Top 25 Baseball Players All Time
Over baseball’s long history, many great players have been praised as the best. Through dominance, record-setting, and longevity, certain baseball stars distinguished themselves as truly elite. Keep reading for a list of the best baseball players of all time.
Who Are the Top 25 Baseball Players of All Time?
- Babe Ruth
- Hank Aaron
- Willie Mays
- Cy Young
- Barry Bonds
- Walter Johnson
- Ty Cobb
- Oscar Charleston
- Ted Williams
- Roger Clemens
- Lou Gehrig
- Honus Wagner
- Rogers Hornsby
- Alex Rodriguez
- Mickey Mantle
- Stan Musial
- Tris Speaker
- Nolan Ryan
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Joe DiMaggio
- Christy Matthewson
- Greg Maddux
- Albert Pujols
- Randy Johnson
- Jimmie Foxx
1. Babe Ruth
Baseball would never have been “America’s Pastime” without Babe Ruth. Ruth played in an era where hitting more than 20 home runs in a season was impressive. In that very era, Ruth was averaging 46 homers a year and also hit a then-single-season record of 60. He was the home run king for many years until Hank Aaron took the crown, but his career is part of the reason baseball is such a popular sport.
2. Hank Aaron
Hank Aaron was the home run king until 2007, which automatically puts him in the conversation among the greats. While Aaron’s peak single-season home run number was 46, he went almost 20 years straight hitting at least 24. He has the MLB record with 2,297 career RBIs and also has an amazing 25 All-Star Game appearances.
3. Willie Mays
Mays was the true definition of a five-tool player. His elite contact, power, and Gold Glove defense is why he is the best center fielder of all time. Mays is one of four hitters to reach 3,000 hits and 600 home runs, and he was the first player ever to reach that milestone. Mays was a two-time MVP, 12-time Gold Glove, and won the Rookie of the Year Award.
4. Cy Young
The most prestigious award for Major League Baseball pitchers is named after the one and only Cy Young. Cy Young was a workhorse in 22 seasons and had a career ERA of 2.63. Cy Young had an ERA below 2.00 six times, including twice in his 40s. It is difficult to compare Cy Young with anybody today, yet his dominance in his era still earns him a spot in the top ten.
5. Barry Bonds
Like some other players on this list, the career of Barry Bonds comes with quite a few asterisks and controversies due to his use of performance-enhancing drugs. However, when looking purely at the numbers, it is clear that Barry Bonds was the most dominant hitter to ever pick up a bat. He is the record-holder in home runs and has seven Most Valuable Player Awards. He holds the Major League record in walks, solely because pitchers knew if they threw it over the strike zone, there was a chance it was heading over the fence. While there are many opinions on whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame, it is certain that he is statistically the best player in the world.
6. Walter Johnson
For 12 straight seasons, Walter Johnson had an ERA that averaged 1.65. In seven consecutive seasons, he threw at least 320 innings and had an earned run average of 1.90 or lower, a feat that no pitcher in today’s era will ever come close to accomplishing. Johnson is the only pitcher ever to throw 100 shutouts and was also a two-time MVP award winner.
7. Ty Cobb
Cobb is arguably the greatest contact hitter of all time, with a career batting average of .366, which is an MLB record. In 23 straight seasons, Cobb never batted below .316. He batted .400 in three different seasons and won 12 batting titles. Ty Cobb is also second in career triples at 295 and fourth in stolen bases at 897.
8. Oscar Charleston
Oscar Charleston was a center fielder and manager in the Negro leagues. Over an impressive 43-year combined career, he played or coached for more than 12 teams. Notably, he played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays during the 1930s, which were the two dominant teams in Negro league baseball during the decade. Charleston won the triple crown three times, a major league record.
9. Ted Williams
Ted Williams hit over 500 home runs and made almost 3,000 hits in his career. He earned those numbers despite missing three full years in the middle of his prime to go serve in the military. Williams was the last player ever to bat .400, and very few players have even come close in the years since he accomplished this.
