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Baseball has been America’s favorite game since the Civil War. Even in the 19th century, players used many of the same rules you know in this stick-and-ball game. In its 150-year history, the game has seen incredible players who put their franchises and cities on their shoulders. Who is the cream of the crop? Here are the 20 greatest baseball players of all time
The 10 Best Baseball Players of All Time: Old School
Comparing players from 2005 and 1905 is nearly impossible due to rule changes. Thus, we split the list in half. The first 10 come from the old era —- the guys your grandparents and great-grandparents grew up listening to on the radio.
10. Stan Musial
Stan the Man made the National League All-Star team a jaw-dropping 24 times — a record he shares with two players on this list. There might not be a better hitter in league history than Musial, reaching 3,630 hits and 475 home runs in his long career. Plus, he won three World Series titles and three NL MVPs. He would’ve gotten even more without his World War II service.
9. Babe Ruth
Some people debate how great Babe Ruth was, but he deserves a spot on this list because you may forget how good of a pitcher he was. Ruth was the original home run hitter and the face of the Yankees during their heyday. He hit 714 home runs in an era favoring pitchers, so you have to wonder how many more he would’ve hit in future generations.
8. Joe Dimaggio
Somehow, Joe Dimaggio needed three ballots to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s preposterous, considering how he led the Yankees to nine World Series titles in only 13 seasons. Dimaggio hit 361 home runs and 1,537 RBIs despite losing three seasons due to World War II.
7. Frank Robinson
Frank Robinson is an underrated player simply because we don’t appreciate how great he was. The outfielder is the only player in MLB history to win the AL and NL MVP awards. Robinson led the Orioles to two World Series titles and accumulated 586 home runs in his storied career. He was great enough to see his No. 20 jersey retired by three different teams.
6. Honus Wagner
Is shortstop the most challenging position in baseball? There was nobody better at it than Johannes “Honus” Wagner. The Flying Dutchman was an absolute ace at shortstop, rarely letting balls into the outfield. Plus, he hit .329 for his career and drove in 1,732 RBIs. Wagner won a staggering eight NL batting titles and led the NL in stolen bases five times.
5. Lou Gehrig
Fans will associate Lou Gehrig with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but he was a superstar for 15 years with the Yankees. Gehrig hit 493 home runs in a pitcher-friendly era, drove in nearly 2,000 RBIs and has a career batting average of .340. Plus, he’s the reason why teams retire jerseys to this day.
4. Ty Cobb
Ty Cobb is one of the most divisive baseball players ever, but there’s no doubt he could play ball. Cobb holds the record for combined runs and RBIs with over 4,000 to his credit — a record no player may ever break. For 23 years, the Georgia Peach was an excellent base stealer and hitter. He won 12 batting titles and entered the Hall of Fame with 98.2% of votes on the first ballot.
3. Hank Aaron
Is Hank Aaron the true home run king? Fans (especially in Atlanta and Milwaukee) treasure Hammerin’ Hank’s 755 home runs. Aaron didn’t have a short stretch of success — he did it consistently for over 20 seasons. He hit 24 or more home runs between 1955 and 1973, demonstrating consistent greatness. Aaron holds the MLB record for RBIs, extra-base hits and total base hits.
2. Ted Williams
It’s not controversial to say Ted Williams is the greatest hitter ever. Williams hit .344 for his career and was the last player to hit over .400 in a single season. Teddy Ballgame reached 521 home runs and an incredible 1,839 RBIs with an on-base percentage (OBP) of .482. Plus, he lost multiple years due to World War II and Korean War combat. Would he have broken Ruth’s home run record if he had been in Boston for those years?
1. Willie Mays
If you want offense and defense, Willie Mays is your guy. The Say Hey Kid hit 660 home runs in his career and drove in 1,903 runs. Mays won 12 Gold Glove Awards and two NL MVP trophies. How good was he on defense? Mays led his league in double plays five times and was famous for his impressive catches. In 1954, Mays made “The Catch” in spectacular fashion, bringing the crowd to its feet. He didn’t even need special baseball sunglasses to see the ball in the air.
