33¢ Legends of Baseball
Set of 20 Stamps
Issue Date: July 6, 2000
City: Atlanta, GA
Printed by: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine die cut 11.25
The Legends of Baseball issue honors 20 baseball greats who were named to the "All-Century Team," announced after the 1999 season. Votes from fans, as well as members of a special panel, selected the team.
“Many people resented my impatience and honesty, but I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect.” Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) earned respect as a baseball player because of his talents as a fielder, batter, and daring base runner. His integrity and determination earned him admiration off the field.
Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey knew the first black player in the major leagues couldn’t be just anyone. He chose Robinson to move from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League to the Dodgers. Robinson played his first major league game on April 15, 1947, a defining moment not only in sports but in history.
Robinson’s career was full of great moments. One of his outstanding years was 1949, when he batted .342, scored 122 runs, and hit home 124 more. He was the National League’s Most Valuable Player that year. In 1962, Robinson was selected to the Hall of Fame.
Even under pressure, Robinson performed well. On the last day of the 1951 regular season, the Dodgers were tied with the Philadelphia Athletics in an extra-inning game. With the bases loaded and two out, Robinson dived to grab a hard line drive and was knocked unconscious. Two innings later, he hit a game-winning homer that put the Dodgers into the pennant race.
A young shortstop called “Sullivan” broke into the game of baseball on September 17, 1906. During his first game with the Philadelphia Athletics, he flawlessly fielded six hits and knocked a single off the White Sox pitcher. It was soon discovered that Sullivan was not this player’s real name, and that he was better at second base.
The 1906 season was the first of Eddie Collins’ (1887-1951) 25-year major league career, one of the longest in baseball history. His aggressive style earned him the nickname “Cocky.” Collins’ career is full of highlights. In 1910, he had a team-high .422 average and contributed to their World Series win. In 1912, he stole six bases in a game twice. Over his career, Collins stole the fourth highest number of bases and played 2,650 games at second base, the most ever at that position.
After the 1914 season, Collins was sold to the Chicago White Sox, where he played for 12 years. When he joined Chicago, Collins’ salary was $15,000, twice as much as any of his teammates. Collins played in two World Series with the Sox. In the 1919 series, eight of his teammates were involved in the infamous White Sox scandal. After his retirement, Collins remained active in baseball as a manager and executive. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939.
In 1936, Christy “Matty” Mathewson became one of the first five players, and the first pitcher, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Mathewson’s illustrious career in the National League spanned from 1900 to 1916. He pitched all but one of his 373 victories with the New York Giants, who purchased Mathewson for $2,000.
Born in Factoryville, Pennsylvania, Mathewson (1880-1925) was the first 20th century pitcher to win 30 games a season, a feat he accomplished three years in a row. In 1905, he pitched 31 victories and topped the league with his 1.27 earned run average and eight shutouts. One of his best appearances was in the 1905 World Series, when he pitched three shutouts. He continued to dominate on the mound, and from 1903 to 1910, Mathewson’s winning percentage was .734. In 1913, he pitched 68 consecutive innings without giving up a walk, still a league record. He also led the league in strikeouts several seasons.
Mathewson possessed an impressive battery of pitches that he threw strategically. His most famous pitch was the fadeaway, today known as a screwball. With that pitch, which he could throw a dozen times a game, he made the ball break in to or away from a batter. He joined the military and went off to war in 1918.
Ty Cobb (1886-1961) did not play baseball just for fun. “Play every game as hard as you can...as aggressively as you can,” he once said. “You can’t worry about the next play or tomorrow because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring.” His intense style and desire to win earned Cobb the respect of fellow players.
Tyrus Raymond Cobb was nicknamed the “Georgia Peach,” after his home state. His 24-year professional baseball career began in 1905 with the Detroit Tigers. Cobb played for the Tigers until 1926, doubling as the team’s manager for the last five years. He finished up his career with the Philadelphia Athletics.
Cobb’s intimidating, spikes-high slide was notorious in the major leagues. Some said that he filed his spikes on the dugout steps before each game. But few can dispute Cobb’s immense contributions to the game of baseball. His career total 4,189 hits stood as a major league record until 1985. He won nine consecutive American League batting titles, and 12 overall. His career batting average was .366, and he stole 892 bases.
In 1936, Ty Cobb was one of the famous “First Five” inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ty Cobb, who felt that “baseball was one hundred percent of my life,” won more votes than any other candidate that year.
Agile first baseman George Sisler (1893-1973) was one of baseball’s greatest players in all areas – fielding, throwing, hitting, and base-running. Both the St. Louis Browns and Pittsburgh Pirates offered Sisler spots on their teams. In 1915, Sisler made his major league debut as a pitcher with St. Louis. He moved to first base in 1918, but could be seen on the mound occasionally.
