Here’s a subjective ranking of the top five for Nov. 29:
1) Mariano Rivera (1969)
From his debut in 1995 through his final season in 2013, Rivera was the gold standard for closers. He was a nearly unbreakable force at the back of the Yankees’ bullpen through their late-1990s dynasty and helped close out five World Series titles. Rivera holds three all-time MLB records: games finished (952), saves (652) and ERA+ (205). His career ERA of 2.21 is also the 13th best in MLB history. In 2019, Rivera became the first MLB player to be elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.
2) Minnie Miñoso (1925)
The other Hall of Famer on this list, Miñoso was voted into Cooperstown by the Golden Days Era Committee in December 2021. He made his mark with the White Sox in the 1950s as the first Black player in team history, among myriad other accomplishments. Miñoso led the American League in stolen bases and triples three times, won three Gold Gloves and received MVP votes eight times. He was frequently plunked throughout his career — Miñoso led the league in hit-by-pitches 10 times and ranks 10th all time in that category. However, his legacy extends far beyond his stat lines, as he became an inspiration and mentor for many Cuban baseball players that followed him in the Majors.
3) Bill Freehan (1941)
A crucial pillar of the Tigers’ World Series title in 1968, the catcher guided teammate Denny McLain to the most recent 30-win season in the Majors. (McLain finished with 31 wins and the AL Cy Young.) He also finished second to McLain in that year’s AL MVP voting. Freehan was as reliable as they come behind the plate, winning five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1965-69 and making 11 All-Star teams. The Detroit native spent his entire 15-year career with the Tigers and became a beloved Michigan icon in the process.
4) Dick McAuliffe (1939)
McAuliffe was teammates with Freehan in 1961 and 1963-73. He was the Tigers’ starting second baseman in their World Series-winning 1968 season and led the AL with 95 runs scored. McAuliffe tied a Major League record in ‘68 by going the entire season without grounding into a double play; he appeared in 151 of the Tigers’ 162 games. He also made three straight All-Star teams from 1965-67 and finished seventh in the 1968 MVP voting, the same year that three of his teammates — McLain, Freehan and Willie Horton — finished first, second and fourth, respectively.
5) Howard Johnson (1960)
Known affectionately as “HoJo,” Johnson was a valuable role player during the Tigers and Mets’ World Series runs in 1984 and 1986, respectively, though his best years came after that. He put together three 30/30 seasons (at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases) in 1987, 1989 and 1991, which puts him in elite company. Only three other players in MLB history have recorded three or more 30/30 seasons: Barry Bonds (five), Bobby Bonds (five) and Alfonso Soriano (four). Johnson won two Silver Slugger Awards and ranks near the top of many all-time Mets hitting leaderboards, including stolen bases (third, 202), runs scored (fourth, 627), home runs (fourth, 192) and RBIs (fourth, 629).
Pedro Martinez (1968)
No, not THAT Pedro Martinez. However, both Pedros were pitchers who hailed from the Dominican Republic, though this Pedro was a lefty and Hall of Fame Pedro threw right-handed. Both Pedros pitched in the same game twice. The first was on Sept. 13, 1993, when non-Hall of Fame Pedro was with the Padres and Hall of Fame Pedro was pitching in relief for the Dodgers. The second matchup was a July 5, 1996 contest between the Mets and Expos.
Jake Weimer (1873)
With a nickname like “Tornado Jake,” it’s no wonder that this lefty hurler was a nightmare for opposing hitters. From 1903 through 1909, he posted a minuscule 2.23 career ERA, which is still 14th best all-time.
Carl Weilman (1889)
The southpaw posted a crisp 2.67 ERA across eight Major League seasons, from 1912-17 and 1919-20. He was the first known batter to strike out six times in a game, which he did during an extended relief outing on July 25, 1913. Four of those punchouts came against longtime strikeout king and Hall of Famer Walter Johnson.
Shadow Pyle (1861)
With a name as cool as “Shadow Pyle,” there’s no way this Reading, Pa., native was getting left off this list. Pyle appeared in just five career games, in 1884 and 1887. His weight was listed at a mere 136 pounds, perhaps contributing to his nickname of “Shadow.”
Want to see more baseball birthdays for Nov. 29? Find the complete list on Baseball Reference.