Year In Review : 2003 National League

O ff the field...

After the U.N. repeatedly failed in its efforts to uncover weapons of mass destruction or identify links between Saddam Hussein and international terrorists, the United States and a group of coalition forces joined together for a pre-emptive strike aimed at disarming Iraq. On March 19 th , the U.S. launched what would become known as Operation "Shock and Awe" as a "decapitation attack" aimed at the Iraqi President and other top members of the country's leadership. More than forty satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from U.S. warships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf with support from multiple squadrons of F-117 stealth fighters, carrying 2,000-pound bombs. Although the initial attack failed to eliminate Saddam, it only took twenty-one days for coalition forces to eliminate the Republican Guard and take the capital city of Baghdad. For the first time in history, people from around the world were able to watch the war effort live via embedded war journalists and strategically placed web cams.

Tragedy struck the NASA Space Program after the space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry fifteen minutes before its scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Those killed on the ill-fated flight were commander Rick D. Husband; pilot William C. McCool; payload commander Michael P. Anderson; mission specialists David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark; as well as Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon. An investigation into the explosion later revealed that a piece of foam designed to protect the vehicle from heat had dislodged during take-off, striking the left wing. Columbia, the oldest of NASA's shuttle fleet, had first launched in 1981 and was completing its twenty-eighth mission. Ironically, the accident occurred less than a week after the anniversaries of two other deadly space program disasters: the seventeenth anniversary of the explosion of the shuttle Challenger (January 28) and the thirty-sixth anniversary of a launch pad fire that killed three Apollo astronauts (January 27).

I n the American League...

New York Yankees ace Roger Clemens joined one of the most exclusive clubs in sports after becoming the twenty-first pitcher in Major League history to win three-hundred games. After announcing his intentions to retire at the end of the 2003 season, Clemens went on to complete his quest for three-hundred by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-2, in front of a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium. In doing so "The Rocket" became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1990 to reach three-hundred wins, tying Hall-of-Famers Early Wynn and Lefty Grove for nineteenth place on the all-time victory list. Later he joined another "pitching fraternity" after striking out the four-thousandth batter of his career. Only Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136) had more strikeouts than Clemens (to date), who had ten on the night. Ironically, Carlton had also won his three-hundredth against the Cardinals in 1983.

The ongoing rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees came to a head during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series after both dugouts emptied twice due to what some felt was "overly-aggressive" pitching. The ensuing argument was first instigated after Boston ace Pedro Martinez struck Yankees' designated hitter Karim Garcia in the back and was fueled by Manny Ramirez who took offense to a high pitch thrown by Roger Clemens. As both dugouts cleared, New York's bench coach Don Zimmer charged at Martinez who promptly reacted by throwing the sevent-two year-old to the ground. After several minutes of suspended play, both teams went back to business until a second brawl erupted in the Yankees bullpen between Jeff Nelson, Garcia and a member of Fenway Park's grounds crew. Following the 4-3 Yankees victory, Major League Baseball issued fines to Martinez, Ramirez, Garcia and Zimmer while the Boston Police issued additional charges on Garcia and Nelson for their involvement in the bullpen altercation.

I n the National League...

The entire baseball world was shocked after one of its most beloved athletes Sammy Sosa was ejected in the first inning of a Chicago Cubs versus Tampa Bay Devil Rays game after umpires found cork in his shattered bat. Sosa, who had recently joined the five-hundred home run club and gained national prominence in 1998 during his home-run battle with Mark McGwire, apologized to fans, his teammates and the Commissioner of Baseball. Stating that the corked bat had been strictly used for batting practice and mistakenly taken to the plate, Sosa received a seven-game suspension following an appeal. Sosa's other bats, which had been confiscated by security personnel and turned over to Major League Baseball, showed no signs of tampering. Still, many doubted the integrity of Sammy's previous accomplishments and it would be some time before he would be back in the fan's favor.

Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne set a new Major League record after converting fifty-five saves to top Boston's Tom Gordon, who had previously converted fifty-four in a row from April 19, 1998, to June 5, 1999. Practically "un-hittable" throughout the season, Gagne had increased the velocity on his fastball from ninety-two miles-per-hour to ninety-seven and complemented it with a hard eighty-seven mile-per-hour changeup that dropped much like a split-finger pitch. His forty-first consecutive win gave him the longest saves streak to start a season in Major League history and he also became the first relief pitcher in history to tally one-hundred more strikeouts (137) than hits allowed (37).

A round the League...

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler collapsed at the team's spring training complex in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 16 th and died the next day. Following an autopsy, it was determined that the twenty-three year-old had suffered a "heart attack-like event" after taking a dietary supplement containing ephedra. His widow later filed a $600 million lawsuit against the manufacturers while bringing national attention to the dangers of using potentially harmful weight loss aids. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, called the product Xenadrine RFA-1 a "poisonous cocktail" unsafe for human consumption.

