2016: An Illustrated Year in Review
Major League Baseball's calendar is virtually nonstop, a 162-game regular season schedule played over 180 days, preceded by six weeks of Spring Training, and concluding with four weeks of postseason. There's a rhythm to the season, a pace to the game, and through it all, records are set, milestones are reached, greatness is honored, anniversaries are recognized and winning teams are celebrated.
The game never really goes to sleep for very long. It rarely has a day off. And it's after the final out of the World Series that the fun starts all over again. Awards are presented, Baseball's Winter Meetings convene and the hot stove league is roaring. Caribbean winter leagues spring into action and culminate with Serie del Caribe, when a team representing a nation in the region becomes Caribbean Winter League Champions.
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Hall of Fame Weekend
Make your childhood dream a reality. Your memories come to life as we celebrate the Class of 2017 with over four dozen Hall of Famers.
Soon after, new members of the Hall of Fame are elected, Spring Training begins anew, and the cycle repeats. And as we say goodbye to 2016 and roll out the red carpet for the Hall of Fame Class of 2017, we can reflect upon the last 12 months of baseball through the eyes of Hall of Fame Traveling Photographer Jean Fruth.
All of the imagery Jean creates becomes part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's permanent archive. Some of her images can be accessed through the Hall of Fame's on-line digital archive, PASTIME. Her work complements that of Hall of Fame Photographer, Milo Stewart, who has been shooting for the Museum since 1992.
Jean traveled far and wide during the last 12 months. Here is a small sample of her work in our 2016 year in review.
The year 2016 started with two wildly popular Hall of Fame electees. On Jan. 6, 2016, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA as the Class of 2016. With the election of the two sluggers, the Hall of Fame grew to 312 Members, including 217 players.
Piazza, pictured above at the top of the Empire State Building, was elected to the Hall of Fame on the strength of a lifetime .308 batting average and 427 home runs. The 12-time All-Star hit 220 of his home runs as a Met, none bigger than the one he hit in the first game back in New York after the horrific tragedies of 9/11, propelling the Mets to victory and giving New Yorkers a much-needed emotional lift.
The unofficial start to the baseball season at the beginning of the calendar year, begins with the Caribbean Series - Serie del Caribe - which has been held annually each winter since 1949. The Series currently features the Winter League championship team from each of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela in a round-robin tournament. Venados de Mazatlan, from Mexico, won in 2016. Tigres del Licey, from the Dominican Republic, has won more than any other team. Jean traveled to the Dominican Republic for nine days to cover the Series.
Baseball has played a role with the Oval Office since William Howard Taft threw out the ceremonial first pitch to start the 1910 baseball season. With the United States and Cuba trying to bring their relationship closer together, they turned to baseball to help bond the two nations. Major League Baseball participated in an exhibition game against the Cuban National team in March, as part of a week-long series of events.
The Rolling Stones embraced the role of closer in Cuba, playing a concert as the final event of this historic week. Formed in 1962, just three years after the end of the Cuban Revolution, the Stones closed with "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as its encores, much to the delight of the crowd of 500,000 strong.
With the 2016 Major League season set to open in early April, Jean moved from the warm-climate of Cuba to the chilling weather in Detroit, one of three opening days she covered for the Museum. The snow was flying in the Motor City the day before the Tigers' opener at Comerica Park.
Fruth photographed countless regular season and postseason games, like this one on May 6, 2016 at Wrigley Field. Dexter Fowler, pictured above, would be a key part of the Cubs' World Series-winning formula, posting a career-high .393 on-base percentage in 125 games.
Cozy Doubleday Field in Cooperstown played host to the annual Hall of Fame Classic over Memorial Day Weekend. In front of a crowd of 6,412 fans, Melvin Mora slugged two home runs to lead Team Knucksie to a 5-4 victory over Team Wizard. Each spring, recently retired players representing all 30 teams unite in Cooperstown for a fun day of baseball and to meet the fans.
It's really hard to score a run when Jim Rice is holding you against his waist. Each Classic features a group of Hall of Fame members who participate as managers and coaches and interact with the fans. In May, Classic Weekend included Andre Dawson, Rollie Fingers, Fergie Jenkins, Rice and Ryne Sandberg.
Bryce Harper has quickly established himself as a bonafide Major League star. During his first five major league seasons, he's earned Rookie of the Year honors, been an MVP, was named to four All-Star teams, and hit 121 home runs. The ultimate sign of respect, Harper was walked a record 13 times in a four game series with the Cubs in early May.
On July 3, 2016 Major League Baseball made history by hosting the first regular-season professional contest -- of any sport -- on an active military base. The Miami Marlins squared off against the Atlanta Braves at Fort Bragg, an Army installation in North Carolina, to honor servicemen and women nationwide. Marlins manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com that it was "probably the best venue that I've ever played in. I had the chance to play at Yankee Stadium, the playoffs. There is nothing like tonight."
From Fort Bragg, Jean then traveled to San Diego, Calif. to cover the All-Star Game, capturing some of baseball's rising stars like Jose Fernandez, pictured above. Later in the year, as the regular season began winding down, baseball received tragic news of the death of 24-year old Fernandez, a promising young pitcher for the Miami Marlins. The Marlins players, coaches and manager paid tribute to Fernandez by each wearing his #16 in the first game following his passing.
