Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rickey, Rice & Gordon Inducted Into Cooperstown

Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice and the late Joe Gordon were today inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Rickey is in a class all by himself. His 1,406 stolen bases will never be matched. Neither will his 2,295 runs scored.

Throw in 3,000 plus hits as well as two World Series rings, an AL MVP trophy, 10 All-Star Team selections and you have a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Jim Rice did accomplish something that Rickey never could. Play with one team his entire career. The Red Sox legend finally got his day in the sun after being voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) in his final year of eligibility.

Rice was one of the most feared hitters in the AL in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He thrice led the AL in home runs and twice led the league in RBI. In all, Rice drove in more than 100 runs eight times in his stellar career. He was also selected to the AL All-Star Team eight times. He won the 1978 AL MVP.

His career declined abruptly after 1986. However, given how steroids have been perceived to taint power numbers in the 1990s and beyond, Rice's power numbers have been viewed with greater respect with the passage of time.

Rice will receive another honor on Tuesday when the Red Sox retire his number 14 prior to their game with the Oakland Athletics. Rice will join Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Carl Yazstremski, Carlton Fisk and Johnny Pesky as the only Red Sox players ever so honored.

Joe Gordon was also posthumously inducted today. He was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Gordon played 11 seasons in the big leagues with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. He earned nine AL All-Star appearances, five World Series rings (four with the Yankees and one with the Tribe) and was the AL MVP in 1942. Like many players of his era, he served in WWII. Gordon missed two seasons in what would have been the prime of his career because of his military service. Gordon also tended to be overshadowed by Joe DiMaggio.

One could make the case that Gordon is the greatest second baseman in Yankees history. Others though would say Tony Lazzeri who also won five World Series rings with the Yankees. He, too, got overshadowed by a couple of guys named Ruth and Gehrig. Lazzeri would not be inducted into Cooperstown until 1991. Like Gordon, Lazzeri was also posthumously inducted.

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