The 10 Best Baseball Players of All Time: New School
Now, it’s time for the best baseball players of all time in the modern era. These guys set themselves apart through interleague play, the steroid era and other memorable times.
10. Shohei Ohtani
Hi from Japan. We want to tell you some information below to explain why Shohei Ohtani should be on this list. Ohtani has had tons of praise already and deserves every minute of it. You can talk about his Tungsten Arm O’Doyle stats, but let’s zoom in on July 27th, 2023. Ohtani pitched a complete game shutout in this doubleheader, beating the Tigers 6-0. In the second game, Ohtani hit two home runs and lifted the Angels to another win. That’s unbelievable.
9. Buster Posey
Is there a better catcher all-time than Buster Posey? The Giants legend has a terrific record, leading his team to three World Series championships. Posey himself won five Silver Slugger awards and the NL MVP in 2012 after a remarkable comeback. His chemistry with multiple great pitchers, including Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, sets Posey apart.
8. Adrián Beltré
Adrián Beltré doesn’t get the love he deserves. The Dominican third basemen played for 20 years, smashing 477 home runs and 3,166 hits. In fact, Beltré was the first Dominican to get 3,000 hits — a significant accomplishment! Beltré was excellent on offense and defense, making him a valuable player. He’s the only third baseman in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits and 400 home runs.
7. Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera is another active player on the list — although his career is winding down. However, for 20 seasons, Miggy has been one of the best power hitters in the modern era. The longtime Detroit Tiger is one of only seven players to smack 500 home runs and reach 3,000 hits.
6. Rickey Henderson
We can’t have the best baseball players of all time list without the greatest base stealer. Rickey Henderson stole over 100 bases in a season three times — something no player in the AL Has ever done. However, he had a broad skillset. Henderson was an excellent leadoff home run hitter and holds the record for most career runs. Henderson was highly entertaining on and off the field and always left great quotes in the papers.
5. Derek Jeter
When you think of modern New York Yankee greats, Derek Jeter is the first name to come to mind. Jeter lit up New York from his first major league game and only shined after. To his credit, he has five World Series rings, five Gold Glove Awards and five Silver Slugger Awards.
4. Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro Suzuki might not hit home runs like the other guys on this list. Still, he stands out with his incredible accuracy. Suzuki won 10 Gold Glove Awards, three Silver Slug Awards and an MVP in 2001. Plus, we haven’t even talked about his success in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, where he won a championship and three MVPs.
3. Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols just wrapped up his storied career for the St. Louis Cardinals, earning two World Series, three MVPs and six Silver Slugger Awards. For 20 years, fans loved Pujols for his raw hitting power and ability to make contact. His whopping 703 home runs are good enough for fourth all-time and a high spot on this list.
2. Mike Trout
Will Mike Trout and Ohtani ever break the Angels’ curse? Trout has won three AL MVPs and a whopping nine Silver Slugger awards. Plus, he led the AL in stolen bases in his younger years. Trout still has time to increase his stock, including 368 home runs, 1,624 hits and 940 RBIs. They call him a five-tool player because he’s a truly gifted athlete.
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
Remember when Griffey Jr. hit a home run right after his dad? That was one of the most memorable baseball moments ever. Griffey Jr. is the best modern player ever, boasting 630 home runs and incredible athleticism in center field. Saying he earned his 10 Golden Gloves would be an understatement.
The Guys Who Had Some Help Along the Way
In the early 2000s, the MLB finally cracked down on steroids. Some players admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), while others will take the truth to their graves. So, here are some of the best baseball players of all time who may or may not have had some help in their baseball careers.
- Barry Bonds
- Sammy Sosa
- Mark McGwire
- Alex Rodriguez
- Manny Ramirez
- Roger Clemens
- Gary Sheffield
- Ivan Rodriguez
- David Ortiz
- Miguel Tejada
Who Are The Best Baseball Players of All Time?
Baseball has always been America’s pastime — even when the kids called it townball. We’ve been fortunate to see some fantastic athletes throughout the 150-year history of the game. Who are the best baseball players of all time? We listed the best position players here, so there are plenty more conversations about pitchers.