It seems unlikely that one day would be the birthday of three inner-circle Hall of Famers, but Jan. 31 brings the birthdays of Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks and Nolan Ryan. It may be random, but it definitely seems that there’s something about being born on Jan. 31 that makes one a good baseball player.
Let’s take the occasion, then, to celebrate baseball’s best birthday by reliving some highlights from their respective careers.
Robinson was born 99 years ago today and is one of the most important figures in American history for integrating baseball. However, he was also one of the best players to ever step on a baseball diamond. He led the league in steals twice and stole home a mind-boggling 19 times, including in the 1955 World Series:
We’d be remiss to not take the occasion of Robinson’s birthday to reflect on his breaking of baseball’s color barrier, which he did on Opening Day, 1947:
Mr. Cub remains one of the greatest power hitting shortstops of all time with over 500 career home runs and five seasons of 40-plus dingers. His revolutionizing of the shortstop position propelled him to back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959. He hit his 500th home run in 1970, in the 18th of his 19 years with the Cubs:
Beyond his countless on-the-field accomplishments, Banks is remembered for his joy and love for baseball:
Has there ever been a better encapsulation of a baseball lifer than Ryan? He played an unbelievable 27 seasons in the Major Leagues and remained involved in baseball after his retirement by working in the Astros and Rangers organizations. He holds the record for career strikeouts with 5,741 — more than double that of any active pitcher — and is the only pitcher with over 5,000 punch outs in his career.
He’s also the career leader in no-hitters with seven, including one thrown when he was 44-years-old. If you need a reminder that age is just a number, check out that performance:
He won a World Series with the Mets as a 22-year-old in 1969 and got his second ring last fall at 70 years old as an executive advisor to Astros owner Jim Crane.
Let’s all wish a happy birthday to Robinson, Banks and Ryan and celebrate the best day of birthdays in the history of the game.