Eight Men In BOUND FOR THE HALL OF FAME

July 27, 2003

America may be without royalty, but we do have the Baseball Hall
Of Fame for the bestowal of rank and nobility. In this country,
to be inducted into the Hall (the only one in sports with real
gravitas) is as close as one comes to being knighted. In that
moment a player's title, as well as the value of everything from
his signature to his protective cup, is immediately and forever
burnished. Beginning this Sunday afternoon at Cooperstown, 2003
inductees Gary Carter and Eddie Murray will ever after be known
as Hall of Famer Gary Carter and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. They
may, like many of the anointed, choose to affix the letters HOF
to their signatures, like a royal seal. ¶ Such sovereignty does
not sneak up on us. The best of the best bear the HOF stamp long
before any votes are cast. Here are eight future knights of
baseball, those who leave no doubt that their portraits will hang
in the Hall.

GREG MADDUX
CHICAGO CUBS 1986-1992
ATLANTA BRAVES 1993-

Wade Boggs once compared Maddux to magician David Copperfield.
The unimposing righthander has mastered the fine art of pitching
deception, a craft Maddux has explained with typical simplicity:
"Make the balls look like strikes and the strikes look like
balls." With neither premium velocity nor an exceptional
curveball, Maddux baffles hitters with impeccable control,
mystifying movement and changes of speeds harder to read than
Sanskrit. Even more impressive is the way he has sustained his
sleight of hand: Only Maddux and Cy Young have won 15 or more
games for 15 consecutive seasons; Maddux can extend that streak
to 16 this year.

ROGER CLEMENS
BOSTON RED SOX 1984-1996
TORONTO BLUE JAYS 1997-1998
NEW YORK YANKEES 1999-

With his ferocious intensity, a fastball with a mean streak and
a work ethic to shame a Sherpa, the Rocket has wrung every last
drop of opportunity out of 20 years of pitching. The
unprecedented six Cy Young Awards, 300-plus wins, 4,000-plus
strikeouts, two 20-strikeout games 10 years apart (he's the only
pitcher ever to reach that milestone twice) and the 1.56 World
Series ERA have not sated him. The 6'4", 235-pound righthander
treats every start as if it's his last. Such is the strength of
his body and will that Clemens is leaving baseball exactly as he
entered it: an unshaven, unapologetic gunslinger of a power
pitcher.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ
SEATTLE MARINERS 1994-2000
TEXAS RANGERS 2001-

He's the baseball player evolved to the highest form, a powerful
slugger who plays the middle infield with a jeweler's hands. The
baseball gods have never shaped their clay better. A-Rod's
combination of size (6'3", 210), strength, speed and mobility in
elite proportions is unmatched for a shortstop. Just as
impressive is his old-school respect for the game. No shortstop
ever hit more home runs in a season than Rodriguez's 52 in 2001
and 57 in 2002, and only Babe Ruth (with seven) has ever
bettered A-Rod's current streak of five straight years with 40
or more home runs. The youngest player to hit 300 homers,
Rodriguez, who turns 28 on Sunday, is only just getting started.

SAMMY SOSA
TEXAS RANGERS 1989
CHICAGO WHITE SOX 1989-1991
CHICAGO CUBS 1992-

Love of freedom, the automobile and the home run help define
what it means to be an American. The Dominican-born Slammin'
Sammy, once a wiry, wild swinger who was traded twice by age 23,
has become a national hero. The twin-turbo power of his smile
and vigorous swing--followed by that signature home run hop--has
won him awe and admiration in all corners, enough to ensure his
standing even after being caught last month using a corked bat.
Sosa is the only man in history to hit 60 homers in a season
three times, and no one has ever hit more homers over five-,
six-, seven-, eight-and nine-year spans.

BARRY BONDS
PITTSBURGH PIRATES 1986-1992
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS 1993-

Never before have teams so avoided pitching to a hitter as they
have Bonds. His 460 career intentional walks, including 68 in
2002, stand not only as unchallenged records but also as
tributes to the outright fear he strikes in opposing dugouts.
The only five-time MVP combines Trappist patience with an
exceedingly quick swing. Graceful afield and afoot in his youth,
he bulked into a prodigious slugger in his final years. He set
season records for home runs (73), slugging percentage (.863),
on-base percentage (.582) and walks (198), as well as the mark
for home runs in a postseason (8)--all after turning 36.

PEDRO MARTINEZ
LOS ANGELES DODGERS 1992-1993
MONTREAL EXPOS 1994-1997
BOSTON RED SOX 1998-

Pound for pound, Martinez may be the most dominating pitcher
ever, combining precision control with intimidating velocity
that belies his 180 pounds. He has four league strikeout titles,
four ERA crowns and three Cy Young Awards and in 2000 was nearer
to unhittable than any pitcher in any season ever, holding
batters to a record-low .167 average. He has the best winning
percentage (.710) among 20th-century pitchers with at least 200
decisions and is at his best when the stakes are highest: He's
3-0 with a 1.12 ERA in the postseason.

RANDY JOHNSON
MONTREAL EXPOS 1988-1989
SEATTLE MARINERS 1989-1998
HOUSTON ASTROS 1998
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS 1999-

Standing 6'10" on a 10-inch mound, his face fixed in a scowl, he
flings the ball with a slingshot style so that it appears to be
coming sideways, and because of his elongated stride and
wingspan, the ball seems to leave his hand frighteningly closer
to the plate than usual. Like no one else in baseball history,
the Big Unit compresses the time and space between the pitcher
and batter. The long, tall lefty has won five Cy Young Awards
(four straight after he turned 35, each time with more than 330
strikeouts).

MIKE PIAZZA
LOS ANGELES DODGERS 1992-1998
FLORIDA MARLINS 1998
NEW YORK METS 1998-

The greatest hitting catcher of all time. No one expected Piazza
to ever imprint that on his business card when the Dodgers
drafted him in the 62nd round in 1988. But Piazza was an instant
hit in his first full big league season, 1993, and was named NL
Rookie of the Year. He was selected for every All-Star Game, won
every Silver Slugger at his position and hit no fewer than 24
home runs a season for the first 10 years of his career. Piazza
generated jaw-dropping power to all fields with tremendous bat
speed--but without compromise: He's a career .321 hitter who has
never struck out 100 times in a season.

SEVEN COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: PAINTINGS BY MIKE BENNY

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)