So What is a Historic Accomplishment?

July 15, 2021
                                  So What is a Historic Accomplishment?
 

          Writing a tweet about Reggie Smith the other day, I casually tossed off the statement that Reggie did not have any "Historic Accomplishments".  I don’t think anyone would argue with that, but then later I got to thinking:  What exactly is a Historic Accomplishment in baseball? 

              Another tweet I sent, sometime within the last couple of weeks, mocked the announcers’ habits of making history out of anything they can find that has never happened before.  Somebody has. . .just making this up. . .some hitter has two singles, two doubles, two triples and two homers in two consecutive games.  It’s history!  It’s historic!  It’s never happened before!

              That’s not exactly what we usually mean by a "historic accomplishment", but what exactly DO we mean by that phrase?

              Thinking about this for. . . oh, I don’t know, eight to ten minutes, maybe, I think there are three things we mean by "a historic accomplishment":

1)      It doesn’t happen every year,

2)      It has impact on the culture, the baseball culture, and

3)      It is positive.  It helps the player’s team win, or win something big. 

So I have about 100 things in my head now that I would describe as "Historic Accomplishments", and I’m trying to generalize about them.  Among players who have Historic Accomplishments, I would list, alphabetically:

 

Hank Aaron

Pete Alexander

Yogi Berra

Barry Bonds

Lou Brock

Roger Clemens

Roberto Clemente

Ty Cobb

Eddie Collins

Joe DiMaggio

Larry Doby

Everybody who got 3,000 hits

Everybody who hit .400

Everybody who hit 500 homers

Everybody who won 300 games

Everybody who won a Triple Crown (hitting)

Everybody who won three MVP Awards

Everybody who won three Cy Young Awards

Everybody who won five or more batting titles

Everybody who won 20 games eight or more times

Bob Feller

Curt Flood

Whitey Ford

Lou Gehrig

Bob Gibson

Billy Hamilton (1)

Rickey Henderson

Orel Hershiser

Rogers Hornsby

Reggie Jackson

Derek Jeter

Randy Johnson

Walter Johnson

Sandy Koufax

Don Larsen

Mickey Mantle

Roger Maris

Mike Marshall

Bill Mazeroski

Mark McGwire

Denny McLain

Stan Musial

David Ortiz

Old Hoss Radbourne

Cal Ripken

Mariano Rivera

Brooks Robinson

Frank Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Pete Rose

Babe Ruth

Nolan Ryan

Ozzie Smith

Tris Speaker

Bruce Sutter

Ichiro Suzuki

Mike Trout

Bobby Thomson

Honus Wagner

Ted Williams

Maury Wills

Hack Wilson

Carl Yastrzemski

Cy Young

 

 

I am asking for help with this project, really, and I am asking for help in several different ways.   Mainly what I am interested in is sharpening the definition of a "Historic Accomplishment", so that one can say more clearly who has one and who doesn’t.   Breaking a significant record is a historic accomplishment, even if somebody else later breaks it, but only if the first breaker’s action has impact on the culture.  Dominating a World Series is a historic accomplishment.  

Occasionally it is difficult to say what EXACTLY a player’s historic accomplishment was, even though I feel certain that he should be on the list.  Guys like Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial and Hank Aaron are on the list, even though they are separately covered by the rule that everybody who got 3,000 hits is included, because they would be on the list anyway; they are there for some other reason.   Paul Molitor and Rod Carew would not be on the list if they didn’t have 3,000 hits or didn’t claim one of these other titles; I suppose Carew must have won five or more batting titles, and Tony Gwynn as well.  They qualify, but they don’t have separate and distinct Historic Accomplishments, not covered by the phrase "everybody who." 

Many , many Hall of Famers are not on the list or not listed separately—Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Harmon Killebrew, Pedro Martinez, Harold Baines, Ryne Sandberg, Catfish Hunter, Jim Palmer, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Joe Morgan, Bobby Doerr—and several players are listed who are not in the Hall of Fame (Bonds, Clemens, Larsen, Maris, etc.)   Nonetheless, this is a part of the endless and inevitable Hall of Fame discussion.  I don’t think that Bill Mazeroski belongs in the Hall of Fame, but it is certainly relevant to his Hall of Fame case that he does have two historic accomplishments (hitting one of the biggest home runs in World Series history, and winning more Gold Gloves than any other player at one of the key defensive positions.)  I don’t favor including Roger Maris in the Hall of Fame, but he does have at least one and possibly two Historic Accomplishments (breaking Ruth’s home run record, and winning two consecutive MVP Awards.  I debated with myself whether winning two consecutive MVP Awards was or was not a Historic Accomplishments.  I decided not to list it, but I sort of feel like it WAS a historic accomplishment in the case of Joe Morgan, but was not in the case of Dale Murphy or Chuck Klein.  Did Klein win two straight MVP Awards?  Not sure.)

Having historic accomplishments IS a legitimate Hall of Fame credential.   I certainly would not have voted for Bruce Sutter, but, like Mazeroski, he does have two historic accomplishments:  adding a new pitch to the standard pitcher’s arsenal, and the role of "closer" was invented specifically for him.  Brooks Robinson has two distinct Historic Accomplishments:  He dominated the 1970 World Series with his defensive play, and, like Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith, he is the number one defensive player in history at his position.  Could argue the same for Pudge, but it isn’t as clear in his case.  Tris Speaker was long considered the greatest ever defensive outfielder, and maybe still is.

 There is a difference between Yastrzemski’s Triple Crown, because it put the Red Sox into the World Series, and Miguel Cabrera’s, which was more of a personal accomplishment.   The same with Morgan; his two consecutive MVPs were the capstone on one of the greatest teams of all time, whereas Murphy’s were kind of like "somebody has to win this thing."

