There have been generations of great players in Major League Baseball. Since the league’s official inception around 1869 there have been many different eras and changes to the game. It is difficult to place each great player against each other, but here is the CHEAP SEATS take on the greatest players, by position, the game has ever produced. Moving out of the middle infield, volume 7 focuses on an position where perhaps more top tier greatness has played than any other. (All stats are current of June 1, 2010)

**Center Field**

Center field is one of the most demanding positions in the game. It requires a player with a mixture of speed, instincts and a strong arm to man the position. It is also the outfield captain, who makes calls on who will make plays on balls hit into the gap. Many of the most complete players in the history of the game have player position. Many of the greatest pure athletes in the history of game have played center field and every era of the game is represented by at least one great player from the position. The genesis of the position throughout the various eras of the game and it boasts such a great variety of hitters, speedsters and fielders that it was the most closely competed position for the top spot, which can be greatly debated (and I’m sure will be)….

As controversial as he was great, Cobb's dominance at the plate & on the bases narrowly lands him the top spot.

1. Ty Cobb: Detroit Tigers (1905-1928): 90 points

–          .367 Avg. 117 HRs, 1938 RBI, .424 OBP, 4191 Hits, 2245 Runs, 892 Stolen Bases

–          0 Gold Gloves, 0 World Series, 1 MVP, 0 ROY, 12 Batting Titles, 1 Triple Crown, 2 HR Titles, 0 All-Star Games (Presumptive 14 awarded)

A controversial figure in sports history. Set over 90 records during his career. Highest career batting average in Major League history and held record for most hits for 57 years and runs scored for 77 years. His post 1900 (Modern Era) record of stolen bases stood for 49 years. Also committed an American League record of 271 errors by and outfielder. He hit .300 or better for 23 consecutive seasons, which remains a Major League record. He is the only player to ever record two hitting streaks of 35 games or more. Once led the American League in home runs, with all being inside the park hits, the only player to achieve this. His 724 doubles are fourth all-time. Is characterized by his extremely competitive approach to the game, which was seen as extreme to the point of dirty.

2. Willie Mays: New York/San Francisco Giants (1951-1973): 89.5 points

–          .302 Avg. 660 HRs, 1903 RBI, .384 OBP, 3283 Hits, 2062 Runs, 338 Stolen Bases

–          12 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, 2 MVPs, 1 ROY, 1 Batting Title, 0 Triple Crowns, 4 HR Titles, 24 All-Star Games

Widely considered the greatest all-around player in history. The “Say Hey Kid” is one of four players to pass 600 home runs for his career. His 24 All-Star Games are a record and his the only player to hit have 50 home run seasons 10 years apart. One of four players to ever hit 20 doubles, triples and home runs in the same season (1957). One of five players to ever have eight consecutive 100 RBI seasons. Tied for the most Gold Glove Awards ever for an outfielder. Holds Major League record of 7,095 putouts (catches for an out). Missed one and a half years to military service.

As gifted in the field as he was at the plate, Mays' greatness extended for two and a half decades.

3. Mickey Mantle: New York Yankees (1951-1968): 74 points

–          .298 Avg. 536 HRs, 1509 RBI, .421 OBP, 2415 Hits, 1677 Runs, 153 Stolen Bases

–          1 Gold Glove, 7 World Series, 3 MVPs, 0 ROY, 1 Batting Title, 1 Triple Crown, 4 HR Titles, 16 All-Star Games

An American Icon for third leg of Yankee dynasty and the greatest switch hitter ever. Holds all-time World Series records in home runs (18), RBI (40), runs (42), walks (43), total bases (123) and extra base hits (26). Remains the last player to win the Triple Crown by leading both leagues in home runs, RBI and average. Frequently suffering from injuries, his potential is still greatly debated if not hindered by his health.

4. Ken Griffey, Jr: Seattle Mariners (1989-2010): 64.5 points

–          .284 Avg. 630 HRs, 1779 RBI, .370 OBP, 2781 Hits, 1662 Runs, 184 Stolen Bases

–          10 Gold Gloves, 0 World Series, 1 MVP, 0 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crown, 4 HR Titles, 13 All-Star Games

One of the great all around talents ever, despite a split career that was hindered by injury on the second half of it. Led the American League in home runs in three consecutive years from 1997-99. Upon his retirement he ranked 5th all-time in home runs and is one of three outfielders to land 10 Gold Glove Awards. Only three time winner of the All-Star Game Home Run Derby. A crossover marketing star for baseball during the 1990s.

5. Joe DiMaggio: New York Yankees (1936-1951): 60.5 points

–          .325 Avg. 361 HRs, 1537 RBI, .398 OBP, 2214 Hits, 1390 Runs, 30 Stolen Bases

–          0 Gold Gloves, 9 World Series, 3 MVPs, 0 ROY, 2 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crowns, 2 HR Titles, 13 All-Star Games

“The Yankee Clipper” holds the Major League record with a 56 game hitting streak. He is the only player to make the All-Star game in every year of his career. Hit over .350 three times in his career, with a high mark of .381 in 1939. Considered equally devastating in the field, he dominated the huge left center field in old Yankee Stadium. He lost three years in his prime to military service in World War II.

