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Feature: The Glory of Their Times

Feature: The Glory of Their Times
September 30
09:09 2022

By John Christian Hopkins

With the curtain slowly coming down on the 2022 baseball season, we can sit back and enjoy what a historic year it was.

The 700-home run club added its fourth member as St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols joined Barry Bonds (763), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).

The New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge has tied the American League record for homers in a season, tying Roger Maris’ 61 – with several games left to try and set a new high. Not content with just being a home-run king, Judge is currently leading in all three Triple Crown categories – batting average, home-runs, and runs batted in.

That would usually led to a unanimous MVP award, but 2022 is historic in other ways.

Shohei Otani, of the Angels, is not only among the league’s top hitters this year – but he also one of its best pitchers. His double-duty excellence has even outpaced the legendary exploits of Babe Ruth!

Alas, sometimes the shine of superstardom dulls over the decades. Here are a few baseball legends who seldom get mentioned today, but were giants in their own times:

“Shoeless Joe” Jackson: Joseph Jefferson Jackson could not read or write – but he could hit a baseball. In his rookie year of 1911, Jackson batted .408 – second only to Ty Cobb that year. His career .356 batting average is the third best of all-time. He was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career when things fell apart. In 1920 “Shoeless Joe” was one of eight Chicago White Sox players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. Though the players were acquitted at trial, baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned them all for life.

“Kid” Nichols: Charles Augustus “Kid” Nichols began his baseball career in 1890 as a pitcher for the Boston Braves. One contemporary was fellow rookie Denton “Cy” Young. In 1890 Nichols won 27 games! (Young won 9 games).

Between 1890 and 1898 Nichols won 30 games 7 times, and 27 games twice. By comparison, Young won 30 games only three times in that same span. But the Kid’s arm gave out and he managed 20 wins only twice between 1899 and 1906. Still he finished with an impressive 362 wins. Young went on the win a record 511 games. His career ended in 1911.

Rogers Hornsby: His .358 career batting average is the second best all-time and the highest for a right-handed hitter. Over a five-year span in the early 1920s, Hornsby averaged over .400! He remains the only player to hit over .400 and hit 40 homers in the same year.

“Cap” Anson: Adrian “Cap” Anson is a name that is seldom heard today, but he was without doubt the greatest baseball player of his generation. He was the first player ever reach 3,000 career hits. He led the league in runs batted in 8 times, and won four batting titles. (He hit .415 1872 and .398 in 1873 without winning batting crowns!) His career average was .334.

If he’s remembered today, it’s mostly for being the main reason black people were banned from baseball. He refused to take the field against black players.

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