Baseball is one of the oldest sports played in the United States, and is known as America's national pastime. It's the most popular sport in America, starting with kids joining Little League and going all the way up into adulthood. Whether you're rich or poor, whatever your background, if you can get your hands on a bat and an open area big enough for a diamond, you can play. For millions of Americans and even more folks across the world, baseball is simply synonymous with summer.
Professional baseball is that rare thing, a sport that is watched by people from every walk of life: it cuts across, race, class, gender, and education. The really big bucks didn't enter the sport until the postwar years, however, meaning that previously, baseballers had to hold other jobs. Some were able to become household names even so, like Babe Ruth or Hank Greenberg. However, these were exceptional players, trailblazers or captains or leaders. Only in the last 40 years have ballplayers been able to become known faces in our homes simply by joining a Major League team in the first place. Of course, that means you'll know just about any player from a period within that time by sight... right? Let's find out!
Clemens was a dominant pitcher during his 24-year career. He posted 354 career wins, notching 4,672 strikeouts. He was an 11-time all-star and seven-time Cy Young Award winner. On April 29, 2986, Clemens became the first pitcher in baseball history to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game.
Doc. Gooden made an immediate impact as a 19-year-old pitcher for the Mets in 1984. In '84 he was an all-star, won the National League Rookie of the Year and led the league in strikeouts. He followed up his sophomore year with a 24-4 record, 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts and 16 complete games.
'86 was one of Valenzuela's best years of his 17-year career. He was 21-11 with a 3.14 ERA. He also grabbed an all-star stat by striking out five consecutive batters.
Hershiser had his most successful career in '88 when he pitched 59 straight innings without allowing a run. He was the National League Championship Series MVP and World Series MVP. He also won the National League Cy Young and Gold Glove Awards.
Dennis Eckersley may be considered one of the greatest side-armers to have played the game. But in 1988 he gave up a home run to Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the World Series, ending the game. This led to his coining the term "walk-off home run."
For a tough-nosed position like catcher, Carter was a fresh face of exuberance which is how he got the nickname "Kid." He played a critical role in the Mets' '86 World Series Championship with a game-winning single in Game 5.
Rod Carew made a career out of being a contact hitter who accumulated 3,053 hits - only 92 of which were home runs. With a career batting average of .328, he was elected to every All-Star game in his 18-year career, except for his last.
Keith Hernandez played 16 years, winning World Series Championships with both the Mets ('86) and Cardinals ('82). Known as a contact hitter with a great eye, he walked in more than 12 percent of his at-bats. He was just as good defensively as he was with the bat, bringing home 11 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1978 to 1988.
Ozzie Smith was a defensive machine for the St. Louis Cardinals. He set a major league record with 8,375 career assists and double plays by a shortstop (1,590). He also played 2,511 games at the position (another record). This 15-time All-Star won 13 consecutive National League Gold Glove awards from 1980 to 1992.
Mike Schmidt played his entire 18-year career with the Philidelphia Phillies, compiling a vast list of records. Schmidt was a 12-time All-Star, three-time National League MVP, had 10 Gold Gloves, six Silver Slugger awards, was an eight-time National League home run leader and four-time National League RBI leader. Need we say more?
Bret played his entire 21-year career with the Kansas City Royals. He leads all third basemen with 3,154 career hits and is one of only four players who have 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, and a career .300 batting average. The other three are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and I-70 rival Stan Musial.
Henderson is considered baseball's best leadoff hitter and base runner of all-time. In 25 seasons he switched teams 13-times. During that time, he had over 3,000 hits with 1,406 stolen bases and 2,295 runs. To an opposing pitcher, that means if Henderson got to first base, nearly half the time he would steal his way to second or beyond. Scary!
Tim Raines joins Rickey Henderson as a great lead-off hitter and base runner with 2.605 hits and 808 steals. He was a seven-time All-Star, won the World Series three times and was the stolen base champion from 1981 to 1984.
Robin Yount played his entire 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers. '82 may have been his best year. Including good post-season numbers and clutch hitting as the postseason approached, Yount led the American League with 210 hits, and career highs with 29 home runs, 114 RBIs, and a .331 batting average. He also led the league in slugging, OPS and total bases.
Cal Ripken Jr. was a prolific-hitting third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles for more than 21 years. He had 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, and 1,695 RBIs. He was a 19-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and an eight-time Silver Slugger. His greatest moment was surpassing Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played, which had stood for 56 years. Ripken ended up with 2,632.
