We just witnessed the 2020 World Series—congratulations go the L.A. Dodgers, kudos to the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the conclusion of an extremely strange season.
There was another memorable baseball story this year though that blended with the strange 2020 season.
The baseball world lost a handful of famous players in 2020, notably many Hall of Famers and World Series champions, several within weeks of each other. Many are known, and remembered fondly, by their nicknames—“Tom Terrific” and “Mr. Tiger” were among the group.
Let’s look at how many of these players’ careers intersected and how their paths crossed on baseball’s biggest stage—the World Series.
Edward Charles Ford, “Chairman of the Board”: Died Oct. 8, 2020, at age 91.
Whitey Ford is arguably the greatest starting pitcher in New York Yankees history. While just about any Yankee from the 1920s through the 1960s is bound to have at least one ring, Ford is one of the most decorated pinstriped pitchers:
Cy Young Winner: 1961
World Series Champion: 1950, ’53, ’56, ’58, ’61 and ’62
World Series MVP: 1961
All-Star: 1954, ’55, ’56, ’58, ’59, ’60, ’61, ’64
Hall of Fame Inductee: 1974
Ford pitched in 11 different World Series in his career, setting records for starts, wins, losses, innings, hits against, strikeouts and walks. He also holds a 33-inning scoreless streak.
Whitey Ford and pitcher Don Larsen were on the same Yankees team for five seasons.
Don James Larsen, “Gooney Bird”: Died Jan. 1, 2020, at age 90.
Don Larsen was teammates with Ford from 1955–1959 and was a part of two championship teams (’56 and ’58). Larsen won the MVP Award for the 1956 World Series for pitching a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. It is one of only 23 perfect games recorded in baseball history, and the only perfect game in postseason play.
Inducted by the San Diego Hall of Champions into the Breitbard Hall of Fame: 1964
In parts of 1964 and 1965 with the Houston Colt .45s, Larsen was teammates with Jimmy Wynn (the “Toy Cannon,” who played for 15 years and also passed away this year) and future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.
Joe Leonard Morgan, “The Little General”: Died Oct. 11, 2020, at age 77.
Joe Morgan was one of the finest second basemen of the modern era. In his 22-year career, Morgan was most known for being a part of the “Big Red Machine” in Cincinnati. Morgan won two championships with the Reds, in ’75 and ’76, and won the NL MVP Award in both of those seasons. Morgan was also a five-time Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger recipient, and a 10-time All-Star, including ever year from 1972 through 1979.
Hall of Fame Inductee: 1990
Joe Morgan and pitcher Tom Seaver were teammates on the Cincinnati Reds from 1977–1980.
George Thomas Seaver, “Tom Terrific”: Died Aug. 31, 2020, at age 75.
Tom Seaver was a first-ballot candidate for the Hall of Fame, receiving 98.84% of the votes, a record at the time. If it surprises you that Seaver received more first-ballot votes than anyone before him, look at some of his impressive accomplishments:
World Series Champion: 1969
Cy Young Winner: 1969, ’73, ’75
NL All-Star: 1967–73, 1975–78, 1981
Rookie of the Year: 1967
Hall of Fame Inductee: 1992
Seaver was also inducted into the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds Halls of Fame.
Seaver won the Cy Young in 1969. The season before and season after, another fireballing Hall of Fame National League right-hander won the award: Bob Gibson.
Robert Gibson, “Gibby”: Died Oct. 2, 2020, at age 84.
Bob Gibson was one of the most dominant right-handed pitchers in all of baseball. In 1968 (often hailed as the “year of the pitcher”), Gibson delivered one of the greatest pitching seasons in baseball history:
The 1968 Season
1.12 earned run average
28 complete games
47 consecutive scoreless innings
17 strikeouts in Game 1 of the World Series
He was never pulled from the mound.
Gibson, like Whitey Ford, spent his entire career with one club, retiring as a Cardinal in 1975. His accolades are tremendous:
Cy Young Winner: 1968, ’70
World Series Champion: 1964, ’67
World Series MVP: 1964, ’67
Gold Glove Winner: 9 consecutive, from 1965–73
Hall of Fame Inductee: 1981
Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford both appeared in the 1964 World Series. St. Louis won in seven games, and Gibson was named World Series MVP. Another Hall of Famer was on Gibson’s team that season: Lou Brock.
Louis Clark Brock, “The Franchise”: Died Sep. 6, 2020, at age 81.
Lou Brock was on the same 1964 and 1967 championship teams as Bob Gibson. Brock was part of a famous lopsided trade that brought him to the Cardinals in the middle of the ’64 season. He was traded alongside two other players from the Cubs for a package that included Ernie Broglio. Brock went on to make six National League All-Star teams and was elected to the Hall of Fame; Broglio faded into a footnote.
Hall of Fame Inductee: 1985
In the 1968 season, Brock tied a World Series record for most hits, with 13; he also stole seven bases. He and Bob Gibson both homered in Game 4. Unfortunately for them, the 1968 World Series was won by the Detroit Tigers, with two home runs from a future Hall of Fame right fielder: Al Kaline.
Albert William Kaline, “Mr. Tiger”: Died Apr. 6, 2020, at age 85.
Al Kaline spent his entire 22-year career with the Detroit Tigers and was affectionately called “Mr. Tiger.” Never having played in the minors, at age 20 he was the youngest ever in the American League to win the batting title, hitting .340 that year. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Kaline was recognized for a career that included 3,000 hits, 18 All-Star appearances and 10 Gold Gloves. He hit two home runs, batted .379 and had eight RBIs in the 1968 World Series, his only trip to the Fall Classic.
Hall of Fame Inductee: 1980
A fitting end: an L.A. Dodgers connection.
Ronald Peter Perranoski, “Perry”: Died Oct. 2, 2020, at age 84.
Ron Perranoski was a left-handed relief pitcher, mostly known for his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a player and later as a pitching coach. Perranoski was part of two Dodgers World Series championships as a player, in 1963 and ’65 and had a 16-3 record in ’63. Perranoski and Whitey Ford both pitched in the ’63 World Series, which the Dodgers won in four games.
Perranoski was pitching coach for the Dodgers from 1981–1994. He won a World Series ring as a Dodgers pitching coach in ’81 and ’88. That means Perranoski was in the dugout when Kirk Gibson hit his dramatic Game 1 walk-off home run to propel the Dodgers to an improbable Series victory over the Oakland A’s. It was the last World Series title for the Dodgers until they won in this memorable 2020 season.