Sisler’s batting average topped .400 twice, and he earned two batting titles. In 1920, Sisler played a full 154 games, and set a major league record with 257 base hits. His most impressive year may have been 1922, when he batted .420 and had a 41-game hitting streak.
Sisler was a skilled fielder who is remembered for making great plays. During one such play, Sisler moved away from his base to field a hard drive. Assuming the pitcher would come off the mound to cover first, Sisler lobbed the ball toward the bag. When he realized the pitcher was not there, Sisler ran to first and caught his own throw for the out.
After his great 1922 season, Sisler’s health problems sidelined him in 1923. He later admitted he was never the same player again. Sisler began managing the Browns in 1924, and remained active in baseball many more years. He joined the Hall of Fame in 1939.
During his rookie season of 1915, Rogers Hornsby (1896-1963) was a lean, young Texan who possessed what seemed to be unlimited hitting ability. He began his career at third base, and later moved to shortstop. He finally settled in at second base in 1917 when he led the league in triples (17), total bases (253), and slugging average (.484).
“The Rajah” dominated at the plate, and his career batting average of .358 is second only to Ty Cobb. Hornsby played with several clubs, including the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, Boston Braves, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Browns. He also managed the Cardinals, Braves, Cubs, Browns, and the Cincinnati Reds. His playing ability was never compromised by the moves from team to team. Throughout his career, he led the league in several areas, including total bases, home runs, and on-base percentage. Hornsby won his first of six consecutive batting titles in 1920. He won his seventh batting title in 1928.
Rogers Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” This legendary player joined the ranks of baseball’s finest in 1942 when he was inducted into Hall of Fame.
“A catcher’s best work appears not so much in what he does, as in what never happens,” according to Mickey Cochrane (1903-1962). In the late 1920s and early 1930s, “Black Mike” was one of the best catchers in baseball. His dedication to the game and fiercely competitive spirit often carried his team to victory.
Born in Massachusetts, the hard-working Cochrane was brought up from the minor leagues in 1925 by the Philadelphia Athletics. A skilled handler of pitchers, Cochrane caught a record number of games as a rookie. In 1928, he won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award by two votes. With a lifetime average of .320, Cochrane was an equally talented batter. Cochrane and the A’s played in three consecutive World Series, winning the titles in 1929, 1930, and 1931.
During the Depression, the A’s were forced to sell their star players. The Detroit Tigers paid $100,000 for Cochrane, and he served both as catcher and manager. In 1934, he was again named MVP of the American League.
Cochrane’s career ended suddenly in May of 1937 when he lost sight of a pitch and was struck on the head. The blow knocked him unconscious for 10 days, and he never batted again. In 1947, Cochrane was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Babe Ruth was a man of huge achievements. He began his baseball career as a left-handed pitcher, and later moved to the outfield. The Babe did not achieve legendary status because of his talents in the field, though. He won America’s heart by swatting dramatic home runs and with his larger-than-life style.
After six years with the Boston Red Sox, Ruth was traded to the New York Yankees in 1920. He experienced his best years in baseball with this team during the 1920s.
Babe Ruth gave baseball some of its most memorable moments. His epic smash on October 1, 1932, stands as one example. This homer, the famed “Called Shot,” was hit during the third game of the World Series. Whether Ruth actually indicated his intentions to the taunting, lemon-throwing Wrigley Field crowd has been widely debated for years.
Ruth came to bat in the fifth inning with the score tied. He took two balls and two strikes, and signaled after each pitch. Some say this was Ruth noting the count, not predicting his homer. On the fifth pitch, Ruth sent the ball sailing over the bleachers. The crowd, knowing it had witnessed an amazing event, went wild. According to Ruth, “I didn’t exactly point to any spot. All I wanted to do was give that thing a ride out of the park...anywhere.”
Walter “Big Train” Johnson posted a tremendous 21-year pitching career with the Washington Senators. His 3,508 total strikeouts led the major leagues until 1983, when the record was broken by Nolan Ryan.
Born in 1887 in Humboldt, Kansas, batters swapped stories about the amazing speed of Johnson’s fastball. He was known by other players as a pleasant, sportsmanlike man. In 1913, Johnson threw 552/3 consecutive scoreless innings, a record that stood until 1968. During his career, from 1907 to 1927, Johnson won 416 games for the Senators, a number second only to Cy Young. He led the major league in shutouts seven times, and still holds the record for career no-hitters with 110.
