There are some Hall of Famers among the big-cap funds in our net.

There better be, when you consider that of the some 440 out there, just 38 made the cut. Few managers were able to beat the category's 41% average gain in 1999 and then fall less than the category's average 14% loss in 2000 and 23% tumble last year.

One who did is Ritchie Freeman, manager of the broker-sold

(SHRAX) - Get Report

Smith Barney Aggressive Growth fund since 1983. He buys shares of small- and mid-cap stocks he believes will grow their earnings at a 20% clip, and hangs on to those that do so. His low-trading approach has led to a taste for health care and tech stocks, as well as a stellar record. He has beaten the

S&P 500

and at least 98% of his peers over the past one, three, five and 10 years,

earning him a share of

TheStreet.com's

2001 stock-fund manager of the year title.

Quiet giant

American Funds

has two adviser-sold funds on the list:

(AMCPX) - Get Report

Amcap and

(AGTHX) - Get Report

Growth Fund of America. Both are run by a team of managers who look for companies with attractive earnings growth and a modest stock valuation. The funds can look winded during a go-go growth year, but both beat the S&P 500 and some 90% of their competitors over the past one, five and 10 years.

Since taking the reins of the no-load

(JAGIX) - Get Report

Janus Growth & Income fund in 1997, David Corkins has blended growth stocks and a 10% to 15% bond stake. The somewhat tame mix has helped him top his average peer for four-straight calendar years.

Some of Corkins' colleagues at the Denver fund shop cut their teeth as analysts at New York-based

Alger Funds

, so it's not a surprise that the no-load

(ALARX) - Get Report

Alger Capital Appreciation fund is on our list. The fund's record is a testament to co-managers David Alger and Seilai Khoo, both of whom

perished in the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11. Fred Alger, David's older brother who founded the firm in 1964, has taken the reins along with Dave Hyun and Dan Chung. The trio is sticking with the firm's traditional focus on fast-growing stocks and has done well so far.

Two solid big-cap growth funds that made our cut but didn't crack the top-five are the no-load

(HACAX) - Get Report

Harbor Capital Appreciation fund and the broker-sold

(MAFGX) - Get Report

Merrill Lynch Fundamental Growth fund.

Spiros "Sig" Segalas has run the Harbor fund since 1990, focusing on stocks of companies that are growing their revenues faster than the market, and should be able to keep doing so. Segalas spreads the fund's money mostly among big household names such as

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

and

PepsiCo

(PEP) - Get Report

, trading moderately. The steady approach has outpaced his average peer over the past one, three, five and 10 years.

Larry Fuller, manager of Merrill Lynch Fundamental Growth since its 1994 start, takes a racier approach. He typically favors slightly pricier growth stocks and isn't shy about making big sector bets. While that can lead to some volatility, he has topped the category average for seven-straight years.

Click on these links to check out the other funds we dug up:

Mid-cap growth funds

Small-cap growth funds

Ian McDonald writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to

imcdonald@thestreet.com, but he cannot give specific financial advice.