An Award-Winning Look at Baseball Hardware
Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench remains the standard by which all other backstops are judged – and he’s got the awards to prove it.
Pictured with his 1968 National League Rookie of the Year Award, two of his 10 Gold Glove Awards, his two World Series rings and his Hall of Fame ring, Bench brought his bling to the Great American Ballpark dugout for this photoshoot.
Not pictured (there’s only so much room in any photo): How about National League Most Valuable Player Awards from 1970 and 1972 as well as his 1976 World Series MVP award. Bench is one of the most honored catchers of all time.
Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989, Bench was widely recognized during his playing days as one of the greatest catchers ever to play. Neither passing years nor advanced analytics have dimmed the shine on Bench’s gold-plated reputation.
With five American League batting titles to his credit entering the 1977 season, Rod Carew’s run at the magical .400 mark was hardly a surprise that summer. Yet Carew seemed to go from baseball star to national sensation overnight as he compiled a season that would result in his winning the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
In the days when a national magazine cover was the height of stardom, Carew appeared on the front of Time Magazine on July 18, 1977 – sitting cross-legged with a bat astride the caption “Baseball’s Best Hitter.”
If there was a contest for understatement, Time won it in a landslide.
Carew would finish the year hitting .388 with a league best 239 hits and 128 runs scored. The Twins finished fourth in the seven-team AL West that year, but Carew still won the league’s MVP Award – totaling three times as many first place votes as any other candidate.
Carew still cherishes the MVP Award, but it’s another trophy from that year – the Roberto Clemente Award – that has become Carew’s favorite.
Symbolized at the time by a simple baseball within a circle, the Clemente Award was created to honor individuals who excelled on the diamond and also as humanitarians. In many ways, it is the greatest award the game has to offer.
For Carew, who retired with the 1967 AL Rookie of the Year Award, seven batting titles and 18 All-Star Game selections to go along with his MVP and his Clemente Award, giving back became more important than almost any award he received.
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In just 52 games, Willie McCovey proved to be the National League’s top rookie of 1959.
Fortunately for baseball fans, McCovey provided the world with many more full seasons of his power and grace – adding to the Rookie of the Year Award on his resume again and again.
Juxtaposed against a beautiful California sky, McCovey is posed with his 1969 National League Most Valuable Player Award and his 1977 Fred Hutchinson Award. The former came at the peak of his ability, while the latter honored McCovey’s spirit as he enjoyed a late-career renaissance.
After winning the 1959 NL Rookie of the Year Award, McCovey struggled to find his place in a talented Giants lineup that featured Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and the three Alou brothers: Felipe, Matty and Jesus. But in 1963, McCovey earned his first All-Star Game selection by hitting a league-best 44 home runs.
By the late 1960s, McCovey was widely regarded as one of the game’s most dangerous hitters. He put all the pieces together in 1969, leading the league with 45 home runs and 126 RBI while hitting .320 and drawing a league-best 45 intentional walks.
Chronic knee injuries slowed his production in the 1970s, but following stops with the Padres and Athletics he returned to San Francisco in 1977 – hitting 28 home runs at age 39 and winning the Hutchinson Award for his efforts.
He retired following the 1980 season with 521 home runs, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year eligible in 1986.
The Kansas City Royals used the simplest of formulae to win the 2015 World Series title: If the other team can’t score, the Royals can’t lose.
Three Royals took home Gold Glove Awards that season: Shortstop Alcides Escobar, catcher Salvador Perez and first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Perez was also named the 2015 World Series MVP, hitting .364 in Kansas City’s 4-games-to-1 win over the Mets in the Fall Classic.
The 2015 season marked the third in a row that three Royals players won Gold Glove Awards. In 2013-14, Hosmer, Perez and Alex Gordon all won Gold Glove Awards.
In his first four full years in the big leagues, Mike Trout put up numbers comparable to legends like Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols.
But no player ever did what Trout managed in 2014-15 when he won back-to-back All-Star Game MVP Awards.
Seen holding his trophy following the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Trout homered and scored twice that year. In 2014, he doubled, tripled and drove in two runs – en route to a season where he was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
In 2012, 2013 and 2015, Trout finished second in the American League MVP vote each year.
Greg Maddux is usually in the discussion whenever the topic arises of “best pitcher ever.”
But when it comes to fielding, Maddux truly is in a class by himself.
Pictured surrounded by most of his 18 Gold Glove Awards and his four Cy Young Awards, Maddux is one of the most decorated players at any position in baseball history. He became the first pitcher to win four straight Cy Young Awards from 1992-95, laying the foundation for his election to the Hall of Fame in 2014.
But with the glove, Maddux set a mark that may never be challenged. His 18 Gold Glove Awards are two more than anyone else at any position.
The current active leader in Gold Glove Awards is Ichiro Suzuki, who has won 10 for his play in the outfield. But to match Maddux on the career list, Ichiro would have to play through his age 50 season – and win a Gold Glove Award every year.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum