LIFE Magazine has released a special issue on the Baseball Hall of Famers who died in 2020 featuring Tom Seaver, Joe Morgan, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford and Al Kaline.
The criteria for induction to the Hall of Fame, beyond the most minimal technical standards (at least 10 years in the majors, at least five years since retirement) is nowhere defined. But like Justice Potter’s threshold for obscenity, you know a Hall of Famer when you see one. The players who died in 2020—Brock, Morgan, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, and Whitey Ford within six weeks in the late summer and fall, and Al Kaline on April 6—were no-doubters. They combined periods of pure dominance with longer periods of sheer excellence, and they played their best when everyone was watching.
They produced statistics to charm any baseball fan, and images to charm anyone at all. Do you remember the way the dirt accumulated on Tom Seaver’s right knee as he followed through again and again, pitching deep into another summer night?