MLB has bestowed upon baseball fans an unprecedented crop of youthful talents capable of etching their names among the game’s elite. Perhaps one day, these emerging superstars will be remembered alongside the game’s all-time greats.
With another 10-15 years of domination, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, Madison Bumgarner, and Noah Syndergaard all have the potential to write Hall of Fame careers. If Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw continue on their current paths, they will someday be considered among the top players in baseball history.
For the time being, none of these young puppies have done enough to join the ranks of legendary names like Ruth, Mays, Aaron, and Cobb. They also have a long way to go before catching up to unheralded early-twentieth-century superstars who traded in fence-clearing pop for great contact, plate discipline, baserunning, gap power, and defence.
Of course, condensing a comprehensive library of baseball legends to 5 players will never result in complete agreement. Everyone has different standards of brilliance and personal preferences. This list, on the other hand, is more concerned with outcomes than with reputation.
The Top 5 Greatest Baseball Players in History
1. Babe Ruth
This is a no-brainer if ever there was one. Yes, he played in a talent pool that was artificially limited before Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in 1947, and decades before advanced training regimens produced athletes who looked like, well, athletes, but Ruth was such a historic talent that he transcends these limitations.
His entry into the major leagues was so significant that it signalled the end of the dead-ball era. The all-time record for home runs in a season was 27 when he entered the majors in 1914. He had more than doubled it in seven years, with 59, and he hit a personal high of 60 dingers in 1927. He led the AL in home runs 12 times in total.
He was such a powerful hitter that his.690 career slugging percentage remains the best of all time, and the gap between him and second place is larger than the gap between second and ninth place. Oh, and he was a fantastic pitcher in his early years, leading the American League with a 1.75 ERA in 1921 and pitching 29 and two-thirds consecutive scoreless innings in two World Series—because if you’re going to dominate the game as much as the Babe did, you might as well do it in all areas, right? Furthermore, Ruth was the first transcendent American sports superstar, generating national headlines for both his on-field accomplishments and his off-field celebrity.
His contributions to the storied New York Yankees teams of the 1920s catapulted baseball into the national spotlight, which it still enjoys today. Ruth was not only the greatest baseball player of all time, but he was also the most influential.
2. Willie Mays
Among his most memorable performances were playing shallow centre field at the cavernous Polo Grounds, sprinting toward the center-field fence, and making an incredible over-the-shoulder basket catch at the warning track late in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series with the score tied late. It’s a play titled simply “The Catch,” and it embodied everything that made Mays great: his athleticism, grace, and ingenuity. Mays went on to win a total of 12 Gold Gloves during his career, but he was also a powerful hitter, hitting an average of 40 home runs per season from 1954 to 1966. Then there were the four years from 1956 to 1959 when he led the majors in stolen bases, finishing first in the majors for four straight years.
3. Barry Bonds
Barry Lamar Bonds is a former professional baseball left fielder who spent 22 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants in Major League Baseball (MLB). Bonds is regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, having won seven NL MVP awards and 14 All-Star selections.
Bonds was born on July 24, 1964, in Riverside, California, to Bobby Bonds and Patricia Howard, both former major league baseball players. He excelled in baseball, basketball, and football at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California. His senior year, he had a.467 batting average and was named a prep All-American. The San Francisco Giants selected Bonds as a high school senior in the 1982 MLB draught, but they were unable to reach an agreement on contract terms. Bonds, on the other hand, chose to go to college.
Bonds played at Arizona State University, where he hit.347 with 45 home runs and 175 RBIs (RBI). He hit.360 in 1984 and had 30 stolen bases, and he hit.368 in 1985 with 23 home runs, 66 RBIs, and a.368 batting average. Bonds was named to the All-Time College World Series Team in 1996 after tying the NCAA record with seven consecutive hits in the College World Series as a sophomore. He earned a criminology degree from Arizona State University in 1986 and has a promising MLB career ahead of him. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the ASU On Deck Circle.
4. Ted Williams
Ted Williams was a man who knew exactly what he wanted. Others might argue about who the greatest all-around player in baseball history was. Williams, on the other hand, was a power hitter.
“All I want in life is for people to say to me as I walk down the street, ‘There goes the greatest hitter that ever lived,'” Williams said.
The mission has been completed. The debate will continue indefinitely, but the longtime Red Sox left fielder will always be included in the discussion of “greatest hitter.”
Williams won six batting titles, but that doesn’t explain his batting prowess. Williams led the American League in on-base percentage 12 times in his career, including each of the years he played from 1940 to 1949, when he missed three full seasons due to his service in the Marines. His career on-base percentage of.482 is the best in baseball history.
Williams led the American League in home runs four times, and his career slugging percentage of.634 is second only to Babe Ruth’s.
Williams hit.406 in his third big league season in 1941, becoming the last major leaguer to do so. He had a batting average of.3995 entering the final day of the season, which was rounded up to.400 in the final averages. Williams, on the other hand, insisted on playing in the final day’s doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, going 6-for-8 and hitting.400 with ease.
With 36 home runs, 137 RBI, and a.356 batting average, Williams won the AL Triple Crown in 1942. He then spent three years as a pilot instructor during World War II, serving his country. In 1946, he returned to the big leagues, assisting Boston in winning the American League pennant and earning the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. Williams won the Triple Crown for the second time in 1947.
Then, in 1949, Williams won his second MVP award, narrowly missing out on a third Triple Crown when George Kell of the Tigers beat him by.00016 points in the batting title race.
At the All-Star Break in 1950, Williams was hitting.321 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI through 70 games when he fractured his elbow catching a liner off the bat of Ralph Kiner in the All-Star Game. Williams missed about a third of the season due to injury, but he still managed 28 home runs, 97 RBI, and a.317 batting average.
Williams was recalled to duty by the Marines early in the 1952 season, during the height of the Korean War, when they were in desperate need of pilots. He flew combat missions in a Marine fighter jet for more than a year in Korea, missing the majority of the 1952 and 1953 seasons.
After his rookie season, Williams was an all-star in every non-military interrupted season, earning a total of 19 All-Star Game selections. He led the major leagues in batting average at the age of 38 in 1957, and he followed that up with another batting title in 1958, this time with a.328 mark.
He hit.316 with 29 home runs in his final season, 1960, at the age of 41.
Following the 1960 season, Williams announced his retirement, hitting a home run in his final at-bat on Sept. 28, 1960. He had a.344 batting average, 521 home runs, 2,021 walks, and 1,839 RBI in his career.
Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 and managed the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers from 1969 to 1972.
On July 5, 2002, he passed away.
5. Hank Aaron
Muhammad Ali, the boxing legend, once described Hank Aaron as “the only man I idolise more than myself.”
Aaron was everything an athlete – and a human being – should be, according to many.
Aaron grew up in a poor family in Mobile, Alabama. He bounced around the sandlots, making brief appearances in the Negro Leagues and the minor leagues before settling in with the Braves, where he became one of baseball’s most enduring figures.
He was a consistent performer at the plate and in the field, hitting.300 14 times, hitting 30 home runs 15 times, driving in 90 runs 16 times, and winning three Gold Glove Awards on his way to 25 All-Star Game selections.
Aaron’s best season was probably 1957. That year, he hit.322 with 44 home runs and 132 RBI, winning the National League MVP Award and leading the Braves to their first World Series title since 1914.
Despite his consistent performance, Aaron wasn’t thrust into the national spotlight until 1973, when he was nearing the end of a successful assault on one of baseball’s most cherished records: Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs. On April 8, 1974, at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Hammerin’ Hank hit a 1-0 pitch from Dodgers pitcher Al Downing into the left field bullpen, giving Aaron 715 career home runs. He’d finish his career with a total of 755.
Aaron still holds the all-time RBI and total base records in baseball (2,297). (6,856). Aaron would still have 3,016 hits if each of his 755 home runs were removed from his stats.
“Through his long career, Hank Aaron has been a model of humility, dignity, and quiet competence,” Georgia congressman Andrew Young said shortly after Hank Aaron’s record-breaking home run. He didn’t ask for the adoration that other national athletes receive, but he has now earned it.”
In 1982, Aaron was inducted into the Hall of Fame. On January 22, 2021, he died.