There are a good many players that I debate with myself, sort of feel like they should be there but can’t come close enough to formulating a reason why.   This includes Johnny Bench, Ivan Rodriguez, Jimmie Foxx (who maybe won three MVP Awards; I’m not sure), Joe Morgan, George Brett, Hank Greenberg, Ken Griffey Jr., Robin Roberts.)  I suppose A-Rod has to be there; he is covered by several different "Everybody who" categories, but if he wasn’t covered, would he be included?

Al Kaline was the youngest player ever to win a Batting Championship.  Is that a Historic Accomplishment?  No.   Manny Ramirez drove in more runs in a season than any other player in the last 80 years.  Is that a Historic Accomplishment?  No.  If you ask a baseball fan who had the most RBI in a season is since World War II, more people will guess "Roger Maris" or "Ted Williams" or "Tommy Davis" than will get the answer right.  Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso hit 50 home runs as a rookie.  Is that a Historic Accomplishment?  No. 

Sam Crawford holds the All-Time record for triples.  Is that a Historic Accomplishment?   I don’t know.   I wouldn’t argue with you if you said it was, but I’m not saying that it was.  Another hard one is Carl Hubbell, who lifted the New York Giants to two pennants with MVP seasons.  Sammie Sosa hit 60+ home runs three times.   Is that a Historic Accomplishment?  Might be.  How about Harvey Haddix, for the unforgettable game, or Cadore and Oeschger, for pitching 26 innings in a game, or Toney and Vaughn, for the double no-hitter? 

Dale Long, hitting home runs in eight consecutive games; it feels like that was a historic accomplishment at the time, but no longer is, since it has been matched by better players (Griffey and Mattingly.)  Wilbur Wood pitching 377 innings in a season is borderline. 

Catfish Hunter pitched a perfect game, pitched 5 innings in an All Star game, won 20 games five times in a row, made the All Star team like eight times, was the #1 starter on three World Championship teams, and was the first big-dollar free agent.   All of these things are sort of borderline historic, but none of them is EXACTLY historic.  Should Messersmith and McNally be on the list?  Should Jim Bunning?   I don’t know.  I think that Bunning was a Historic Player, but that no one thing he did was a Historic Accomplishment.  In a sense, you can make a better argument for Floyd Giebell than you can for Jim Bunning. 

I didn’t put Jack Chesbro or Ed Walsh on the list, because I don’t regard Chesbro’s 41 wins or Walsh’s 464 innings as legitimate records, since they were created by drawing an arbitrary line behind them.   But John Thorn would ask "If 19th century baseball is not major league baseball, how can Chesbro’s 41 wins NOT be the all time record?"  It’s a legitimate point; there is something else there that I can’t quite explain.  

Some people will say that I am shorting the recent players, the last ten years, which is probably true.  It takes perspective to say what stands out in history.  Albert Pujols has many Historic Accomplishments, but none I can identify that are unique to him.  Can you say anything Pujols did that nobody else did that isn’t just some arbitrary combination of statistical plateaus? 

 It is hard to say what EXACTLY Derek Jeter’s historic accomplishment was, although I feel certain that he deserves to be here.  There is a difference between a Historic PLAYER and a Historic ACCOMPLISHMENT.  Should Derek Jeter really be separately listed here, even if I have a hard time saying exactly what his historic accomplishment was?    

Genuinely asking for your help.   Can you define more clearly what a Historic Accomplishment is, and what it is not?  And. . . who am I missing?    And why do they deserve to be on the list?   What EXACTLY was their historic accomplishment?  If you can’t say what it was in ten words or less, it wasn’t historic. 

Thanks.  And please don’t talk about Shohei Ohtani; we have had enough of that.  

 
 

COMMENTS (73 Comments, most recent shown first)

LoradoTaftWright
Chuck Klein actually came sort of close to three consecutive MVPs, but only won one. He was ten points short of Frankie Frisch's 65.0 in 1931, won in 1932 with 72.0, ten points ahead of Lon Warneke, and finished a distant second to Carl Hubbell in 1933 with 48.0 points to Hub's 77.0. He was never in the running for an MVP after that.

And yes, Jimmie Foxx won three MVPs, two of them consecutive.​
9:52 PM Aug 2nd
 
LoradoTaftWright
Chuck Klein actually came sort of close to three consecutive MVPs, but only won one. He was ten points short of Frankie Frisch's 65.0 in 1931, won in 1932 with 72.0, ten points ahead of Lon Warneke, and finished a distant second to Carl Hubbell in 1933 with 48.0 points to Hub's 77.0. He was never in the running for an MVP after that.
9:46 PM Aug 2nd
 
moonman1
Not a player but the all female broadcasts team of the other week seems to me historic.
11:56 AM Aug 1st
 
snerze
People confuse "firsts" with historic. For instance, I watched a British swimmer repeat his gold medal in breastroke making him the 1st repeat gold in 100m breaststroke. A first and notable- yes, but not historic. Any perfect game to me is historic but the first perfect game is not per se historic (as the 1st). Again, firsts are notable but not in and of themselves historic.
6:45 AM Jul 26th
 
DaveNJnews
In answer to the Giannis Antetokounmpo question below, I think it's hard to judge that at a distance of only a few days but I would say, Yes, his finals performance could well be seen as historic.
4:08 PM Jul 23rd
 
Jaytaft
"Historic accomplishment" has 2 elements. Historic means famous, remembered. Accomplishment, in this case, means an accomplishment that's extremely impressive.

Randy Arozarena had 10 homers and 29 hits (both records) in a single postseason. Definitely extremely impressive, but wound up short of being famous because the Rays didn't win their first world championship.

The Dave Roberts ALCS steal off Rivera is famous, but it wasn't extremely impressive - it was just one stolen base. Just right place, right time, right eventual outcome.

