Backstopping the list at #39 is Reds catcher Johnny Bench. Known as Little General, Bench led the Big Red Machine to two World Series titles in four appearances in the 1970s. Bench excelled in all facets of the game, ranking third all-time in offensive WAR among catchers and 6th all-time in dWAR among catchers. He’s the only catcher in history with three seasons driving in at least 125 runs, and the only catcher in history to lead the league in RBIs three times. His 45 home runs and 148 RBIs in 1970 are the most by a catcher in history, and his 355 total bases in 1970 are tied with Mike Piazza for the highest single-season total by a catcher. Bench is the only catcher in history to lead the league in home runs, and he did it twice. He was named the World Series MVP in 1976, joining Mike Schmidt and Frank Robinson as the only players in history with two regular-season MVPs and a World Series MVP. During his World Series MVP run, Bench hit a robust .533 with 17 total bases in Cincinnati’s four-game sweep of the Yankees.
Curving in at #40 is Dodgers lefty Sandy Koufax. The Man with the Golden Arm had arguably the greatest four-year stretch in Major League Baseball history at any position. Koufax helped lead the Dodgers to three World Series titles, becoming one of only three players in history to win two World Series MVPs. Koufax is the only player in history with two World Series MVPs over a three-year stretch. He won the 1963, 1965, and 1966 Cy Young awards becoming the only player in history with three Cy Young awards and two World Series MVPs, and he accomplished it over just four seasons. Koufax is the only player in history to lead the league in ERA for five consecutive seasons. He’s also the only player in history to lead the league in H/9 for five consecutive seasons. No player in history led the league in WHIP for more consecutive seasons than Koufax’s four. He’s the only pitcher since 1945 to win at least 25 games three times in a four-year stretch. His 382 strikeouts in 1965 are second all-time and just one shy of Nolan Ryan’s single-season record. His .825 career World Series WHIP is the lowest in history among pitchers with at least 40 innings, and he’s the last pitcher to throw two shutouts in a single World Series.
Popping in at #41 is Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Willie Stargell. Legends are made in the postseason and that’s exactly where Pops shined brightest. He led the Pirates to six playoff appearances and his performance in a losing effort in the 1974 NLCS solidified his status as a postseason powerhouse, but it was what he did in the 1979 postseason that still echoes through the halls of baseball history. Stargell led the Pirates to a three-game sweep of the Reds in the 1979 NLCS, hitting two home runs, two doubles, and driving in six on his way to the NLCS MVP. In the World Series, Stargell was even better as he piled up 12 hits, three home runs, four doubles, and seven RBIs in a 7-game thriller against the Orioles. His home run and two doubles in Game 7 helped clinch the series for the Pirates and the World Series MVP for Pops. He also won the National League MVP, making him the only player in Major league baseball history to win an LCS, World Series, and regular-season MVP in the same season–and he did it at 39 years old! Stargell’s regular-season accomplishments are nothing to scoff at either. Aside from winning the 1979 MVP, he finished runner-up twice, led the league in home runs and OPS+ twice, finished in the top-10 in home runs 10 times, and finished with a 147 career ops+.
Powering in at #42 is New York Giants Hall of Famer Mel Ott. The diminutive Ott took his 5’9, 170-pound frame and turned it into a run-producing machine. Although the people responsible for giving him the nickname “Master Melvin” should be ashamed, there was nothing shameful about Ott’s career totals. Over 22 seasons with the Giants, Ott surpassed 500 home runs, 1,850 RBIs and runs, and did so with a .304 batting average, .414 on-base percentage, and a 155 OPS+. Ott is the only player in history with 2,800 hits and 1,700 walks with fewer than 900 strikeouts, and he’s the only player in history with 500 home runs and 1,850 RBIs with fewer than 900 strikeouts. Ott and Babe Ruth are the only players in history to lead the league in home runs and walks at least six times each. Ott’s streak of 18 consecutive seasons with an OPS+ of at least 130 is just one behind Hank Aaron for the all-time record. Ott’s 10th-inning home run against the Washington Senators in Game 5 of the 1933 World Series clinched the championship for the Giants. Ott led all players in the series in hits, runs, RBIs, home runs, and walks.
Coming at #43 is the namesake of Major League Baseball’s pinnacle award for pitching, Cy Young. Young is pretty much the major league leader in every pitching category, holding the top spots in career wins, losses, games started, complete games, innings, hits allowed, and earned runs allowed. His 7,356 career innings are over 1,400 more than any other pitcher in history. Behind Young’s massive volume is one of the most frugal pitchers ever when it comes to issuing walks. Young led the league in BB/9 a record 14 times, five more than any other pitcher. He led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio a record 11 times and no other pitcher led the league in WHIP and shutouts more often. Young’s 16 20-win seasons are the most in history and his streak of 14 consecutive seasons of 20-wins is the longest in history. Young also led the Boston Americans—soon to be Boston Red Sox—to victory in 1903 in the first-ever World Series between the American League and the National League.