10. Roger Clemens
Clemens is another player on this list who, despite a phenomenal career, may never be free of controversy due to steroid allegations. However, in a career where Clemens pitched well into his 40s, he was a true workhorse, and was one of the most dominant pitchers the game has ever seen. He won an MLB-record seven Cy Young awards, took home the pitching triple crown twice, and was also an MVP in 1986, a feat that is very rare for a pitcher.
11. Lou Gehrig
While Babe Ruth is one of the most popular baseball players of all time, his teammate Lou Gehrig also had a tremendous career. Gehrig’s combination of a high batting average, along with great power numbers, made him one of the best players of his era. Had his career not been tragically shortened by ALS, he might have been even higher on this list.
12. Honus Wagner
Despite playing in the dead ball era early in major league history, Wagner still had a career .328 average and over 3,400 hits. Honus Wagner is at the top of their list of all-time greatest shortstops. While he didn’t hit many home runs, he made up for it with 643 doubles and 252 triples.
13. Rogers Hornsby
Rogers Hornsby is one of two players who has won the triple crown twice. He is a two-time MVP who won the batting title seven times. Hornsby’s OPS topped 1.000 in 10 seasons, which is something most players (even Hall of Famers) fail to do for a single season. Hornsby bled baseball and famously said that he spent his offseasons “staring out the window and waiting for spring.”
14. Alex Rodriguez
During his playing career, A-Rod was known for his brash and confident personality, and he too bears the mark of controversy for concealing his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Those are the things that many people will remember about him, but something that also should be remembered is that he hit over 50 homers three times in his career. He has 696 career homers and is also a member of the 3,000-hit club. Despite allegedly being the “most hated player” in the MLB, A-Rod always answered the critics with superb numbers, as he took home three MVP Awards in his career and played a huge role in leading the Yankees to their 27th title.
15. Mickey Mantle
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Mickey Mantle was the king of New York. Between the years of 1955 and 1961, Mantle hit 290 of his more than 500 home runs, averaging 41 homers in those seven seasons. Mantle is also a three-time MVP and has won the triple crown, which is one of the most prestigious honors in baseball. He was the best player in a Yankee era that featured seven titles, and their success in that era would not have been possible without him.
16. Stan Musial
Stan Musial was one of the best contact hitters of all time, winning the batting title seven times. Along with his contact came dangerous power, as he hit 475 home runs and 725 doubles. Musical took home the MVP three times and also has an astounding 24 All-Star Game selections.
17. Tris Speaker
Speaker had a .500 career slugging percentage despite hitting only 117 career home runs, as he has an MLB record of 792 doubles. His lack of homers has made him very underrated, leading him to not get the appreciation he deserves, but there is no denying that, when looking at more advanced stats, he is one of the top players of all time.
18. Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan is the all-time leader in strikeouts and had a remarkable 27-season career. He holds an MLB record of seven no-hitters, which is something that will probably never be broken. Nolan Ryan is 1,000 strikeouts ahead of Randy Johnson, who is in second place. Ryan was also able to remain dominant late in his career, throwing his final no-hitter at the age of 44.
19. Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey is a player who could have arguably been the greatest of all time if he did not have so many injuries. He sadly had more than 140 games twice after he turned 30. For most of his 20s, Griffey appeared to be the second coming of Willie Mays. He was an incredible fielder, was fast, and could hit for ridiculous power. He led the American League in homers four times in his career, and was the 1997 MVP Award winner. Griffey will be remembered for his exciting style of play and will always leave people wondering what could have been if he stayed healthy.
20. Joe DiMaggio
DiMaggio is another player who missed out on a large part of his prime due to military service. Where DiMaggio lacked longevity in his career like a lot of other players on this list, his peak was as good or better than anybody else’s. He holds a record that will likely never be broken, where he got a hit in 56 games in a row.