If the Red Sox didn't win that Game 4 (AND the next 3 games, AND the World Series) the Roberts steal would have been forgotten the very next day; instead, it is remembered as the Steal of the Century. There would be a huge, bronze statue of Arozarena in front of Tropicana Field right now if the Rays were the 2020 world champs; instead, his superhuman performance was reduced to trivia.






2:17 PM Jul 22nd
 
LesLein
Binning pitched no hitters in each league, one a perfect game. He was elected Senator.

Schmidt hit four homers in one game.

Rick Wise hit two homers while pitching a no hitter.​
11:19 AM Jul 22nd
 
bewareofdow
Would everyone consider Giannis Antetokounmpo's NBA Finals/Game 7 (a) Historic Accomplishment(s)? Consecutive 40 point and 10 rebound games in Games 2 and 3, the Deandre Ayton block in Game 4, the game-clinching alley-oop in Game 5 and winning Game 6 pretty much by himself with 50 points and 14 rebounds.​
12:41 PM Jul 21st
 
shorena11
Streaks are interesting curiosities, but tend to draw far more attention than their actual worth merits, in particular regarding Bill's point number 3 above, that a Historic Accomplishment helps the player's team win, or win something big.

From May 8 through July 17, 1941, Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 of the Yankees' 57 games. But at the time, and ever since, we have attributed great importance to the fact that he hit safely in 56 consecutive games. Had he gone hitless on, say, June 17, and gotten a hit on July 17, it would have ruined the 56-game hitting streak; DiMaggio would be less appreciated than he is today (since the streak is nearly always the first thing anyone mentions about his accomplishments); and yet the absence of the longest streak in MLB history would have had no impact whatever on the Yankees' season. They won the pennant by 17 games.

The same applies to Cal Ripken's consecutive game streak. We can never know for certain, but some people speculated that he may have been hurting his team by never taking a day off, during the latter years of the streak, when his performance had declined. And it's a reasonable speculation. The probability that a single game off, at a random point in the streak, would have had any noteworthy impact on the Orioles' pennant hopes, is negligible.

The same applies to Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no hitters. If we could swap either of them with a start he had later in the season, the impact on the Reds' season would have been negligible.

Don't get me wrong, streaks impress me, but in much the same way that a juggler impresses me. They're a curiosity. But if we include the games outside the streaks, it's hard to see how the streaks themselves help the teams win, any more than if the accomplishments had been spread out.
11:00 PM Jul 20th
 
steve161
Now that I think a bit more about it, it's clear to me that 3for3's criterion--when you hear a player's name, this is what you think of--applies to nothing more than it does to Steve Lyons' dropping trou at first base.
6:26 PM Jul 20th
 
Chihuahua332
Very interesting subject and conversation. A key challenge is that in most cases you need time to find out whether or not something is historical. As I read the comments I find that there are a few categories that events and achievements fall into.

Moments/Single Game - There are so few achievable events that have not already been done. Someone hitting five HRs in a game is one of the few I can think of which would obviously be historic. I was in Fenway when John Valentin turned an unassisted triple play (same game as A-Rod’s debut) but that was the tenth such event and therefore not historic. While it would span two games, someone getting back-to-back no hitters would easily clear the bar.

Playoffs - Moments are magnified in the playoffs. There have been a ton of walk off HRs but Bobby Thomson’s shot, Gibson giving his limping fist pump, and Carter’s joyous skip around the bases are burned into our brains. There have been other Perfect games, but Larsen did it in the Series and is therefore historic.

Single Season - An indication of how historic McGwire hitting his 62nd HR was viewed came when Time Warner Cable sent an apology letter and $5 credit to all of its customers in Brooklyn who had a cable outage when it happened. The letter actually used the words “historic event”. Luckily I was able to run down to the corner bar that had satellite TV in time to see it happen. Again, it is a high bar achievements to be historic. A player passing Rose’s 44 game streak would get a ton of attention as they chase Joe. On the other side, I remember Thigpen’s 57 saves being a big deal at the time but it had faded to obscure trivia by the time Francisco Rodriguez passed him in 2008 with 62. I didn’t even remember that happening. As has been mentioned, a .400 hitter would clearly be historic as would a sub 1.12 ERA, or other clear barriers.

Career Milestones - These have the advantage of time. As someone approaches 300 wins or 600 HRs we have a good grasp of the historical context. But again, what is the bar for something to be historic? Does a pitcher need to get 5,715 Ks since everything before that has been done before?

Other - Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier is the clear example here. The only thing going forward I can think of right now would be the first female player in the majors.
12:57 PM Jul 20th
 
Fireball Wenz
If World Series dominance gets you there, I would think Pepper Martin's 1931 Series would qualify. Scored or drove in 10 of the Cards 19 runs, batted .500, stole 5 bases.
2:23 PM Jul 19th
 
pgups6
Also Joe Carter. I guess his Shot Heard Around the World was not as loud as Mazeroski's, but still one of the biggest Canadian sports moments of all-time, and solidifying the Jays place in history with back to back titles.

(also, just noticing that Ichiro was already on the list, my bad)
2:01 PM Jul 19th
 
pgups6
A major achievement that stands the test of time.

How about "Everybody who won 10+ Gold Gloves"? Gold Gloves are very subjective but winning 10 is a pretty big accomplishment and all those that won 10 or more seem worthy. That would solidify adding Bench and IRod. Would also add Keith Hernandez, Robbie Alomar, Vizquel, Andruw, and Ichiro.

Aside from the GGS, Ichiro could also probably be on here for his 2001 season and being the first Japanese player to win MVP.

Also how about MadBum for his Orel like performance in 2014 WS (1 ER, 21 IP, 1 CG). Saberhagen's 85 WS was dominant as well (1 ER, 2 CG).

