An inquiring reporter asked them about the great pitchers of their era and who was the toughest to hit against. Their memories flooded with stories about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson and several others. “Competition is what makes this game so special,” Banks said. “It didn’t matter who was on the mound, because every at-bat is a battle and when you go up against the best in the game, it makes it that much more exciting. You think about that as a youngster, batting against the best pitcher with the game on the line. I loved to hit against Koufax, Gibson, Spahn and (Don) Newcombe. You want to compete against the best and it helps you get better. I didn’t always do well, but I always battled and had some success.”
Santo added in on Banks’ words. “It’s about competition and it’s about confidence,” he said. “You have to believe you can hit these guys, even after you had a bad at-bat. You have to believe you can overcome their plan on how they want to pitch to you. Sometimes just a seeing-eye single can boost your confidence if you’ve been struggling. Hitters need to take an approach of confidence against every pitcher they face. Know the pitcher. Know what he throws and how he wants to work you. Know you can beat him. If hitters can do that, then success will follow.”
“I got up for games when guys like Bob Gibson were pitching,” said Williams. “It wasn’t just a competition against the teams, it was a battle of batter against pitcher. And when it’s a close game, those battles become a little tougher and more exciting for fans. I always respected the pitchers I was facing, but when I was at the plate, I was looking to drive the ball right back at ’em if I could.”
With those insightful thoughts, I thought it might be interesting to review how some Hall of Fame batters fared against the Hall of Fame pitchers they faced during their careers.
It is well documented the Hank Aaron hit 17 career home runs against Don Drysdale, but did you know that Drysdale struck out Aaron 47 times and held him to a .267 batting average?
Bob Feller fanned Hank Greenberg 34 times in 107 at-bats and limited him to a .214 batting average, but against Joe DiMaggio, Rapid Robert was blistered for a .342 mark and 11 home runs while fanning DiMaggio only 12 times.
Right-hander Bob Gibson held fellow Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn, Lou Brock, Willie Mays, Bill Mazeroski and Tony Perez under a .200 batting clip.
Among the 19 Hall of Fame batters Randy Johnson faced during his career, the highest lifetime average belongs to Carlton Fisk, who collected fives hits—including two homers—in 17 at-bats against the Big Unit.
Mike Piazza hit .385 with six home runs against Pedro Martinez, .292 with one homer against Johnson and .343 with six homers against Tom Glavine.
Fans love the one-on-one battles of the best pitchers vs. the best hitters. That’s the essence of this great game—great competition with winners and losers in each match, along with another day to find redemption.
Listed below is how some Hall of Fame batters fared against some Hall of Fame pitchers.