Covering the Bases of MLB’s Forgotten Stars
Some of today’s biggest stars in Major League Baseball will, at some point in time, be lost in the deluge of names that continually pile up.
There are all-time greats who will withstand the test of time – Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig – and forever remain icons of the sport, but those they are few and far between.
Sometimes a player rises to a top-tier level of performance that lasts for a decade, other times that peak lasts just a few years. Even some of the most elite baseball players that have a great Major League career retire without any of the accolades to show all they accomplished.
Bust out the old shoebox of cards, as we dust off the names of MLB stars who deserve to be better remembered.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the New York Yankees rostered what was arguably one of the most dominant teams in sports history. The team’s overwhelming amount of success — four World Series titles in five seasons — was thanks to a roster that mirrored that of an All-Star Game lineup.
With so many top shelf athletes crowding New York’s roster, it’s easy to lose track of some of the greats. Among those All-Star caliber talents was first baseman Tino Martinez.
Before joining the Yanks, Martinez spent six seasons with the Seattle Mariners, earning his first All-Star selection in his final year with the team.
With the Yankees, Martinez only earned one All-Star selection, but his contributions to the team were staggering. The always reliable first baseman came up in the clutch time and again, as he remained a trustworthy cornerstone while helping the Yankees to four World Series titles.
In 2014, Martinez was honored with a plaque in the Yankees’ Monument Park for his years of success at Yankee Stadium. After retiring, Martinez returned to the Pinstripes as a special instructor then Special Assistant to the General Manager before turning to a job in the booth as a color commentator for YES Network.
Righty pitcher J.R. Richard was an unstoppable force on the mound. The Houston Astros had a real star in Richard, who first stepped up to the Majors in 1971.
At the tender age of 21, the rookie Richard had a long career ahead of him.
In the 1975 season, Richard saw his big chance to take over as the top dog starting pitcher for the ‘Stros with the departure of a few others for various reasons.
Richard finished the season with a 12-10 record, marking the first of six straight seasons he’d finish in the positive.
Richard transformed into a monster, leading the National League in strikeouts two straight seasons (1978, 1979), leading the National League in ERA (1979) and earning an All-Star selection (1980) in his final season for his mind-numbing 1.90 ERA.
Still only 30, Richard was set for years of unrivaled dominance before suffering a stroke on July 30, 1980 while having a catch before a game.
Entering the prime of his career, Richard’s devastating medical condition cut a bright future short.
Calvin Schiraldi is a name that may not be recognizable to many, but for two teams, he lives in both infamy and fame.
It all began when he was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round of the 1983 MLB Draft.
A 22-year-old Schiraldi got his first start in the bigs only one year after the Mets drafted him.
Through two seasons with the Mets, Schiraldi didn’t particularly standout, but that would change after the 1985 season when the NYM traded the pitcher to the Boston Red Sox.
With the Sox, Schiraldi was moved from a starter role to closer, and the results paid dividends. Schiraldi excelled in his new role, torching batters to the tune of a 1.41 ERA through the regular season and helping Boston to the 1986 World Series.
In the World Series, Schiraldi’s spectacular season came to a screeching halt.
The controversial decision in Game 6 to replace Roger Clemens for a pinch hitter led to Schiraldi taking over at the mound. Boston was ahead 5-3 in the 10th inning when Schiraldi retired the first two batters, then gave up a run on three straight singles before being replaced by Bob Stanley, which led to the infamous Bill Buckner through-the-legs moment.
In Game 7, Schiraldi gave three earned runs in the seventh as the Mets took a 6-3 lead. Unfortunately, the following six years of his career were a wash to that iconic series.
Righty pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim spent time with four teams during his nine-year MLB career, but he will always be remembered most for his years with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As much as he’s remembered for his years with the D-Backs, his throwing motion is equally memorable.
Kim’s mechanics were wild, as he was a practitioner of the bizarre submarine pitch and its seemingly upside down looking release.
The off-kilter technique proved to be deadly when it was needed the most in 2001, as Kim played a key role in helping the D-Backs reach the World Series.
Not only did the D-Backs reach the World Series, they took down the dynastic New York Yankees to win the pennant. But they did it almost in spite of Kim, who allowed game-tying homers to the Yankees in the ninth inning of Games 4 and 5, allowing the Yankees to take a 3-2 series lead.
