OK now, please hang with me as this is an all time baseball list, but there is some interesting, yet limited boxing background as you can see early on that greatly affected baseball at the time as the two most popular American sports at the beginning of the 20th century cross pollinated each other. It is little known or appreciated that John L Sullivan used to play some minor league pro ball before boxing made his name iconic, and Jack Johnson played some first base for the storied Philidelphia Giants along side fellow Texan and baseball great Rube Foster in 1904. Several years later Foster would arrange accommodations for the team train that ferried Johnson across the border to Canada to avoid being sentenced after his notorious Mann Act conviction.
The Criteria: Baseball Sabremetrics seems to have finally and perhaps permanently taken over the traditionally hamhanded, meat-ax wielding neanderthal types of owners, commishes, and front office/ field managers that ran baseball for more than a hundred years. Ran it into a drunken stupor they did several times over while doing their best to keep their US Congress empowered monopoly dominating the rest of the country. With their control of most all minor leagues and their segregated policies, they killed every attempt to integrate the sport that the people had integrated from the very beginning during the reconstruction period after the Civil War. Whites and blacks both couldn’t get enough of black and white barnstorming teams playing each other, sometimes even in major league parks by the 20th century.
It was always the players and the fans that kept the game alive that rousted drunken owners and management out of their gutters to right and repair their sinking ships of state. This list is based on the two most important statistics by which players are judged and games are recorded, runs and outs. Runs Produced measures a player’s ability to produce runs for his team, specifically Runs plus Runs Batted In minus Homeruns that adjusts double counted runs credited to a player. Outs are the sum total of all outs a player has made, ie ground outs, fly outs, caught stealing, picked off the bag, struck out, ect. Batting averages, slugging averages, on base averages, in short, any tally of bases, they don’t count, but obviously those players having the best averages and most bases tend to produce the most runs and fewest outs compared to their more average peers. The more outs you make compared to runs produced, the less chances you give your team to score a run.
Hence my Runs Produced Batting Averages = Career Runs Produced divided by Career Outs to separate the men from the boys.
Outs are the most predominate offensive result that every player has. In this case, they serve to give a fractional percentage much like a batting average, but expressed in runs produced instead of times on base as a superior evaluation. Baseball is easily the most statistically based sport with some of the most pleasing statistics for the average fan to wrap himself around, better than watching the modern game itself for hard core sabremetricites, especially in view of the way baseball has traditionally watered down the game over the years. Now we’re stuck with insipidly, stupid rules such as designated hitters, fences moved in to artificially boost homeruns, a pancaked strike zone that allows the hitter have a more grooved swing for more homers, and so many other minor monkey shines designed to cheat the opposing teams that doctorate dissertation would only scratch the surface.
This exercise is not a comprehensive list, that’d take a special computer program because of the immense number of players, but rather an informative list of 58 touted players, many of whom were regarded as some of the best at their positions, accolades primarily earned by their prodigious batting abilities.
Warning: This list can make no account for the early Negro League Pioneers whose biggest stars would undoubtedly be up there with Major League Baseball’s best. That is entirely another debate that can never be won or lost, but thankfully the baseball HOF finally recognized Satch Paige, Josh Gibson and many others. Also, as this represents the purest, most simple method to measure career player offense, necessarily some seemingly lesser players will rank over some greaters whose worth undoubtedly was enhanced by the media market they played in, and perhaps also by the myriad of other team contributions. As you will also clearly see from the start, it helps to be on a strong offensive team paired closely with a fellow great.
Since player defense and other intangibles also plays a big role in evaluating players, I’m including a thumbnail sketch of every player for context. Without further ado, here we go:
#1, Numero Uno, Babe Ruth, batting .638.
