Ranking the top 10 MLB players of all time
We rank the 10 greatest players in the history of Major League Baseball, including Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
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10. Cy Young
Cy Young was the original major league ace.
His career ended 100 years ago, but Young still holds MLB records for wins, innings pitched, games started and complete games.
His 511 pitching wins is 94 more than his closest rival and is, quite frankly, never going to be beaten.
His impact on the game was so great that the Cy Young Award was created in 1956 – one year after his death – to honour the best pitchers in MLB every year.
9. Stan Musial
Stan the Man was one of the most consistent hitters to ever grace the major leagues.
Musial ended his 22-year career with a .331 batting average, while setting National League records in several key statistical categories, including hits, RBIs, and runs scored.
The St. Louis Cardinals legend – Musial played his whole career with the franchise – won three World Series, three MVP awards, seven batting titles and played in 24 All-Star Games, the joint-most in history.
Musial was a first-ballot inductee to the Hall of Fame in 1969, and was named to the MLB All-Century Team in 1999.
8. Lou Gehrig
Much like Musial, Gehrig made his name with his consistency at the plate.
The New York Yankees star, nicknamed The Iron Horse, ended his career with a .340/.447/.632 slash line with 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs.
Between 1925 and 1939, Gehrig turned out in 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees – a record that was considered unbreakable before Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed it nearly 60 years later.
Gehrig was also the first MLB player to have his jersey retired, with the Yankees doing so after his retirement in 1939, two years before his death due to ALS – a condition now widely known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
7. Walter Johnson
Although the Cy Young Award is given to the best MLB pitchers every year, Johnson is actually considered to be a better pitcher.
The Big Train played the entirety of his 21-year career with the Washington Senators, going 417-279 while registering a career ERA of 2.17 and striking out 3,508 batters.
To this day, Johnson remains the career leader in shutouts (110), and is the only pitcher in history with over 400 wins and 3,000 strikeouts.
Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936 as one of the ‘first five’ founder members, alongside Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson.
6. Ty Cobb
Not only is Cobb another member of the ‘first five’ founding members of the Hall of Fame, he actually received the highest proportion of the votes in the inaugural ballot, with 222 out of a possible 226.
The Georgia Peach is widely seen as the greatest player of the dead-ball era between 1900 and 1919, and one of the greatest in the history of the sport.
Cobb is credited with setting 90 MLB records throughout his career, several of which still stand, including career batting average (.366) and most batting titles (12).
5. Ted Williams
Williams is widely regarded as one of the purest hitters in MLB history.
The Splendid Splinter ended his career with a .344 batting average – the highest of any live-ball era player – and a .482 on-base percentage, which is the highest of all time.
In the 1941 season, Williams posted a batting average of .406, making him the last player to bat above the .400 mark across an entire season.
Williams lost nearly five whole seasons in his prime to military service during WWII and the Korean War, but still ended with two MVP awards, two Triple Crowns and six batting titles to go with 19 All-Star selections.
4. Hank Aaron
One of the game’s great power hitters, Aaron is the man who broke Babe Ruth’s long-standing home run record.
Hammerin’ Hank hit at least 24 dingers every season between 1955 and 1973, and exceeded 30 homers in 15 of those years. Aaron’s final tally of 755 home runs stood for 33 years until it was broken by Barry Bonds.
The Milwaukee legend still holds the MLB record for most career RBIs (2,297), extra base hits (1,477) and total bases (6,856), while ranking in the top five for hits (3,771), runs (2,174), at-bats (12,364) and games played (3,298).
3. Barry Bonds
Although Bonds has become synonymous with baseball’s steroid era, there can be no denying that he is still one of the greatest to ever play the sport.
Bonds is mostly known for breaking Aaron’s home run record, ending his career with 762 homers.
He struck such fear into opposing pitchers that he amassed an all-time high 2,558 walks, 668 of which were intentional.
He is the sole member of the 500-homer, 500-steal club, and won seven MVP awards over the course of his career.
2. Willie Mays
Mays’ offensive numbers may not stack up to some other players on this list, but it is his all-round game that makes him the second greatest player ever.
The Say Hey Kid ended his career with a .302 average, hitting 660 home runs with 1,903 RBIs.
In the field, Mays was a rapid center fielder with a bullet arm who won 12 Gold Gloves – a record for outfield players.
Mays is the archetype of the five-tool player, leaving a legacy in the sport that may never be matched.
1. Babe Ruth
There could only be one player at the top of this list. Even those who don’t watch baseball have heard the name Babe Ruth, and there is a reason for that.
Beginning his career as a Hall of Fame-calibre pitcher, Ruth transitioned into one of the best hitters the league has ever seen, establishing multiple records including home runs (714), RBIs (2,213), walks (2,062) and slugging percentage (.690).
Most have since been broken, but that does not matter when you consider the context of his career.
When Ruth made his debut in 1914, baseball was mired in the dead-ball era, characterised by low scoring games and a lack of home runs.
Ruth’s hitting ability helped the sport move into the live-ball era that continues to the present day, as he smashed record after record to catapult baseball into the national consciousness.
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