Sosa's 60+ HR 3x seems to less historic as it's totally clouded by PEDS (fair or not fair). Along those same lines, if someone was to come along and hit 62 dingers and another guy doesn't do it again for another 10-20 years, then you add that person to this list even though they aren't technically breaking a record.
1:55 PM Jul 19th
 
bhalbleib
3 home runs in a World Series game is what puts Reggie on the list (I presume), but what keeps Albert Pujols off the list despite the same accomplishment, my guess is Pablo Sandoval (who did it the next year). Still only 4 guys have ever done it, it seems pretty special.
12:53 PM Jul 19th
 
bhalbleib
To addendum my last comment, maybe it isn't as special to win 3 games in a WS as I thought because it happened twice in the first WS and several times in the first 20 years of the WS. It certainly was a big deal when Burdette, Gibson and Lolich did it because the game had changed and it hadn't happened for a while. However, what I think IS a historic accomplishment (and I noted he wasn't on your list) was Mathewson's 3 CG SO wins in the World Series. That IS unique and will probably never be matched and certainly not bettered.
12:29 PM Jul 19th
 
bhalbleib
Winning 3 games in a WS? I think when Mathewson did it in 1905 it was seen as a big deal and I am sure when Lolich did it in 1968 it was a big deal. It has been done a few times in between (and really Bumgarner should have it in 2014 as well if the statistical rules on wins weren't so screwy) Oh, I guess Randy Johnson did it in 2001, I forgot he got the win in relief.
12:23 PM Jul 19th
 
Manushfan
Gaylord Perry's two Cy Youngs in each league weren't Historic? Okay. What confuses issues is having such a wide-ranging open ended concept here.

Lemme try again:

Nap Lajoie hitting .426 in 1901.

Rajah hitting .424 in '24.

Larry Doby.

Maybe that's a bit closer to the mark? I agree with those citing Hank Greenberg in '45 too.
10:09 AM Jul 19th
 
rtayatay
I think it would be a short kind of list. It wouldn't include great careers, or great moments, like game-winning hits. Those happen every few years. First things I think of:


Cy Young 511 wins
Ty Cobb, Pete Rose 4,000+ hits
Babe Ruth's 1920 season
Aaron breaking Ruth HR record, Maris breaking Ruth
Maybe McGwire, Sosa and Bonds single-season HR?
Henderson career SB record
Nolan Ryan K record
Jackie Robinson 1st appearance
Don Larsen perfect game in WS
Gehrig and Ripken consecutive games played
Dimaggio hit streak
Vander Meer
Gibson 1.12 ERA
World Series 3-peats seem historic
1972 Steve Carlton (compared to team)
Mariano Rivera postseason numbers
Barry Bonds 7 MVP's ?
Barry Bonds 232 BB's in 2004
Barry Bonds 120 (!) Intentional BB's in 2004
Connie Mack 53 years as a manager

4:20 PM Jul 18th
 
DaveNJnews
I think part of being a historic accomplishment is not only that it has not been accomplished before - or, at least, not for a very long time - but is also unlikely to happen again.

The first time someone got a hit as a designated hitter, it was historic, but it was almost immediately repeated. Same with the first hit in a new stadium.

That being said, one name missing from the list above is Johnny Vander Meer.
7:27 AM Jul 18th
 
John-Q
I usually think of an Historical Accomplishment in baseball as something that somewhat rare and has a bit of gravitas. My father was an immigrant and knew nothing about baseball and didn’t follow sports whatsoever. I picked up on historical accomplishments by what the tv announcers talked about and what topps baseball cards would print as special accomplishments. And then a third category would be the buzz around little league teams or later on rec. softball teams.

I notice that a lot of the things people remember are counting stats.

I started flowing baseball in 1974 With the Mets and these are the things that stick out in my head:

1974-75-Aaron breaks HR record, Brock breaks SB record, Kaline gets 3000th hit, Bob Gibson gets 3000th K, Aaron gets all time RBI title, Lolich sets all time K mark for Left handed pitchers, Seaver has a record 7 consecutive seasons with 200 K’s. I think Davey Lopes set the record for consecutive stolen bases without getting caught. A’s win 3 WS in a row, Fisk WS HR, Fred Lynn is first rookie to win MVP. Bob Watson scores the 1 millionth run.

1976-78-Morgan wins back to back MVP. Nolan Ryan set a record for 3 consecutive 300 K seasons. Brooks Robinson sets a record for playing most seasons (i think 22) with 1 team. Reggie hits 3 HR in a WS game. Rose has the 44 game hitting streak and sets the N.L. Record. I think Rose had his 3000th hit around 1978. I think Brock became the all time Stolen Base leader around 1978. Rod Carew hit .388 in 1977 and won his 7th batting title. Foster is the first guy to hit 50HR in a season since Mantle & Maris in ‘61.

1979-Yaz gets his 3000th hit along with Brock. I think Yaz also hit his 400th HR that year which was rare for somebody to hit 400 & 3000. Willie McCovey hits his 500th HR and sets the mark for HR by a Left handed national league player.

1980-81-Brett hits .390 and spends a few days above .400 in September. Schmidt wins back to back MVP. Nolan Ryan gets his record 5th no hitter. Len Barker throws first perfect game since Catfish Hunter in the late 60’s.

1982-84-R. Henderson breaks the single season stolen base mark.
D. Murphy wins back to back MVP. Rose gets 4000th hit. I think Seaver had his 3000 K around that time. D. Gooden sets the rookie K mark. Ryan & Carlton break the all time strikeout record and it goes back and forth. I think Carlton gets his 4000th K around this time.

1985-87-Seaver win his 300th, Rod Carew gets 3000th hit, Rose breaks all time hit mark. Phil Niekro wins his 300th game & 3000th K, Roger Clemens breaks the single game K mark. Ryan gets his 4000th K. Sutton wins his 300th and 3000th K. Blyleven gets his 3000th K.

