Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My NL All-Star Team - 1951-2000

I realize I am opening myself up for criticism, chastisement, name-calling, and various and sundry forms of debauchery, but here goes.

This article delves into the second half of the 20th century. I am selecting my All-Star team for the National League from 1951-2000.

Being fully aware this is highly speculative and probably will reflect bias of some sort, I give to you my National League Second Half of the Twentieth Century All-Star Team.

I am old. Keep that in mind. When I was a kid, TV was run by Gas, and rainbows were still in black and white. Therefore, if it is a tossup between the first 25 years and the last 25, you know who I'm picking.

Catcher - Johnny Bench - Cincinnati Reds

Johnny Bench ruled his position in the National League from 1968-1980 being selected to the All-Star team each year.

He hit 389 home runs, knocked in 1376, and had a career average of .267.

These are not Hall-of-Fame numbers, I agree. However, I guess the writers have different standards for different positions. How else could Bill Mazeroski be in there?

Johnny also added 10 consecutive Gold Gloves to his trophy case. He was elected to the Hall-of-Fame in 1989.

First Baseman - Stan Musial - St. Louis Cardinals

Stan Musial played outfield and first base. Since there were many more great outfielders of this era than first basemen, I thought I'd put "The Man" at first to leave the outfield open for others.

Stan was my father's favorite player, period.

He had a lifetime batting average of .331. His 3630 hits are 4th on the all-time list. His 6134 total bases are 2nd only behind Hank Aaron.

He was the National League MVP three times.

Musial should be on anyone's all-anything all-star team. He also played on 24 All-Star teams, an all- time high.

Musial was elected into the Hall-of-Fame in 1969.

Second Baseman - Pete Rose - Cincinnati Reds

If you have read anything I've ever written, you knew Pete Rose would be on this team somewhere. The beauty of Pete's career is that he played almost everywhere.

I decided to put him in his initial spot at second.

I know the name itself starts arguments, creates fistfights, and makes friends, enemies. But say what you will about the man, you cannot knock him as a ballplayer.

Everyone knows he is the all-time hits leader with 4256. His lifetime average was .303, which plummeted because he didn't have the sense to quit when he should have.

He batted .300 or higher 15 times. He had over 200 hits 10 times and scored 100 runs 10 times.

Charley Hustle was one of the best ever. Show the love people.

Third Baseman - Mike Schmidt - Philadelphia Phillies

Boy, it was tough putting Schmidt over Eddie Mathews and Ron Santo. It was gut-wrenching I tell you.

Schmidt hit 548 home runs, had 1507 RBI, and scored 1506 runs. He was the National League MVP in 1980, '81, and '86. He was voted to 12 All-Star teams and won 10 Gold Gloves.

If they ever make a movie of Mike's life, Chuck Norris has to play him.

Mike was elected into the Hall-of-Fame in 1995.

Shortstop - Ernie Banks - Chicago Cubs

Ernie Banks is probably the most clear cut position player on the team. I mean, who else you goin' to, Dick Groat?

Ernie is as much noted for his saying 'Let's play two' as he is for his batting prowess.

Banks hit 512 home runs, knocked in 1636, and had a lifetime average of .274.

Ernie played from 1953 to 1971 and was on 14 All-Star teams (some of them were seasons when they played two All-Star games). He was the National League MVP twice and led the league in home runs twice.

Ernie was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Left Fielder - Frank Robinson - Cincinnati Reds

Frank Robinson was one of the best players who ever played the game and is perhaps the most underrated. You hear about Mays, you hear about Aaron, you hear about Clemente and Musial. Where is the love for Robby?

He was the National League Rookie-of-the-Year in 1956. The man won the MVP award in the American and National Leagues and is the only player to do so.

He is also one of eight players to win the triple crown award, which he accomplished in 1966 with the Orioles.

His career totals are 586 homers, 1812 RBI, scored 1829 times, had 2943 hits, and a career average of .294

He played the "terrace" in Crosley Field better than any outfielder I ever saw.

Frank was voted into the Hall-of-Fame in 1982.

Center Fielder - Willie Mays - San Francisco Giants

Willie Mays is the best center fielder who ever played. Don't argue with me. Ty Cobb was great, but Mays was one in a lifetime.

He hit 660 home runs, had 1903 RBI, batted .302, and had 3283 hits.

Willie played from 1951-1973. He won the Rookie-of-the-Year in 1951 and also won two National League MVP awards.

