the 1919 World Series, as the players sought to make money through a gambling operation. Surprisingly, Jackson had one of the best series of any player, forcing many to rethink his involvement in the scandal.
The "Big Red Machine" in Cincinnati was running rampant through '70s, winning the NL West Division six times throughout the decade. The team would find itself facing the New York Yankees in the 1976 World Series, eventually sweeping the Yankees to take home the title.
Yankees' fans knew they could get ready to depart the stadium anytime "Enter Sandman" came on because Mariano Rivera was about to take the mound and finish the game. This star relief pitcher recorded a record 652 saves during his time in the majors, showing why he was so feared when the score was close.
Nicknamed "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks was loved by all for his cheerful attitude on the field, always hoping to play an extra inning or two for Cubs' fans. Those fans needed Banks for entertainment, as well, considering the franchise never surrounded Banks with a playoff contending team.