Hey baseball fans!
There are four particular Hall of Famers that are often known more for their resilience (sociopolitically and physically) than their abilities at playing baseball. Today, I shall attempt to correct these beliefs by talking about how Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Cal Ripken Jr., and Lou Gehrig were so great at hitting baseballs, in addition to their other accolades.
It feels fitting to talk about Robinson first, not just because Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, saw no baseball this year, but also because Robinson's achievement is the most important. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, becoming the first black player in MLB history. His number 42 was retired across baseball in 1997 to honor such an amazing feat, but I'd hate to talk about Jackie without mentioning his stats. Robinson actually won Rookie of the Year in 1947 (an award that later was named after him) and the National League MVP two years later. For his career, which was played entirely in Dodger blue, the six-time All Star batted .311 with with an average of 151 hits and 20 steals a season. He only played from 1947-1956, but was elected to the Hall in his first year of eligibility, 1962, with 77.5% of the vote.
About two months after Robinson made history in Brooklyn, it was the American League's turn to integrate. On July 5, 1947, Larry Doby became the first black player in American League history, when he pinch hit for the pitcher in the top of the seventh in an Indians-White Sox game in Chicago. Sure, he struck out during that at-bat, but Doby would go on to become one of the AL's most feared hitters of the '50s. The seven-time All Star hit 20 or more homers in eight straight seasons from 1949-1956, and came in second in the 1954 AL MVP voting to Yankees catcher Yogi Berra. Doby batted .283 during his 13-year career, making the Hall of Fame via the Veteran's Committee in 1998.
Cal Ripken, Jr.
The man who holds the record for most consecutive games played at 2,632 had all the chances in the world to be great, so thank goodness he capitalized. I'm of course kidding, but Ripken was really one of the best hitters of the last fifth of the 20th century. He made 19 straight All Star Games from 1983-2001, winning MVPs in 1983 and 1991 along the way. He collected 3,184 hits during his career, all in Baltimore, and even smacked 431 career homers out of the yard. The moment when he broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played is considered one of baseball's best moments, but never forget how grand of a shortstop Ripken was. He was, truly, the Jeter before Jeter.
And last but certainly not least, we have the greatest first baseman in baseball history. No, I don't dub him this because of his 2,130 consecutive games played record that stood for almost 60 years or the disease that is named after him. Gehrig was a machine. Sure, Ruth was better, but the Yankees don't win championships in 1927, 1932, or 1936-1938 without "Larrupin' Lou." Gehrig played for 17 years, but if you look at the 14 years in which he played more than just a handful of games in a season, he averaged 193 hits, 35 homers, and 142 RBIs a season, along with a .340 batting average! His 1.0798 career OPS is third all time, only to Ted Williams and the Bambino, while his 1,995 RBIs are seventh all time. Could you imagine if he didn't have ALS? He might've turned into the best player ever, and that's coming from a guy who thinks George Herman Ruth is the best hitter the MLB has ever seen.
Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."