Year Induction: 1966 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 282/302)
In 1941, baseball saw two of the best in the sport’s history permanently etch their names among the immortals. Beginning in May and lasting until July, Joe DiMaggio set a record for most consecutive games with a hit. Somehow, miraculously, Joltin’ Joe had gotten a hit in 56 straight games. However, as impressive as that was, in Boston, the Red Sox had a player trying to do something that hadn’t been seen since 1930. On the last day of the season, prior to a double header, Ted Williams stood with a .39955. Had he elected to sit out, it would be rounded to an even .400, giving him just the 28th season with such an average. Instead, Williams (who probably had the largest ego of all-time) decided to play both games, went 6/8, and ended with a season average of .406. While that moment was the highlight of Williams’ career, it certainly wasn’t the only reason that he got into the Hall of Fame.
Year Inducted: 1989 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 423/447)
Life isn’t always fair, is it? If a player is a right fielder in New York, no matter how great he is there is always the shadow of Babe Ruth hanging over his head. The same could be said of whoever is the catcher in Cincinnati, or the shortstop in Pittsburgh (which it was, unfortunately for Arky Vaughan). The same is true of whoever plays in left field for the Red Sox. Whoever plays there knows that, not only can they never be the best left fielder in Sox history, he can never be the best player in Sox history either, as Ted Williams has that title pretty much for eternity. Yet, when Carl Yastrzemski replaced Williams following Ted’s retirement, little could the Red Sox know that they wouldn’t miss a beat with him in the outfield.
Year Inducted: 1951 (BBWAA, ballot #7, 179/226)
Babe Ruth’s single season home run record was considered one of the most hallowed records in the entire sporting world. Not only was it thought to be untouchable, but it was seen as the zenith season, one that if someone were to surpass it would have to be the greatest season on record. But, only five years after the record was set, there was a serious challenge to it. A right handed slugger from Philadelphia hit 58 homers, and would have tied Ruth’s record had 2 additional homers not been erased due to rainouts. The event must have traumatized Jimmie Foxx because, to his dying day, he carried the two box scores around with him to prove that he did, in fact, hit 60 homers in one season.
Year Inducted: 2005 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 474/516)
The intentional walk, as an option for pitchers, is usually used to avoid giving a great hitter a mistake pitch, and just let him have first base rather than a hit. Most famously, Barry Bonds in his steroid-enhanced seasons would routinely get walked intentionally seemingly every game at least once. In 2004, Bonds was intentionally walked 120 times and he led the NL in intentional passes 12 times in his career, including in his last two seasons when he was limping around on really bad knees. Before him though, who was the major bat that was intentionally walked a lot? It wasn’t Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. It wasn’t even really a classic power hitter like Dale Murphy or Dave Kingman. No, the player most associated with the intentional pass before Bonds must be Wade Boggs, who led the AL in the stat for six consecutive years despite hitting a total of 53 homers (with 24 coming in one season).
Year Inducted: 2015 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 500/549)
Carl Hubbell in the 1934 All-Star Game may have had more fame with his outing, but it wasn’t the only dominating pitching performance. In 1999, with the Game at Fenway Park and MLB celebrating all of its living legends with the All Century Team, the National League sent up Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Matt Williams and Jeff Bagwell in the first two innings. The only player not to strike out was Williams, who reached on an error by the second baseman. What pitcher was the master behind this gem? That would be Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez.
Year Inducted: 2000 (BBWAA, ballot #2, 397/499)
The scene from Fenway Park is now iconic. 1975 World Series, Game Six, tied 6-6. Bottom of the 12th inning in a back and forth affair. The last time a run had scored, Bernie Carbo had hit an emotional tying home run off of Reds’ closer Rollie Eastwick in the 8th inning. The crowd was buzzing, hoping for a miracle to keep the Sox season alive another day. After longtime legend Carl Yastrzemski makes an out to end the 11th, and Rick Wise works some magic to keep the game tied, the Sox still have some great hitters lined up to win it in the 12th. Rookie Pat Darcy goes back to work for the Reds. First pitch was taken for a ball. The next pitch is rifled deep down the left field line, and Carlton Fisk’s name is now etched in playoff lore forever. That moment may define Fisk’s career, but shouldn’t overshadow how awesome he was.
Year Inducted: 1956 (BBWAA, ballot #10, 152/193)
Many players go from the field to a coaching position after retirement, with a lot even becoming managers for their former teams. Some will become big parts of the minor leagues, which can be seen with a lot of the older players. Very few go from the field to the front office, at least successfully. Even fewer still become President of the League and very nearly become Commissioner. That number would be exactly one: Boston shortstop Joe Cronin.