He appeared in 24 All-Star games, won 12 Golden Gloves, and batted over .300 on 10 occasions.

Mays was voted into the Hall-of-Fame in 1979.

Right Fielder - Hank Aaron - Milwaukee Braves

Hank Aaron played from 1954 till 1976.

He is the true All-Time Home Run leader, whether he wants to admit it or not.

Hank blasted 755 home runs, 2297 RBI, 3771 hits, a career average of .305, and appeared in 24 All-Star games.

He won the National League MVP award in 1957, and was voted to the Hall-of-Fame in 1982.

Outfielder Emeritus - Roberto Clemente - Pittsburgh Pirates

Roberto Clemente could not be left off a team like this, so I had to invent a position (Honorary Fielder).

He played from 1955-1972. He hit 240 homers, knocked in 1305, and had 3000 hits.

Roberto was voted to 15 All-Star teams, won 12 Gold Gloves, and was the National League MVP in 1966.

Clemente was elected to the Hall-of-Fame in 1973, one year after his tragic death.

RHP - Bob Gibson - St. Louis Cardinals

It was a tough decision coming up with the best right-handed pitcher of the last half of the 20th century. Many to choose from: Marichal, Drysdale, Feller, Early Wynn, Ferguson Jenkins, Seaver,.....the list goes on and on. I thought about Greg Maddux who would have won had I gone with wins exclusively.

There was more to look at however. Greg only won 20 one time. Gibson did it 5 times. Hell, for that matter Ferguson Jenkins won 20 seven times.

Gibson had one of the best seasons ever in 1968 when he won 22 games and posted a scary 1.12 ERA. His WHIP that year was an amazing 0.85

Bob played from 1959—1975 and won 251 games. He finished with a career ERA of 2.91.

He was voted to nine All-Star teams. He was 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in World Series games, with 92 strikeouts in 81 innings.

Bob was elected to the Hall-of-Fame in 1981.

LHP - Warren Spahn - Milwaukee Braves

I know, I know. Koufax could pitch rings around him, blah, blah, blah. Listen, Koufax only won 165 games in his career. He only won 20 games three times.

When you look at their whole body of work (I hate when people say that) you can see that Spahn was spectacular. He was a 20-game winner 13 times. Did you read that right? 13 times. How incredible is that?

Spahn is 5th on the all-time wins list with 363. He finished with a career ERA of 3.09. He is 6th on the all-time list in shutouts with 63.

Warren pitched from 1942-1965. He was voted to 17 All-Star teams. He won the Cy Young Award in 1957 while they were awarding only one pitcher in the Major Leagues.

Spahn still holds the National League record for career home runs hit by a pitcher at 35.

He was voted into the Hall-of-Fame in 1973.

© 2009 Clifton Eastham. All Rights Reserved.

New Age Pitching

I want to talk for a couple minutes about the way pitchers are used now as opposed to the '60s and before.

Today, it is not impossible to see four pitchers combine on a one-hit shutout. Did you read what I just wrote? Four men on a one-hitter.

With the exception of Roy Halladay, hardly anybody pitches complete games anymore, let alone a shutout. Pitchers are treated like God's gift to the baseball world.

There are some exceptions to New Age Pitching. A few horses still exist in the major leagues (e.g. Brandon Webb, Aaron Harang, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Zombrano and the aforementioned Halladay).

If the pitch count gets up to 100, everybody starts looking to the bullpen. I'm not even sure that in the '60s anybody but the pitching coach knew how many pitches had been thrown. It's borderline madness!

Tommy John threw 46 shutouts in his career. At the rate players are going now, if a pitcher gets two or three in his career it's news.

Relief pitching is the ruination of starting pitchers stats. I mean how can “Dice K” finish a game when John Papelbon is chomping at the bit in the bullpen?

Andy Pettitte can't get a complete game because if he is getting clobbered, he leaves early. If he is ahead in the ninth, they will just throw Rivera in to sew it up (hopefully).

Sandy Koufax pitched over 300 innings in a single season three times. CC Sabathia averaged 193 innings from 2003- 2006.

It is a reliever's world. In 1959 Roy Face was spectacular. I was just a child then but he was the only actual reliever I knew of. He won 18 games with his famous fork ball.

In 2006, in the National League there wasn't a 20-game winner. In fact several pitchers tied for the league lead with 16.