1988-89-Caseco becomes the first 40-40 guy. Clemens wins his 3rd Cy Young

1990-93-C. Fielder hits 50 HR. Bonds wins 3 MVP.
2:04 PM Jul 17th
 
Whippet
Historic season: George Brett in 1980 hitting .390 with power and missing the RBI lead by 4 despite playing only 117 games. Brett’s 1979 year had been terrific, and it was amazing to find out that he was able to kick it up another gear.
12:58 PM Jul 17th
 
steve161
"3for3
Part of the definition might be along the lines of 'when you say this player's name, what comes to mind?'. If everyone comes up with the same thing, that is a start..."

I think this is as close as we'll get to clarity about a very muddy concept.
7:27 AM Jul 17th
 
willibphx
If you are looking more for specific rules for defining achievements rather than players, how about.

Walk off homers to win a pennant or World Series.
Rookies who win Cy Youngs or MVPs.
20+ strikeout games.
3 HRs in a World Series or playoff game.
3 wins in a World Series.


6:20 AM Jul 17th
 
Zeth
I don't know if it quite rises to the level of a Historic Accomplishment, but it is one of my very favorite pieces of baseball lore that the only two players in baseball history with five 30-30 seasons are Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds.

Mazeroski and Thomson make the list, but Joe Carter doesn't? Poor guy didn't have the good sense to be playing against a New York team, I suppose. :)
11:32 PM Jul 16th
 
Robinsong
I think that developing a comprehensive standard is a hopeless task, partly because there are so many potential dimensions and partly because the dividing line will always be subjective. Take Johnny Bench - he redefined the position, is viewed as the greatest catcher ever by many, set home run records for catchers, was a key part of one of the all-time great teams - is that historic enough? Bo Jackson - played at All-Star level in two sports at the same time (and had two of the greatest commercials ever). Bill did not list Willie Mays individually, but he is considered by many the greatest center fielder or player ever and made the most famous catch of all time. I find saying Murphy does not qualify for his two MVPs in a row but Morgan does as an example of how impossible the task is. I remember in Bill's first Historical Abstract - he talked about Definition A/B/C and D Hall of Famers. Maybe Definition A/B/C and D Historic Accomplishments?
10:04 PM Jul 16th
 
FrankD
Pete Gray, or even more Jim Abbot.... 'nuff sed'
9:58 PM Jul 16th
 
FrankD
Actually I like the open-ended question of what is historical. Don't bound the answers a priori, get all the input and then filter .....
9:49 PM Jul 16th
 
FrankD
Boutin and Ball Four? Huge back in the day, maybe not so much today
9:47 PM Jul 16th
 
hotstatrat
So, Hank Greenberg is an historical player (sort of the Jackie Robinson of Jews), but has no historical accomplishments other than an outstanding hitter in all four of his World Series - two of which were championships. OK.

I'm not sure what the purpose of this is - or even precisely what we are we trying to define. Are we determining the most impressive accomplishments are or the ones that will be known by most fans several generations after the accomplishment?

To know the latter we need to know what people will be looking at. Which records and stories will be considered important in the year 2100? It could be that no one will care about Triple Crowns and batting average. Perhaps, WAR and OPS will the measures of greatness and historical accomplishment.

I think home runs are a safe bet to be considered history, but hitting 500 might no longer be the magic threshold of historic.

For now, I would add holding the career or season record for hits, doubles, triples, homers, RBI, Runs, stolen bases, Wins, strikeouts, low ERA are historic accomplishments. BA, OBA, Slugging, and OBP, too, If is the most of any of those things since World War II, then that is also historic.

There should also be a category for World Series accomplishments, but I can't wrap my head around that - not sure it exists, but somehow it should.
2:33 PM Jul 16th
 
wovenstrap
You could reformulate the question as, "What games would it be mind-blowing to a casual fan that you owned a ticket to that game, i.e. were at that game?" Once you start thinking of it that way you quickly find yourself thinking about Ruth's called shot, Bobby Thompson's HR, Bucky Dent's HR, Cal Ripken's 2,131st game. Is Pujol's 3 HRs in a World Series game on the same plane as Reggie's? Or did that become a bit more normalized?

Are there memorabilia lists for ticket stubs?

It might be a silly example but in 2017 the Indians quite memorably broke the record for consecutive wins. A friend of mine was at the second-to-last game of that streak, and part of me was like, Wow. A local version, perhaps. People in Cleveland are going to remember that streak for a long while.​
2:03 PM Jul 16th
 
Gfletch
343, If the Babe set a record with 60 HR in 1960 and Roger broke it by hitting 61 in 1961, I submit it would be noteworthy, but not historic. And don't try to convince me that I'm wrong...no one is ever wrong about telling you they feel about something.

Eh...more feelings (warning! warning!)...The HR record for a season probably wasn't as hallowed as you think prior to the Babe hitting 29, 54, 59 (!) and then not even challenging the 59 until five years later. The 60 mark was also enhanced (adorned with ivy) because it was challenged so often. Maris breaking the record...it took 34 years before someone did it. That's historic in a way that it wouldn't have been if Hack Wilson had hit 61 in 1930 or Jimmy Foxx in 1932 or Hank Greenberg in 1938.
2:01 PM Jul 16th
 
3for3
GF. Breaking the HR record has to be among the most hallowed in all sports, as opposed to consecutive errorless games by a 2d baseman, so Maris would qualify because of which record he broke, not just how he broke it.
1:10 PM Jul 16th
 
Gfletch
Looks like another hall of fame discussion going on here in the comments.

My take on it is a historic accomplishment should be about breaking a record that is important in the minds of baseball fans. Secondly, it should be about really crushing the record...not just skirting past a record (in essence just duplicating an earlier accomplishment) but sailing well past it...a Bob Beamon type accomplishment.