Despite his talent, Walter Johnson pitched for what was one of baseball’s weakest teams. On October 10, 1924, Johnson and the Senators finally had their day. That year, when Johnson led the league in wins, shutouts, strikeouts, and earned run average, they made it to the World Series. After six hard-fought games, the series was tied 3-3. The Senators won the seventh game in extra innings, and took the series. Even members of the Giants were happy to see Johnson finally win a championship.
Walter Johnson was one of the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936. He died in 1946.
Roberto Clemente (1934-1972) played baseball with an intensity that earned him respect from both players and fans. Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Clemente was in high school when he became involved in baseball. He began playing professionally in Montreal, and was later picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played there his entire career.
Clemente’s skills were showcased at the plate as well as in the outfield. With his strong arm, he was able to make dramatic throws in from his position at right field. This four-time batting champion, whose batting average topped the .300 mark 13 times, was named the National League Most Valuable Player in 1966.
Clemente helped the Pirates to their World Series victories in 1960 and 1971. He never went hitless in each championship appearance, and was named Most Valuable Player of the 1971 World Series.
On September 30, 1972, Clemente reached a baseball milestone when he recorded his 3,000th major league hit. Just three months later, on New Year’s Eve, he was killed in an airplane crash while delivering supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.
In 1973, the customary five-year waiting period was waived and Roberto Clemente was named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in a special election.
Robert “Lefty” Grove (1900-1975) strengthened his throwing arm by pitching rocks as a youngster. The hours of practice paid off for the tall left-hander, who at the age of 25 began pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics.
Many sports enthusiasts consider Lefty Grove to be one of the American League’s most talented left-handed pitchers. He led the league in strikeouts with 116 in 1925, his rookie season. His ball control improved each year, and in 1929, he again topped the league in strikeouts with 170. In 1930, Grove became the first American League pitcher since 1916 to strike out over 200 batters. He accumulated a 28-5 record that year. In 1931, his record improved to 31-4, and he pitched a 16-game winning streak. His career highlights include eight 20-win seasons; seven consecutive seasons as American League strikeout leader; and 300 winning games. Grove was the last to pitch 300 wins until 1963.
Grove ended his 17-year baseball career in 1941 with 300 wins and 141 loses. When his minor league statistics are added, Grove’s record jumps to 411 wins and 190 losses, the best record in the history of organized baseball.
Grove received 123 of the 161 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1947, and he was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
At the age of 16, Tris Speaker (1888-1958) was already playing semi-professional baseball. His major league career began in 1907 with the Boston Red Sox, where he established himself as one of the best outfielders in the game. The “Gray Eagle,” as he was called, played a short center field. This allowed him to catch balls that would ordinarily fall in for base hits.
By studying batting style and talking with pitchers, Speaker learned to anticipate where each batter would hit. This preparation, combined with his unique location in the field and powerful arm, resulted in Speaker earning a major league record 450 assists. Speaker also holds an American League record for twice throwing out 35 runners in a single season.
Speaker also performed at the plate. His .386 batting average led the league in 1916. In 1923, during his best season, he batted .380, and his 130 total runs-batted-in was second to Babe Ruth. Speaker played with the Red Sox until 1915. A year later, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, which he began managing in 1919. He wrapped up his career in 1928.
After his retirement, Tris Speaker broadcasted baseball games in Chicago, and co-owned the Kansas City Blues. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937.
Evidence of Cy Young’s phenomenal pitching ability lies in his career record 511 wins, nearly 100 more than any other pitcher. He earned the nickname “Cyclone” because of his blinding fast ball.
In 1891, when Denton True Young (1867-1955) was playing for the Cleveland Spiders, he pitched his first of fifteen 20-win seasons. When the Spiders franchise moved to St. Louis, Young was earning the maximum yearly salary paid by the National League.
In 1901, after the American League was formed, Young accepted an offer to play for the Boston Red Sox. By then, he was well on his way to becoming the most successful pitcher in baseball. He pitched in four games for the Red Sox during the first World Series of 1903, which Boston won. He hurled three no-hitters in 1904, the same year he threw a perfect game and pitched 24 consecutive hitless innings. He pitched his last game in 1911 as a Boston Brave.
Cy Young still holds many baseball records, including most innings pitched with 7,356, and most complete games with 753. In 1937, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The prestigious Cy Young Award is presented to one outstanding pitcher in the National and American leagues at the end the season.
First baseman Jimmie Foxx (1907-1967) was one of baseball’s power hitters. A home run he hit in Yankee Stadium landed in the third tier of seats in left field, destroying a seat during its flight. “Double X” once drove a pitch so far out of double-decked Comiskey Park that it landed in a playground 600 feet from home plate.