I’m not surprised to see him almost up with his all time career slugging average. The Big Monkey as Lou Gehrig use to call him likely shattered more offensive records than anyone who ever played, doubly impressive considering his first 6 seasons were in the deadball era as an undefeated, record setting, World Series and HOF quality pitcher. When they talk about great 5 tool players, they never consider that Babe was more like a 10 tool player when combined with his formidable pitching skills, not the fat oaf his critics make him out to be. He hit the ground running as a nineteen year old freshly released from his orphanage just after his birthday. Five days later in his first game ever in Fayetteville, North Carolina where MLB teams often went for spring training, he hit a massive HR that easily busted the existing record for the longest homer there set by the immortal Jim Thorpe that locals had talked about for years before Babe came to town. That made HUGE HEADLINES in the Baltimore papers that Babe never relinquished. In Babe’s last game as a pro in Pittsburg’s massive Forbes Stadium, he hit 3 homers, the last clearing the top deck, completely out of the park, estimated at more than 600 feet. His wife and friends urged him to retire on that game since by then he had indeed grown fat and had been in poor health and poor form at the start of that season, and he agreed. The problem being that he had been signed by the then owner of the Boston Braves as the future field manager who needed him to play on in anticipation of gate windfalls from all the Babe Ruth appreciation days scheduled. Babe reluctantly met that schedule for a couple of weeks, but then shortly quit in a nasty dispute with that owner over his poor playing health. Going back to his Boston Red Sox days where he was already the biggest thing in baseball, in 1918 he held out in the first of many spring training salary disputes with the owner. Here’s a big boxing connection. He promptly went into boxing training after being offered a $5000 purse to fight heavyweight contender Gunboat Smith who was one of Jack Johnson’s friends and sparmates. That fight was canceled after the Red Sox owner came to his senses to coax Babe back by meeting his salary demands, but such nerve the Babe had and he always backed it up in spades.
2. Lou Gehrig batting .618.
There it is, Iron Man Lou batting clean up right behind Babe as it should be with these two. As mentioned in advance, it helps to be on a strong team paired with an analogous slugger, and clearly these top two stand alone in their own category. They also are in the top ten all time batting averages of modern 20th century players along with slugging and on base percentages. An ironic demographic of these two is they were born with only 120 miles separating them across the Mason-Dixon Line. Both spoke conversational German as well as English if you want to contemplate what that meant in their post reconstruction era they were born in.
Young Babe in Boston
3. Ted Williams batting .589.
The Kid will always be forever young as the last .400 hitter in baseball history, batting .406 in what would end in such a fateful year when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, circa 1941. Williams was exempt from the war draft, yet took so much stick over it by fans and press that he signed up as a fighter pilot and the rest is pure legend in the making. Losing 5 prime years in WW2 and later Korea, amazingly he was able to return almost seamlessly to baseball unlike many others. He was incredibly tall for such high batting averages, yet compensated by reports of 20/10 eagle vision and quick reflexes. His was an ungainly form in the outfield and on the bases. Though solid defensively, he was never destined to win defensive accolades, but who but the most miserly Boston fans ever cared about his defense?
4. Jimmy Foxx batting .551.
Double XX turned pro with muscles on his muscles, quickly muscling into Babe Ruth territory. A solid first baseman, it was little known except in baseball circles that he also played a mean 3rd base and could catch in any pinch as needed, a very understated, underrated, all around utility player, somewhat forgotten today.
5. Hank Greenburg batting .541.
The original Hammerin’ Hank also lost 5 years to WW2, being the first baseball player drafted. Big and strong, but never a natural player, he was such a clumsy oaf that he had to work hard to transform himself, thankfully enabled by his fine intelligence and willpower that saw him continue on in baseball past his playing days as part owner with front office duties.
6. Joe DiMaggio batting .539.
The Yankee Clipper lost 3 years to WW2, yet never saw any action. He was used to bolster one of the US generals stationed in Hawaii by playing baseball on his team. A luxury gig that kept him sharp, but a little fat as he was eating steak and other delicacies every day without having to put in much effort on the field. A graceful fielder with a good arm, he was hampered by leg and foot injuries through much of his career. He was also a natural like Babe Ruth, seemingly dropped out of tree playing high level ball from the gitgo.
7. Ty Cobb batting .527.
The Tyrannosauris Ty had murderous temper, but as he remembered it first coming up as an 18 year old just weeks after burying his father in a tragic family gun accident, “Those old timers made a wildcat out of me.” He was a threat to their jobs, so they sawed up his half dozen specially turned bats he had lovingly crafted in his neighbor’s workshop mixed in with many other brutally efficient hazing techniques designed to knock him down a few pegs. Instead, Cobb thought up new ways to beat them and everyone else on the field. An excellent fielder overall with an average throwing arm, he literally sacrificed the health of his body at his own self created alter by stealing so many bases and raising such havoc that field fights over him inevitably broke out. I reckon he holds the world record for the most baseball related fights and off field fights. He could be civil in the right company, yet like Billy Martin, if anyone dared to flip his switch, they’d find out the hard way you don’t mess around with Mother Nature or Ty Cobb. Also holds the record of 54 stolen home bases for 54 brutally earned runs, more than any 10 or 20 modern players combined. Amazingly Ty played most of his career in the deadball era, so he only got a little boost from the rabbit ball era in his declining years, yet still managed to post the 3rd of his .400 seasons.
8. Rogers Hornby batting .518.
The Rajah was as prickly and surly as any man who ever lived, but oh boy did he light up the lively ball era with Babe Ruth, averaging near .400 for the first 6 of those years that included 3 years well over .400. He could also play every infield position, making him invaluable as an infielder. Though his batting average precipitously dropped in 1926 when he took over managing duties of the St Louis Cardinals, he put ’em in the World Series and tagged Babe Ruth for the last out that gave the Cards their first Series title. Not bad for a country boy from Winters, Texas who got his start playing in drag as a ringer on a girls’ barnstorming team.
9. Hack Wilson batting .498.
Hack was built like he came out of a cartoonist’s dream, barely standing 5-6 and packed with a jackhammering 200lbs propelled in ballerina size 5 1/2 shoes, he was totally preposterous. He didn’t have a long career thanks to his unrepentant drinking, but his peak was so molten hot that it was able to withstand his painful, drunken decline. He was actually a decent centerfielder with an excellent fielding average, but the overwhelming impression of him is in his later years stumbling around drunk and hungover in the field. He was also greatly assisted in homerun friendly Wrigley field if you want to consider how ball parks affect careers. Hack was a notorious brawler who had a feud going with a vicious crosstown rival, White Sox first baseman named Art Shires. A Chicago boxing promoter signed them for a high publicity big money fight in the off season that immediately sent the besotted baseball czars into a tizzy as they contemplated the marketing stain to their perfect monopoly. The result was the fight was canceled after an immediate ban on any player who chooses to step into the professional boxing ring.
10. Barry Bonds batting .473.
BALCO Barry served as the lightning rod of derision heaped on the baseball powers who did nothing to correct the copious Performance Enhancing Drugs being used by big leaguers. He was convicted in the federal investigation of BALCO with several well known miscreants serving sentences, yet he was only confined to his house for a short duration. I see after many appeals his conviction was overturned this year, and how many millions on lawyers he spent to get that ruling? Never a big homerun hitter, nonetheless he had been a talented, solid lock for the HOF, but after a career ending type injury to his achilles tendon in his late 30s, he joined the dark side with the Boys of BALCO to surge some 30-40% over his previous high water marks, spiking his career numbers while ruining his reputation, but, hey, drunks, crooks, and other n’er do wells have always infected baseball and always will. After a 4 year run on the juice, he was forced to return back to his unjuiced averages to pad out his career totals. The prevailing image of him will be the Giant’s managers having to cudgel players to run out to congratulate him on homeruns as he crossed home plate so as not to further dramatize how little Bonds was thought of in the clubhouse.
11. Shoeless Joe Jackson batting .472.
And to think the non-BALCO guzzling Joe was limited to the deadball era after the reigning drunken sociapaths known as baseball owners and commssioner conspired to throw him out of baseball after setting a World Series record for hits and leading all players with a .375 average. Joe was an accomplished outfielder with a gun for an arm that held the thrown baseball distance record of some 480 feet. His .408 batting average was a rookie record that will never be broken, however his story is a prime example of how baseball completely mismanaged one of the most naturally developed talents in history. He was a lover though, not a fighter, so he didn’t lose any sleep over being banned as he had a young, beautiful wife to fall back on. They were already in business for themselves and he remained a legend wherever he went. His legendary Black Betsy bat is the most highly valued baseball bat in history.