I realize this would put Roger Maris' 61 homer season out of the running, so I'll add a second qualifier - if the old record has stood for a good many seasons, breaking it would certainly be historic.
12:24 PM Jul 16th
 
3for3
Part of the definition might be along the lines of 'when you say this player's name, what comes to mind?'. If everyone comes up with the same thing, that is a start...
10:07 AM Jul 16th
 
abiggoof
Hank Greenberg’s pennant-winning grand slam after returning from the war doesn’t count? Joe Carter, Gabby Hartnett, and Jack Morris also definitely belong.
9:55 AM Jul 16th
 
malbuff
Accomplishments BY players, not accomplished players, you clarified. OK, here's my quick list. Historic accomplishments since 1956, the year I was born (and excluding for now all steroid-checked accomplishments). My ROT is simply, "people are still talking about these."

Larsen’s World Series perfect game.

Mazeroski’s walk-off homer.

Maris’ 61st homer.

Koufax’s 4th no-hitter, a perfect game, with his own team getting only one hit. IMO the capstone of his career, the game that put him over the top into the all-time greats discussion despite his short career.

Frank Robinson’s triple crown season and world championship in the context of the big trade.

Yaz’s triple crown season in the context of Boston’s unlikely pennant.

Drysdale’s consecutive shutout innings streak.

McLain’s 31 wins.

Brooks Robinson’s 1970 World Series.

Clemente’s 1971 World Series.

Aaron’s 715th homer.

Morgan’s back-to-back MVP awards in the context of the Reds’ back-to-back world championships.

Jackson’s 1977 World Series.

Brett’s chase of .400 and hitting .390.

Gibson’s home run off Eckersley.

Morris’ Game 7, 1991.

Ichiro’s 258th hit. Sisler’s record had stood for 84 years.

Bumgarner’s 2014 World Series dominance.

I am sure others will chime in with dozens that I've missed, but that's what I've got for now. Thanks, Bill.
9:51 AM Jul 16th
 
jfenimore
Lefty Grove's ERA in a hitting-crazy era.
9:11 AM Jul 16th
 
jfenimore
An historic player is someone who leads to a change in the rules of the game (e.g. Wilt Chamberlain and the widening of the lane and the goal-tending rule).
9:06 AM Jul 16th
 
mauimike
July 1 1934. The Cardinals vs Reds. Tony Freitas and Dizzy Dean pitched 17 innings, in the first game of a double hitter, (why not double pitcher?).

Dean got the victory, Freitas got a no decision. Imagine that. Tony and I share the same last name and he was the first ballplayer that I looked up when I got my first Baseball Encyclopedia.
8:13 AM Jul 16th
 
StatsGuru
A historic accomplishment or an historic accomplishment? An always sounds better to me.
5:59 AM Jul 16th
 
stublues
What do do with Tom Cheney and his 21 strikeout, 16 inning, game? Is it largely forgotten because of his (and his team's) obscurity? Is it ignored because he compiled the 21 strikeouts over more than 9 innings?
2:45 AM Jul 16th
 
frisco
Eric Gagne. Consecutive saves record.

Valenzuela/Dave Stewart. No-hitters on the same evening.

Mike Piazza. Most homeruns by a catcher.

Don Drysdale. Consecutive innings streak without a run--before broken by Hershiser.

Kirk Gibson. Homer in 1988 Game One of the World Series.

To be honest, I'm just throwing darts here. Don't quite have a grasp of the "thing".

My Best-Carey
2:42 AM Jul 16th
 
OBS2.0
Further: Murphy's 6 game streak was a record for the post season, breaking Beltran's 5 game streak in 2004.

Maybe more impressive is how rare a six game HR streak is at anytime in history. According to this there have only been 3 seven game streaks and 3 eight game streaks in History:

https://www.mlb.com/news/consecutive-home-run-games-c265322182
2:12 AM Jul 16th
 
OBS2.0
Interesting question. So, would Daniel Murphy be a candidate? After hitting a career high 14 home runs in 2015 at Age 30, Murphy reeled off six home runs in six consecutive games spanning the NLDS and NLCS (where he was named MVP)

I believe that was an all-time record for consecutive playoff games with a home run. But the remarkable story was that it was Murphy, never a prodigious home run hitter, although he had led the league in doubles twice. And of course the stage was huge, with the Mets riding Murphy to their first pennant in 19 years.
2:03 AM Jul 16th
 
3for3
Canseco 40-40. Jack Morris Game 7. Kiner leading in HRs 8x in a row. David Justice dating Halle Berry. Carlton winning 27 for last place team. Dwight Gooden 1985.
12:47 AM Jul 16th
 
Greg
When I think of historical accomplishments, I think of significant records that were way above the norm, stood the test of time and then of anyone who surpassed the record first or were one of the few who did. Perhaps standard deviations is a quick way to establish the bona fides of such records. I agree that break throughs that changed the game are noteworthy, like the first successful knuckleballer or forkballer. While I agree context is important, I would stay away from trying to distinguish between pitchers who threw 10 shutouts in a row in a row for a pennant contender from anyone else who accomplished that feat, for instance.

