Two of the game’s finest ever hitters were honored before the All-Star game Tuesday night in a way that makes so much sense it’s surprising it didn’t happen years ago.
Minutes before the first pitch, the American League and National League batting title awards were renamed after Major League Baseball legends Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. Carew was in attendance to accept the honor, while the Gwynn family was on hand on behalf of the late Padre legend Gwynn.
Commissioner Rob Manfred released this statement:
“Rod is one of the most highly decorated players in American League history, who made 18 straight All-Star appearances in his Hall of Fame career. Tony is considered one of the greatest hitters in the history of the National League and there is no better place to honor him than in San Diego. Major League Baseball is pleased to recognize their extraordinary careers by naming our batting crowns in their honor.”
Both players dominated the award’s selecting during their playing careers.
Carew won the title of AL batting champion seven times (1969, 1972-1975, 1977-1978) over an illustrious career that included 18 All-Star selections (1967-1984), Rookie of the Year (1967) AL MVP (1977) and the Roberto Clemente award (1977).
Carew was elected into the MLB Hall of Fame as a first ballot inductee in 1991, receiving 90.5 percent of the final vote.
Never to be outdone, especially not in his home city, where he spent every outstanding year of his 20 year career, Gwynn won the title of AL batting champion eight times (1984, 1987-1989, 1994-1997) winning 15 All-Star selections (1984-1987, 1989-1999), five Gold Gloves (1986-1987,1989-1991), seven Silver Slugger awards and the Roberto Clemente award (1999).
Gwynn made the MLB Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2007, receiving 97.6 percent of the final vote.
Gwynn and Carew are tied for second and fourth most batting titles all-time respectively, while Ty Cobb holds the sole lead with 11 to his name. Both Carew (.328, 3,053) and Gwynn (.338, 3,141) were also lifetime .300+ hitters, with 3,000+ hits.
A handful of former batting champions played in the All-Star Game this year. 2015’s AL winner Xander Bogaerts (.320 AVG to win) started and played shortstop and 2015’s NL winner Bryce Harper (.330) started in the outfield.
Others included second baseman Jose Altuve (2014, .341), outfielder Mike Trout (2012, .326), catcher Buster Posey (2012, .336), outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (2010, .336), and first baseman Miguel Cabrera who won the award six times: 2006 (.339), 2010 (.328), 2011 (.344), 2012 (.330), 2013 (.348) and in 2015 (.338).
The Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy is the current National League hitting leader, currently at a .348 clip, while in the American League, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is making a bid for his second batting title with a .341 average after the first half.
Both hitters will look to cement themselves as the first recipients of the Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn batting titles, respectively.