C'mon, admit it. Roughly 23 years from now someone will ask you what happened in baseball in 2001, and you'll be stumped -- that is, unless you clip and save (or print and save as the case may be) this handy, one-web-page encyclopedia to the news and names of the year.
A for Arizona, as in a World Series Trophy's westernmost residence since 1989. And what a show it took to get there. After Games 4 and 5, even the Trophy itself thought it was going to call the Big Apple home like the three before it.
B for Barry or Bonds or perhaps even BOOM x 73. And the record-breaking 73 home runs don't tell the whole story. From the other single-season offensive records he set to just the sheer intimidation he exuded to pitchers from the batter's box, Bonds' 2001 performance can't be called simply Ruthian. It was, well, Bondsian. Or would it be Bondsonian? Even EZ Pass won't end the gridlock in McCovey Cove next summer.
C for Cal. To a lot of fans whose baseball-formative years were in the '80s, Cal Ripken was just there. Every day. By the end of the century and a Hall-of-Fame career that concluded in 2001, Baltimore's favorite Bird had won a couple of MVP awards, a World Series ring and the hearts of millions as he galloped past the Iron Horse. To boot, he collected 3,184 hits and in July provided one of the All-Star Game's most memorable home runs.
D for Discovery of the Year: Albert Pujols. Rotisserie geeks may have been waiting for him, but to most people this guy came out of nowhere. After just one season of professional baseball, the 21-year-old third baseman played 161 games for the Cardinals and lead them in nearly every offensive statistic. The NL Rookie of the Year batted .329, slugged 37 homers, drove in 130 runs, smacked 47 doubles and scored 112 runs. Repeat: One year of pro ball before taking St. Louis by storm.
E for Errors, or more specifically, Excruciating on-field moments that are hard to forget. We're thinking of three in particular: Tommy Lasorda doing the third-base-coach tumble at the All-Star Game (off to a blazing start as Blooper of the Decade); Lloyd McClendon's 16th career stolen base, when the Pirates skipper literally picked up the first-base bag and walked off with it after being ejected; and a Randy Johnson fastball that led to a dove's feathers falling in front of catcher Rod Barajas.
F for Flags, and sporting moments that are impossible to forget. The display of patriotism -- tinged with sorrow, remembrance and pride -- in stadiums across America after Sept. 11 are etched forever in our collective memory.
G for Gonzo, or Luis Gonzalez, who ironically was written into the books as a World Series hero for a bloop hit over a drawn-in infield than after a breakout season that saw him carry the Diamondbacks' offensive load with 57 home runs. Another reason why this game's so great.
H for Henderson, or How the heck can anyone break records held by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, and then pick up his 3,000th hit, all in one season? Henderson passed the Babe in career walks in April, passed the Georgia Peach in runs scored with a home run the last week and got the milestone hit on the season's final day. The runs record, overshadowed by the Summer of Bonds, will grow in stature -- we're talking a 73-year-old mark being surpassed in what is, when all's said and done, the most important statistic in this game.
I for Ichiro. The no-brainer of the list, seven-time Japanese batting champion Ichiro Suzuki performed above everyone's expectations, became a nationwide phenomenon and was honored as the AL's Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year. Perhaps most interesting: To many, he minted his American stardom not with his bat, but with his arm. That throw in Oakland on an April night that nailed Terrence Long at third is hard to forget.
J for Jason Giambi. After the A's stumbled mightily in April, the big first baseman dusted the team off and got their train rolling. Spectacular starting pitching and a key trade for Jermaine Dye helped chug them along to 102 wins and (only) a Wild Card spot, but if there was any doubt whose team it was, one need only look at Giambi's monster August weekend against a certain AL East juggernaut and his on-camera chewing out of Miguel Tejada in the ALDS vs. that same juggernaut. Now, he's a member of that juggernaut after grabbing the most hot stove league attention and money of any free agent.
K for Kirby. Hall of Fame induction ceremonies featured a Minnesota flair as the most popular Twin ever, Kirby Puckett, and St. Paul native and onetime Twin Dave Winfield had their day in the sun. But 1960 World Series hero Bill Mazeroski's tearful moment at the podium stood out as the singular moment.
L for Larry, and Lou, too. It's hard to argue with the choices for NL and AL Manager of the Year. While Lou Piniella guided the Mariners' phenomenal wire-to-wire regular-season run, Larry Bowa's Phillies were a bagful of surprises. The first surprise was that Bowa got the opportunity to manage again, another was that his trademark temper didn't get the best of him, and the biggest was that the Phils'
"phight" for an NL East title lasted into the final week. The club's 86-76 record was a 21-win improvement over 2000.
M for McGwire. We hear hotels in Cooperstown for 2007 Hall of Fame Weekend are already booked solid. Well, not quite, but as if we needed another marquee name on that ballot after Ripken and Gwynn (and maybe Henderson). Mark McGwire was the most awesome home run hitter of his generation, in the true definition of "awesome": as in mouths agape and picking up our jaws off the ground after witnessing one of his mammoth blasts. Mac retired after 583 home runs, fifth (for now) all-time. Thanks for 1998, Mark, and all of those long-ball thrills.