Tony Gwynn was a great contact hitter who recorded 3,141 career hits from 1982 to 2001. This is marked with a .338 career batting average, never hitting below .309. He was a 15-time All-Star with eight batting titles and five Gold Glove awards.
Dale Murphy won the Silver Slugger award from 1982 to 1985 and also won the Gold Glove award from 1982 to 1986. During these years, he was also a two-time National League home run hitter and RBI leader. Despite having an 18-year career, many felt an early retirement prompted by injuries affected Murphy's chances of becoming a Hall of Famer.
Jeff Reardon was nicknamed The Terminator for his dominating fastball. This long-time closer was the all-time saves leader for a brief time in 1992 with 342 saves. He finished his career with 367 saves, a statistic that ranks in baseball's top ten.
By the standards of most great players, Puckett had a short, yet prolific career, playing 12 seasons with the Minnesota Twins. Eye problems prompted his retirement at the age of 36. However, before retiring, he accumulated 2,304 hits, 207 home runs, 1,085 RBIs and a .318 batting average. Puckett holds several Twins records, won two World Series and was a 10-time All-Star.
After a Hall of Fame career for the Detroit Tigers from 1977 to 1990, Jack Morris played only one year - 1991 - for his hometown Minnesota Twins. But in that year he made the most of it in what many believe to be one of the greatest World Series ever played. In the series, he pitched three games, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA. In the seventh game, he pitched 10 shutout innings.
Jose Canseco's successful career was marred by controversy and legal issues. Despite his troubles, he hit 462 home runs and had 1,407 RBIs. He was a two-time MLB home run leader and was the first player to hit 30 home runs with four different teams.
Despite Darryl Strawberry's successful career, many experts believe he wasted much of his potential with three suspensions over substance abuse. Strawberry was an intimidating hitter with 335 career home runs and 1,000 RBI's over a 17-year career. He won four World Series - one with the Mets and three with the Yankees.
Eric Davis had a 10-year career and was known as a speedy baserunner with an equally quick bat. in '87 he became the first player to hit 30 home runs and steal over 50 bases in the same season.
Paul Molitor was a contact hitter throughout his 21-year career. He had 3,319 hits, 1,307 RBIs, 234 home runs, 504 stolen bases and a career .306 batting average.
Barry Bonds is considered one of the greatest players to have ever played baseball. His MLB records include 762 career home runs, 73 home runs in one season, 2,558 career walks and 688 career intentional walks.
Nolan Ryan dominated baseball from 1966 to 1993 and will go down as the greatest strikeout pitcher in baseball. In 27 seasons, Ryan struck out 5,714. He had seven career no-hitters and 26 times had 15 or more strikeouts in a game. He also holds some negative records with walks allowed and wild pitches.
Shawon Dunston was considered one of the best prospects in baseball when he was drafted. While having a lengthy career, he was noted as being a life-long rookie with both the excitement of a young player and making rookie mistakes throughout his career. Defensively, he was a strong shortstop with a powerful arm. Due to rarely walking, Dunston had a lower than average on-base percentage.
Jody Davis was a popular fan favorite with the Cubs, although his defensive and offensive game were rarely on the same page and both fluctuated throughout his career. On April 15, 1987, Davis hit the 4,000th home run at Wrigley Field.
Carlton Fisk played 24 years for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox. While he has 2,356 hits and 376 home runs, Fisk hold several lifetime records, including the oldest player to hit 20 home runs in a season, most years played as a catcher, and the longest game caught by a catcher (25 innings on May 9, 1984).
Ceil Cooper was a solid all-around player for his entire career, winning two Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger awards. In his 17 years as a player, he hit 241 home runs and 1,125 RBIs.
Pete Rose is considered the premier contact hitter with 4,256 hits but only 160 home runs. He was a 17-time All-Star and holds several hitting records and accomplishments. However, due to gambling issues, much of his career highlights have been marred. With prolific hitting and a long career, Rose still holds five MLB records.
Leon Durham was a popular and consistent player for 10 seasons with the Cubs, Cardinals and Reds. In 10 years, he hit 147 home runs and had 530 RBIs. He was an All-Star in '82 and '83, and a Silver Slugger in 1982.
