There are few things as beautiful to watch in the world of sport as a fluid, powerful and consistent baseball swing.
Many great names come to mind when the top hitters of the game are mentioned. In the early years some of the greatest were Shoeless Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Willy Keeler, Rogers Hornsby, Jimmie Foxx and the greatest pure hitter of his generation Ty Cobb. As the game progressed and moved in to the 1940's and 50's Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Carl Yastremski and Stan "the Man" Musial.
In 1947 Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and became the first black player in major league baseball, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League. Later that year Larry Doby played for the Indians as the first black player in the American League.
Jackie Robinson was a great hitter leading the way for other great black hitters to follow like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron who would go on to accomplish one of the greatest feats in baseball and beat Babe Ruth's all time home run record!
The 50's and 60's saw baseball become an international game with great hitters coming from Latin American countries like Tony Oliva, Bobby Avila and the great Roberto Clemente all exceptional hitters who won batting titles.
In the 70's and 80's there were many excellent hitters like Pete Rose, Rod Carew, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Bill Matlock and the great Tony Gwynn who went on to win eight batting titles in the 80's and 90's. A feat only bested byTy Cobb's 11 titles.
From the late 90's to today we haven't seen the dominant hitters like the names I've mentioned in the past. This could be because the game has chancged, pitchers are more specialized, rarely pitching completed game and "set-up" men and closers now pitch the last 2-3 innings. Always bringing fresh arms to the mound.
We have had great hitters during the period though. Guys like Barry Bonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, and Joe Mauer who has won 2 batting titles in the American League during the last 3 seasons.
I feel it is important to know the history of a game to understand what made these hitters great! Often times it was their dedication to the craft of hitting. Ted Williams was a student and then master of the baseball swing. Tony Gwynn began using video of his plate apprearances to improve.
However ALL of these players continued to learn, evolve and improve by never feeling they had it mastered and could "take it easy". They worked tirelessly at their craft and most are honored in the Babeball Hall of Fame today or will reside there upon retirement.