Are you a real baseball fan? A true baseball fan? Don’t reply too quickly because membership in this exclusive club requires certain criteria. Can you answer yes to most of the following questions…
> Do you still have a vivid memory of that Home Run you hit in Little League?
> Does it take you back in time when you remember that first autograph from a major leaguer?
> Did you study statistics and do you still know the lifetime batting average of your favorite player?
> Is there at least one big league jersey hanging in your closet?
> Did you get your Grandson a T-shirt that says “6+4+3=2”?
> Does a 3-2 count with the bases loaded still put you on the edge of your seat?
> Is there a Bill James publication somewhere on your bookshelf?
There are dozens more on the baseball SAT, but you get the idea. This marvelous sport we love is part of the fabric of our lives. If you’re a baby boomer or a millennial, the history of the game speaks to you and you’re always ready for a baseball-themed conversation…or debate. You can probably name most of the 31 players who have reached 3,000 hits but a football fan wouldn’t know some of the 30 players with 10,000 career rushing yards if you gave them the names. If you doubt that, ask some of your Fantasy Football buddies about Thomas Jones or Corey Dillon.
So, as we celebrate the history of the game and the wonders of the 2017 season, let’s take a look at who the sport lost in the past year…
> Bobby Doerr, Red Sox 2B 1937-1951 – The heart of the BoSox for parts of three decades, he was the oldest living Hall of Fame member at age 99 when he passed away in November. Made the All-Star team in nine of ten seasons and missed his age 27 year serving in World War II.
> Jim Bunning, Tigers & Phillies P 1955-1971 – The other Hall of Famer we lost in 2017, he won 224 games and pitched over 250 innings in eight different seasons. He threw no-hitters in both leagues and later represented Kentucky in the U.S. Senate.
> Roy Halladay, Blue Jays & Phillies P 1998-2013 – Tragically lost at age 40, he was one of the most dominating hurlers for the good part of a decade. Captured two Cy Young Awards and had a lifetime record of 203-105.
> Jimmy Piersall, Red Sox & Indians OF 1950-1967 – One of the great characters of the game, he was a superb defensive player winning two Gold Gloves.
> Don Baylor, Angels DH 1970-1988 – Built like a football player, he accumulated over 2,000 Hits and 338 HR’s. The 1979 AL MVP, he led the league that season in Runs (120) and RBI’s (139).
> Lee May, Reds & Orioles 1B 1965-1982 – A middle of the lineup slugger, he made three All-Star teams, had over 2,000 Hits and powered 354 HR’s.
> Roy Sievers, Senators OF 1949-1965 – A consistent power-hitter in the 1950’s, he made four All-Star teams and won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1949. In 1957, he led the AL in HR’s (42) & RBI’s (114).
> Solly Hemus, Cardinals SS 1949-1959 – His specialty was getting on base. Led the NL in being hit by pitches in both ’52 & ’53 and had a lifetime OBP (On-Base %) of .390.
> Darren Daulton, Phillies C 1983-1997 – A stalwart behind the plate, he made three All-Star teams and led the NL with 109 RBI’s in 1992.
> Jim Landis, White Sox OF, 1957-1967 – One of the great defensive players of his era, he won five consecutive Gold Gloves in CF (1960-1964).
> Frank Lary, Tigers P 1954-1965 – The workhorse of the Bengals staff, between 1956 and 1961, he had 103 Wins & 99 Complete Games.
88 former big-leaguers died in 2017 and if you’re a real fan, you’ll remember many of them. There were guys who played in the 1940’s like Ned Garver & Sam Mele, guys who excelled at more than one sport like Gene Conley, guys with great nicknames like Todd “Which Hand Do You” Frohwirth, players who became Managers like Dallas Green & Gene Michael, guys who were defined by a famous moment like Tracy Stallard and guys with famous roommates like Bob Cerv. For me, there were also players I watched in the 1950’s like Daryl Spencer, Jim Rivera, Bob Kuzava & Dick Gernert.
They’re all part of the history because they were all in the “Show”.