Jimmie Foxx was just 16 years old when he began playing baseball professionally. His first major league hit was recorded in 1925 when he was with the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1933, he won his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award.
During the 1932 season, Foxx was closing in on the home run record Babe Ruth set in 1927. He ended up with 58 homers, just three shy of a new record. The 534 hits he smashed out of the park in his career make Foxx one of the leading home run hitters in history. He hit 30-plus homers a record 12 consecutive seasons.
Foxx finished up his major league career with the Phillies in 1945. By then, he had played every position except second base. Several tragedies struck Foxx later in life, including a fall down a flight of stairs that broke his back and left his left side partially paralyzed. Foxx’s skills at the plate as well as behind it earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951.
Harold “Pie” Traynor (1899-1972) was a standout third baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates. From Somerville, Massachusetts, Traynor began his career as a shortstop for the Pirates. After a few games at that position, Traynor moved to third base, where he excelled. He was skilled at scooping up bunts and slow hoppers in his glove, which he preferred lined with felt rather than leather. Traynor continues to hold the National League record for career putouts with 2,291.
In 1925, Traynor and the Pirates won the World Series championship. In his first two series at-bats, he singled and homered off pitcher Walter Johnson.
Traynor’s great fielding skills often overshadowed his talents at the plate. He was a consistent hitter who never struck out more than 28 times a season. His best batting average, .366, was recorded in 1930.
In 1934, Traynor broke his arm when another player fell on him, ending his playing days. He stayed on for a time as player-manager of the Pirates. After retiring in 1937, Traynor owned a sporting goods store with Honus Wagner, and was a coach and sportscaster. Traynor was the first third baseman selected to the Hall of Fame in 1948. He is one of only eight Pirates players to have his number retired by the team.
Satchel Paige was arguably the star of the Negro Leagues, where he played for 22 years. He possessed an assortment of pitches, which he delivered with great accuracy and control. Paige’s unique “hesitation fastball,” a pitch that was illegal in the major leagues, was infamous among Negro League batters.
Although his age was never determined, LeRoy “Satchel” Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama. At the age of seven, his ability to carry multiple bags while working as a porter earned him his nickname.
Paige began playing professional baseball in 1924, at a time when blacks were not allowed in the major leagues. But Paige often pitched against major leaguers in exhibition games. New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio considered Paige the greatest pitcher he ever faced. He once struck out 21 major leaguers in an exhibition game.
One of Paige’s most successful years was with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1933, when he won 31 games and lost 4. But he received the most attention in 1948, when he was signed to the Cleveland Indians. As the oldest rookie in the major leagues, Paige won six games and helped the Indians win the pennant. Paige finished up his major league career with 28 wins and 31 losses. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971.
Many consider Honus Wagner (1874-1955) to be the best shortstop, even the greatest all-around player, in baseball history. Wagner quit school at the age of 12 and went to work in the Pennsylvania coalfields. His baseball career began when he was 21 years old.
Despite his awkward appearance, Wagner possessed great speed. This earned him the nickname the “Flying Dutchman.” The Louisville Colonels were the first major league team Wagner played for. In 1900, as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Wagner won the first of his eight batting titles, four of which were in a row.
Wagner established himself as the Pirates’ shortstop. At the end of his career in 1917, he had played at every position except pitcher and catcher. Wagner batted .300 or higher in a record 17 consecutive seasons, and still holds the national league record for most triples with 252. His career batting average stands at .329. A solid fielder, Wagner recorded the second-highest number of putouts by a shortstop.
After his retirement from baseball, Wagner coached several teams, including the Pirates from 1933 to 1951. He also owned a sporting goods store with fellow player Pie Traynor. In 1936, Honus Wagner was one of the first five players elected to the Hall of Fame.
Josh Gibson (1911-1947) spent his entire baseball career in the Negro Leagues. His powerful hits made him one of black baseball’s biggest attractions, and the length of his homers was legendary. Gibson was often called the “Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues.”
A native of Buena Vista, Georgia, Gibson made his baseball debut with the Homestead Grays in 1930 when he was 18 years old. He filled in for the team’s starting catcher, who was injured. The six-foot-one-inch, 215-pound Gibson earned the nickname “Boxer.”