In 2007, Jake Peavy won the Cy Young award with only 19 wins. How pitiful is that? Why is that?

It could be because starters get pulled out with a two-run lead while still throwing good stuff, however they may have thrown 116 pitches. Heaven forbid! A reliever comes in, not only blows the save, but loses the game for him. That’s New Age Pitching for you.

© 2008. Clifton Eastham. All Rights Reserved.

Ozzie Smith or Alan Trammell?

I hadn’t really given any thought to the comparison of these two until a few days ago.

I had just published my "shortstops" edition in my series, The Top 10 Eligible—Not In The Hall of Fame, when I began to read comments about the article.

One commentator said that Oz’ Hall of Fame entry was a racially motivated move. Another commentator staunchly rebutted that claim, and then the arguments concerning statistics ensued.

Of course the baseball world is familiar with Ozzie Smith, yet not quite so knowledgeable about Alan Trammell.

In my own humble opinion, I take Trammell as the better “complete” player.

The public seems to see Smith’s defensive prowess through rose colored glasses. Maybe it was the back flips?

I recently completed an article I was assigned by Bleacher Report, naming the best 10 Double Play Combos in history.

To my surprise Trammell and teammate Lou Whitaker won the competition. Ozzie Smith, with his partner Tommy Herr came in third, behind the winners and Luis Aparicio/Nellie Fox.

Smith has Trammell beat on FLD% with .978 to .977. Pretty slim margin, don’t you think? Okay, that one is pretty much a wash. Check out these other defensive statistics:

DP/YR Gold Gloves Silver Sluggers All Star Teams

Smith 84 13 1 15

Trammell 66 4 3 6

Advantage Ozzie Smith.

Now let us look at the offensive numbers:


Smith .262 .337 87 2 155 79 73 194 11 37

Trammell .285 .352 110 13 167 87 89 243 11 17

Advantage Alan Trammell.

So what is your poison? Do you like offense or defense? Speed or power? Finesse or consistency?

Trammell won an All-star game Most Valuable Player Award in 1984.

In MVP Career Shares, Trammell ranks 186 with 1.22 while Smith ranks 349 with only 0.65.

It is obvious at least to me, that Ozzie was voted in because of his glove. I am sure some would throw out various and sundry numbers about how many runs Smith saved per year, how graceful he was, how fluid and effortless he performed.

Others would counter with how much more power Trammell had or how much better he was at getting on base and scoring runs.

The fact of the matter is that both of these magnificent shortstops belong in the Hall of Fame and that Trammell will be voted in soon.

This debate will rage for ages, even after Trammell is inducted.

It is a good debate, sparking lively conversations, a little name calling, and maybe even a couple of invites out to the alley.

This question is as timeless as Williams vs. DiMaggio, Mays vs. Mantle, Ruth vs. Aaron.

It will never be settled, there will never be a clear-cut winner, as long as there are sports fans who like a little debate with their imbibing.

©2008 Clifton Eastham. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Orioles' All-Franchise Team

Welcome to my latest project! I am endeavoring to formulate the All-Time team in each franchise's history.

A few parameters need to be established prior to beginning:

First, no player will appear on more than one team. It is my sole decision as to which franchise to place a multi-team player.

For example, even though Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown with the Baltimore Orioles, he spent more time and had higher numbers with the Cincinnati Reds. Plus, I am still pissed at the GM for trading him to Baltimore for Milt Pappas. But, I digress.

Secondly, the player must have been with the franchise for a minimum of five years.

Tenure is not the only criterion I will be using in placing a player within a franchise. His statistics could be higher in the other team's structure, or he may have earned more awards, etc.

Third, this is also not just a "popularity" list, or my "favorite Orioles" list. It is based on statistics, longevity, and performance.

Fourth, The Orioles are actually descendants of the St. Louis Browns, however I will also be doing an installment on the Browns. Therefore, the Oriole's franchise just trails back to 1954.

Here is the Orioles Franchise All Time Team.

C - Gus Triandos (1955-62)

See what I mean about not picking the favorites? I am sure many Orioles fans have never heard of Triandos.

Triandos was a powerful, slow, strong-armed catcher. He became an Oriole in 1954 in a 17 player mega trade, and was the Orioles everyday backstop.

He tied the (then) record for catchers in the American League by hitting 30 HRs in 1958.