Two weeks after the All-Star Game in San Diego, it was back to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend. Ken Griffey Jr. delighted the crowd of more than 50,000 by turning his cap backwards as he ended his speech, producing his signature look during batting practice for 22 Major League seasons. The Induction crowd size tied 1999 for the second largest in history, trailing only the turnout in 2007 of 82,000 fans.
After giving his heartfelt speech to an audience including tens of thousands of adoring Mets fans, Mike Piazza, his dad Vince, and his son Marco, shared a light moment with the new Hall of Famer's plaque on the back lawn of the Otesaga Resort Hotel. Not long after, the plaque was installed in the Hall of Fame's Gallery of Plaques. No sport bonds generations as well as baseball.
As Hall of Fame Weekend came to an end, Jean was immediately off to Miami to continue following Ichiro Suzuki in his quest to become just the 30th member of the coveted 3,000 Hit Club. The right fielder didn't make his Major League debut until age 27, and since, has averaged 189 hits annually over 16 seasons. Prior to joining the Mariners in 2000, he played nine seasons for Orix in Japan's Pacific League, where he won three MVPs and seven consecutive batting titles. Ichiro has donated more artifacts to the Hall of Fame than any other current player and has pledged his entire collection to the Museum, which he has visited seven times.
After capturing Ichiro's historic night, Jean traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to capture the final days of the Atlanta Braves' Turner Field, as they prepare to move into SunTrust Park. This statue of Hall of Famer Warren Spahn stands inside of Turner, an ode to one of the best southpaw pitchers in baseball history.
Baseball said goodbye to one of its legendary broadcasters this year in Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for 67 seasons. Jean made sure to capture the 1982 Ford C. Frick Award winner in the booth one last time before he retired at the end of the regular season.
The Boston Red Sox gave their postseason hero a retirement celebration to remember, as they retired David Ortiz's No. 34, named a bridge over the Massachusetts Turnpike after him and mowed his signature home run celebration into the center field grass at Fenway Park. The designated hitter's last season was one of his finest, as he led all of baseball in doubles (48), slugging percentage (.620) and OPS (1.021), and the American League with 127 RBI.
Former teammates Pedro Martínez, Manny Ramírez , Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar and Mike Lowell were in attendance for Ortiz's retirement celebration. Pictured above, Hall of Famer Martinez and Ortiz hoist up the World Series trophy they both fought to win in 2004.
October started with a bang, as Madison Bumgarner - perhaps one of the best postseason pitchers ever - gave a performance to remember on Oct. 5, shutting out the New York Mets to help send the Giants to the National League Division Series.
After a hotly contested race to determine who would win the American League East, the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles met again in the AL Wild Card Game on Oct. 4. Edwin Encarnación gave a snippet of more to come -- as he went on to hit .417 in the ALDS against Texas -- with an 11th inning walk-off home run to end the night.
With just one career start and a total of 11 major league innings under his belt, 2011 16th round draft pick Ryan Merritt allowed just two singles over 4 1/3rd scoreless innings to help propel the Indians to a 3-0 win and a trip to the World Series. Merritt became just the second pitcher in postseason history to start a game with only one regular season start on his resume.
With Corey Kluber on the mound for Cleveland, the Indians felt confident heading into Game 1 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs. Kluber worked six shutout innings, allowing only four hits and striking out nine. Francisco Lindor, pictured above celebrating after the game with Rajai Davis, helped out with a stolen base in the first inning and a double in the third.
Aroldis Chapman earned the save in Game 5, refusing to be shaken by Rajai Davis stealing second, and then third, in the eighth. Chapman struck out Francisco Lindor to end the inning, and finished the game with two easy outs followed by another strikeout, in the 9th inning.
Although Cleveland won three of the first four games, Chicago picked up steam later in the Series, winning Games 5, 6 and 7. Ben Zobrist, pictured above, slides home on a two-run double by Addison Russell in Game 6. Zobrist posted a .357 batting average and had an OPS of .919 to earn Series MVP honors.
Addison Russell fields a ball during Game 6 of the World Series. The 22-year old shortstop played well beyond his age, driving in nine runs and not committing an error to anchor the Cubs infield.
After a 108-year drought, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series in a hotly contested seven-game series against the Cleveland Indians. Their more-than-a-century-long wait was the longest in the history of professional sports.
The city of Chicago essentially shut down after the Cubs won the World Series. The Chicago River was dyed blue, "W" flags were hung from windows and an estimated five million people attended the World Series parade downtown.
Joe Maddon jokingly dubbed the post-World Series celebration "Cubstock," also thanking Chicago fans for their patience and dedication to their beloved Cubs.
After finally bringing their championship drought to a close, the Cubs and their fans now look towards the 2017 season, and dreams of repeating.
In December, 18-time All-Star and Hall of Famer Rod Carew underwent a successful heart and kidney transplants in Los Angeles, Calif., receiving an outpouring of support from Hall of Famers and fans worldwide.
2016 ended on a high note, with two new Hall of Fame electees. On Dec. 4, 2016, Bud Selig and John Schuerholz were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today's Game Era committee, which met in Washington D.C. On Jan. 18, 2017, the two electees will see if anyone else will join them as part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017, when the results of the BBWAA election will be announced on the MLB Network.
Jeff Idelson is the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Alex Coffey is the communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum