As Black History Month begins, it's a fitting time to recognize all the players who helped shape the course of baseball through generations. We marvel at their talent, admire their dedication and cherish the indelible memories they crafted over time.
As we acknowledge and celebrate the past, new chapters continue to be written each day at ballparks throughout the game. Here are just a few of the current players putting their stamp on the game en route to assuring their own place in history.
In honor of Black History Month, we will spotlight the achievements and contributions of the trailblazers who have cemented their legacies, to today's Players who we watch write history before our very eyes.
1992 OLYMPIC REUNION
Jeffrey Hammonds, Charles Johnson and Michael Tucker reunited during the 2022 Hank Aaron Invitational to talk about their playing days – from their draft class to the 1992 USA Olympic team to the adversity they faced as young Black athletes.
One cannot talk about the history of our game without mentioning the Negro Leagues, and the work Negro Leagues Baseball Museum continues to do today to preserve its rich history. Hear from Bob Kendrick on #BlackHistoryMonth and the NLBM.
This Day In History: On Feb. 13, 1920, Hall of Famer Andrew “Rube” Foster and his fellow team owners came together to create the Negro National League. Hear from Sean Gibson, great-grandson of HoF catcher Josh Gibson, on what this day means.
Mookie Betts, a six-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner and five-time Silver Slugger Award recipient, continues to set the tone at the plate and in the field in Los Angeles. Last year, Betts broke Joc Pederson’s club record for home runs out of the leadoff spot and joined Babe Herman of the 1930 Dodgers as the second player in franchise history to record 40 or more doubles and 35 or more home runs in a season. Despite missing 20 games, Betts ranked among the NL leaders in runs, extra base hits, doubles, slugging percentage and OPS. The Dodgers were 69-16 when he scored at least one run.
In 2017, Hunter Greene became the first high school baseball player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated since Bryce Harper in 2009. The Reds drafted Greene No. 2 overall in 2017, and he made his highly-anticipated debut last April at age 22. In his second big-league start, he set an MLB record by throwing 39 pitches at a velocity of 100 mph or higher. Greene showed signs of dominance throughout his rookie season. He struck out 164 batters in 125 2/3 innings and became the only rookie pitcher since 1900 to produce a season with at least three appearances of six or more innings, eight or more strikeouts and no more than one hit allowed.
Michael Harris became the youngest Georgia-born player to debut for the Braves since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966 when he arrived from Double-A Mississippi and started in center field on May 28. The Braves, 22-24 at the time, went 79-37 the rest of the way. Among MLB rookies with at least 250 plate appearances, Harris ranked first in slugging (.514) and OPS (.853) and second in batting average (.297). In November, he joined Earl Williams, Bob Horner, David Justice, Rafael Furcal, Craig Kimbrel and Ronald Acuña Jr. on the list of Braves players to win NL Rookie of the Year.
Aaron Judge captivated the baseball world with his offensive exploits in 2022. He broke Roger Maris’ American League record with 62 home runs and also led the majors in runs scored (133), OBP (.425), slugging (.686), OPS (1.111) and extra-base hits, while tying for first with 131 RBIs. Judge’s MLB-leading 391 total bases were the most by an AL player since Alex Rodriguez recorded 393 for the Texas Rangers in 2001. In December, Judge signed a nine-year contract with the Yankees and joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter and numerous other icons as the 16th captain in franchise history.
In January, Andrew McCutchen, returned to Pittsburgh, where he broke into the majors in 2009 and made five All-Star teams, won four Silver Slugger Awards and won a National League MVP in 2013. McCutchen and Mike Trout are the only active players with at least 200 career home runs and 200 stolen bases. McCutchen will pursue several personal milestones as one of baseball’s premier feel-good stories in 2022. He needs 13 homers for 300, eight doubles for 400, 17 walks for 1,000 and 52 hits to reach 2,000 in his career.
Triston McKenzie has quickly emerged as a top-of-the-rotation force with the Guardians. Last year, he became the first Cleveland starter to record a sub-3.00 ERA in his age 24-or-younger season since Dennis Eckersley achieved the feat in 1975. McKenzie ranked among the AL’s top 10 in WHIP, opponent batting average, innings, strikeouts and ERA. Since his major-league debut in 2020, opponents have batted .196 against him. McKenzie trails only Houston’s Cristian Javier among qualifying AL starters in that span.
Marcus Semien has been a leader on the field, in the clubhouse and in the community. He won the Oakland A’s Heart & Hustle Award in 2019, was named the 2021 Marvin Miller Man of the Year by his fellow players in 2021, and holds one of the top two spots on the MLBPA’s Executive Subcommittee as an Association Player Representative. Off days are a rarity for Semien: Since 2019, with the A’s, Blue Jays and Rangers, he leads the major leagues with 538 games played and 2,431 plate appearances.
Brewers Reliever Devin Williams the 2020 National League Rookie of the Year, parlayed a devastating fastball-slider-changeup repertoire into his first career All-Star appearance in 2022. Williams tied for second among MLB relievers with 96 strikeouts and ranked fifth with 14.24 strikeouts per nine innings. During a dominant stretch in May, June and July, he set a Brewers franchise record with 30 consecutive scoreless appearances. In October, Williams committed to pitch for Team USA in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.