As an Oriole, Gus was named to four All Star teams. He is the owner of an obscure MLB record; he went 1,206 consecutive games without getting caught stealing as he stole only one base.

With the Phillies he caught Jim Bunning's perfect game.

C - Eddie Murray (1977-88; 96)

Eddie Murray was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. He was the American League

Rookie of the Year in 1977 and was an eight-time All Star. He was also in two World Series with the Orioles.

He won three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers.

In a six-year span from 1980-85, Murray averaged .303 with 33

HR and 119 RBI.

2B - Davey Johnson (1965-72)

Davey Johnson was not an incredible baseball player. He was however, the best second base

man the Orioles have to offer. His in

credible power display of 1973 would

surely qualify for a Freak Year Award.

All negativity aside, Johnson was a steady, consistent player.

3B—Brooks Robinson (1955-77)

Brooks Robinson played with the Orioles his entire career.

Arguably one of the best defensive players at any position, he was known more for his leather than his lumber.

He won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves, an MVP Award, was on 18 All

Star teams and was in three World


SS—Cal Ripken, Jr. (1981-2001)

Cal Ripken was nothing if not dependable. His surpassing Lou Gehrig for most consecutive games played is one that will never be beaten. Charlie Horses, hangnails, and sore thumbs sideline players today, while Gehrig or Ripken would have rubbed some dirt on it.

He won a Rookie of the Year Award, two MVPs, two Gold Gloves, eight Silver Sluggers, was on 19 All Star teams and was in one World Series.

LF—Brady Anderson (1988-2001)

Anderson's 50 HR in 1996 makes him legendary. However he did it, he did it and it counts. Over 162-game season averages he hit 19 HR and batted .256.

He was a three-time All Star and led the American League in extra-base hits in 1996.

CF—Paul Blair (1964-76)

Paul Blair was a great outfielder, defensively. He had the best range of just about any outfielder I ever saw.

He won eight Gold Gloves, was on two All Star teams and was in four World Series with the Orioles.

RF—Ken Singleton (1975-84)

Singleton averaged .284

with 20 HR and 86 RBI while with the Orioles.

He won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1982, was a three-time All Star and played in three World Series.

DH—John "Boog" Powell

Powell is third on the Oriole's All Time HR list with 303.

He was the American League MVP in 1970, hit 30+ HR four times, and drove in over 100 runs three times.

Powell was named to four All Star teams and played in four World Series.

Starter—Jim Palmer (1965-84)

Jim Palmer was the best pitcher the Oriole's franchise has known.

He won three Cy Young Awards, came in second twice and third once.

He won 20+ games eight times, and led the league three times. Twice he led the league in ERA and once inERA+.

He pitched over 300 innings four times. He won four Gold Gloves, was an All Star six times, and was in five World Series.

Starter—Mike Cuellar (1969-76)

Mike Cuellar won one Cy Young Award. He won 20+ games four times, and led the league once.

He pitched over 20 complete games three times and led the league once.

He was a four-time All Star and was in three World Series.

Starter - Dave McNally (1962-74)

Dave McNally finished second in Cy Young Award voting in 1970 when he led the American League with 24 wins.

He won 20+ games four consecutive

seasons and pitched over 250 innings five times.

McNally was a three-time All Star and pitched in four World Series where he was 4-2 with a 2.34 ERA.

He along with Palmer, Cuellar and Pat Dobson formed a four-man rotation of 20-game winners in 1971.

Starter—Mike Mussina (1991-2000)

Mike Mussina ranks behind only Palmer and McNally in franchise

career wins with 147.

Although he never won 20 games in a season for the Orioles, he averaged 17 per 162-game season.

He led the league in wins with 19 in 1995. He was runner-up one time in Cy Young Award voting.

Starter—Scott McGregor (1976-88)

McGregor was a 20 game winner in 1980

He is sixth on the All Time Orioles franchise career wins.

He was named to the 1981 All Star team, and was in two World Series where he was 2-2 with a 2.12 ERA.

Setup—Tippy Martinez (1976-86)

Tippy Martinez was 52-40 with 105 saves for the Orioles. He had a 3.46 ERA while at Baltimore.

He was named to the 1983 All Star team and was in the 1979 World Series.

Closer—Gregg Olson (1988-93)

Olson was 16-21 with 160 saves for the Oriole franchise.

He was named to one All Star team and is the Oriole career leader in saves.

© 2009 Clifton Eastham. All Rights Reserved.