N for Nineteen, a number never to be worn again by a San Diego Padres player. Do you remember Tony Gwynn's 1983 Topps rookie card? It looked as if he had just stroked a single to left and was getting ready to make his turn wide of the first-base bag. Topps couldn't have chosen a more appropriate shot, as 3,141 hits and a career .338 batting average would attest. Coupled with Henderson's milestones, for a team that finished below .500, Padres fans had lots to enjoy this year.
O for One hundred sixteen, a number we'll be hard-pressed to see again in a W column. How exactly did the Seattle Mariners go 116-46, an AL record for regular-season victories, when they lost Alex Rodriguez to free agency? How did Bret Boone suddenly put up MVP-type numbers? Was it all the magic of Ichiro? Was the pitching really that good? Some things can't be explained. A tip of the cap to the M's for a tremendous season.
P for Pops. Pirates star Willie Stargell was one of a few Hall of Famers to pass away in 2001. The baseball world also lost Braves bopper Eddie Mathews and Indians great Lou Boudreau. Tommie Agee and Hank Sauer were among many other notables. Stargell's passing was particularly bittersweet, happening the night before the opening game at beautiful new PNC Park, which features a prominent statue of Stargell on its grounds.
Q for Quantrill. Easy enough, but we can back it up. Middle reliever Paul Quantrill was the Blue Jays' lone All-Star representative (and has since been traded), indicative of their disappointing year. More than a few experts considered Toronto, under new Manager Buck Martinez, a contender as the season began. Also having unexpectedly quiet seasons were the Rockies, who had signed left-handers Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, and the Rangers, who even with a very wealthy A-Rod were quite unhealthy on the mound and in the standings.
R for Rocket. It was just another year for Roger Clemens. The pushing-40 Yankees ace passed five all-time strikeout greats on his way to No. 3 all time, became the first pitcher ever to boast a 20-1 record (he finished 20-3) and capped it off by taking home an unprecedented sixth Cy Young Award. Oh, and he's 20 wins shy of 300. Ho hum.
S for Schilling. The matchup vs. the Rocket in a thrilling World Series Game 7 mound duel, the biggest baseball stage of the season, was the perfect capper to Curt Schilling's memorable season. His 22 wins tied for the Major League lead, flirted with a no-hitter more than once, was utterly dominant in the postseason and was named co-MVP of the Fall Classic with fellow Diamondback Randy Johnson.
T for Twins. Did anyone expect all the news that came out of Minnesota this year? The Cooperstown duo got our attention in January, then the current Twins grabbed our focus in April and held onto it for much of the summer. In his 15th and final season as manager, Tom Kelly got an exciting brand of baseball out of his young team before he retired, and the Twins enjoyed their first winning season since 1992. Then in November the talk turned toward saving the club, court injunctions and the like. Whew! Stay tuned.
U for Unit, as in Big Unit. Randy Johnson may be 38 but that doesn't mean a thing when you come off a third straight Cy Young Award-winning season. Johnson recorded career highs in strikeouts (372) and wins (21), and fanned 20 Reds with no walks in a masterful nine-inning performance May 8. He was great before arriving in the Valley of the Sun, but three years in the desert air have elevated his game even higher.
V for a Very close call. On an early September Sunday night in Boston, the Yankees and Red Sox added a classic to their ancient rivalry on national TV. New York's Mike Mussina and Boston's David Cone had their best stuff, and both were putting up zeroes: Cone, nearing the end of a great career, was heroic against his former team, while Mussina was simply being perfect. The Yanks finally scratched out a run in the ninth, and Moose took the mound in the bottom of the ninth three outs shy of a perfect game. He got the first two without much of a problem before Carl Everett lofted a two-strike pitch into short left field. It was Moose's second lost no-no in the ninth inning. The next day, Cardinals rookie Bud Smith no-hit the Padres (who earlier in the season were no-hit by Florida's A.J. Burnett).
W for Wrigley Field, home base to another slammin' season from Sammy Sosa. While a good amount of newspaper ink (and web pages) covered the negotiating dance that led to his eventual long-term deal with the Cubs, even more was written (deservedly so) about another 60-homer season. Sosa became the first player in history to reach that long-ball plateau three times.
X for X factors. Unfortunately, they can't be overlooked. An expired collective bargaining agreement between owners and players, the very real possibility of contraction (and/or relocation), antitrust hearings before congressional committees, the call for more revenue sharing, etc. Like it or not, they all made up a portion of the Baseball 2001 fabric.
Y for Yankees, as in the king is dead; long live the king? Or, meet the new boss; same as the old boss? The Bronx Bombers' run of three straight World Championships and four in five years ended in dramatic, ninth-inning-of-Game 7 fashion. Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius, a good chunk of the locker room's heart and soul, retired. Tino Martinez and Chuck Knoblauch signed with new teams, and David Justice was traded. Will all the Yankee retooling this offseason -- bringing in Jason Giambi, Rondell White, Steve Karsay, Robin Ventura and others -- pay off? We'll have to wait until 2002 for the answer to that.
Z for Zero chance that we've squeezed in everything here. Post your thoughts about the year on our message boards, or drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Perney is an editor/producer for MLB.com.
The Arizona Diamondbacks capped an amazing 2001 World Series.