Tony Pena was a contact hitter throughout his 18-year career. In 1,988 games he had 1,687 hits, 107 home runs and 708 RBIs. As a catcher, he adopted an unorthodox style of catching without runners on base which helped his pitchers keep the ball low and in the strike zone.
Dave Winfield played 22 years of professional baseball, collecting 3,110 hits, 465 home runs and 1,833 RBIs. He was a 12-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove winner, and six-time Silver Slugger.
Steve Garvey was named Mr. Clean due to his pure image while playing the sport. The 10-time All-Star had 2,599 career hits, 272 home runs, and 1,308 RBIs. He holds the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,207.
For 16 years, Mark Grace was a consistently strong player who played for the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks. As a contact hitter, Grace had a career batting average of .303 with 2,445 hits, 173 home runs, and 1,146 RBIs. Defensively he won four Gold Glove awards.
Throughout his 16-year career, Davey Lopes was a speedy player who ranks in the top ten of many stolen base records. He has a total of 557 career stolen bases and an 83.01 percent success rate. He stole five bases in the '81 NLCS and four in the '81 World Series.
Terry Pendelton had a 15-year career with several teams, however, he is most known for his time with the Cardinals and subsequently with the Braves. He had an immediate impact with the Cardinals going three for five in his first game. Pendleton had an up-and-down statistical career but was always considered a leader on the field. He won Gold Glove awards in '87, '89 and 1992.
Lou Whitaker was a five-time All-Star. Perhaps the most memorable was in '85 when he forgot to pack his uniform for the game. He ended up purchasing a souvenir replica jersey and hat from the ballpark and, by some accounts, having a fan draw his number with a black permanent marker on the back of his jersey. The uniform is in the Smithsonian collection.
Andre Dawson played 21 years and amassed 2,774 hits and 438 home runs - most of that time with the Expos and Cubs. While he seemed to have the eyes of a hawk, his nickname was given to him by an uncle who said that as a youngster, Dawson attacked balls like a hawk when practicing with adult men.
Ron Cey's physical stature isn't what one would expect of a professional baseball player, but he played 17 years with three teams. He was a fan favorite and six-time All-Star. He got his nickname from his college coach who noted Cey's slow waddling gait while running.
Despite playing for four different teams in his 18-year career, Willie McGee is known for his time with the Cardinals in the '80s. McGee was a successful contact hitter with 2,254 hits and 79 home runs. He was a four-time All-Star, NL MVP, three-time Gold Glove winner and led the Cardinals to the '82 World Series Championship.
Gibson had a long-time and successful career playing for five different teams, although his most memorable was with the Detroit Tigers. One of his career highlights came in Game 1 of the '88 World Series. when he hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run against Dennis Eckersley. The hit is considered one of the most memorable in World Series history.
After starting his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Ryne Sandberg played the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs. He was a 10-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove winner at second base and when he retired in 1997, his career .989 fielding percentage was the best at second base.
Wade Boggs is considered one of the best hitters the game has ever seen. One such example is hitting .350 in four consecutive seasons. As a career contact hitter, he won five batting titles and is one of a small group of hitters with over 3,000 hits and fewer than 160 home runs. Despite his accomplishments at the plate, he also notched an inning of pitching, tossing 16 knuckleballs and one fastball in a shutout inning against the Anaheim Angels in '97.
Vince Coleman was one of the fastest players to have played the game and holds several stolen base records. He has 752 career stolen bases. He has the most stolen bases by a rookie with 110 in 1985 and was the last player to steal over 100 stolen bases, 109 in 1987. He holds an MLB record of 50 consecutive stolen bases without being caught which happened from 1988 to 1989.
Andy Van Slyke played 13 years for four different teams. He was a three-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner and two-time Silver Slugger.
Joe Carter hit 396 career home runs and had 1,445 RBIs. He was also the first player to hit 100 RBIs for three different teams in three consecutive seasons. With that many RBIs one wonders how he played on three teams in such a short span of time.
Eddie Murray is the third player to notch 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. The other two are Hank Aaron and Willie Mays - not bad company. Murray had 3,255 hits in 3,026 games. With dozens of accomplishments throughout his career, one of the most interesting is his Major League record 128 sacrifice flies which shows his willingness to win and put his own stats aside.
In Will Clark's first Major League at-bat on April 8, 1986, he hit a home run off Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. He followed up with a home run in his first Major League at-bat at home in Candlestick Park.