This much we can count on in the 2011 baseball season -- the passing of a few good milestones, the further elevation of a few good men. Sometime in early June, if his past is any kind of prologue, shortstop Derek Jeter will stroke his 3,000th career hit, and become (and this is pretty crazy when you think about it) the first player in the gilded, 100-plus-year history of the Yankees to reach that figure. In September, Jeter's teammate, Mariano Rivera, could save his 43rd game of the season (why not? he had 44 saves in 2009) and pass Trevor Hoffman as the major leagues' all-time saves leader.
Here's Yankees GM Brian Cashman to the Journal News on Jan. 7: "I will not lose our number one draft pick. I would have for Cliff Lee. I won't lose our number one draft pick for anyone else." Well, his vow was good for six days.
With his head bowed and a barely detectable quiver in his voice, the baseball player known as the "Iron Horse" devastated the crowd at Yankee Stadium, not by hitting a home run, but by announcing that he was dying.
Soon after Paul Coskie's bicycle collided with a car, it became clear to his mother that her son would be sick for a very long time, and indeed he was. The 13-year-old boy went into a coma for a month and spent six months total in the hospital.
Where does one begin in making a list of the greatest hitters ever? Well, I put together a spreadsheet, and using my very special grading system that I only just invented, I came up with a Top 10 list of hitters. In fact, I have a Top 538 hitters -- those are the 538 hitters in baseball history who compiled more than 6,000 plate appearances. The bottom 10, in case you are curious:
Fill in answers as in a crossword -- except the answers are numbers. For rows or columns with multiple clues, enter answers consecutively. The sum will equal the red total at the end of each row/column.
At 8:23 p.m. Friday evening, No. 2 became No. 1 when for the 2,722nd time in his Hall of Fame career, Derek Jeter delivered a base hit. Yet, for the first time in his career, Derek Jeter had no idea what to do next. In a historic and unforgettable run as the Yankees shortstop and centerpiece, Jeter had been defined by his preternatural calm, his corporate cool, and his quiet confidence. But after singling sharply into right field in the third inning at Yankee Stadium to surpass Lou Gehrig as the team's all-time hits leader, for the first time in his career, those characteristics deserted him. Suddenly, he was a man alone with his moment, and over 46,000 fans were singling him out for a prolonged ovation 14 years in the making, causing Jeter to temporarily feel what must be the most foreign of emotions to him: out of place on the field where he is normally completely at ease.
Three knocks in one night, and the crowned king of Yankeeland is tied with Lou Gehrig for career hits by a Yankee and that much closer to passing Harold Baines, Al Oliver and Vada Pinson among the all-time hits leaders. These are good times for Derek Jeter.
There are at least three reasons of varying value going around for why folks shouldn't vote for Twins catcher Joe Mauer for American League MVP. But none of them should distract anyone from the fact that Mauer is having a season for the ages.
Saturday marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most stirring moments in American sports history. On July 4, 1939, beloved New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig stood before a crowd of 61,808 at Yankee Stadium. Weeks earlier, shortly after pulling himself out of the lineup for the first time since 1925, the four-time American League MVP had learned that he had the disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, an affliction of the motor neurons that causes muscle atrophy and the gradual, agonizing loss of bodily function. In the overwhelming number of cases, it is a death sentence.
"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
This Week's Diamond Digits has a heavy American League tilt, as we look at baseball's best pitcher who resides in Kansas City, a second-year player with a Lou Gehrig record in his sights, a pinstriped pair making history and a couple of Rangers who've been down on their luck.
Baseball writing cowboy Tracy Ringolsby brought up an interesting point at the winter meetings about why Rickey Henderson should get 100 percent of the Hall of Fame vote. Henderson, of course, will not get 100 percent of the vote because NOBODY gets 100 percent of the vote*. It's one of those bizarre quirks of the baseball writers' voting, bizarre because at some point there were some among the baseball writers who started to take PRIDE in the quirk, started feeling gratified by the fact that Willie Mays and Babe Ruth and Mike Schmidt and Tom Seaver and Stan Musial and Hank Aaron did not get every vote. I guess they thought (think) of themselves as guardians of the gate.
I'll never forget my first day in The House that Ruth Built: April 9, 1962, the day before opening day. I made the team that spring as a non-roster player, having pitched in the Texas League (AA) the year before. And I had just turned 23.
When Babe Ruth hit home run No. 60 on Sept. 30, 1927, he was wearing, well, nothing on his back. Jersey numbers became common after the Depression, and the Yankees didn't officially decide to wear them until Opening Day 1929.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Edgar Martinez appears on the Hall of Fame ballot after the 2009 season, Boston designated hitter David Ortiz might be watching the election results closely. Ortiz, like Martinez, was a relative late-bloomer in the majors who became a dominant hitter with no significant defensive component to his game. Neither gained full-time status early enough in the majors to accumulate traditionally "magic" lifetime numbers, such as hits, home runs and RBIs. But both men were universally respected by their peers to be among the very best pure hitters of their era.
Excerpted from CHANGE UP: An Oral History of 8 Key Events That Shaped Baseball, to be published by Rodale Books in March 2008. � 2007 by Larry Burke and Peter Thomas Fornatale with Jim Baker. Permission granted by Rodale Inc.