If Rip van Winkle would have fallen asleep in Cincinnati about three years ago, he would wake up, look at the roster and say, "How long have I been out?"

About the only names he would recognize would be Brandon Phillips, Aaron Harang, and Bronson Arroyo. He may remember Edwin Encarnacion and perhaps David Weathers, but the others would having him rubbing his eyes for hours.

Where is Griffey, Dunn, Kearns, he may ask?

He would shake his head in amazement that there are only three guys with double home run figures at the All-Star break. The highest batting average (with enough PA's) is 47th on the National League list, in the person of Phillips at .269.

"What happened to Eric "No-No" Milton?"

Then he looked on the top step of the dugout and declared, "The last time I saw Dusty Baker sucking on a toothpick he was in Chicago."

Poor, poor, simple, out-of-the-loop Mr. van Winkle.

Doesn't he know that youth is the driving force of tomorrow? As My Cousin Vinny would call them, "Utes" are tomorrow's Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, and Walter Johnson. I mean, at some point, hardly anybody heard of those guys either.

In a gesture of kindness and doing my best not to condescend, I say to the good man, "See No. 19 over there? His name is Joey Votto. He is the man who will take us to the Promised Land."

We walk on over to the dugout and I point to Jay Bruce. "See the guy with the splint on his wrist? Bruce is his name. He has the potential to be the next Mickey Mantle. Heaven knows he already has the strikeouts down pat."

"Now look at those two over there. The guy with his hat all crooked, Edinson Volquez is the name. And the guy with him is Johnny Cuetto. Those two have the talent to become the next Maddox and Smoltz. I don't know if Dick Pole has what it takes to bring them to fruition, but time will tell."

We walk along, me eating Gold Star Chili and he stroking his beard. I thought I would tell him what the philosophy is now. "You see Mister, we don't care about today, we don't care about tomorrow. Hell, we don't even care about the rest of this year. We are concerned about our future. That's what happened to Adam Dunn and Junior, our pockets aren't deep enough to keep guys like that."

He and I continue to make our cursory trip around the ballpark, talking about the old days and how the game has changed now, for the worse, he assured me.

"See the guy behind the dugout talking to the two players? The one who looks like Rip Torn, yeah that's him. His name is Jocketty. Good man, he knows how to build a team. We got him from St. Louis, the man's a baseball architect. When he builds 'em they stay built. Look at the Cards right now," I said, knowing the truth but denying the power thereof.

After picking some weeds from his tattered suit, he looks me dead in the eye and says, "Son, what are they gonna do if that don't work? Look at the Pirates."

I almost choked on the chili and thought about Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Oliver Perez, and Nate McLouth.

"You know, I think I might go home and take a real, long nap and see how it looks when I wake up"

© 2009 Clifton Eastham. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's In a Number? Greatness, If It Is No. 5

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What is the importance of a number on a baseball jersey? How long have they been wearing numbers?

All teams began wearing numbers on their jerseys in 1937 though some wore them inconsistently prior to that.

In 1929, the Yankees started wearing numbers on their jerseys. Their numbers corresponded to their place in the batting order. In other words Babe Ruth batted third, therefore he was No. 3. Lou Gehrig batted fourth so he wore No. 4.

Today, it is quite fashionable for young guys to emulate their favorite player by wearing his number on their little league uniforms. I wore No. 7 for Mickey Mantle in my youngest years, then as an adult player in a softball league I switched over to No. 25 to honor Tommy John.

Many people feel a certain number is the best, if not the luckiest for them to wear on their uniforms. An hour or two of research brought me the knowledge that No. 4 was the most used number for members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion and I must say that No. 5 is probably the most well represented number past and present.

Basically the No. 5 jumped into prominence when Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio began wearing it for the New York Yankees in 1937 (In his rookie year Joe wore No. 9). He was followed by other great players who have made their marks in history, the record books and in our hearts as fans.

Let’s take a look at the greatest players who wore No. 5 and the ones who are still wearing it.


In the beginning, there was Joe.

Joseph Paul DiMaggio, Jr. began wearing No. 5 for the New York Yankees at the beginning of the 1937 season.

During his rookie season of 1936 Joe wore the No. 9. The Rookie of the Year Award was not presented prior to 1947 or Joe would have won it. He batted .323 with 29 HR and 125 RBI, 206 hits and scored 132 runs.