Kim followed that season with a special individual accomplishment, earning his lone All-Star selection.
The submarine assassin lit opposing batters in his All-Star season, earning a franchise record 36 saves. To understand just how dominant Kim was on the mound in that time, those 36 saves came on 42 total opportunities.
Left-handed pitcher Mark Davis played the equivalent of a lifetime in the MLB. Making his big league debut in 1980, Davis endured a marathon career that spanned nearly two decades before he retired from playing in 1997.
Davis began his Major League career as a starting pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. After two seasons with the Phillies and a year away from the league, Davis continued as a starter for the four seasons until being traded to the San Diego Padres.
The Pads opted to make the lefty a closer and he thrived in the new role. In the following two seasons, Davis enjoyed two All-Star seasons (1988, 1989), and crushed the competition on his way to a National League-leading 44 saved in 1989.
Davis’ outstanding 1989 season earned him the coveted NL Cy Young Award. After a two-year peak with the Pads, Davis became something of a journeyman before retiring in the 1997 season. The closer then took his talents to the bullpen, serving in a variety of coaching roles in the Major and Minor Leagues.
For 13 years, Aubrey Huff was the MLB’s ultimate Mr. Do-It-All utility man. Between his time with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants, he really did do it all.
Huff saw a number of opportunities to try his hand at first base, third base, right field and designated hitter. As for individual success, Huff left his strongest mark with his first team, the Devil Rays (now Rays) where he spent over six seasons.
In 2008, during his time in Baltimore, Huff won the Silver Slugger Award as the O’s designated hitter. It was with his fifth and final team, however, where Huff finally reached the pinnacle of success in baseball.
Huff signed a one-year deal with the Giants in 2010, which would end up being the first time in 11 years that he would reach the postseason. Not only did he finally see some postseason play, he and the Giants went on to win the World Series.
Another two-year deal sent Huff off with a bang, as he and the Giants won a second World Series in 2012.
The Minnesota Twins took a chance on high school multi-sport star athlete Torii Hunter, drafting him in the first round with the 20th overall pick.
What they got was a freak athlete with a knack for making memorable plays in the outfield.
Hunter only made a handful of appearances in his first two seasons with the Twins, but once he took over as a starter, he thrived as the team’s center fielder. In 2002, Hunter earned his first of five All-Star selections.
On defense, Hunter was unrivaled. For nine straight years (2001-09), the appropriately named “Spiderman” was awarded nine consecutive Gold Gloves between his time with the Twins and Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels. That wasn’t all the acrobatic outfielder accomplished.
In 2009 and 2013, Hunter won the Silver Slugger Award, showing that he was as much a terror at the plate as he was in the outfield.
After concluding his final season (2015) in Minnesota, he was inducted into the Twins’ Hall of Fame.
There’s little evidence needed to see just how impressive Chili Davis’ Major League career was other than seeing that it spanned the course of 19 seasons, as he endured the marathon-like run from 1981-99. If that’s enough, he’s got the accolades to complement the years.
Davis was a journeyman and seemed to accomplish one thing or another a little bit of everything in his stops. His first team was the San Francisco Giants, where he was a star outfielder from the get-go and left with two All-Star selections.
Davis’ third team was with the Minnesota Twins where he won the 1991 World Series. The slugger then returned for a second stint with this second team, the California Angels, where he earned his third All-Star selection as a designated hitter.
Finishing out the latter half of his career as a designated hitter, Davis’ fifth and final team was with the New York Yankees. He only spent two years in Pinstripes, but each of those seasons ended with World Series championships.
A three-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion – not a bad representative as the first Jamaican-born ballplayer to play in the Majors.
Score one for the little guy in a big way!
At 5-foot-9, second baseman Chuck Knoblauch didn’t have the most physically intimidating frame, but his hustle proved that heart can persevere through any obstacle.
Knoblauch’s debut season with the Minnesota Twins in 1991 earned him Rookie of the Year honors.
That wasn’t the only thing Knoblauch won in 1991, as that was also Minnesota’s pennant-winning year alongside fellow great Torii Hunter.
The undersized second baseman followed a standout rookie season with an even better sophomore season, earning his first All-Star selection at age 23.
