SI Vault
 
NEW GOLDEN AGE OF HITTING
Ron Fimrite
April 14, 1986
As the season begins, some of the sweetest swingers in the history of the game, including a superb youth corps, go to bat
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
April 14, 1986

New Golden Age Of Hitting

As the season begins, some of the sweetest swingers in the history of the game, including a superb youth corps, go to bat

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

AVERAGE TOTALS OF MAJOR LEAGUE LEADERS

Hits
Record: 257
George Sisler (1920)

RBIs
Record: 190
Hack Wilson (1930)

Runs
Record: 177
Babe Ruth (1921)

1900-04

210

111

129

1905-09

212

110

113

1910-14

222

129

128

1915-19

204

101

112

1920-24

238

146

155

1925-29

241

151

153

1930-34

236

172

149

1935-39

224

168

146

1940-44

210

131

130

1945-49

218

140

139

1950-54

210

138

124

1955-59

218

137

128

1960-64

210

136

126

1965-69

215

125

116

1970-74

216

130

125

1975-79

217

131

124

1980-84

215

126

131

1985

Wade Boggs 240

Don Mattingly 145

Rickey Henderson 146

* 1981 Strike Season pro-rated to 162 games

A person issues thundering pronouncements these days at his peril. Nevertheless, here is one: Baseball is entering a Golden Age of Hitting. Or at least a new Golden Age, several others having come and gone. All Golden Ages are introduced by youth, and this one is no exception. Just look around. In The House That Ruth Built, one in which Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle also lived, there is a 24-year-old—Don Mattingly's the name—who has hit .343 and .324 in his two full major league seasons. He won a batting title his first year and an RBI title his second, a season in which he strung together numbers, as statistics are now called, that recall the Yankee legends: 211 hits, 48 doubles, 35 homers, 145 runs batted in, 107 runs. Just up the road from Mattingly, in Fenway Park, is Wade Boggs, who has hit above .360 twice and above .340 once in just four major league seasons. At 27, Boggs is a two-time batting champion. Last year he reached base more often than anyone in history except Ruth, Gehrig and Ted Williams. Out West, in San Diego, there's 25-year-old Tony Gwynn. He has averaged 205 hits in his two full seasons, has won a batting title and is already so well regarded that when he hit .317 last year, fourth best in the National League, he was accused of having an "off" year. In St. Louis, the carpet is rolled out for Willie McGee, 27, who won a batting title last year with his .353 average, highest ever for a National League switch-hitter, surpassing the .348 of both Frankie Frisch (1923) and Pete Rose (1969).

In fact, a fair number of men turned back the pages of time in 1985:

? Rickey Henderson scored 146 runs, the most since Williams scored 150 in 1949, and by touching home that many times in 143 games, Henderson became the first major league leader since Gehrig in 1936 to have more runs scored than games played.

? George Brett came within two intentional walks of tying the AL record of 33 set by Williams in 1957. Despite having been pitched around, Brett led the league in slugging percentage at .585, giving him three slugging championships to go with his batting (two), hits (three), triples (three), doubles, total bases and on-base-percentage titles. The only other American Leaguers with such a variety of titles are Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb.

? Eddie Murray ran his career totals to 258 homers, 931 RBIs and a .298 batting average. Only six players in history can match those nine-year totals: Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Williams, DiMaggio, Hank Aaron and Jim Rice.

? Cal Ripken extended his streak of consecutive innings played to 5,457, spanning 603 games, to break the record believed established by Buck Freeman, who played every inning of 534 games for the Boston Carmines from 1901 to 1905.

? Willie Wilson hit 21 triples, the most since Dale Mitchell swatted 23 for the Indians in 1949.

? Pedro Guerrero tied the major league record for home runs in June, 15, shared by Ruth (1930), Bob Johnson (1934) and Roger Maris (1961).

? Tim Raines became the first major leaguer to steal at least 70 bases in five different seasons. Raines has been in the majors for only five seasons.

? Ryne Sandberg hit 26 home runs, the most by a Cub second baseman since Rogers Hornsby's 39 in 1929. He also stole 54 bases, the most by any Cub since Frank Chance stole 57 in 1906.

Continue Story
1 2 3