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Nowadays, baseball is a game of home runs. How many times can Aaron Judge send one over the fence? Some say the boom-or-bust mentality has compromised America’s pastime. Fundamental baseball requires you to get players on base and score runs. Getting hits is an efficient way to accomplish that, so who’s the best at it? Who are the greatest hitters of all time? Let’s debate who makes the list.
Who Are the Old School Best Hitters of All Time?
Comparing a player from 1905 to 2005 would be unfair, considering the rule changes and dynamics of the game. So, we’ll split the list and start with the old-school best hitters of all time. These ball players range from the late 1800s until 1977.
5. Roger Hornsby
Roger Hornsby is a name the younger crowd may forget, but he’s certainly a name worth remembering. The Rajah was arguably the best hitter of the 1920s — even better than the Babe at some points. If you don’t believe us, look at his record. Hornsby won the National League (NL) batting championship seven times in the 1920s, including six years between 1920 and 1928. He also led the NL in RBI and home runs multiple times. Put some respect on his name!
4. Willie Mays
Willie Mays was a fantastic hitter and overall player. In fact, you could call him the baseball GOAT, and we won’t disagree with you. When drafting an all-time team, you can’t go wrong with the “Say Hey Kid” from Westfield, Alabama. While he was an excellent player, let’s single out his batting.
Willie Mays won the NL batting championship in 1954 in addition to the World Series, the NL MVP and a Golden Glove. What sets Mays apart from many others is his consistency. The Westfield native hit over 100 RBI 10 times in his long career. In total, Mays has 1,909 RBI — good enough for 12th on the all-time list.
3. Babe Ruth
There’s not much you can say about the Babe people haven’t already said. His pitching and batting prowess practically made him the Shohei Ohtani of a century ago (except he’s a couple of inches shorter and a much larger beer enthusiast).
The Bambino was famous for his home runs but had plenty of hits and a high batting average. Ruth finished his career with a .342 batting average. While it’s not the highest, he still beats many competitors. Put it in perspective for today’s players. Luis Arraez batted .354 for the 2023 season and was the only one to eclipse Ruth’s mark!
2. Ted Williams
Teddy Ballgame may be the best player to wear a Red Sox uniform. At a minimum, he’s the best hitter the franchise has ever seen. Williams is among Major League Baseball’s best hitters of all time despite missing time for war service. Williams finished his career with a .344 batting average, six American League (AL) batting titles and an on-base percentage (OB) of .482.
1. Ty Cobb
Ty Cobb was one of the most controversial players ever, but you couldn’t doubt his talent on the field. The Georgia Peach’s longevity is a rare feat in baseball, leading to him setting some major records. Cobb totaled 4,189 hits in his 24 seasons, making him one of only two players with 4,000 hits. Batting .366 is nothing to sneeze at! Plus, Cobb fell just short of 2,000 RBI with 1,944 to his name. He is our pick for the greatest old-school hitter.
Who Are the New School Best Hitters of All Time?
The days of Cobb, Williams and Mays are long gone. However, great players can still put the ball in the outfield. Here are the five best new school hitters of all time.
5. Ichiro Suzuki
If you want a hit, there are not many guys in MLB history you’d take over Ichiro Suzuki. The Japanese sensation didn’t join the MLB until he was 28 but spent nearly 20 years playing at the highest level. The first decade in Seattle set him apart, earning 10 All-Star appearances, three Silver Slugger Awards and two AL batting titles. Ichiro only got 110 home runs, but that doesn’t matter if he racked up nearly 3,100 hits.
4. Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera is the most recently retired player on the list, so it’s time to pay our respects. Miggy was a force at home plate from his debut in 2003 until his retirement in 2023. In fact, he even made the All-Star team as recently as 2022. Cabrera won seven Silver Slugger Awards, four AL batting titles and a pair of RBI crowns. In fact, he is only one of three players with 3,000 hits, 600 doubles and 500 home runs. Try and beat that number!
3. Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr. had big shoes to fill after his father made three All-Star teams and won a pair of World Series with the Cincinnati Reds. However, The Kid exceeded expectations and then some. Griffey Jr. is among the best modern hitters with seven Silver Slugger Awards, an AL RBI title and 2,781 hits. His 11 seasons in Seattle made his name, but he stayed productive all his career.
2. Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols just finished his career, so no more worrying about ice wraps on his shoulder after every game. We can reflect on his legacy now that he’s hung up the bat and glove for good. Pujols is one of the best modern hitters of all time, boasting six Silver Slugger awards, an NL batting title and an RBI-leading season in 2010. His 703rd home run stole the show in late 2022, but his hitting prowess lands him on this list.
1. Tony Gwynn
Tony Gwynn is among the most underrated baseball players of all time. Oddly enough, he wanted to play basketball when he was a kid. Hence, a reality exists where we never get to see him in a Padres uniform.
Gwynn only hit 135 home runs in his career but racked up 3,141 hits and eight NL batting titles. In the late 1980s into the 1990s, you couldn’t stop Mr. Padre from getting on base. Let’s zone in on the 1994 season. Strikes ended the season after 110 games played for Gwynn, so we’ll never know if he would’ve gotten a .400 batting average. He would’ve been the first since Ted Williams to accomplish it.
Ranking the Best Hitters of All Time
Thousands of players have suited up for an MLB game, so whittling down the best hitters of all time list to only 10 guys is hard. Who did we miss? Who should have been on there?