With its stable of iconic sports superstars whittled down to one - Ray Bourque - by 1997, Boston needed someone to fill the void. Larry Bird had retired five years earlier. Roger Clemens left the previous year. Bourque was the bright spot on the NHL's worst team. Tom Brady was still in college and more than four years away from becoming Tom Brady. Enter Nomar Garciaparra. The shortstop hit .309 with 209 hits and 30 home runs in 1997, his first full season with the Red Sox. He was the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year. Garciaparra was an instant superstar. And for the next seven seasons he was Boston's superstar. In a city where baseball rules, 'No-Mah' was king, a dominating player with icon status. He finished second in American League MVP balloting 1998, and with 35 home runs he became only the fifth player in league history to hit 30 or more home runs in his first two seasons. He batted .357 in 1999 and won his first batting title. He followed that up with a .372 average in 2000 and his second title. Born on July 23, 1973 in Whittier, California Attended Georgia Tech University Married to soccer star Mia Hamm Currently plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers In 1997, became first Red Sox rookie since Fred Lynn in 1975 to be an American League All-Star selection In 1997, he broke Ted Williams' team rookie record of 344 total bases
Look at Tony Gwynn's 1997 season, his 17th in the majors, for proof of the legend's longevity and dominance. Then 37 years old, Gwynn put together career highs in hits, doubles, home runs, and RBI for the arguably best season of his career. Arguably. He only hit .372 that season. And Gwynn did bat .394 in a strike-shortened 1994 season, flirting with the first .400 season since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. So analyzing one season of the San Diego Padre is foolish. Gwynn's one of the few athletes to never have an off year. Never. Nothing even close. His string of dominance is almost unparalleled in baseball or any sport. That's why Gwynn's largely considered one of the greatest hitters of all-time, perhaps even the greatest living one. Analyzing Gwynn's batting exploits groups him with names like Cobb, Williams, Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker and other icons from more than a century ago. Born May 9, 1960 in Los Angeles, California Retired following 2001 season with a total of 3,141 hits and a career batting average of .338 (both 17th all-time) Batting titles in 1984, 1987-89 and 1994-97 No. 19 jersey retired by the Padres After batting .289 in limited action in 1982, Gwynn hit .300 for 19 consecutive seasons, surpassing Wagner's National League record set from 1897-1913 Hit .350 or better from 1993-1997, becoming only the fourth player in history to top the .350 mark in five consecutive seasons (Cobb, Hornsby and Al Simmons) .394 average in 1994 was the highest average in the National League since 1930 Struck out only 434 times in 10,232 plate appearances over 20 seasons Five Gold Glove Awards Only two players achieved 3,000 hits in fewer games than Gwynn; five needed fewer at bats 15-time National League All-Star selection
Dontrelle Willis' high, exaggerated leg-kick has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Juan Marichal's indelible motion.
But it's not farfetched to compare the two pitchers further. Marichal won 13 games in his first full season; Willis won 14. By their third seasons they led the National League in wins. Marichal with 25, Willis with 22. With numbers like that, the 24-year-old Willis seems destined for greatness.
Willis' outings became must-see events within weeks of his arrival in the majors two months into the 2003 season. With his herky-jerky delivery and constant winning, the 'D-Train' became one of baseball's most recognizable and popular players. He was also one of the best.
Willis was an all-star, helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series and earned Rookie of the Year Honors just several months removed from AA in 2003. In 2005, he became an elite pitcher, becoming the first Marlin to win 20 games.