His best year was in 1937. He was runner-up in MVP voting and why he didn’t win it I cannot understand. Joe batted .346 with a league best 46 HR and 167 RBI. He had 215 hits and scored a league high 151 runs, with an OPS+ of 168.

Charlie Gehringer won the MVP trophy that year with a .371 batting average. He hit only 14 HR and drove in only 96 runs.

During a career that lasted only 13 seasons Joe batted .325 with 361 HR and 1537 RBI. He also had 2214 hits and scored 1390 runs.

He batted over .300 11 times, hit over 30 HR seven times and drove in over 100 runs nine times. He collected over 200 hits twice and scored over 100 runs eight times. Joe had two batting titles, two HR titles and two RBI titles.

He holds the Major League record for hitting in 56 consecutive games during the 1941 campaign.

DiMaggio won three Most Valuable Player Awards, and was named to 13 All-star teams.

Joe appeared in 10 World Series with the New York Yankees and batted .271 with 8 HR and 30 RBI, in 51 games.

He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.

DiMaggio began a string of No. 5 players who continued to play with spirit, enthusiasm and greatness.


Hank actually preceded Joe by about three years as he donned that number in 1934. He actually began his career in 1930 sans a number and had number seven on his back in 1931.

He played from 1930 (he actually only had one plate appearance, and didn’t play in the Major Leagues again until 1933) until 1947. Of course, there was time missing as he did his time during the Second World War.

He missed the entire ’42, ’43 and ’44 seasons at the prime of his career.

As with Ted Williams and some of the other greats, we tend to wonder what type numbers he could have put up if he hadn’t taken a hiatus to honor his obligation to Uncle Sugar.

Greenberg won two Most Valuable Player Awards in the American League, in 1935 and 1940. Neither, however was his best work. That was accomplished in 1937 when he finished third in the MVP voting.

In that year Hank batted .337, hit 40 HR, a league best 183 RBI (which is still third all time), had 200 hits and scored 137 runs.

His OPS+ was an outrageous 172. That was the season I alluded to earlier when Gehringer won the MVP with a “third rate” plateful of numbers. Joltin’ Joe came in second.

In his 13 seasons, Hank batted over .300 nine times, hit 30 or more HR six times, three of those for 40 or more and one with 58. He also knocked in over 100 runs seven times, collected over 200 base hits three times and scored over 100 runs six times.

Hank was named to six All-star teams and played in four World Series, where he batted .318 with 5 HR and 22 RBI in only 23 games.

Greenberg was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1956.


Lou Boudreau played from 1938 to 1952 with no breaks for the war effort. He played all but the last two with the Cleveland Indians before being moved to the Boston Red Sox.

When he came up in ’38 he wore number 34 and for the rest of his tenure in Cleveland he was No. 5.

In 1948 Lou won the Most Valuable Player award in the American League. He batted .355 with 18 HR and 106 RBI, with 199 hits and scored 116 runs.

Boudreau won the batting title in 1944 with a .327 average. He batted over .300 four times, had over 100 RBI twice and was named to eight All-star teams. Lou played in the 1948 World Series with the Indians where h

e batted .273 in six games.

Lou was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Known for his sterling defensive work at the hot corner more than swinging a heavy stick, Brooks Robinson began wearing number 5 in 1957. In 1955 he wore No. 40, in 1956 he was No. 6, and began the 1958 season with number 34 before changing to No. 5.


Brooks was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1964 when he hit .317; 28 HR and a league best 118 RBI. He also finished second in the MVP voting once, was third two times and finished fourth another time.

Robinson won 18 consecutive Gold Glove Awards and was named to 18 All-star teams (some were seasons featuring two games) and played in four World Series with the Baltimore Orioles batting .263 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in 21 games.

He played his entire 23 year career with the Orioles and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.


Johnny’s career overlapped with Robinson’s but he carried on the tradition of greatness from 1967 to 1983, all with the Cincinnati Reds.

He came up in ’67 but didn’t play enough to forfeit his qualification as a rookie in 1968, when he was voted the National League Rookie of the Year.

Bench won the first of two Most Valuable Player Awards in 1970 when he led the league in HR with 45 and RBI with 148. He did the same in 1972 when he won the award hitting a league best 40 HR and 125 RBI.

Johnny hit over 20 HR 11 times and knocked in over 100 runs six times. I

n 1975 he won the Lou Gehrig M

emorial Award and in 1976 the Babe Ruth Award, the same year he won the MVP in the World Series. In 1981 Bench won the Hutch Award.

