- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

With the World Series scheduled to begin tonight, it's time to take a look back at some of this season's historic accomplishments. Showing the class that has typified his 21 years as a Baltimore Oriole, Cal Ripken Jr. recently bid the legions of his fans good-bye. Ripken, of course, is best known for breaking Lou Gehrig's streak of consecutive games, a baseball record once thought to be untouchable. But he did not just break Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games; he shattered it by 502 games, the equivalent of more than three full seasons. And Ripken did much more than just show up: He is one of only seven players in baseball history to accumulate more than 400 home runs and 3,000 base hits. Perhaps Ripken's greatest contribution to baseball has been the credit he has received for almost single-handedly rescuing baseball from the self-inflicted wounds resulting from the labor dispute that prematurely ended the 1994 season and canceled that year's World Series. Still, Major League Baseball ended regular-season play on more than Ripken's remarkable milestones.

Joining Ripken in well-earned retirement is another certain Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn, who played the last game of his 20-year career with the San Diego Padres. Gwynn also accumulated more than 3,000 hits en route to a career batting average of .338, the highest of any player since Ted Williams left the game more than four decades ago.

While he has no plans to retire, 43-year-old Rickey Henderson the ageless, face-first-sliding acrobat who is arguably the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of the game collected his 3,000th hit, becoming only the 25th player to do so. But that was the least of Henderson's accomplishments this year. To his all-time base-stealing record of 1,395 Henderson added two more all-time offensive records to his illustrious career. Henderson, playing in his fourth decade, surpassed Babe Ruth in career walks, and he broke Ty Cobb's career record for runs scored, a record that stood for nearly three quarters of a century.

While Henderson was breaking career records, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants was shattering a slew of single-season records. Only three years after Mark McGwire's 70 homers, Bonds blasted 73 home runs this year. In accumulating 177 bases on balls, Bonds also broke the Babe's record of 170, which was set in 1923. In 1920, Ruth set the major league single-season record of .847 for slugging average, while Rogers Hornsby set the National League record of .756 five years later. Both were all-time standards that Bonds smashed. Bonds' 2001 slugging average which measures a hitter's total bases from his singles, doubles, triples and home runs relative to his times at bat was a staggering .863. In 2001, Bonds hit a home run every 6.5 times at bat, smashing McGwire's major league record of 7.3, while his .515 on-base average established a new National League record, besting Hornsby's .507 mark set in 1924. Measured by many standards, Barry Bonds enjoyed one of the most prolific offensive seasons in baseball history.

It was a season baseball fans will remember for a long time a welcome development that few could have predicted in the wake of the disastrous 1994 season.

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