Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hall of Famers, from A to, Well, Y

Arcane fact: If you list the 205 players elected to the Hall of Fame alphabetically, the first and last on the list started and ended their careers in a uniform that read Milwaukee on the front. At the top of the list, of course, is Henry Aaron. At the bottom, in name only, is Robin Yount.

I saw both of them play many times (and, in fact they suited up together for Aaron's final two years in the big leagues.) Looking back it makes a tidy story line.

Yount was the young phenom who was the starting shortstop for the Brewers when he was just 18. (Being 14 at the time, it seemed impossible to think anyone in high school could be a major leaguer!) And in Robin's third season, Hammerin' Hank was traded to the Brewers so he could end his career where it began. (Trivia: Aaron was acquired from the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Dave May.)

So here was baseball's biggest star, the all-time home run champ sharing the dugout with "the kid" as he was dubbed, a player who would fulfill all expectations, winning the MVP while playing two tough positions, center field and shortstop.

Both players seemed made for the city they represented. Years before Nike gave showboating athletes some advice via a catchy slogan, Aaron and Yount managed to "Just Do It." And that has made both wildly popular long after they last played.

It's easy for me to close my eyes and see Aaron sending a Nolan Ryan fastball well into the left field bleachers at County Stadium. And then the picture can flip to Yount smoothly gobbling ground balls at short or effortlessly running down fly balls in the gap.

It's perfect symmetry that the Hall of Fame list begins and ends with two classy players who went out every day and played like every game was important.

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