In 2003, Rafael Palmeiro made his 500th home run, and Barry Bonds earned his sixth National League MVP. Here are some of the headlines from the 2003 baseball season:
Tim Hudson, A's Pitch Way to West Title
Once again, Oakland's formidable starting pitching led the A's to the playoffs in 2003. The Big Three of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder helped Oakland lead the league with a 3.63 ERA and clinch the American League West by three games over Seattle. Hudson finished 16-7 while ranking second among American League hurlers with a 2.70 ERA.
2003 Tigers Lose American League-Record 119 Games
The Tigers set an American League record for losses (43-119) and had to win five of their last six to avoid tying the 1962 Mets' major league record. Starters Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Cornejo, and Adam Bernero were 9-21, 6-19, 6-17, and 1-12, respectively, and the "attack" scored 108 fewer runs than any other American League club. The Tigers also led the league in errors.
Rafael Palmeiro Joins 500-Homer Club
Texas' Rafael Palmeiro had long been one of the game's most consistent and underrated hitters. Palmeiro clouted at least 38 homers every season from 1995 through 2003, making him the first slugger in major league history to achieve the feat nine straight years.
Roger Clemens: 300 Ws, 4,000 Ks
Yankee Roger Clemens had been chasing 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts for years, and on June 13, 2003, he achieved both feats in the same game against St. Louis. He ended the season in possession of the American League's all-time strikeout record. Late in the year, Clemens announced plans to retire, but he recanted and later signed with Houston for 2004.
2003 Cubs Pitching a Prior-ity
In his first full major league season, Cubs starter Mark Prior proved to be one of the game's dominant pitchers. Heading a strong rotation that also included Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement, Prior ranked among the National League's top three in wins (18-6), ERA (2.43), and strikeouts (245). The Cubs' strong hurling led to a surprising National League Central title and an upset of the Braves in the NLDS.
Rookie Dontrelle Willis Sparks Fish
Lefty Dontrelle Willis made just six Starts in Double-A before joining the Marlins in May 2003. He proceeded to go 9-1 by July 13 and 14-6 overall, earning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. The Marlins, under 72-year-old skipper Jack McKeon, won a surprise wildcard spot en route to their 2003 World Series upset of the Yankees.
Barry Bonds Stars in Bittersweet Season
Barry Bonds couldn't fully enjoy his record sixth National League MVP season in 2003. In addition to smashing .341 with 45 homers, he recorded his 500th career stolen base on June 23, making him the first ever to steal 500 sacks and hit 500 homers. Moreover, the Giants won 100 games and ran away with the National League West. Unfortunately, Bonds's joy was tempered by the loss of his father, former Giants standout Bobby Bonds, who died of cancer on August 23.
Jorge Posada Lifts Yanks to 101 Wins
In another year, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada could have been voted American League MVP. A fine defensive catcher, Posada in 2003 rapped .281 with 30 homers and a .405 on-base percentage, fifth best in the circuit. Despite lacking a dominant pitcher or hitter, and finishing third in the American League in runs and third in ERA, the Yankees won 101 games, tops in the American League.
Carlos Delgado Slugs Way to RBI Crown
Toronto first baseman Carlos Delgado led the American League with 145 RBI in 2003, besting second-place Alex Rodriguez by a margin of 27 -- one of the largest gaps in history. Delgado also finished second in the American League in home runs (42), on-base percentage (.426), and slugging percentage (.593). On September 25, he smashed four homers in one game against the Devil Rays.
Check out more headlines from the 2003 baseball season on the next page.