This year's Hall of Fame ballot features 34 candidates vying for a spot in Cooperstown. The group comprises a collection of elite talent and decorated resumes built upon sustained success at the pinnacle of their sport.Between them, these candidates boast 174 All-Star appearances, 31 World Series rings and eight Most
This year's Hall of Fame ballot features 34 candidates vying for a spot in Cooperstown. The group comprises a collection of elite talent and decorated resumes built upon sustained success at the pinnacle of their sport.
Between them, these candidates boast 174 All-Star appearances, 31 World Series rings and eight Most Valuable Player Awards, along with a wide range of individual and team accomplishments that encompass their baseball legacies.
But for many of these players, it's not simply the cumulative body of work that resonates most profoundly with their fans: It's a singular moment that they're most remembered for. A clutch home run, a dominant pitching performance or a pivotal postseason play -- a moment that defined their careers.
As the Hall of Fame announcement nears, it's time to revisit some of the most signature moments from the players who could be headed to Cooperstown in 2017. The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 3 p.m.
Considered among the best defensive catchers of all time, Rodriguez's prowess was on full display at the conclusion of the Marlins' 2003 National League Division Series against the Giants. Rodriguez withstood a major collision at the plate with the Giants' J.T. Snow, and still managed to hang onto the ball for the final out of the series as Florida advanced to the NL Championship Series en route to the franchise's second title.
"In a series where every out counted, that was the last one and it was very emotional," Rodriguez told ESPN.com in 2012. "I've always thought that if that out didn't happen, maybe we wouldn't have made it to the World Series."
The end to the 86-year title drought of the Red Sox in 2004 featured a number of magical moments, many of which included players on this year's Hall of Fame ballot. But among the most iconic was none other than Schilling pitching on a hastily repaired ankle tendon, with an infamously bloody sock, in Game 6 of the American League Championhip Series against the rival Yankees. Despite his gimpy ankle, Schilling pitched seven innings, limiting the Yankees to just one run on four hits, and helping the Red Sox force a Game 7, which Boston won en route to the franchise's sixth World Series title.
Hoffman converted 601 saves throughout his career, but it's Nos. 96, 97 and 98 during the final weekend of the 1996 season that likely had the most lasting impact for Padres fans. That year, the NL West race went down to the wire between the Padres and the reigning division-champion Dodgers. Hoffman recorded three straight saves -- two in extra innings -- as San Diego overcame a two-game deficit to claim its second NL West crown and first since 1984.
"Those three [saves] on consecutive days were great to help us win the division," Hoffman said. "It was cool that there was something on the line and we put up a divisional flag rather than a Wild Card flag."
Among baseball's most prolific postseason hitters, Ramirez ranks first all time with 29 career homers in the playoffs. His 21st, a three-run, walk-off homer that sailed over the Green Monster in Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS, is perhaps the most memorable. Not only did that home run come in a clutch situation in a pivotal playoff game, but it was also against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was in his prime and among the game's elite relievers.
"One of the best feelings ever," Ramirez said after the game. "In that situation, [Rodriguez] got me out so many times. But baseball's like that. Sometimes you get me, sometimes I get you. And I got him at the right time."
Mussina's first-ever relief appearance in 2003 was one of the most memorable outings of his career. Mussina's Yankees were trailing, 4-0, in Game 7 of the ALCS vs. Boston to determine which club would represent the AL in the World Series. Just three days after throwing 95 pitches in a Game 4 loss, Mussina entered the game in the fourth with runners at the corners, and promptly struck out Jason Varitek before inducing an inning-ending double play. Mussina tossed two more scoreless frames, containing a potent Red Sox offense long enough for his club to make an improbable comeback.
Martinez excelled in the 1995 ALDS against the Yankees, batting .571 (12-for-21) with three doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs and six walks in the series. In Game 4, he propelled his club to a series-tying victory with a grand slam and a three-run homer for a postseason-record seven RBIs. What followed in Game 5 was a signature moment for not only Martinez, but for the entire Mariners franchise. With his team down by one run in the bottom of the 11th inning, Martinez smacked a walk-off, two-run double, advancing the Mariners to their first-ever ALCS appearance and solidifying his place in Seattle sports history.
After missing Spring Training and the first month of the season while a free agent in 1987, Raines immediately made his presence known upon his return to the Expos, hitting the very first pitch he saw off the wall for a triple, then later swatting a game-winning grand slam in the 10th inning. He finished with two singles, a triple, a home run, three runs scored, a walk and a stolen base in six plate appearances. He led the Expos in runs (123), stolen bases (50) and walks (90) that year, despite not beginning his season until May 2.
On April 29, 1986, Clemens became the first Major Leaguer to total 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game with one of baseball's most historic pitching performances. Then just 23 years old and coming off shoulder surgery, Clemens stifled the Mariners' bats, with his lone blemish being a solo home run he surrendered in the seventh inning. He threw 138 pitches, 97 of them for strikes.
That 20-strikeout game was a breakout performance for Clemens, who went on to win the AL MVP and the first of his seven Cy Young Awards that year. The feat has since been replicated four times -- once by Clemens himself a decade later, on Sept. 18, 1996.
Bonds homered his way into the record books at AT&T Park on Aug. 7, 2007, when he hit the 756th blast of his career, moving him past Hank Aaron as MLB's all-time home run leader -- a record that stood for more than three decades after Aaron retired. While some may doubt the legitimacy of Bonds' accomplishment -- his image had been tarnished by alleged steroid use -- it was perhaps the crowning moment of a playing career that included 14 All-Star appearances, seven MVPs, eight Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers, two batting titles and several big league records.
Guerrero was among the most dangerous hitters in baseball throughout his 16-year career, but he also thrilled fans with his remarkable arm, which was on full display when he threw out Todd Hundley at the plate on June 3, 1997. For a moment, Carlos Baerga had what appeared to be a likely two-run double -- until Guerrero unleashed a rocket from right field. The ball arrived with plenty of time to spare to get Hundley out at home, keeping a run off the board for the Expos.
"Just pure, freakish talent, the most incredible hand-eye coordination you've ever seen," former Major Leaguer Darin Erstad said last month of Guerrero, his former Angels teammate. "It was like every day at the park you'd see something you'd never seen before."
While Bagwell sustained a level of excellence throughout his 15-year career that distinguishes him among other candidates likely to reach Cooperstown in 2017, it's difficult to pinpoint a signature moment that defined his time in the big leagues. The first baseman will likely be remembered for his stellar season in 1994, when he was named the NL MVP Award winner. His season didn't lack for impressive highlights, though one in particular stands out in a late June matchup against the Dodgers at the Astrodome, when Bagwell recorded his first-career three-homer game.
Bagwell was at his best in '94, batting .368/.451/.750 with 39 home runs and leading the NL in runs (104), RBIs (116), slugging, OPS (1.201) and total bases (300). And on June 24, he helped spark a 16-run outburst for the Astros' offense with three long balls, including two in the sixth inning.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com.