12. Honus Wagner batting .465.
The Flying Dutchman was an ungainly, bow legged, simian looking prototype, but he could hit like a howitzer, run like a gazelle, and dominated his shortstop position like precious few have ever been able. Always a fan favorite, his early baseball card issued by a tobacco company is the most expensive baseball item ever, last valued at $2.8 million and rising still. All his years were spent in the deadball era, another proof positive that it don’t take oodles of homeruns to be a top run producer.
13. Tris Speaker batting .463.
The Grey Eagle may have had prematurely greying hair, but what a long, storied career he had being a key player on world series teams, later becoming the Cleveland manager where he amazingly peaked in traditional athletic declining years to notch another world series win for his bat. Certainly his career outfield assists record that no outfielder since has ever been able to touch can’t explain his offensive prowess, he was considered a 5th infielder in that regard, but maybe his tops alltime 792 doubles record and ranking 4th alltime in triples might have something to do with his run producing mastery. Not only, but his career 400+ stolen bases tops most any outfielder that came after him, this being primarily the deadball era when playing for a single run was more valuable than in the modern game. With barely 200 career strikeouts, he was one of the ultimate contact hitters that have always been so valued. A little known oddity about Speaker was being thrown off a horse when he was 8 years of age that broke his right arm. It never regained full function, so he learned to throw and bat left handed, absolutely amazing. Later in life Speaker was credited with numerous boxing reforms as the Cleveland Boxing Commissioner in the 30s and 40s, many of them to protect the fighters from predatory management practices and fight fixing.
14. Nap Lajoie batting .459.
Nap was so popular in Cleveland they named their team after him for a number of years. He actually predates the modern era, starting in 1896, so I wouldn’t include him save for him being in the best ever batting mix as far forward as 1913 before inevitable decline set in. A highly valued 2nd baseman, a very rare player indeed. A seminal boxing connection is that in 1904 in the absence of the 2nd ever World Series being played because of interleague squabbles, he became the featured star when his Cleveland team instead played the Cincinnati Reds in an exhibition touted as the first filmed movie production. That of course ignores the real first ever cinematic blockbuster that predated movies and movie houses, the first ever filmed live boxing match of the legendary James J Corbett vs Bob Fitzsimmons heavyweight title fight filmed by Thomas Edison’s Black Maria staff in 1897 that set the table for the future of Hollywood extravaganzas. Edison had been working with boxing for many years trying to extend filming beyond his one minute shorts. Link of the history of the earliest history of cinematography here:
15. Mickey Mantle batting .450.
Well now, there it is in the most distilled stat possible to settle the raging New York debate in the day, who was the best centerfielder, the Mick, Willie, or Duke? Mantle was clearly a grade above in producing runs for his team, but of course he never could quite reach his defensive potential after suffering the most sickening description of a knee injury as a rookie. How he could ever walk again is miraculous, yet he came back strong enough that Casey Stengal evaluated his potential every year by noting he “should be leading the league in everything every year.” Holds the World Series record for the most homeruns by a long shot, and heck, you could write a trilogy on the infamous escapades of Mickey, Billy, and Whitey, but, hey, that’s X rated stuff for sex and violence!
16. Pie Traynor hitting .447.
This should settle the argument over the best ever 3rd baseman. Pie was one of the games great defensive whizzes who was also one of the all time great contact hitters. A fantastic counter argument proving homeruns aren’t the only way to skin a cat or man the hot box at the highest level for a player.
17. Stan Musial batting .445.
No surprises here. Stan the Man was probably the steadiest player ever on top of prodigious talents and certainly one of the nicest and most respected. So steady that his batting average was the same in his away games as his home park. An odd, herky jerky batting style too, a reminder for typical hamhanded managers not to mess with mother nature.
18. Mel Ott batting .444.
Now this is surprising to see what is undoubtedly one of the smallest and most underrated player on this list, listed at 5-9, 170 and maybe Louisiana’s greatest ball player. Certainly one of the strangest batting styles ever, a high kick forward while driving off the back leg. They certainly broke the mold with Mel Ott.
19. Jeff Bagwell batting .441.
Surprize, surprize, surprize as Gomer use to exclaim to the Sargent. Always knew Bags was a very underrated, very valuable player, but I had no idea he would rank so high, but then he did play in a high run producing era. Also stole 200 bases, not shabby for a 1st baseman.