Doubling onto the last at #44 is The Gray Eagle Tris Speaker. Speaker’s 792 career doubles make him baseball’s king of the two-bagger. He led the league in doubles a record eight times and holds the record for 30, 40, and 50-double seasons. Few players in history can equal Speaker’s lofty place in the record books where he stands 5th all-time in hits, 6th in batting average and triples, 9th in WAR, and 11th in on-base percentage. He has the most 145-hit seasons and the most consecutive 145-hit seasons in history. He’s the only player in history with at least 1,300 career walks and fewer than 400 strikeouts. He’s the only player in history with 3,000 career hits and 400 stolen bases with fewer than 400 strikeouts. He’s the only player in history with 3,500 hits and 750 doubles, and he’s the only player in history with 3,500 hits and 300 sacrifice hits. No player in MLB history has more seasons with both a .370 batting average and a .460 on-base percentage than Speaker’s six (Babe Ruth also has six). Speaker played in three World Series leading his team to victory on all three occasions.
Winding up at #45 is Orioles ace, Jim Palmer. Prior to the 19-year-old Palmer showing up in Baltimore in 1965, the Orioles had won zero world titles and made one World Series appearance. During his 19 seasons with the O’s, Palmer helped lead them to three World Series titles in six appearances. Palmer’s shutout of Sandy Koufax and the defending World Series champion Dodgers in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series got the ball rolling on Baltimore’s dynasty. Palmer would play an integral part in Baltimore’s subsequent playoff success. His eight postseason wins are the most in franchise history and his 2.61 postseason ERA is the 4th best all-time among pitchers with at least 120 career postseason innings. Palmer was even better in the regular season. He won the AL Cy Young in 1973, 1975, and 1976 and finished runner-up in 1977 and 1982 on his way to eight top-5 finishes. Palmer’s eight 20-win seasons are the most by any pitcher since 1955 and he has the most 290-inning seasons since 1970. Palmer is one of only four pitchers since 1935 with 265 career wins and a .638 winning percentage.
Taking the mound at #46 is “Lefty” Steve Carlton. Carlton’s four Cy Young awards are the third most in history, and for the first 40 years the award existed no pitcher won more of them. Carlton is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history with at least 325 wins, 5,000 innings, and 4,000 strikeouts. No pitcher since 1930 has more seasons of at least 23 wins (Lefty Grove, Robin Roberts, and Bob Feller also have four) and no pitcher since 1950 has more 230-inning seasons (Seaver also has 15). Carlton’s 16-consecutive seasons of at least 10 complete games are the most since 1948. He’s 4th on the all-time strikeout list, 9th in innings, and 11th in wins. Carlton helped the Cardinals reach two World Series including a World Series title in 1967. He also led the Phillies to two World Series appearances and the 1980 World Series title in which he pitched a masterpiece in game six to close out the series.
Sliding in at #46 on the list is SpongeBob’s favorite baseball player, “The Flying Dutchman” Honus Wagner. Wagner was the original “greatest of all time” when Major League Baseball was officially formed in 1903. While his reign at the top was usurped by Ty Cobb by 1910, Wagner’s imprint on the sport is still felt today as his 1909 T206 baseball card has been the most sought after on the market for over a century. Few players in history appear in baseball record books as often as Wagner. He’s third all-time in triples, 8th in hits, and 10th in doubles and stolen bases. Among shortstops, he’s the all-time leader in hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, WAR, batting average, and OPS+. Wagner led the league in WAR for position players 11 times, batting average and OPS eight times, doubles, extra-base hits, and runs created seven times, total bases and slugging % six times, on-base percentage and RBIs four times, triples three times, and hits and runs twice. Wagner was the star of the 1909 World Series as he led the Pirates to the title over the Tigers, throwing one last salvo at Cobb before the changing of the guard.
