Countdown to Spring Training – 20 days

Twenty days until spring training, and the number 20 presents the opposite problem I had with the number 21. Not only do I have cards of three great Hall of Famers who wore number 20, there are additional all time greats that wore the same number whose cards I do not have. Before I highlight the players that I do have, I want to pay tribute to Lou Brock, Pie Traynor, Monte Irvin, and Frank White, who graced the diamond while sporting the number 20. I actually DO have Frank White’s 1976 card. However, even though his number is retired by the Royals, he isn’t quite the same caliber of player that my “big three” for number 20 are.

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The highlight player for 20 Days until Spring Training has to be Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies. Schmidt was THE premier power hitter of the 70s and early to mid 80s, leading the league in home runs 8 times. His 548 career round trippers ranks him 14th on the all time leader board, and is one of only 15 players ever to hit four home runs in a single game (4/17/76 vs. Atlanta). A 12 time All Star selection, Schmidt won 10 Gold Glove awards while playing third base. His 404 assists still ranks at the top of all third basemen. He was a three time NL MVP, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995 with an incredible percentage of 96.52%. It was his HOF ballot percentage over the next two incredible players that made him my first choice.

scan0010My second choice for number 20 was Frank Robinson. Robinson’s 40 year career in the major leagues started in 1956, and finally came to end in after 2006 when he was let go as manager of the Washington Nationals. Robinson is the ONLY player ever to win the MVP award in both leagues, his first with the Reds in 1961, and winning again with the Orioles in 1966. He was also the only player ever to hit a home run completely out of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. Robinson hit a total of 586 homeruns, which ranks him seventh on the all time list. Even more amazing is that while he ranks so high on the all time list, he only lead the league once in homeruns (1966), a testament to his consistent play for so many seasons. During the last two years of his playing days, he became the first black manager in major league history, managing the Cleveland Indians in 1975-76. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.

My final choice for number 20 is pitching great Don Sutton. Sutton pitched 23 seasons scan0011in the major leagues, had 324 wins (tied for 14th all time with Nolan Ryan), 3,574 K’s (7th all time) and is 10th on the all time shutout list with 58. Sutton is the all time Dodger leader in wins, games pitched, strikeouts, shutouts, and opening day starts. Ironically, Sutton ranks 5th all time in most homeruns given up by a pitcher, surrendering 472 during his career. Sutton is sometimes mistakenly identified as having the most career at bats in the majors and never hitting a homerun. While he never hit a homerun in 1354 official at bats, there are 7 worse hitters just since 1900. Sutton was elected to the hall of fame in 1998. This card, which is part of my personal collection, was signed by Sutton prior to the final Nationals game ever played at RFK. Sutton was the color commentator for the MASN network, and I searched him out prior to the game. Great guy!!

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