20. Alex Rodriguez batting .441.
Not surprised to see A-Rod highly rated, but he also had excellent defensive value as a 3rd baseman and shortstop. Damn shame he was so stupid that he was picking up his Performance Enhancing Drugs off street drug peddlers. More than a quarter billion dollar baseball talent with 10 cents for brains, but it’s his reputation for better or worse.
21. Sam Crawford batting .427.
Wahoo Sam played entirely in the deadball era as one of the premier centerfielders in history. Forgotten by modern fans is that he smokes the 20th century baseball records for career triples with 309 and inside the home park homeruns with 51, 12 in one season alone which is also a record. He can play on my team any day and twice on Sundays if he wants.
22. Jackie Robinson hitting .427.
Jackie wasn’t considered one of the best black baseball players at the time he was chosen to break the sacred Major League Baseball color barrier by Branch Rickey, yet nobody else could have ever done it in such style with so much contained fury, he was unreal. For the first few years he agreed to turn the other cheek as his teammates took care of him, but then he shook his collar off to fight his own battles. My favorite story is one involving a very borish writer who had penned an article claiming a key pitcher who had been struggling was shot and didn’t have it in him anymore. In his next start the pitcher completed a rare masterpiece. Jackie had looked strangely bulky during the game, but with the last out he pulled the offending article out of his pants to sprint to where the writer was sitting, “Why don’t you shove this up your ass.” His early career was stifled due to WW2, yet that turned out to be the lucky charm for black Americans when President Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces, a warning shot across the baseball bow to get their act together or lose their monopoly. Glad to see Jackie up there where he so richly belongs.
23. Eddie Collins batting .420.
Collins is definitely in the discussion as to the best 2nd baseman in history. Played a good portion of his career in the deadball era.
24. Jim Thome batting .420.
Big surprise here to see the brutish Thome ranked so highly over more acclaimed players, but it is what it is, a distillation of the best run producers in history. Also, that’s three consecutive sets of tie scores in a row, so here’s a disclaimer that these percentage points extended out are exceedingly nominal, so in essence there is no difference in their numerical values. I alphabetized these ties.
25. Chipper Jones batting .418.
Yet another surprise to see the ol’ Chipster ranked over more acclaimed players. We all knew he was a keeper from the gitgo, but maybe playing out of the national limelight with such a goofy name allowed him to sneak in under the wire.
26. Mark McGwire hitting .417.
The most popular and unassuming player of his era, nobody has fallen so far as Big Mac over the PEDs controversy. While lacking the egregious outrage of Barry Bonds’ BALCO escapades, Big Mac’s homespun honesty with the press and fans took a beating after belatedly making his revelations. I don’t begrudge him being a product of his times when these substances weren’t banned, and to be fair the press started a malicious witchhunt on him early on because he was taking legal over the counter supplements Andro and Creatine, but he still has to take his lumps. However Baseball, the sports media, and the fans are as much at fault for this seedy era by allowing the strike zone to be flattened for grooved batter swings and bringing in the fences. They beat up on the players, yet blindly refuse to accept any responsibility. That they kept each other buried in an unholy chain of their keisters so as not to see the white elephant of steroid use right up their noses speaks volumes about sycophantic collusion and mindless nature of too many American enterprises. Strangely enough Big Mac started early like Babe Ruth as a pitcher, only in College instead of the minors. He was quickly switched over to everyday playing to get his big bat busting down every collegiate homerun record that existed. Blasted by the MLB rookie homerun record like it was a peewee league mark with 49 homers, he was already a mountain of a man before his first season started. He didn’t need the PEDs but the PEDs eventually found him.
27. Willie Mays hitting .410.
Finally, the Say Hey Kid makes his entry. Willie did lose a season to the Korean War, but otherwise had a very long career, in the end slowly dragging down his averages the last 8 years. I confess being enthralled with he and Willie McCovey as the first baseball stars I ever watched in person back at Colt .45 Stadium for a Little League day circa 1962. Probably near two dozen Little League teams from all over Houston were packed in the left field bleachers, so Willie and Big Stretch easily targeted us as they bombarded us with stupendous blasts, at least four each with about 4-5 of them homeruns that we scrambled to catch with our gloves. Years later a younger friend of mine was a baseball allstar in his first pony league season, thus earning bat boy duty for the visiting Giants in the Astrodome. He brought home a cracked bat from each of them, asking me to repair them. I glued the fractures before gripping them shut and then wrapping several yards of cloth tape tight to keep them set. The next week we played a sandlot game and I selected the longer, heavier McCovey bat first, but being only 15 I couldn’t quite get it around fast enough to hit to my power field although I did hit some stupendous opposite field shots to right that was closed off by my choice. Next up, the Mays bat was shorter and lighter, so I practiced swinging a bit before stepping into the box. ((BooM))…the longest shot of my life rocketed out out of the park, landing across the street in the middle of a yard where thankfully it bounced into a hedge before it could bust out the $100 plate glass livingroom window. I’ve had bragging rights for life with that shot. Had Willie and Hank Aaron been reversed when their franchises relocated, Willie would have more easily broken Babe Ruth’s record in Fulton County Stadium. Aaron would have been lucky to break 600 in Candlestick park. Ball parks mean a lot to certain records, but regardless, both remembered well for their contributions and their career averages make them almost identical twins, quite apt since they were born only 40 miles apart from each other in Alabama.
28. Duke Snider batting .409.
Amazingly the Duke just edges Aaron thanks to the Brooklyn bandbox he played most of his career in. Like Mays, he struggled when relocated to a more difficult park.
29. Hank Aaron batting .407.
A bit of a surprise not to see Aaron ranked higher, but this is a good figure nonetheless. After all, he was never a spectacular player, instead being very good and very steady for many years past the primes of most outfielders. He somewhat reduced his averages his last two years as his record setting homerun season was the last good year he had in him. More impressive to me was a Sports Illustrated article researching the best clutch hitters when Aaron was still in his prime. As I recall he stood well over his peers, something like a .550 average driving in tying or winning runs. A special thanks to him gracefully exposing the vicious racism in this country that has no purpose in the laws of the US Constitution. Players like him helped we the people to realize a more noble interpretation.
30. Frank Robinson batting .406.
I am utterly flabbergasted how 4 of the best outfielders of their shared era could end up bunched within 4 points of each other. The baseball gods must have created a special mold for them. Two time triple crown winner, one in each league, Robby was not as laid back as the three above him, instead being a very fiery, aggressive player who gave and took no quarter on the field.
31. George Sisler batting .406.
Not surprised to see this exceedingly talented .400 hitter up with the best, a 5 tool player who almost had a pitching career of note, posting an 5-6 record with a stellar 2.35 ERA. Interesting story about Sisler is that he and Ty Cobb, Christy Matthewson, and Branch Rickey were stationed in France during WW1 at a mustard gas training facility. That’s 4 HOFers that could have been killed in the training accident that almost bunged up Cobb and did greatly affect Matthewson’s lungs, being damaged the rest of his life before succumbing prematurely a few years later of tuberculosis.
32. Frankie Frisch batting .405.
Not really surprised to see the Fordham Flash up with the big sluggers above as he was considered a major all around talent in his day with excellent 2nd base defensive value. Manager value as well not to mention being a bit of a hotdog.
33. Yogi Berra hitting .399.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Berra must be near 90 years old and still cracking folks up. He and a player were talking about the first time they saw each other when Berra opened the clubhouse door and stood there in his sailor suit acquired on active duty. Yogi tells the guy, “I bet you didn’t think I was a ballplayer then.” The guy pipes up, “Hell, I didn’t even think you were a sailor!” Yogi, another of cartoonists favorite caricatures, a short, dumpy catcher who was one of the best ever, so of course he had to fit his stereotype by being one of the most notorious bad ball hitters in history. Hard to throw a walk ball to him if he didn’t want it, and now proof positive he’s up in the pantheon.
34. Mike Schmidt hitting .393.
A bit surprised in that I always thought Schmidt was overrated. I never “got” his odd, crosscuttingly slow bat swing, but there it is, the raw science of run production that he obviously understood by his numbers.
35. Minnie Minoso hitting .390.
Yes, that Minnie Minoso was so much better than the funny name they gave him. One of our favorite players as kids, he had a certain ancient, comical look to him that we loved, and we could clearly see he played some good ball. Time for the dopey baseball writers to put him in the Hall of Fame after ignoring him all these years such that he finally passed earlier this year without realizing that dream. More homeruns in half the at bats than Pete Rose with more steals and a better onbase and slugging average. Had he been managed at near the level at which he achieved, he would have been even higher in the pantheon instead of being used in continuing cheap decade stunts that made him a cheap record for the most decades playing ball in the major leagues.