Switch hittin’ the list at #48 is Braves third baseman and 1995 NL MVP Chipper Jones. Chipper’s combination of contact, power, and plate discipline is unrivaled at the hot corner. He’s the only third baseman in history to reach both 1,600 career runs and RBIs. He’s the only third baseman in history with a .300 career batting average and 450 home runs. He’s the only third baseman in history with a .300 career batting average and a .529 slugging percentage. He’s the only third baseman in MLB history with at least a .300 batting average and a 140 OPS+. He’s the only third baseman in history with at least a .400 on-base percentage and 1,100 extra-base hits, and he’s the only third baseman in history with at least 2,700 career hits and an OPS+ of 140. His .930 career OPS is the most all-time for a third baseman with at least 6,000 plate appearances, and he’s second all-time among third basemen in on-base percentage and slugging %. Chipper wasn’t just a regular-season on-base machine. His .409 postseason on-base percentage is the 9th best in history among qualifiers and the highest mark in postseason history among players with at least 340 post-season plate appearances. He’s the all-time leader in postseason walks and 4th all-time in postseason intentional walks.
Storming into the list at #49 is Royals third baseman, George Brett. Brett spent all 21 of his seasons with the Royals. Brett won the AL MVP in 1980 and had a strong case in 1976 and 1985, finishing runner up in both seasons. He led the league in OPS+, hits, triples, slugging percentage, and runs created three times and he won three batting crowns. He joins Stan Musial as the only two players in history with at least 650 doubles, 130 triples, and 300 home runs, and he also joins Musial as the only two players in history with 3,100 career hits and 300 home runs with fewer than 950 strikeouts. He’s the only player since 1942 to hit at least .390 in a single season (min. 500 plate appearances). He’s 10th all-time in intentional walks, 6th in sacrifice flies, and 7th in doubles. As impressive as Brett’s regular-season career was, he was even more impressive in the playoffs. He won the ALCS MVP in 1985 while leading the Royals to a World Series title. Among players with at least 180 postseason plate appearances, Brett is second all-time in career postseason slugging percentage (Nelson Cruz), batting average (Steve Garvey), and OPS (Albert Pujols).
Joining the list at #50 is Boston slugger Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz spent 23 seasons with the Red Sox which are tied with Brooks Robinson for the most seasons spent with a single franchise. Yaz didn’t just play for 23 seasons, he was a productive player for 23 seasons, amassing 18 all-star game appearances, and receiving MVP votes in 14 different seasons. Yastrzemski is the only player in history with 3,400 career hits and 1,800 walks. He’s also the only player in history with 3,000 hits, 1,800 RBIs, 1,800 runs, and 1,800 walks. Yaz is in the top-10 all-time in hits, doubles, walks, and total bases and he led the league in on-base percentage five times, OPS+ four times, runs, and doubles three times while also winning three batting crowns. He joins Babe Ruth and Ted Williams as the only players in history with 1,800 career walks, 1,100 extra-base hits, and fewer than 1400 strikeouts. He joins Hank Aaron and Stan Musial as the only players in history with 3,400 career hits and 1,100 extra-base hits, and he joins Musial and Albert Pujols as the only players in history with at least 645 career doubles and 450 home runs. Yaz won the AL Triple Crown in 1967 on his way to the league MVP, and he hit .352 with a .438 on-base percentage in two World Series appearances.
Up next at #51 is starting pitcher Curt Schilling. The two most important traits a pitcher can have are limiting contact and avoiding walks. Schilling’s arsenal might have featured the best mix of both the league has ever seen. Schilling is the only pitcher since 1920 to pitch at least 3,000 innings with a K/BB ratio of at least 4.38. He’s the only pitcher in history with 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 715 walks. Schilling and Juan Marichal are the only two pitchers since 1920 with at least 215 career wins and fewer than 715 walks. What makes Schilling’s power/control mix so remarkable is that he was able to maintain it while also being one of the preeminent workhorses in Major League Baseball. He’s the last pitcher to throw back-to-back seasons of 250 innings, and he led the league in complete games four times. Since 1988, only Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux have more complete games. Schilling’s regular-season numbers are Hall of Fame-worthy on their own. He’s the last pitcher to have three seasons of at least 21 wins and he led the league in strikeout to walk ratio five times, but it’s the success he had in the postseason that makes him one of the most unique pitchers baseball has ever seen. Over 133 and 1/3 career postseason innings, Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and .97 WHIP while winning four World Series titles in four appearances. He was named the 1993 NLCS MVP and 2001 World Series MVP. He holds the record for most innings pitched in a single postseason without a loss (48 and 1/3 in 2001). He holds the record for most strikeouts in a single postseason (56 in 2001). He holds the record for Win Probability added in a single postseason (2.1 in 2001), and he has the highest postseason winning percentage in history among starting pitchers with at least 55 postseason innings.
