The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center drove baseball from the minds of the American public for a period of time, sobering fans of the game everywhere and prompting the sport to observe a one-week moratorium as the nation mourned its losses. However, while ballparks grew eerily silent for several days, the temporary cessation in play failed to cool off the bats of Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, both of whom compiled seasons of historic proportions.
Bonds batted .328, knocked in 137 runs, scored 129 others, led the National League with a .515 on-base percentage, and established new single-season major league records by hitting 73 home runs, walking 177 times, and posting a slugging average of .863. Sosa hit 64 homers, batted .328, and topped the senior circuit with 160 runs batted in, 146 runs scored, and 425 total bases. Sosa’s 64 home runs enabled him to join Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire as the only players in baseball history to top the 50-homer mark on four separate occasions. Sosa also became the only player ever to hit as many as 60 home runs three times. Sosa’s extraordinary performance earned him a second-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting, right behind Bonds, who won the award for the fourth time in his career. Nevertheless, neither Sosa’s Cubs nor Bonds’ Giants made the playoffs. The Cubs finished third in the N.L. Central, five games behind both the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Giants finished a close second to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the West, coming in just two games behind the eventual world champions.
The Diamondbacks used the powerful bat of Luis Gonzalez and the exceptional pitching of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to capture their second division title in just their fourth year of existence with a mark of 92-70. Gonzalez batted .325 and placed among the league leaders with 57 home runs, 142 runs batted in, 128 runs scored, 419 total bases, a .429 on-base percentage, and a .688 slugging average. Johnson earned N.L. Cy Young honors for the third straight time by going 21-6, with a league-leading 2.49 ERA and 372 strikeouts. Schilling compiled a record of 22-6, to tie for the league lead in victories. He also led all N.L. hurlers with 256 innings pitched and six complete games, while finishing second to Johnson with a 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts.
While Arizona edged out San Francisco for the Western Division title by only two games, the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals found themselves deadlocked with identical 93-69 records at the end of the regular season. Houston ended up winning the division on a tiebreaker, leaving St. Louis as the senior circuit’s wild-card representative.
The Astros used their potent offense, which finished second in the league with 847 runs scored, to tie the Cardinals for the league’s best record. Jeff Bagwell hit 39 homers, drove in 130 runs, scored 126 others, and batted .288. Craig Biggio homered 20 times, scored 118 runs, and batted .292. Moises Alou hit 27 home runs, knocked in 108 runs, and batted .331. Lance Berkman went deep 34 times, drove in 126 runs, scored 110 others, batted .331, and led the league with 55 doubles.
Perhaps the senior circuit’s most well-balanced team, the Cardinals finished fourth in the league rankings with 814 runs scored, and they also placed third with a team ERA of 3.93. Matt Morris and Darryl Kile anchored the Cardinals’ starting rotation. Morris compiled a 3.16 ERA and finished 22-8, to tie Schilling for the league lead in victories. Kile won 16 games and posted an ERA of 3.09. On offense, N.L. Rookie of the Year Albert Pujols hit 37 homers, knocked in 130 runs, scored 112 others, and batted .329. Jim Edmonds hit 30 home runs, drove in 110 runs, scored 95 others, and batted .304. J. D. Drew homered 27 times and batted .323. Fernando Vina batted .303 and scored 95 runs.
While the Astros and Diamondbacks both returned to the top of their respective divisions after a one-year hiatus, the Braves captured their seventh consecutive N.L. East title, edging out the Philadelphia Phillies by a slim two-game margin with a record of 88-74. An up-and-coming team, the Phillies featured several young stars. Third baseman Scott Rolen hit 25 home runs, drove in 107 runs, scored 96 others, batted .289, and won the third Gold Glove of his young career for his excellent defensive work at the hot corner. Outfielder Pat Burrell hit 27 homers and knocked in 89 runs. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins crossed the plate 97 times and led the league with 46 stolen bases. Outfielder Bobby Abreu hit 31 homers, drove in 110 runs, scored another 118, batted .289, and stole 36 bases.
Still, Philadelphia came up a bit short in the end, losing out to the Braves, who advanced to the postseason with the fewest victories of any playoff team in either league. Finishing just 13th in the National League in runs scored, the Braves depended heavily on their pitching staff, which compiled a league-leading 3.59 team ERA. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine combined to win 33 games. Although John Burkett came out victorious only 12 times, he led the club with a 3.04 ERA. Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Brian Jordan provided much of the offense. Chipper hit 38 home runs, knocked in 102 runs, scored 113 others, and batted .330. Andruw homered 34 times, drove in 104 runs, and scored another 104. Jordan hit 25 homers, knocked in 97 runs, and batted .295.
The Braves’ superior pitching subsequently proved to be the difference in their first-round playoff matchup with the Astros. Atlanta hurlers surrendered only six runs to the Astros during the three-game sweep, holding Houston’s powerful lineup to just a .200 team batting average.