36. Ken Griffey Jr hitting .388.
The Kid set the baseball world afire in his days roaming centerfield at the Seattle Kingdom. Homeruns aplenty powered by his sweet uppercutting swing combined with spectacular defense for the fans. Alas, it appears the concrete base of the Astroturf did in his legs. Made a horrible decision to move to Cincinnati in the grips of one of the most stupidly insulting owners in history, Marge Schott. Sadly, a long downward spiral of injuries and low numbers followed that reduced his averages, yet still he’s up there based on his early brilliance.
37. Joe Morgan batting .388.
Little Joe wasn’t a big fella, but he played as big as they come. Saw him come up with the Astros as the 2nd best infielder I’d ever seen, the first being shortstop in my Little and Pony Leagues who had the same flashy moves as Joe did before Joe ever came up. I knew Houston wasn’t the place for him, so I was happy he got a new lease on baseball with Cincinnati as a key leader on the storied Big Red Machine. Baseball is much richer for his incredible contributions.
38. Eddie Mathews hitting .378.
Always thought Eddie didn’t get enough respect for his stellar career, one of my favs in the day when paired with Hank Aaron. Eddie from Texas also and looked like such a nice guy, so imagine my surprise to discover he was the team “enforcer” who would be first to protect his pitcher in case the opposing batter bum rushed him. In his many one on one fights, reported as undefeated, his biggest scalps being HOFers Jackie and Frank Robinson and Don Drysdale, big, strong guys who could handle themselves, but Eddie whooped em over easy. On the eve of his 500th homer, he, the only player who had been with the Braves through all their homes of Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, he wasn’t even informed in advance that the Braves had dumped him on the Houston Astros. Then the Braves wrote him a letter of apology and spelled his given name wrong to further their insulting stupidity. I saw him blast a half dozen boomers that would have been easy homers at Atlanta, yet left to die at the walls in the vast wastelands of the Astrodome. He finally got his 500 and more, but what an insult baseball is to itself in the manner they treat their franchise players.
39. George Brett batting .373.
Pine Tar George could occasionally become ferociously aroused as in the famous pine tar homerun incident, but he was generally one of baseballs gentleman ambassadors for the sport who concentrated on high batting averages. He ranks 4th of the run producing 3rd basemen of this list.
40. Sammy Sosa batting 372.
Slammin’ Sammy another example of an ongoing struggle of self improvement from mediocre to one of the stars. It helped to be on a decent team in the cozy confines of Wrigley Field where he set some homerun records.
41. Wade Boggs batting .367.
Boggs a low maintenance type of player just showed up every day playing at a consistently high level at the 3rd base hot box. Very underrated, he obviously did his job in spades.
42. Rickey Henderson batting .366.
Remember debating the value of Hotdog Rickey on the old AOL boards with the Sabreboys. This is about the level I expected of him, not near the all time great they maintained, but still a fine showing. Had he concentrated on his hitting over his base stealing, he’d be much higher, but he did it his way to much acclaim.
43. Fred McGriff batting .364.
The Crime Dog was a noted big bat in his day, so here it is, proof positive he’s over many more celebrated players to follow.
44. Willie McCovey batting .362.
Big Stretch one of the more popular franchise players in San Francisco, he piled up some good numbers while battling a bad knee for most of his career. Widely respected in baseball for sure.
45. Roberto Clemente batting .361.
The Great Clemente was alternately a spectacular player who also had a surly side brought about by myriad stereotypings of him as a Puerto Rican. He was a consummate humanitarian though, tragically dying in a plane crash while delivering relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua after previous supplies had been hijacked by corrupt officials. He was only 37 years old with a one or two productive years left based on his last season. His legacy was sealed forever, being inducted immediately in to the baseball HOF without the usual 5 year wait.
46. Dave Winfield batting .361.
Mr May was never Mr. October who in turn was never Mr. May. N’er shall the two ever meet for a full season. It was inevitable that they would finally start to show up at the tail end of this chart after all their homers. For all their celebrity, neither could even crack a .500 career mark in slugging due to all their outs.
