An Award-Winning Look at Baseball Hardware

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Craig Muder

It is the ultimate team game, where talent and measurables are often upstaged by determination and fundamentals. And yet, baseball celebrates its individual accomplishments like no other sport.

Simply put, the National Pastime has long been all about the hardware.

As the 2016 awards season gets under way, take a look back at some of the game’s biggest stars with their most cherished awards. Hall of Fame Traveling Photographer Jean Fruth captured these moments, sending us back in time as our heroes relived their sensational seasons and magical moments.

Off the Bench

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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.

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. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

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.

Rod’s Reward

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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.

Rod Carew cherishes his 1977 AL MVP Award, but it’s another trophy from that year – the Roberto Clemente Award – that has become Carew’s favorite. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

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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Big Mac

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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.

Juxtaposed against a beautiful California sky, Willie McCovey is posed with his 1969 National League Most Valuable Player Award. 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. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

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.

Royal Gold

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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.

Three Royals took home Gold Glove Awards during their 2015 World Series-winning season: (far left) Shortstop Alcides Escobar, (center) catcher Salvador Perez and first baseman Eric Hosmer. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

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.

Something fishy

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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.

No player ever did what Mike 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. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

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.

All the Gold

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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.

Pictured surrounded by most of his 18 Gold Glove Awards and his four Cy Young Awards, Maddux has won more Gold Glove Awards – 18 – than any player at any position in the history of the Award. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

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.

For the Win

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Seven Gold Glove Awards. Six Silver Slugger Awards. And the 1994 Roberto Clemente Award.

For Dave Winfield, who could do it all on the baseball diamond, there simply isn’t enough room on the mantel.

A 12-time All-Star Game selection, Winfield was a star at the plate and in the field. Then, as he transitioned into a role as a designated hitter, he won what is now known as the Edgar Martinez Award for the game’s best DH in 1992.

After 3,110 hits, 465 home runs and the World Series-winning RBI in Game 6 of the 1992 Fall Classic for the Blue Jays, Winfield retired following the 1995 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001.


Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series