21. Christy Mathewson
For 16 straight seasons, Mathewson worked for at least 250 innings. Despite playing during the dead ball era, that type of longevity is still extremely impressive, as he pitched in 435 complete games. He has a 2.13 career earned run average and had an ERA below 2.00 in six seasons. While pitchers such as Pedro Martínez and Sandy Koufax had peaks that were as good or better than Mathewson, neither came remotely close to putting in the number of innings.
22. Greg Maddux
Command was never an issue for Greg Maddux, who recorded fewer walks than games started in eight of his final 14 seasons. Maddux’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was among the best in the league numerous times, and he constantly would keep his ERA well below 3.00. He was a four-time Cy Young winner and is easily one of the best pitchers of all time.
23. Albert Pujols
Even though he hasn’t been the same player since he joined the Angels, Albert Pujols still belongs on this list. During his tenure with the Cardinals, Pujols was, without a doubt, the best player in the league. He finished top-five in the MVP voting 10 times and took home the top honor three times. Pujols was arguably the best power hitter of the 2000s, all while having a batting average that was among the best contact hitters in the game.
24. Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson had a very interesting career. Until his late 20s, he was nothing more than an average pitcher who showed potential, but had some issues with control. Once he turned 29, he became the ace of the Mariners and was constantly leading the league in strikeouts. He only got better as he aged, as he won four straight Cy Young Awards between the ages of 35 and 38 years old.
25. Jimmie Foxx
Jimmie Foxx started to get playing time at the young age of 20, and he never looked back. He had a career slash line of .325/.428/.609. He played for only 14 years but still hit 534 home runs. He was a Most Valuable Player three times and had a slugging percentage of above .700 each time. It could be argued that the peak of Foxx’s career was as good or better than anyone else on this list, and a longer tenure could have him a bit higher.
Henderson played 25 seasons in the MLB and holds the record for most stolen bases, runs scored, and leadoff home runs. While many players were better hitters than him, Henderson’s high on-base percentage and phenomenal speed are what make him one of the most successful baseball players in history. A walk to Henderson could lead him to third base just five pitches later, making him a nightmare for pitchers and catchers all over the MLB.
Cal Ripken Jr.
Nicknamed “the Ironman,” Cal Ripken Jr. set an MLB record by playing in 2,632 consecutive games. Ripken spent his entire MLB career with the Baltimore Orioles, leading them to a World Series win in 1983. Considered one of the best shortstops of all time, he was a 19-time All-Star and was the AL MVP twice. Ripken was also one of the most offensively dangerous players of his era, tallying up 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, and 1,695 RBIs.
Roberto Clemente will be remembered not only for his incredible stats, but also his big heart and personality. He maintained a .317 batting average in his career, reached the 3,000 hits club, and hit 240 home runs combined with 1,305 RBIs. Clemente was a valuable member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was also a devout humanitarian. He very likely would have continued his stellar career had he not tragically perished in a 1972 plane crash at the age of 38, which occurred while he was flying to Nicaragua to provide aid in the wake of a devastating earthquake.
Who is the best all-around baseball player of all time?
The best all-around baseball player is Willie Mays. Mays could field, run, throw, and hit as well as anybody else. One of the best all-around players today is Mike Trout, who is well on his way to becoming one of the best players of all time.
Who is the most popular player in baseball?
The most popular baseball player of all time is Babe Ruth. He transformed the game into the way we see it today and will always be looked at as a legendary player. While there may be players who have had better careers, no one will be remembered like the Great Bambino.
Who is the best outfielder of all time?
Depending on who you ask this question, you may get a lot of different answers. However, some of the most popular answers would be Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, or Willie Mays. The best fielder, combined with hitting, would probably have to go to Wilie Mays. But when you are looking at more advanced stats such as WAR, then Barry Bonds would be the one who is the proper answer. The best outfielder of all time depends on what the fan views as most important.