Joining the list at #52 is second baseman Joe Morgan. Morgan was a vital cog to Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, combining with Pete Rose to provide a 1-2 punch at the top of the order that rivals any in history. Morgan helped lead the Reds to two World Series titles in four appearances. Morgan was the perfect combination of speed, power, and patience. He joins Rickey Henderson as the only two players in history with 1,800 career walks, 1,600 runs, and 650 stolen bases. Morgan and Henderson are the only two players in history with 250 career home runs and 650 stolen bases. Among second basemen, Morgan is arguably the greatest since 1930. His 1,865 walks are the 5th most in history regardless of position and 366 more than any other second baseman. Morgan’s 689 career stolen bases are the most by a second baseman since the dead-ball era. Morgan joins Rogers Hornsby as the only second basemen to win two league MVPs and he racked up 19.1 more WAR than any other second baseman since 1930.
Next up at #53 is Grover Cleveland Alexander, or Ol’ Pete. Pete was one of Major League Baseball’s original OGs as he threw straight fire for the 10-year stretch from 1911-1920. Over that decade, Pete would lead the league in innings seven times, wins, WAR for pitchers, strikeouts, complete games, and shutouts six times, and ERA five times. During this remarkable run, Pete put together three consecutive 30-win seasons and four consecutive 350-inning seasons. No pitcher in the modern era has duplicated either accomplishment. Pete’s 373 career wins are tied for the third-most all-time. He’s fourth all-time in WAR among pitchers and second in shutouts. Pete is one of only five pitchers in the modern era with at least 3,500 innings and a .642 winning percentage, and one of only six pitchers in the modern era with at least 3,500 innings and a 135 ERA+.
Hitting the list at #54 is baseball’s hit king, Pete Rose. Charlie Hustle’s 4,256 career hits are the most all-time and once Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Yadier Molina retire, no active player will be within 2,000 of his total. Rose’s records are too numerous to name, but we can at least give it a try. He’s tied with Ichiro as the all-time leader with 10 200-hit seasons. He led the league in hits seven times which is tied with Tony Gwynn for the most since the dead-ball era. He finished first or second in hits 13 times which is the most in history. He has the most doubles since the dead-ball era. He’s the only player in history with 4,000 hits and 1,500 walks. Rose reached base an unfathomable 5,929 times which will likely remain the record for as long as MLB exists. He won three batting titles and finished in the top-10 13 times. Rose was also no stranger to winning hardware. He won three World Series titles while also being named the 1975 World Series MVP. He won the 1973 NL MVP and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 10 times.
Captaining the list at #55 is “Mr. November” Derek Jeter. Jeter earned his nickname by becoming the face of postseason baseball, winning a remarkable five World Series titles in seven appearances during his 20-year career. No player since 1957 has won more or appeared in more World Series. He’s the all-time playoff leader in hits, doubles, triples, and runs. He’s third all-time in playoff home runs, 5th in walks, and 6th in stolen bases. Jeter was no slouch in the regular season, finishing in the top-10 in MVP voting eight times. His 3,465 career hits are the 6th most in history, and he has the most hits ever by a shortstop and ranks second in runs by a shortstop.
Coming in at #56 is Yankees legendary backstop Yogi Berra. No player in history had more playoff success than Berra. He won a surreal 10 World Series titles with Yankees and played in 14 World Series overall. Both are the most in history. He is the all-time World Series leader in hits, doubles, and plate appearances. He’s second all-time in RBIs, runs, total bases, and third all-time in home runs and walks. While Yogi is synonymous with the World Series, his regular-season accomplishments are nothing to scoff at. Berra won three American League MVPs which are tied for the most in AL history and tied for the second-most in MLB history. His 1,430 RBIs are the record by a catcher and he ranks third among catchers in runs and fourth in home runs. His 18 all-star selections are four more than any other catcher in history. Yogi joins Joe DiMaggio as the only two players in history regardless of position with at least 1,430 career RBIs, 350 home runs, and fewer than 420 strikeouts.
Coming at #57 is Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell. Bagwell’s career is marked not by robust career numbers—although they are impressive—but by his ridiculous per-162 game totals. Bagwell joins Ted Williams as the only two players since 1940 with 162 game averages of at least 114 runs, 114 RBIs, and a .400 on-base percentage. He’s the only player in history to play 2,150 games or less and reach 1,500 runs and 1,500 RBIs. Bagwell is the first player since 1931— and only the third player in history along with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig—with back-to-back 140-run seasons. He’s the only player since 1936 to reach 152 runs in a single season. He’s the only player since 1949 with at least 143 runs and 143 walks in the same season, joining Babe Ruth and Ted Williams as the only players ever to do it. He’s one of only four players since 1950 with 1,500 runs, a 149 ops+ and a .405 on-base %, and he’s the only first baseman since the dead-ball era with 1,500 career runs and a 149 ops+. Bagwell won the NL MVP in 1994 when became just the third player since 1927 along with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire with a single-season slugging percentage of at least .750.