Knoblauch’s success continued for seven years with the Twins, earning all four of his All-Star seasons in Minnesota. Before taking his talents to New York, Knoblauch capped off his run with Minnesota with a Gold Glove Award in his last season with the team (1997).
Knoblauch played an integral role with the Yankees, finding immediate success with the Pinstripes too. In the first three of his four seasons in New York, Knoblauch won back to back to back World Series.
Unfortunately, the New York media may have gotten under the second baseman’s skin (as NYC is wont to do), as he fell off hard and fast, suddenly collecting throwing errors in the field, leading to a rather sudden retirement after a swift downfall in 2003.
Joey Cora may not be the biggest name among the many MLB standouts, but the infielder’s understanding of the game was second to none.
Incredibly, we almost never saw that come to fruition. Already selected as a first round pick in 1985, Cora was stabbed twice after a game in Texas while still playing college ball for Vanderbilt, though he was luckily rushed to the hospital fast enough to make a full recovery.
One of the more notable and unique attributes of the journeyman was his ability at the plate, batting as a switch hitter.
On the field, Cora served in a number of infield positions primarily spending time at second base and shortstop.
Cora spent time with four teams as a player, playing with the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians from 1987-98.
It was his time in Seattle where Cora really came into his own, earning an All-Star selection in 1995 in a season that at one point featured a 24-game hit streak.
After calling it a career, Cora returned to the game with different coaching roles, starting with the White Sox in 2004. In his second year with the team, the White Sox won the 2005 World Series. Cora has served as a base coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2017.
Jimmy Rollins was a lifer with the Philadelphia Phillies at shortstop … until he wasn’t.
For the first 15 seasons of his 17-year career, Rollins was a huge factor in what made Philly such a dangerous National League squad.
In the early 2000s, Rollins established himself as one of the premier players in the Majors, earning three All-Star selections. In the late 2000s, the Phillies stepped up to produce all around, leading to five straight first place NL East finishes.
Rollins was incredible in 2007 with a productive season that landed him his first of four Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger Award and the crowning achievement, the National League MVP award.
The following season trumped all of those individual accolades.
Rollins and the Phillies were left with the bitter taste of defeat in 2007 after getting swept in the National League Division Series by the Colorado Rockies. They made up for it in a big way, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in five games to win the 2008 World Series.
It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what Mo “The Hit Dog” Vaughn did best.
Vaughn was a big man with an even bigger personality who dished out even bigger hits. The linebacker-sized first baseman’s personality and prowess at the plate with the Boston Red Sox made him a fan favorite.
The heavy hitter enjoyed his fair share of success in Boston – a man of the people, winning Bostonians’ hearts with his off-field work and crushing it on-field. In his eight years with the Sox, Vaughn was an American League menace.
Vaughn earned three All-Star selections highlighted by his first one in 1995. Along with that honor, Vaughn led the American League in RBIs, helping him to a Silver Slugger Award and American League MVP selection.
Those accolades helped the Hit Dog earn his spot in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Vaughn signed a six-year deal with the Anaheim Angels worth a then-record $80 million. Then, the heavy hitter got bit bad by the injury bug, leading to an early departure after two years with the team. After missing the 2001 season injury, Vaughn’s comeback with the New York Mets lasted just two seasons before calling it a career in 2003.
Miguel Tejada had a remarkable career that, unfortunately, has not exactly held up so well to the test of time.
Tejada’s first team was the Oakland Athletics, where he spent seven years and broke out as a superstar in his sixth year (2002).
Despite not having been selected to a single All-Star team prior to 2002, the absence of Jason Giambi and Jermaine Dye forced Tejada to play the role of Superman. By season’s end, he was the American League MVP.
The next four seasons were spent with the Baltimore Orioles where Tejada earned three All-Star selections and both of his Silver Slugger Awards. Next up, the Houston Astros. Two seasons in Houston resulted in another two All-Stars.
The 2005 release of Jose Canseco’s controversial book, “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smatsh Hits & How Baseball Got Big,” suggested that Tejada had used performance enhancing drugs. Tejada admitted to steroid use, putting him in hot water with the league and public.
Another run-in for using Adderall landed him a massive 105 game suspension in 2013, leaving him with a less than graceful exit from the game.