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A Gathering of Greats: Baseball

Aaron Henry Aaron
Baseball's home run (755) and RBI (2,297) king, Hammerin' Hank was a 24-time All-Star who averaged 33 homers and 100 RBIs for his 23 major league seasons.

"From the day he first reported to the Braves in the spring of 1954, a scared 20-year-old with less than two seasons of experience in the lower minors behind him, the entire Milwaukee organization had been acting strangely like a family which discovered a uranium mine in its backyard."
—Roy Terrell, SI, Aug. 12, 1957

Gehrig Lou Gehrig
He won two MVP awards and one Triple Crown, and the Iron Horse set the standard for toughness and durability by playing in a then record 2,130 consecutive games.

"In the not quite 50 years since his death, Lou Gehrig has become baseball's Abraham Lincoln, a figure of such mythic saintliness that his human qualities have been all but lost. Honest Abe and Larrupin' Lou were a couple of American primitives, one born in a log cabin, the other in an urban slum, who rose to greatness through the time-honored virtues of hard work, sincerity and humility."
—Ron Fimrite, SI, Oct. 8, 1990

Johnson Walter Johnson
Using only a fastball for most of his career, the Big Train won 20 or more games 12 times, led the league in strikeouts 12 times, notched 416 career wins and a record 110 shutouts and won two MVP awards.

"Consider the simple eloquence of Yankee Ping Bodie explaining why he struck out against Walter Johnson: 'You can't hit what you can't see.'"
—Ron Fimrite, SI, June 16, 1975

Mays Willie Mays
The Say Hey Kid won two MVP awards, played in a record-tying 24 All-Star Games and won 12 straight Gold Gloves; a rare blend of strength and speed, he was the first player to break the 300 mark in career homers and steals.

"Mays, who broke in with the New York Giants in 1951 -- DiMaggio's final season -- was exceptional in every way.... Indeed, if it hadn't been heresy, Mays could have laid claim to DiMaggio's title [of greatest living ballplayer] while Joe D was still around."
—Gerry Callahan, SI, July 19, 1999

Ruth Babe Ruth
The Babe began his career as a pitcher and won 20 games twice, then became a full-time outfielder and slugged 714 home runs; he was not only the dominant player of his day but also the dominant personality of an era.

"Everything he did smacked of hyperbole. He ate too much. He drank too much. He womanized to a fare-thee-well. And when he hit yet another of his titanic shots, the reporters covering his games wrote the prose of excess, as if nothing less could do justice to his swats."
—William Nack, SI, Aug. 24, 1998

Ted Williams Ted Williams
The Splendid Splinter, the last man to hit .400, won two Triple Crowns and two MVP awards and, despite losing almost five years to military service, hit 521 home runs, won six batting titles and had 16 .300-plus seasons.

"The legend of the Kid's eyesight has only grown: He could follow the seams on a baseball as it rotated toward him at 95 mph. He could read the label on a record as it spun on a turntable. He stood at home plate one day and noticed that the angle to first base was slightly off; measuring proved him right, naturally, by two whole inches."
—S.L. Price, SI, Nov. 25, 1996

Photographs (from top) Neil Leifer, AP, Culver Pictures, Frank Kaplan, Acme Photo, Hy Peskin

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