The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is, perhaps, a shrine to the most venerated players who have ever played or managed Major League baseball since the inception of the HOF in 1936. Although today this includes players from the Negro Leagues, women players who took over the mantle of baseball during WWII, owners and commissioners.
Many of the players that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame have been someone’s hero or idol when they were kids. Which makes it all the more poignant when one of those idols passes away, let alone ten in a twelve-month period.
As a Brit, I have not been among those fans who have idolised their childhood baseball hero, it wasn’t shown in the UK back then. Now, however, I have an inkling of what it may have felt like. It wasn’t until the late nineties that I found out that the Hall of Fame even existed or even understood what it meant to baseball fans.
The loss of these ten Hall of Famers in such a short period of time has saddened many lifelong baseball fans, but we can still remember them for what they were, legends of baseball. Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro, Tommy Lasorda, Don Sutton and Hank Aaron, names that nearly every baseball fan has heard of.
Right Fielder, 1st Baseman
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1980
“What gets me upset about with the newer players is their lack of intensity. They tend to go through the motions a little bit. They don’t understand that you’ve got to practice the way you play.” – Al Kaline
Born Albert William Kaline, December 19th 1934. Al Kaline was drafted directly to the Majors from high school by the Detroit Tigers as a right fielder. He spent 22 years with the Tigers, his number, 6, has been retired by the Tigers. Kaline is a member of the 3000 hits club, has appeared in 18 All-Star Games, was a member of the 1968 World Series winning Tigers team and has received 10 Gold Glove awards.
Al Kaline passed away peacefully in his home on April 6th 2020, he was 85 years old.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1992
“The good rising fastball is the best pitch in baseball.” – Tom Seaver
Born George Thomas Seaver, November 11, 1944. Seaver signed with the New York Mets in 1966 as a starting pitcher. Seaver was a 20 veteran by the time he retired at the end of the 1986 season. Tom Seaver played for the majority of his career with the Mets, but he also spent time playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. Seaver was on the 1969 World Series Mets team, has been award the Cy Young Award 3 times, has appeared in 12 All-Star Games, was the rookie of the year in 1967, among many other awards and accolades. His number, 41, has been retired by the New York Mets.
Tom Seaver passed away in his sleep on August 31st 2020, at the age of 75.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1985
“You can’t be afraid to make errors! You can’t be afraid to be naked before the crowd, because no one can ever master the game of baseball, or conquer it. You can only challenge it.” – Lou Brock
Louis Clark Brock was born on June 18th 1939. Brock initially signed with the Chicago Cubs but spent most of his 19-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals. His 16 years with the Cardinals saw him win 2 World Series, in 1964 and 1967. He appeared in 6 All-Star games, was the National League stolen base leader in 8 seasons and won the 1975 Roberto Clemente Award. Like Al Kaline, Brock is also a member of the 3000 hits club. The Cardinals retired Brocks jersey number 20.
Lou Brock died at the age of 81 on September 6th 2020.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1981
“A curveball is not something you can pick up overnight. It took me years to perfect mine.” – Bob Gibson
Born Pack Robert Gibson on November 9th 1935. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched his first game in the 1959 season. Gibson was one of the most feared pitchers of his time. Bob Gibson was part the 1964 and 1967 World Series winning teams and has won many awards and accolades, including 2 World Series MVPs, 2 Cy Young Awards and 9 Gold Glove Awards, he also appeared in 9 All-Star Games. His jersey number, 45, like Brock’s, has been retired by the St. Louis Cardinals. Gibson retired at the end of the 1975 season.
He passed away on October 2nd 2020, at the age of 84.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1974
“You would be amazed how many important outs you can get by working the count down to where the hitter is sure you’re going to throw to his weakness, and then throw to his power instead.” – Whitey Ford
Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford was born on October 21st 1928. Ford was drafted by the Yankees as a free agent in 1947 and played his whole careers with the New York team, he did miss 2 seasons while serving with the military in 1951 and 1952. Whitey Ford was the member of six New York Yankee World Series winning teams, he received the MVP for the WS in 1961 and he also received the Cy Young Award for the same year. He appeared in 10 All-Star games and his number, 16, has been retired by the Yankee organisation.