American Icons in center field, DiMaggio (R) and Mantle brought 16 total World Series to Yankee Stadium.

6. Tris Speaker: Cleveland Indians/Boston Red Sox (1907-1928): 60.5 points

–          .345 Avg. 117 HRs, 1529 RBI, .428 OBP, 3514 Hits, 1882 Runs, 432 Stolen Bases

–          0 Gold Gloves, 3 World Series, 0 MVP, 0 ROY, 1 Batting Title, 0 Triple Crown, 1 HR Title, 0 All-Star Games (Presumptive 13 awarded)

One of the premier hitters of the early 1900’s, he missed many batting titles due to playing concurrently with Ty Cobb. His 792 doubles are the most of all-time and he led the American League in category eight times. Has the fifth highest average in history and batted over .380 five times. Only struck out 220 times in 10,000 plus at bats. Considered the greatest defensive outfielder of his time and his 440 outfield assists are the most ever.

7. Billy Hamilton: Philadelphia Phillies (1888-1901): 51 points

–          .344 Avg. 40 HRs, 736 RBI, .455 OBP, 2158 Hits, 1690 Runs, 912 Stolen Bases

–          0 Gold Gloves, 2 World Series, 0 MVPs, 0 ROY, 2 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crowns, 0 HR Titles, 0 All-Star Games (Presumptive 8 awarded)

Third most stolen bases of all time. Four seasons of over 100 steals, including two totals of 111. Hit over .380 for three consecutive years from 1893-95. Holds the record for most runs scored with 198 in 1894. His .455 on-base percentage is the fourth highest ever.

8. Kirby Puckett: Minnesota Twins (1984-1995): 40 points

–          .318 Avg. 207 HRs, 1085 RBI, .360 OBP, 2304 Hits, 1071 Runs, 134 Stolen Bases

–          6 Gold Gloves, 2 World Series, 0 MVP, 0 ROY, 1 Batting Title, 0 Triple Crown, 0 HR Titles, 10 All-Star Games

His career average was the highest of any American Leaguer after 1950. One of two players to reach 2,000 hits in 10 calendar years. Became the fourth player to record 1,000 hits in five seasons. Career end early due to loss of vision in his right eye from glaucoma. Is the second youngest player to ever be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame after dying of stroke at age 45.

9. Edd Roush: Cincinnati Reds (1913-1931): 39.5 points

–          .323 Avg. 68 HR, 981 RBI, .369 OBP, 2376 Hits, 1099 Runs, 268 Stolen Bases

–          0 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, 0 MVPs, 0 ROY, 2 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crowns, 0 HR Titles, 0 All-Star Games (Presumptive 11 awarded)

Said to have the strongest arm of his era. Recorded 30 inside the park home runs and never struck out more than 25 times in a season. Had a batting average over .330 for six consecutive years from 1920-25. Best player of the 1919 Cincinnati Reds who competed in the disputed “Black Sox” scandal of the 1919 World Series.

10. Duke Snider: Brooklyn Dodgers (1947-1964): 39 points

–          .295 Avg. 407 HR, 1333 RBI, .380 OBP, 2116 Hits, 1259 Runs, 99 Stolen Bases

–          0 Gold Gloves, 2 World Series, 0 MVPs, 0 ROY, 0 Batting Titles, 0 Triple Crowns, 1 HR Title, 8 All-Star Games

Third of the great New York City center fielders of the 1950’s along with Mays and Mantle. Snider was one of two players to have over 1,000 RBI during the decade. “The Duke of Flatbush” hit 40 or more home runs in five consecutive years from 1953-57. Only player to hit four home runs or more in two different World Series.

Left on deck: Larry Doby, Lloyd Waner, Jim Edmonds, Hack Wilson

See past posts for scoring rubric

  1. Samuel says:

    Pretty close call with Mays and Cobb…to be honest I didn’t think it would be that close on paper I was surprised how the numbers played out…this is a loaded position. In my opinion using your scale it’s the best 1-5.

  2. It’s hard for me to break it away from left field….it’s so top heavy. Bonds, Stan, Teddy Ballgame. Yaz, Rose, Manny and Rickey at 7 is tough.

    But I’ve got to give it up to center field, these guys are amazing and anytime the best overall player ever can’t even take 1 at his position, it goes to say something about 1) Cobb’s dominance and 2) the depth of the position.

    Wait until you see the starting pitchers though….

  3. Oates says:

    Damnit! I still have the Say Hey kid as the GOAT.

  4. Cobb clearly wasn’t the fielder that Willie was. 271 errors is a lot for an outfielder. But man was he murderer! Those numbers are ridiculous, 23 years hitting .300? An that career average is crazy.

    However, until I adjusted Willie’s All-Star games (I didn’t count the years when they played two ASGs as more than one All-Star appearance), he was number one.

  5. […] for more. That’s a telling story of just how devastating The Kid was at his best. Maybe the most natural ballplayer of all time, on a level that Mays, Mantle and Musial would have to tip a cap to, yet in hindsight what failed […]

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