Major League Baseball's marketing division attempted to restore the fan's faith in the All-Star Game and make amends for the 2002 debacle that had ended in a 7-7 tie after both leagues ran out of available pitchers. To add more meaning to the fledgling exhibition, the 2003 Midsummer Classic slogan read "This Time It Counts" and for the first time in professional baseball history, home-field advantage in the World Series would be granted to the winner. The enticing proposal initially appeared to be more than just a marketing ploy as the last team to overcome the "home-field curse" was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had beaten the odds (and the Baltimore Orioles) while away in 1979. However, despite winning 7-6, the American League later proved that home-field advantage was overrated after the Florida Marlins toppled the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium.

After years of less-than-stellar ratings, record audiences finally tuned in to the Major League Baseball postseason, making it the most-watched playoffs ever on cable. Fans also flocked to the ballparks setting a new attendance mark with over 1,858,979 tickets sold. Many attributed this renewed interest to the playoff's storybook backdrop that featured two of baseball's most beloved underdogs, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. Both teams had surprised the experts by making the post season and each continued to shock their opponents by battling back in their respective leagues time and time again. After surviving the Divisional round, generations of long-suffering fans from both ball clubs reveled in the possibility that the curse of both "The Bambino" and "The Goat" was finally coming to an end. The baseball god's apparently had other plans and both teams fell just five heartbreaking outs short of making it to the Series.

"It's probably the biggest moment of my professional career (winning 9-6 in Game 7 versus Chicago)I can't even explain it. It probably hasn't even sunk in yet, but I do know that it's a wonderful feeling. People asked me was I going to come back for next year, and I told them if I get in the World Series and manage the All-Star team, I'll definitely be back." - Florida Marlins Manager Jack McKeon
2003 National League Player Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls

San Francisco

148

Batting Average

St. Louis

.359

Doubles

St. Louis

51

Hits

St. Louis

212

Home Runs

Philadelphia

47

On Base Percentage

San Francisco

.529

RBI

Colorado

141

Runs

St. Louis

137

Slugging Average

San Francisco

.749

Stolen Bases

Florida

45

Total Bases

St. Louis

394

Triples

Arizona

10

Atlanta

2003 National League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games

Montreal

8

ERA

San Francisco

2.34

Games

Los Angeles

89

Saves

Los Angeles

55

Shutouts

Philadelphia

3

St. Louis

San Francisco

Strikeouts

Chicago

266

Winning Percentage

San Francisco

.773

Wins

Atlanta

21

2003 National League

Team Standings

Atlanta Braves

101 61 .623

--

$106,243,667

Florida Marlins

91 71 .562

10

$49,050,000

Philadelphia Phillies

86 76 .531

15

$70,780,000

Montreal Expos

83 79 .512

18

$51,948,500

New York Mets

66 95 .410

$117,176,620

Chicago Cubs

88 74 .543 -- $79,868,333

Houston Astros

87 75 .537

1

$71,040,000

St. Louis Cardinals

85 77 .525

3

$83,496,666

Pittsburgh Pirates

75 87 .463

13

$54,812,429

Cincinnati Reds

69 93 .426

19

$59,355,667

Milwaukee Brewers

68

94

.420

20

$40,627,000

San Francisco Giants

100 61 .621 -- $82,852,167

Los Angeles Dodgers

85 77 .525 15½ $105,872,620

Arizona Diamondbacks

84 78 .519 16½ $80,640,333

Colorado Rockies

74 88 .457 26½ $67,179,667

San Diego Padres

64 98 .395 36½

$47,928,000

align="center">2003 National League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

162

5,570

717

1,467

303

47

152

696

2,320

531

1,006

76

38

.330

.417

.263

162

5,670

907

1,608

321

31

235

872

2,696

545

933

68

22

.349

.475

.284

162

5,519

724

1,431

302

24

172

691

2,297

492

1,158

73

31

.323

.416

.259

162

5,509

694

1,349

239

21

182

669

2,176

524

1,326

80

34

.318

.395

.245

162

5,518

853

1,472

330

31

198

814

2,458

619

1,134

63

37

.344

.445

.267

162

5,490

751

1,459

292

44

157

709

2,310

515

978

150

74

.333

.421

.266

162

5,583

805

1,466

308

30

191

763

2,407

557

1,021

66

30

.336

.431

.263

162

5,458

574

1,328

260

25

124

544

2,010

407

985

80

36

.303

.368

.243

162

5,548

714

1,423

266

24

196

685

2,325

547

1,221

99

39

.329

.419

.256

162

5,437

711

1,404

294

25

144

682

2,180

522

990

100

39

.326

.401

.258

161

5,341

642

1,317

262

24

124

607

1,999

489

1,035

70

31

.314

.374

.247

162

5,543

791

1,448

325

27

166

757

2,325

651

1,155

72

29

.343

.419

.261

162

5,581

753

1,492

275

45

163

711

2,346

529

1,049

86

37

.338

.420

.267

162

5,531

678

1,442

257

32

128

641

2,147

565

1,073

76

39

.333

.388

.261

161

5,456

755

1,440

281

29

180

713

2,319

593

980

53

37

.338

.425

.264

162

5,672

876

1,580

342

32

196

827

2,574

580

952

82

32

.350

.454

.279

2003 National League Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

align="center">2003 National League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