In 1932, Gibson began playing for the Pittsburgh Crawfords. As a member of the Crawfords, Gibson teamed up with pitcher Satchel Paige. Gibson returned to the Grays in 1937. During the winter, he played in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
Josh Gibson posted the Negro League’s highest batting average twice. His 1943 average of .517 was the second highest in its history. He also led the league in home runs nine times. Officially, Gibson’s home run count stands at 137. But his at-bats during his three best seasons, 1942, 1943, and 1946, were never recorded. For those years, he is credited with hitting 30 homers, making his unofficial career total 167. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean (1910-1974) is not only a legend in the sport of baseball, but in American culture. A native of Arkansas, the “Great One” attended school through the fourth grade. He learned the fundamentals of pitching while serving with the United States Army.
In 1932, Dean entered the major leagues. During his rookie year with the St. Louis Cardinals, he led the National League with 191 strikeouts. On July 30, 1933, he tallied a record 17 strikeouts in one game.
Dean was known for his colorful personality. Prior to a game with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1934, he entered the opposing team’s clubhouse and informed each player of the pitches he planned to throw them. He pitched the Cardinals to a 13-0 victory that day.
Dean’s best season was 1934, when his 30 wins and 195 strikeouts made him the National League’s Most Valuable Player. An injury in 1937 strained his arm, and it was never the same. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1938, and pitched in the World Series that year.
In 1941, after his baseball career ended, Dean traded his bat for a microphone. His folksy style made him a popular baseball commentator, and he was known for using words like “slud” instead of slid and “throwed” for threw. Dean was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953.
Many sportswriters have used the word “durable” to describe Lou Gehrig. Even his nickname, “The Iron Horse,” implied stability. The New York Yankee first baseman played in an amazing 2,130 consecutive games, a record which went unbroken until 1995.
Born in New York City in 1903, Gehrig was recruited by the Yankees. He stayed with the team his entire career. Gehrig’s consecutive game streak began on June 1, 1925. The following day, he filled in for the starting first baseman. He held that position for the next 14 years.
Gehrig’s career was full of incredible accomplishments. He set an American League record in 1931 with 184 runs batted in; hit four home runs in one game in 1932; and recorded 23 career grand-slams.
Gehrig’s career was cut short in 1939 when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that today carries his name. On July 4, 1939, 61,000 people attended “Lou Gehrig Day” at Yankee Stadium. In his stirring speech, Gehrig said, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” He remained active in the community until his death in 1941.
The tradition of retiring a player’s uniform began when Gehrig left the game in 1939. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in a special election that year.
First U.S. All-Star Baseball Game
On July 6, 1933, the first All-Star game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois.
The game was an event several years in the making. After enjoying a boom in popularity in the 1920s, baseball game attendance dropped dramatically – about 40% – in the early 1930s. And those that did attend games chose the bleachers, which only cost 50¢, over the more expensive box seats.
Soon baseball owners began trying whatever they could to increase attendance. They made smaller rosters, fired coaches, and cut wages. They also offered discounts, free tickets for women, grocery giveaways, and the first-ever night games.
Then in 1933, the city of Chicago was preparing for its world’s fair, the Century of Progress International Exposition. Mayor Edward Kelly was determined to make the fair a success, so he reached out to the published of the Chicago Tribune to suggest holding a major athletic event as part of the events.
The publisher mentioned the idea to his sports editor, Arch Ward, who then suggested a one-time “Game of the Century.” The game would pit the finest players of the American and National Leagues against each other. To further arouse interest, the public would get to vote on each team’s lineup. Ward was so convinced the game would be popular, he told his publisher he could take any losses out of his paycheck. Plus, they announced that all proceeds from the game (totaling $45,000) would go to a charity for retired players.
In the weeks leading up to the game, Ward ran regular stories to promote the game. With ballots printed in papers across the country, several hundred thousand people cast votes for their favorite players. Babe Ruth had the most with about 100,000. Other popular players included Lefty Grove, Jimmy Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.
The big day arrived on July 6, 1933. Some 47,595 fans filled Comiskey Park. For many of the players, it was their first time meeting players from the opposing league. No surprise, one of the game’s big highlights was Babe Ruth’s two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning. He also made a dramatic catch against the scoreboard in the eighth. In the end, the American League won the game 4 to 2. Years later, 20 of the 36 players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as both managers, five coaches, and two umpires.
The game, dubbed the “midsummer classic” was so popular it was held again the following year, and every since except for 1945 because of wartime travel restrictions.
Click here and here for brief video clips from the first All-Star Game.
Beginning in 1911, the New York Giants played at the Polo Grounds depicted on the stamp. It was the location for all the games of the first “Subway” World Series in 1921.
The Cincinnati Red’s Crosley Field, which opened in 1912, hosted major league baseball’s first night game in 1935.
Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, sported a majestic, eighty-foot marble rotunda and gilded ticket windows and turnstiles. In 1960, it became the first of these legendary playing fields to be demolished.