Arizona had a far more difficult time getting past St. Louis in the other Division Series. However, the Diamondbacks finally prevailed in five games, primarily on the strength of Curt Schilling’s exceptional pitching. Schilling hurled two complete-game victories, allowing the Cardinals just one run on nine hits over 18 innings.
The Diamondbacks encountered fewer problems defeating the Braves in the NLCS, disposing of them in five games. Although Arizona’s Craig Counsell earned Series MVP honors by batting .381 and driving in four runs, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were the driving forces behind the Diamondbacks’ easy victory. Johnson won both his starts, compiled a 1.13 ERA, and struck out 19 batters in 16 innings of work. Schilling won his lone start, allowing the Braves just one run on four hits, while striking out 12 in going the distance.
Johnson and Schilling similarly dominated the Yankees in the World Series, posting all four of Arizona’s victories as the Diamondbacks took the Series in seven games. Although the Yankees won three of the seven contests, the Diamondbacks badly outplayed them over the course of the Series, outscoring them by a combined margin of 37-14. Only a pair of stunning two-out, two-run, ninth-inning home runs by the Yankees in Games Four and Five kept the Fall Classic close. After falling behind in the Series three-games-to-two, the Diamondbacks won their first world championship by taking the final two contests in Arizona. They emerged victorious in Game Seven when Luis Gonzalez drove home the winning run with a bloop single over a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the ninth inning against Yankee closer Mariano Rivera.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• April 17 - Barry Bonds became the 17th player in major league history to hit 500 career home runs.
• April 24 – San Diego’s Rickey Henderson broke Babe Ruth's record for most bases on balls in a career by walking for the 2,063rd time.
• September 6 - Barry Bonds joined Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa as the fifth player in major league history to hit 60 home runs in a season.
• September 21 - In the first sporting event in New York City since the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, Mike Piazza hit a dramatic two-run home run in the eighth inning to give the Mets a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves. The two clubs shook hands before the game in a show of unity.
• October 2 - At Wrigley Field, Sammy Sosa hit his 60th home run of the season off Lance Davis of the Cincinnati Reds, becoming in the process the first player in major league history to reach the 60-homer plateau on three separate occasions.
• October 4 - Rickey Henderson hit a home run to become the major leagues' all-time career leader with 2,246 runs scored.
• October 5 - Barry Bonds hit his 71st and 72nd home runs of the year to set a new major league single-season mark in the San Francisco Giants' 11–10 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
• October 6 - Lenny Harris of the Mets collected his 151st career pinch hit to break Manny Mota's old record.
• October 7 - Rickey Henderson collected the 3,000th hit of his career against the Colorado Rockies.
• November 11 - Mark McGwire announced his retirement. His 583 career home runs placed him fifth on the all-time list at the time.
• December 6 - Major League Baseball reportedly gave John Henry permission to sell the Florida Marlins to Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria. The Expos were taken over by MLB, who owned the franchise until 2006 after moving it to Washington the previous year.
• Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling shared World Series MVP honors. Johnson won three games, while Schilling allowed only four runs in his three starts.
• Colorado's Larry Walker hit 38 home runs, knocked in 123 runs, scored 107 others, and won his third batting title with a mark of .350.
• Colorado teammate Todd Helton hit 49 homers, drove in 146 runs, scored 132 times, batted .336, and collected 54 doubles.
• Florida's A.J. Burnett pitched a no-hitter against San Diego on May 12, walking nine men and hitting another in the process.
• St. Louis rookie Bud Smith tossed a no-hitter against San Diego on September 3.
• Shawn Green of the Dodgers hit 49 home runs, knocked in 125 runs, scored 121 others, and batted .297.
• San Francisco shortstop Rich Aurilia hit 37 homers, drove in 97 runs, scored 114 others, batted .324, and topped the circuit with 206 hits.
Seasons of the National League
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- Randy Johnson won the Babe Ruth Award
- Curt Schilling won the Babe Ruth Award
- Randy Johnson won the Cy Young
- Barry Bonds won the Hank Aaron Award
- Larry Bowa won the Mgr of the year
- Barry Bonds won the MVP
- Craig Counsell won the NLCS MVP
- Armando Benitez won the Rolaids Relief
- Albert Pujols won the Rookie of the Year
- Curt Schilling won the TSN Pitcher of the Year
- A.J. Burnett, Albert Pujols, Andruw Jones, Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Barry Bonds, Bobby Abreu, Brian Jordan, Bud Smith, Byung-Hyun Kim, Chipper Jones, Colorado Rockies, Craig Biggio, Craig Counsell, Curt Schilling, Darryl Kile, Fernando Vina, Greg Maddux, Houston Astros, J.D. Drew, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Edmonds, Jimmy Rollins, John Burkett, Lance Berkman, Larry Walker, Lenny Harris, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace, Mark McGwire, Matt Morris, Mike Hampton, Mike Piazza, Moises Alou, Pat Burrell, Randy Johnson, Rich Aurilia, Rickey Henderson, Sammy Sosa, San Francisco Giants, Scott Brosius, Scott Rolen, Shawn Green, Tino Martinez, Todd Helton, Tom Glavine, Tony Womack