In the annals of baseball history, no offensive player has enjoyed the type of season that Barry Bonds experienced in 2001. Not only did Bonds break Mark McGwire's seemingly unattainable single-season home run record with an eye-popping 73 roundtrippers, but he also managed to shatter two of Babe Ruth's longstanding records -- most walks (177) and highest slugging percentage (.863) in a season. Bonds' mystical year included a .328 batting average, 107 extra base hits, 137 RBIs, 411 total bases and an on-base percentage of .515. Bonds received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of his unprecedented season.
Future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens is the only pitcher in Major League history to have won six Cy Young awards. The hard-throwing, hard-working Texan has enjoyed a remarkable career on the mound, surpassing 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts. Other career accomplishments include a pair of 20-strikeout games, six 20-win seasons and a sparkling 3-0 record and 1.90 ERA in seven World Series contests. His hard work, dedication and unwavering desire to win have enabled him to dominate hitters into his 40s. Clemens received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding career.
Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente received, posthumously, the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award during the 77th Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 11, 2006 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig presented Vera Clemente, widow of Roberto Clemente, with the award, in a special on-field ceremony after the fourth inning. A 12-time National League All-Star and Gold Glove award winner, Clemente won four NL batting titles, one MVP award and totaled 3,000 hits. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972, just months after he died in plane crash while delivering relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.
An eight-time National League batting champion and a 15-time All-Star in his 20-year career, Tony Gwynn played his entire career with the San Diego Padres. He was a .338 lifetime hitter with 3,141 hits and also won five Gold Gloves in right field. In the 1998 World Series, he batted .500 (8-for-16) with a homer and three runs batted in. Gwynn was given the Roberto Clemente Award in 1999 for his humanitarian contributions to the San Diego community and the Major League Baseball community. Gwynn received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of his prolific career.
Considered by many to be the greatest leadoff man in the history of Baseball, Rickey Henderson possessed a rare combination of hitting ability, power, and speed. The catalyst of the dominant Oakland A's of the late 1980s and early '90s, Henderson established Major League records for most runs scored (2,295), most career stolen bases (1,406), most steals in a season (130 in 1982), most home runs leading off a game (81) and most career walks (2,190, since eclipsed by Barry Bonds). His superior conditioning allowed him to experience success well into his 40s. Henderson received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of his astonishing career.
In one of Baseball's most memorable seasons on record, the Cardinals' Mark McGwire shattered Roger Maris' longstanding record for home runs in a single season with 70 in 1998. "Big Mac" and Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa staged a season-long home run battle that captured the hearts and minds of baseball fans and the entire sports world for one amazing summer. One of the most heartfelt moments from the home run chase occurred in St. Louis on the day McGwire broke the record. Moments after his historic blast, Big Mac climbed into the stands to embrace members of the Maris family. McGwire received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of his 1998 season.
Cal Ripken Jr.
Perhaps no player had more to do with the resurgence of baseball after the players' strike than one Cal Ripken, the 2001 recipient of the award. Ripken played 2,632 consecutive games, snapping legendary Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 games on Sept. 6, 1995. Ripken was a symbol for the Orioles' organization for 20 years, retiring after the 2001 season. A certain Hall of Famer, the Baltimore standout finished with 431 career homers and adoring fans all over the world who admired The Streak. Ripken received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of his remarkable record.
Rachel Robinson, the wife of Jackie Robinson and founder of The Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF), was presented with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award by Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig at the 60th anniversary celebration of Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium on April 15, 2007. Mrs. Robinson is the first woman to receive the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award. She founded the JRF in 1973 as a public, not-for-profit national organization to serve as an advocate for young people with the greatest need. Under Mrs. Robinson's leadership, JRF has awarded scholarships to 1,200 students from 43 states and the District of Columbia, totaling over $14.5 million.
One of the most popular sluggers of the modern era, the Cubs' Sammy Sosa enjoyed one of the greatest seasons on record in 1998. Along with the Cardinals' Mark McGwire, the pride of San Pedro de Macoris of the Dominican Republic electrified the baseball world in his hot pursuit of Roger Maris' single-season record of 61 home runs. Both sluggers eclipsed the mark in early September, as Sosa finished with an astounding total of 66 on his way to National League Most Valuable Player honors. Sosa received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of his 1998 season.
Ichiro, the Mariners' two-time batting champion, replaced Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler in the MLB record book in 2004 for most hits in a season -- 262. Sisler had 257 hits in 1920 with the St. Louis Browns, a record that many considered to be unbreakable. Suzuki received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of his remarkable campaign.
After losing superstar Alex Rodriguez to free agency after the 2000 season, few expected the Seattle Mariners to enjoy their best season in franchise history in 2001. But that is exactly what they did. Buoyed by the remarkable play of the destined-to-be American League Most Valuable Player Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners ran roughshod over any and all competitors during the regular season. In the process, they racked up a record-tying 116 victories on the way to winning the AL West by 14 games over the Oakland A's. The Seattle Mariners were honored with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award in recognition of their record-setting 2001 season.