My ten words are up.
12:30 AM Jul 16th
 
sroney
I assume the footnote for Billy Hamilton is that it is the 1888-1901 Billy Hamilton instead of the 2013-present Billy Hamilton.
12:18 AM Jul 16th
 
FrankD
Also Bob Uecker. Player turned comedian turned actor. Also HOF announcer. With maybe the exception of Gehrig's speech had there been a 'baseball' quote restated more often then "Just a bit outside" ? Or in the '70s there was the Uecker seats way out, as far away from the field as possible, and then Uecker all alone up there yells "He missed the tag, he missed the tag" .....
12:13 AM Jul 16th
 
FrankD
How about Ichiro, coming huge star in Japan to be star here? Maybe to soon but either Ichiro or somebody should be recognized for opening the door for Japanese stars to come to play MLB here.
12:08 AM Jul 16th
 
taosjohn
Historic accomplishments by not overly historic players:
Johnny Vandermeer ?
Hack Wilson ?
Jim Katt?
12:05 AM Jul 16th
 
wdr1946
An historic accomplishment is whatever people who write about baseball or follow it want it to be. Entirely arbitrary, except maybe for the "milestones," and breaking of a handful of records, like single season and lifetime home runs. Hall of Famers are presumably elected for their lifetime and good single season performances. Having an "historic accomplishment" may put them over the top to get elected, like Maz's home run in 1960, or maybe not, like Maris in 1961 or Maury Wills in 1962. Basically, there is no rhyme or reason.
10:41 PM Jul 15th
 
MarkBernstein
The guy who caught my eye in absentia here is Ernie Banks. Arguably (according to Bill James) the highest peak value at the leftmost fielding position on the spectrum.

But some of "historical accomplishment" for players, as for presidents, is opportunity. If Whitey Ford has divided his career with the Athletics, he might have been a hell of a pitcher but not Whitey Ford. If David Ortiz has been a Minnesota Twin (hey! what?) would he have been David Ortiz?

Still, I really like this format. (What is the footnote for Billy Hamilton, pray tell?)
10:37 PM Jul 15th
 
DavidHNix
I'd put the Boones and the Bells -- the first three-generation MLB families -- on the list.
10:21 PM Jul 15th
 
bjjp2
As far as some of the other omissions, Morgan, Bench, Schmidt, I would suggest that being generally recognized as the best or at least having a strong argument for being the best ever at your position is an "historic accomplishment" unless you are simply not looking at career accomplishments other than counting stats. For Palmer, he won 20 games 8 times (plus 3 Cy's). How many modern pitchers have done that? For Brett, hitting .390 doesn't do it?
8:13 PM Jul 15th
 
bjjp2
As someone else mentioned, not having Seaver is an oversight. He won 311 games. He's held the record for consecutive K's for 51 years (recently tied). Held the record for K's in a game for a while. 3 Cy's and 8 top 5 finishes. Best and most beloved player in his franchise's history. Best player on a legendary championship team. I could go on, but I suspect that he was just an oversight.
8:06 PM Jul 15th
 
BobGill
I'd think Kirk Gibson might make the list, for that home run off Eckersley. And Don Drysdale for the record-setting streak of scoreless innings in 1968.
7:24 PM Jul 15th
 
villageelliott
Re: Rick Monday: I would say he is Historic for being the first player selected in the Major League Draft. In the same sense, Ron Bloomberg is Historic for being the first Designated Hitter.
7:18 PM Jul 15th
 
villageelliott
Is Lee Meadows Historic for being the first major leaguer in the 20th Century to wear glasses on the field? How about Clint Courtney, the first catcher? Ryne Duren, the first coke bottles? What about Ricky Vaughn aka "Wild Thing," of the California Penal League?
7:14 PM Jul 15th
 
ajmilner
Would Rick Monday fit on this? He had TWO distinct historical moments -- snatching the American flag about to burned on the field in Dodger Stadium in 1976 (an event that drew much attention OUTSDE the sports pages) and his ninth-inning pennant winning homer n the 1981 NLCS.
7:11 PM Jul 15th
 
sansho1
I recall in 2012 watching Craig Kimbrel's last couple of appearances, knowing he was on the razor's edge of striking out over half the batters he faced over the course of the season. If he succeeded, he would become the first in history to do so in more than a nominal number of appearances. On the last day of the season against the Pirates he gave up a hit but struck out the side to end the year with 116 Ks / 231 batters faced. It struck me as a Historic Accomplishment in the moment, but turned out to be a canary in the coal mine and has been done a few times since.

Jim Abbott's no-hitter seems to fit the bill.
5:33 PM Jul 15th
 
FrankD
If you want to include one historic season I would add Ron Guidry's 1978 season. Led the Yankees in a great come-from behind pennant race, then won the playoff game against Boston, and then became World Series champions. And all this done during the Steinbrenner/Martin turmoil.
4:46 PM Jul 15th
 
trn6229
My favorite player Tom Seaver struck out 200 batters or more for nine consecutive seasons, from 1968 to 1976. No one else has done this.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian
3:59 PM Jul 15th
 
bjames
I appreciate all of your comments, and I am always afraid of commenting here because this is your space, and I am afraid of trampling on what you have to say, inhibiting the conversation. Please continue.


Should have been on the list:

Earl Webb (Hit more doubles in a season than any other player)
Owen Wilson (more triples)
Dazzy Vance (Has the highest strikeout rates in history relative to his era.)


Fernando is a very definite no for me. He has no Historic Accomplishment. The mania that surrounded him was not any bigger than the noise that was made about Mark Fidrych in 1976, about Bo Jackson in the late 1980s, or about other breakthrough stars. That's not an accomplishment; that's an effect.

Pedro Martinez, again, is a definite no for me. Pedro DOES have a historic accomplishment--three Cy Young Awards--but apart from that, I don't see a historic accomplishment. "Being by far the best pitcher in baseball for four years" is not a unitary, single accomplishment; it is a state of being created by a long string of accomplishments.

And Hank Greenberg, to me, is a definite no. If you understand THIS, you'll understand what I am saying. Earl Webb has a historic accomplishment. Hank Greenberg does not. Obviously Greenberg was a hundred times greater player than Webb, but that's not what this is about. And don't give any crap about Greenberg going in the Army and what he would have done with more opportunity; limited opportunity is not an accomplishment. An accomplishment is a single, identifiable thing that a player did that makes him unique. I just don't see that Greenberg has one.
3:40 PM Jul 15th
 
bjames
anushfan
Well--most of the guys here are 'historic' sure-Maris, Ruth, Hank Aaron, etc. I would guess Gaylord Perry might be an interesting one to discuss-two Cy Young Awards, one in each league. Is he Historic? One of the few 300 game winners etc? I don't know.