47. Tony Gwynn batting .358.
Gwynn, one of the most popular players ever, enjoyed even more success with stuck in the misty past sportwriters who were forever cheerleading Gwynn’s attempts to bat .400. T’was never meant to be, yet the easy going Gwynn did surprisingly well as a roly poly, potbellied outfielder. A tragic loss to baseball with his sudden, premature demise, R.I.P
48. Eddie Murray batting .355.
While these are still good figures, I’m surprised he’s not further up. I’d open the paper every day to check the box scores and results, and every other day there was Eddie Murray with a game tying or game winning RBI. One of the best ever clutch hitters.
49. Dwight Evans batting .354.
Doody likely hit the quietest 400+ homeruns in history. Never a high batting average, he just steadily scored or knocked in a lot of runs over 21 years. Major props for the unsung journeyman player producing over flashier players.
50. Reggie Jackson hitting .351.
No, Mr. October never came near 50 homers, it’s just that for the few players I’ve chosen for this list, 49 rank over him because of his prodigious out production that dropped his average down. There are many more than that over him, but this list is necessarily limited. He also holds the ignoble all time strikeout record by a fair margin. He tended to let his team carry him to the World Series where he made his mark, a propensity that led to one of the funniest regular season encounters in baseball history when Billy Martin replaced him in right field after he muffed an easy play. Jackson stormed into the dugout screaming while Yogi Berra and Elston Howard restrained Billy to keep him from flattening the hot doggie. Had Dave Kingman been given his opportunities in the Big Apple, maybe nobody would have ever remembered Jackson. He did well on his contract salary which is the only thing that really counts with players for the most part. Like Ty Cobb noted during a holdout, “It’s not about principle, it’s about money.”
51. Andre Dawson batting .331.
Can’t say I remember much about Andre other than he was lauded and made to the 500 homer mark in spite of leg injuries and being traded around.
52. Carlton Fisk batting .330.
Fisk was one of the better catchers in history additionally blessed with longevity well beyond the norm in a position that gets beat up more than any other. That puts him at a higher value than many of the outfielders over him.
53. Cal Ripken Jr batting .327.
Not surprised to see Cal at this level as he was a very steady offensive presence. Add on his stellar defensive value at shortstop and team leadership, again, he ranks over all over many with better run production averages.
54. Ivan Rodriguez batting .327.
Pudge was a modern favorite catcher of mine who always produced in a fashion that I could point out to my kids. Kinda stained his reputation with PED revelations, but it is what it is, he a product of his generation.
55. Pete Rose batting .321.
Yes, the double nickel hitting Rose was overrated as to his actual production, but he was a helluva a team leader and sparkplug during game situations. Shame he didn’t have the ten cents of brains needed to avoid his gambling habit, but if he is as HOF worthy as his admirers maintain, there must be dozens more eligible that get scant notice.
56. Rusty Staub batting .317.
Le Grande Orange was a solid 1st baseman and player rep. Very popular if unspectacular.
57. Dave Kingman batting .310.
Yeah, that colossus of the tape measure homeruns who was run out of baseball after mailing a live rat to a female sportswriter he was feuding with. One of the higher homerun percentage averages, he ended his final season with 35 homeruns, perfectly poised to break the 500 mark within two years. Just kinda didn’t give a flying flummox what anyone ever thought of him, so they finally gave him the boot.
58. Brooks Robinson batting .278.
I had to include a primary defensive player in this mix. As a defensive oriented 3rd baseman, Brooks was perhaps unparalleled. He could suck all the confidence and hits out of a team with his stellar play when on form. Pretty fair offensive production to boot, a decent number that served to make him one of the best at his position.
So it’s a wrap, a representative list of the best run producers by their averages in baseball peppered with some boxing history during the early years of baseball. Lots of surprises not to mention thrills recalling the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’d think the Sabreboys would have gotten this run production evaluation out in public by now as the best offensive value ever devised, and maybe they have. I just couldn’t be bothered with sorting through all their complex formulas of using magic numbers and other such nonesuch. I don’t need complex formulae to form an honest appraisal of who the best were…enjoy…