The Gold, The Silver, The History…Let’s Play Ball!
Ah…America’s game. Baseball carried all of us Americans through some of the toughest times in history, and millions of spectators, media and teams waited for that Commissioner’s Trophy to be presented each year by the Commissioner of Baseball to the Major League Baseball team that had worked all year long to win the coveted World Series. Through civil unrest, wars, and political and financial upheaval – everyone could still always go to the ballpark and enjoy a sunny afternoon with their favorite team.
Even though this particular trophy did not receive its name until 1985, the trophy was actually first presented in 1967 to the St. Louis Cardinals when they crushed the mighty Boston Red Sox. Unlike all the other trophies that are given out in various sports (with the exception of football‘s Lombardi and the O’Brien Trophy), a spanking-brand new Commissioner’s Trophy is actually created each year, whereas most, like the Stanley Cup, are simply passed on from Champion to Champion.
There was only one year that the Commissioner’s Trophy was not awarded and that was in 1994, when the infamous player’s strike actually ended the season on August 11th, which effectively cancelled the entire post-season.
It’s not a big surprise to hear that the New York Yankees are the team that have won the most Commissioner’s Trophies throughout history, seeing as that they’ve won seven World Series since 1967. For 2011, the trophy was awarded (yet again) to the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals, who have the most wins in the American League.
The design of the trophy is actually a sore spot; it has been redesigned a great many times. In 1999 for the 2000 Word Series, the trophy was placed in the hands of Tiffany & Company. This is not exactly the ‘best-looking’ sports trophy out there, considering that the trophy features thirty gold-plated flags to commemorate each of the Major League teams, which ‘fly over’ a silver baseball covered with latitude and longitude lines that symbolize the world. The baseball contains twenty-four karat baseball stitches, with the base offering an inscription of the Commissioner’s signature. Even though it may be more than a bit bulky, it is still the most sought-after prize in the world of baseball.
Many people, however, do not realize that this is not the ONLY trophy that baseball players are yearning to receive. Yes, it’s the big one, so to speak, but there are other awards that many individuals desire to have all to themselves. One of these is the Hank Aaron Award which is given annually to the players who are selected as the top hitters in each league. Voted on by baseball fans and members of the media, this award was first given out in 1999 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron exceeding the iconic Babe Ruth’s career home run title of 714. A
winner was selected using a point system that takes into account hits, home runs, and runs batted in, with the winner being the player who had the highest total.
In 2000, the system was completely overhauled where each team’s radio and television broadcasters and color analysts were the ones who voted for three players in each league. Just like the voting for The Heisman Trophy in football, the media’s votes were tallied and the award was given out. It was in 2003 when the beloved baseball fans got to place their votes, which now account for thirty percent of the total. The very first winners of the award were Manny Ramirez and the amazing Sammy Sosa. Barry Bonds has actually won the award three times – the second-most of any player.
Now there is also an award that a player earns called the Triple Crown, which is presented to a player who leads a league in three specific categories. If they are a batter, the player must lead the league in home runs, RBI’s and batting average; if you’re a pitcher, you must lead the league in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average. Generally, the Triple Crown refers to leading a specific league such as the National League (NL) or the American League (AL), however if a player suddenly materializes from Heaven that is actually able to lead all of Major League Baseball in all three categories, he is the special one who has captured what fans call, a “Major League Triple Crown.”
Rogers Hornsby was actually the very first player to accomplish this miracle – TWICE – winning his first in 1922 and then leading all major leagues in 1925 as a St. Louis Cardinal. Ted Williams came along later and matched him by winning in 1942 and 1947 while playing with the Boston Red Sox. Twelve of the thirteen players who have offensive Triple Crowns have gone on to be placed into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When you are speaking about pitching Triple Crowns, three players actually accomplished the goal. It was Grover Cleveland Alexander who captured his first two in back-to-back seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, and won a third in 1920 when he played for the Chicago Cubs. Seventeen of nineteen eligible pitchers who have won a Triple Crown have been elected to the Hall of Fame.
Absolute legends have won this Triple Crown. In fact, the highest home run and RBI totals by a batting winner came from the skill and amazing talent of Mickey Mantle and the undeniably brilliant, Lou Gehrig. Mantle hit fifty-two home runs in 1956, and Gehrig batted in 165 runs in 1934, their only Triple Crown seasons.
Amazingly enough, this is still not the only personal trophy that baseball players would love to have sitting on their own mantle. Another is the Rawlings Gold Glove Award, or more commonly known as the Gold Glove. This award is given annually to the Major League Baseball players who have exhibited superior individual fielding performances. This award is voted on by the managers and coaches in each league. Eighteen Gold Gloves are awarded each year, one for each of the nine positions in each league. The Gold Glove Award was made in 1957 to commemorate the best fielding performance at each position and, unlike the Commissioner’s Trophy, is actually seen as a stunningly beautiful award. Created from a glove made out of gold lame-tanned leather mounted on a walnut base, players love to hold this one high above their heads.
The most Gold Gloves ever won by one player is eighteen, gathered by outstanding pitcher, Greg Maddux. Thirteen of his awards were consecutive – from 1990 to 2002 – all in the National League. Brooks Robinson has the most wins as a third baseman with sixteen, and is tied for the second-highest total overall with pitcher Jim Kaat, who won his sixteen awards consecutively, as well – a phenomenal feat.
From catchers to infielders and outfielders, Gold Gloves have been given out to the absolute best of the best individually. But it was in 2007 when Major League Baseball announced that an all-time Gold Glove Team would be announced during the 50th anniversary of the first Gold Glove Awards.
Seventy baseball reporters combined their votes with former players and former managers in order to select fifty names. From there the team was selected by fans with the results unveiled at the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. I would assume you’ve heard of some of these amazing players: (First base) Wes Parker; (Second base) Joe Morgan; (Third base) Brooks Robinson; (Shortstop) Ozzie Smith; (Outfielders) Willie Mays – was there anyone better?, Roberto Clemente, and Ken Griffey, Jr.; (Catcher) Johnny Bench (Duh!); and (Pitcher) Greg Maddux!
Who will it be in 2012 who stands up at the plate and proves that they are deserving of these awards? We’ll just have to wait and see! Happy New Year! Let’s Play Ball!!
Until Next Time, Everybody.