This totally and completely confuses the issue. I am not talked about Historic PLAYERS. I am talking about Historic ACCOMPLISHMENTS. It is a completely different thing.
2:45 PM Jul 15th
 
CharlesSaeger
If we're talking Valenzuela being historic for winning the Cy Young Award as a rookie, then Fred Lynn winning the MVP as a rookie would make that cut. I'm just old enough to remember Fernandomania, but somehow I don't think this qualifies.
2:12 PM Jul 15th
 
wovenstrap
(Obviously you cut out a place for A-Rod/Kershaw with the 3 awards category. I think the general premise that anyone short of that probably isn't historic is pretty sound, just looking at the recent MVP list. I would push for Miggy a little bit more, dominating hitter of his era, and Manny similarly.)​
1:55 PM Jul 15th
 
wovenstrap
I think the argument for Sutter is pretty weak, actually. Similarly Mike Marshall. I'd argue for Quiz over either of them.

Looking at the MVPs of the 2000s, there are a lot of highly significant players about whom one wants to make the argument that they are historic but clearly are not. Kris Bryant, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Altuve, Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich.

The players from the 2000s you have named are hard to argue with. Rivera, Jeter, A-Rod and Pujols are both 3-time MVPs, that is awfully significant, you have "arguable best player of generation" credentials there. Trout obviously. The argument for Mookie Betts is interesting, I would be inclined to include him but it might be a little bit early. I think Betts is compelling in a way that some others might not be.

The last thing I wanted to say is that Kershaw and Max Scherzer make the cut.
1:50 PM Jul 15th
 
wovenstrap
I think Fernando probably counts more than some of the players on the list, personally.

I think it's clarifying to think of the "history" part of "historic," as in, Did People Care About This 10-20-30 Years Later? Best shortstop of generation and possibly ever? (Ozzie Smith.) You have something there. People care about Ozzie. Nastiest sinking fastball of his generation? (Kevin Brown.) I wouldn't say people still care about that, too much. The obvious point is that we have to get away from the somewhat hyped descriptions of things in their historic aspect (Haddix, greatest game ever) and see what lasts. The Haddix game is awesome to learn about for a half-hour but not necessarily historic.
1:38 PM Jul 15th
 
frisco
First thing I thought of was Fernando when I started reading. Then I noticed RipCity had beat me to it. But, Fernando qualifies:

1) Revived Mexican interest in the major league game.

2) Unprecedented media coverage. The average non-baseball fan was somewhat aware of the phenomenon.

3) Won Cy Young and Rookie Of The Year. Dodgers won the World Series. Set rookie record for shutouts (I think).

In 10 words of less: Cy Young as rookie, first Mexican star, led Dodgers to championship.

My Best-Carey
1:36 PM Jul 15th
 
CharlesSaeger
I just checked the 1905 Reach Guide and boy, does it not care much about John Chesbro. Reach (or whoever) wrote two pages about batting champ Nap Lajoie as well as putting his picture in the guide. Chesbro got his ruddy-faced picture and a couple of sentences about how nobody was close to his winning percentage, and that's it. Barely more than Joe McGinnity got, and the Reach Guide was official for the AL, not the NL.

Of course, they weren't drawing a line at 1900 at all, or even 1893 (not that this would make a difference with Chesbro). Cap Anson about as much ink in a comparison with Lajoie (and Honus Wagner) as Chesbro got, Reach calling Anson's record "unparalleled." Nobody cared that Chesbro had won the most games of any pitcher since 1891.
1:34 PM Jul 15th
 
RipCity
Wrote a response and I think the system ate it; I'll try again.

First, I love this idea; I think trying to look at seasons and careers with awareness of their historical relevance is a fine project. And your initial rough and ready definition of a historic accomplishment works well for me, too.

I believe that Pedro Martinez should be a named player on the list above, and not just included because, e.g., he won three Cy Youngs. Not only did he win 3 Cy Youngs (in 4 years, with a second-place finish in the other year), the level of dominance he displayed -- in the height of the steroid era -- was astounding. Look at the 1999 or 2000 AL pitching leaderboards; there's a significant gap between Pedro and everyone else in most key categories. That's a historic accomplishment to me if anything is.

Here's a question that may help focus the discussion: do you think Fernando Valenzuela counts? Really, there are two relevant issues enmeshed in this case. The first is the phenomenon of a young player coming up, performing brilliantly, and becoming the object of intense fascination and media attention. There's a case like this every few years, I think -- Dontrelle Willis, Yasiel Puig, Hideo Nomo (and yes, Aaron Judge)... Is that in and of itself enough to be a historic accomplishment? Probably not, though it fulfills all the criteria listed above. But when you combine that brilliance and media blitz with Fernandomania's impact (taking the news stories and reporting about this at face value; I wasn't there) on the Latino and in particular Mexican-American community's relationship with baseball, identification with the sport -- does THAT count as a "historic accomplishment"? I'd be inclined to say yes, but I'm not totally sure...
1:09 PM Jul 15th
 
Manushfan
Well--most of the guys here are 'historic' sure-Maris, Ruth, Hank Aaron, etc. I would guess Gaylord Perry might be an interesting one to discuss-two Cy Young Awards, one in each league. Is he Historic? One of the few 300 game winners etc? I don't know.

Mr Manush prob. isn't on any of these lists-unless you throw in his being tossed out of the '33 World Series. There's too many guys like him-Cuyler, Dixie Walker, Roush, Veach, etc---for him to stand out(much).

Cap Anson-now He's historic.
1:05 PM Jul 15th
 
 
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