He won 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards and was named to 14 All-star teams. An integral part of the “Big Red Machine”, he played in four World Series with the Reds, batting .279 with 5 HR and 14 RBI in 23 games.

Bench was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989.


George played his 21 year career with the Royals in Kansas City. He started out being number 25 in 1973 but changed to 5 in 1975 and stayed with it throughout his career.

Brett won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1980, batting an incredible, league best

.390, with 24 HR and 118 RBI. He also finished runner-up in MVP voting twice and third one time.

George won three batting titles and led the league in hits three times. He batted over .300 11 times, hit over 20 HR eight times and knocked in 100 runs or more on four occasions.

In 1980 George won the Hutch Award. In 1985 he was the MVP of the American League Championship Series and in 1986 won the Lou Gehrig Award.

Brett won one Gold Glove Award, three Silver Slugger Awards and was elected to 13 consecutive All-star teams. He also played in two World Series with the Royals batting .373 with 1 HR and 4 RBI in 13 games.

George was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999.


Nomar has worn No. 5 since he came up with the Boston Red Sox in 1996. Other than part of a season with the Cubs in ’04 (No. 8) he has always worn the No. 5.

Garciaparra hit the ground running in 1997 as he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award with a .306 average and 30 HR, along with a league best 209 hits.

He has batted over .300 nine times, leading the league twice, with averages of .357 and .372. He has hit over 20 HR seven times

and knocked in over 100 runs four times. He also scored over 100 runs six times.

Nomar won one Silver Slugger Award and was named to six All-star teams.

He looked destined for a Hall of Fame spot until after the 2004 season when he became injury prone and has never been the same.


Albert Pujols began his career in 2001, proudly wearing number 5 and being voted Rookie of the Year in the National League. He batted .329 with 37 HR and 130 RBI. He also got 194 hits and scored 112 runs.

It was easy to see at the beginning that Albert was a special player. He won MVP Awards in 2005 and 2008, was runner-up three times and was number three in voting once.

Pujols best year was 2003 when he batted a league best .359, hit 43 HR with 124 RBI, a league best 212 hits and scored a league best 137 and still didn’t win the MVP award.

Albert has batted at least .314 in every season he has played. He has hit at least 32 HR, and driven in over 100 every year.

In 2003 he won the Hank Aaron Award; in

2004 he was MVP of the National League Championship Series; in 2008 he was Major League Player of the Year and also won the Roberto Clemente Award.

Albert has won one Gold Glove Award, four Silver Slugger Awards, been named to seven All-star teams and played in two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, whom he has spent his entire career with thus far.

Albert is arguably the best player in the game at this point, and his future looks absolutely sparkling.


Matt entered the Major Leagues in 2004 with the Colorado Rockies and chose the No. 5.

After two so-so seasons Matt turned up the heat in 2006, batting .326 with 34 HR and 114 RBI. He also collected 196 hits and scored 119 runs.

In 2007, I felt Holliday should have been voted the National League Most Valuable Player. He was not however, as that prestige fell into the hands of Philadelphia’s Jimmie Rollins.

That year Matt batted a league leading .340, hit 36 HR and knocked in a league best 137, got a league leading 216 hits and scored 120 runs.

After his numbers fell a little in 2008, Holliday was traded to the Oakland Athletics.

He won the 2007 National League Championship Series’ MVP Award. He has won three Silver Slugger Awards and was named to three All-star teams. He was in the 2007 World Series and batted .294 with 1 HR and 3 RBI in four games.


David came up with the New York Mets in 2004 playing in only 69 games and batting .293 with 14 HR and 40 RBI.

He has batted over .300 each year since and has hit over 20 HR four times. He has also knocked in over 100 runs four times, and scored over 100 twice.

He is viewed by many to be one of the most valuable franchise players in MLB. He has already won two Gold Glove Awards, two Silver Slugger Awards and has been named to three All-star games.

So, from Hank Greenberg in 1930, the greatness of players wearing No. 5 has passed hands to Joe DiMaggio, then to fellow Hall of Famers Lou Boudreau, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench and George Brett.

Then the torch was passed to perhaps future Hall of Famers in Nomar Garciaparra, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and David Wright.

What is in a number? When it is No. 5, greatness.

© 2009 Clifton Eastham. All Rights Reserved.