84

78

3.84

162

7

11

42

1455.0

1,379

685

621

150

72

526

1,291

101

61

4.10

162

4

7

51

1456.1

1,425

740

663

147

42

555

992

88

74

3.83

162

13

14

36

1456.1

1,304

683

619

143

71

617

1,404

69

93

5.09

162

4

5

38

1446.1

1,578

886

818

209

48

590

932

74

88

5.20

162

3

4

34

1420.0

1,629

892

821

200

84

552

866

91

71

4.04

162

7

11

36

1445.1

1,415

692

648

128

40

530

1,132

87

75

3.86

162

1

5

50

1450.0

1,350

677

622

161

74

565

1,139

85

77

3.16

162

3

17

58

1457.2

1,254

556

511

127

40

526

1,289

68

94

5.02

162

5

3

44

1452.0

1,590

873

810

219

61

575

1,034

83

79

4.01

162

15

10

42

1437.2

1,467

716

640

181

71

463

1,028

66

95

4.48

161

3

10

38

1413.1

1,497

754

704

168

45

576

907

86

76

4.04

162

9

13

33

1443.2

1,386

697

648

142

77

536

1,060

75

87

4.64

162

7

10

44

1444.1

1,527

801

744

178

61

502

926

64

98

4.87

162

2

10

31

1431.1

1,458

831

774

208

62

611

1,091

100

61

3.73

161

7

10

43

1437.1

1,349

638

595

136

43

546

1,006

85

77

4.60

162

9

10

41

1463.2

1,544

796

748

210

65

508

969

2003 National League Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard



Did you know that the only two National League franchises with a payroll less than the World Champion Florida Marlins were the Milwaukee Brewers & San Diego Padres? Did you know that there were only three in the American League and they were the Cleveland Indians ($48,584,834), Kansas City Royals ($40,518,000) and Tampa Bay Devil Rays ($19,630,000)?

On April 8, 2003, Eric Gagne recorded his first save in the 2003 regular season. On September 24, 2003, Gagne recorded his fifty-fifth consecutive ( click here to view his game logs ) and final regular season season setting a new National League (and Major League) record.

Two of the more rare clubs were entered when Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs joined the 500 Home Runs Club on April 4, 2003 and Rafael Furcal of the Atlanta Braves joined the Unassisted Triple Play Club on August 10, 2003.

Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac1h
Sir Didi (baseball-almanac.com/players/player…) hit 4th slam with #Yankees, each WHILE PLAYING SS, new team record! Some… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac16 Jul
End of an Era 😢. Q: "Earlier this month you reported the death of Glenn Mickens, a Brooklyn Dodger, how many of the… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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ICYMI: The Michael Chavis grand slam was caught by an employee on the 14th floor of The Pru (#PrudentialTower).… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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Donn Clendenon (baseball-almanac.com/players/player…): born OTD1935. Bud Harrelson said, "He was the MVP -- a very dangerous pla… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac14 Jul
UPDATED: Phillip Ervin joined 6-for-6 Club [baseball-almanac.com/feats/6_hits_1…]. EVERY instance in #MLB history, every extra-i… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac13 Jul
George Bradley [baseball-almanac.com/players/player…]. Born OTD1852. Threw 1st official no-hitter in #MLB history -- in 1876! Re… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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STORYBOOK: 1. 1st home game since Tyler Skaggs died. 2. Every #Angels player wearing #45. 3. Moving pregame ceremon… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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Research help? Jim Clark [baseball-almanac.com/players/player…] died in 01-2019. He played with #Cleveland in 1971, not terribly… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac12 Jul
Jack Harshman (baseball-almanac.com/players/player…). Born OTD1927. #HoF Ed Walsh 15 Ks in a game 2x (1908 & '10) in #Chicago,… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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Happy Birthday Ron Fairly: DYK he played in an #AllStarGame for BOTH #Canadian teams? DYK he hit HRs in all 21-seas… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac12 Jul
ICYMI: On July 3, 2019, 1st time in #MLB history, two teams (#Cubs & #WhiteSox), from the same city (#Chicago), eac… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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Updated: Sam Mele [baseball-almanac.com/players/player…]. Received and added the cemetery name where he was laid to rest. Integr… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Baseball Almanac@BaseballAlmanac10 Jul
Jerry Reuss was introduced to Frank Sinatra then said, "Sorry, I didn't get your name." This book review of the 198… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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You know Shane Bieber won it yesterday, but do you know what All-Stars won on a losing team? Who won it the ONLY ye… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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Happy Birthday Mike Andrews! Born OTD1943, Mike was part of #RedSox Impossible Dream, sent to #WhiteSox, made DH hi… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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RIP: Paul Schramka. Made his debut on Opening Day in Wrigley Field! See newspaper story, read Chicago Tribune quote… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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EMAIL: "Please add a fact about his 20-win season." Today: added @_newspapers story about it, sourced Fergie Jenkin… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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NEW: CLASSIC #Topps checklist added [baseball-almanac.com/baseball_cards…]. Rookie cards include 4 future #HOF #MLB players; Ste… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
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