White Ford died at home surround by family on October 8th 2020, he was 91 years of age.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1990
“It’s not just the home runs, but stamina, the way the game is played. Little things don’t matter – speed, stealing bases.” – Joe Morgan
Born Joe Leonard Morgan on September 19th 1943, he was drafted by the Houston Colt 45.s as a free agent in 1962. Although he spent the first ten seasons with Houston, he is more remembered for his eight years with the Cincinnati Reds. It was here that his career blossomed, winning 2 World Series, receiving a Silver Slugger Award, 5 Gold Glove Awards and 2 NL MVP Awards, he also appeared in 10 All-Star games 2 with Houston and 8 with Cincinnati. His jersey number, 8, was retired by the Reds in 1987.
Joe Morgan passed away at his home on October 11th 2020, aged 77.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1997
“There aren’t many hitters who like facing knuckleball pitchers. They may not be intimidated by them, but they sure are thinking about them before they go into the box” – Phil Niekro
Philip Henry Niekro was born on April 1st 1939. Phil was the older of two pitching brothers, Joe being the younger brother. Phil pitched his first game with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964, but also splitting his time within the teams minor league system as well. Phil Niekro was a Knuckleball pitcher. Phil spent most of his 24-year career with the Atlanta/Milwaukee Braves (21 years), the rest split between the Yankees, Indians and Blue Jays. His records, awards and accolades are impressive, 5 All-Star appearances, 5 Golden Glove Awards and a Roberto Clemente Award, to name but a few. Phil Niekro retired from the game in 1987, his Atlanta Braves number, 35, followed suit.
Phil Niekro passed away in his sleep at the age of 81 on December 26th 2020.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1997
“Baseball is like driving, it’s the one who gets home safely that counts.” – Tommy Lasorda
Thomas Charles Lasorda was born on September 22nd 1927, he pitched for both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Kansas City Athletics but is mostly known for the being the long time manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. His 21-year management of the Dodgers brought him in contact with many notable players such as Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Piazza, Hideo Nomo and Rick Sutcliffe, to name but a few. He retired from baseball on July 29th 1996, he had a .526 regular-season winning record and a .508 postseason winning records. Under his management, the Dodgers won 2 World Series. His jersey number, 2, has been retired by the Dodgers.
Tommy Lasorda died suddenly on January 5th 2021, he was 93.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1998
“Let’s face it. To win 300 games, you have to win 15 games a year for 20 years. Not many guys are going to want to pitch 20 years.” – Don Sutton
Donald Howard Sutton was born on April 2nd 1945. Sutton made his major league debut in 1966 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Dodgers were one of five teams that Sutton played for, but he played for them the longest, 16 years. Sutton’s long pitching careers saw many ups and downs, not winning a world series was a definite down, he is a member of the 300 wins club. After his retirement in 1988, Sutton went on broadcasting. Don Sutton appeared in 4 All-Star games, he was the ERA leader in 1980 and his jersey number, 20, has been retired by the LA Dodgers.
Don Sutton died at his home in California on January 19th 2021, he was 75.
Inducted into Hall of Fame 1982
“The thing I like about baseball is that it’s one-on-one. You stand up there alone, and if you make a mistake, it’s your mistake. If you hit a home run, it’s your home run.” – Hank Aaron
Born on February 5th 1934, Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron played for 23 seasons, the bulk of this time, 21 seasons, with the Milwaukee Braves, later the Atlanta Braves. His records, awards and accolades are would fill many posts, his most notable are that he held the home run records, 755, for 33 years, he appeared in 25 All-Star games, he was both the NL HR leader and RBI Leader for four years. He helped win the 1957 World Series and was the NL MVP for the same year. He holds the career RBI record with 2297, the career total bases record with 6856 and the career extra bases record with 1477. Hanks’ Milwaukee Braves and Atlanta Brave jersey number, 41, have both been retired.
Hank Aaron passed away peacefully in his sleep in Atlanta on January 22nd 2021 at the age of 86.
Many players come and go, some are remembered for what they did or didn’t do and then there are some who will live on in the memory of those fans that saw them. Their legacy will remain forever enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, where new fans can be awed by the brilliance of these players and the careers they’ve had.
The players have left the field, but they will always be remembered.