Here are the top ten baseball players of the last 50 years (1970-2020) as selected by the fans in the By George Journal dugout.
First, the honourable mentions go to Gary Carter, Thurman Munson, Mike Schmidt, Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Joe Morgan, Don Mattingly, Rickey Henderson and pitching greats Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Catfish Hunter, Jack Morris, and Greg Maddux.
Player greats who deserve extra special mention — who were close to making the final list and are ball players who’d be that marquee star on any team today: Reggie Jackson, Cal Ripken Jr, George Brett, Ken Griffey Jr., Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, and pitching legends Nolan Ryan, Roy Halladay and Randy Johnson. Also, special mention to a player in a league of his own (but not selected because in the 1970s he was at the end of his illustrious career) Mr. Hank Aaron.
So, from 1970 to today, in reverse order, here are the top ten baseball players:
10. Willie Stargell
Pittsburg Pirates 1962-1982 – Stargell nicknamed “Pops” later in his career, was a left fielder and first baseman who spent 21 seasons in MLB. During his career, he batted.282, with 2,232 hits, 423 doubles, 475 HRs and 1,540 RBIs. Stargell helped the Pirates win two NL Pennants and two World Series championships (’71 & ’79). He was a seven-time All-Star and two-time NL HR leader. In 1979, he won the NL MVP, LN Championship Series MVP Award and the World Series MVP Award.
9. Johnny Bench
Cincinnati Reds 1967-1983 – Bench was a catcher who is a 14-time All-Star selection and a two-time NL MVP. He was a key member of the Big Red Machine that won six division titles, four NL Pennants and two consecutive World Series championships. Known for his prowess on both offense and defense, ESPN has called Bench the greatest catcher in baseball history.
8. Pete Rose
Cincinnati Reds 1963-1986 and manager 1984-89 – Rose, also known by his nickname “Charlie Hustle” was a switch hitter and is the all-time MLB leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one MVP Award, two Gold Gloves, and the Rookie of the Year Award. Rose. made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five different positions.
7. Larry Walker
Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals 1989 – 2005 – Walker played right field for 17 years and, in 1997, he became the only player in major league history to register both a .700 slugging percentage and 30 stolen bases in the same season, on his way to winning the NL MVP Award. Walker was the first player in more than 60 years to record a batting average of .360 in three consecutive seasons from 1997 to 1999 and he also won three NL batting championships. From Maple Ridge BC, Walker has been named the 13th-greatest sporting figure from Canada by Sports Illustrated.
6. Mike Trout
LA Angels, 2011-present – Trout is a centre fielder, nicknamed the Millville Meteor, who is an eight-time MLB All-Star, three-time AL MVP (while finishing second four times) and a seven-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award. Trout won the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Award unanimously. His athleticism on the field has received great praise and is regarded as one of the most outstanding young players in the history of baseball. Trout has led the American League in runs and times of base four times. As of 2019, he led all active major league ballplayers in career slugging percentage (.581) and on base plus slugging (1.000), and was second in career on base percentage (.419) and stolen base percentage (84.75%).
5. Roger Clemens
Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, NY Yankees, Houston Astros 1984-2007 – Clemens is nicknamed “Rocket” and pitched for four teams through a 24 season career. He was one of the most dominant pitchers in major league history, tallying 354 wins, a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts (third-most of all time). Clemens is an 11-time All Star and two-time World Series champion. He won a total of seven Cy Young Awards during his career, more than any other pitcher in history. Clemens was known for his fierce competitive nature and hard-throwing pitching style.
4. Cal Ripken Jr.
Baltimore Orioles 1981-2001 – Ripken is nicknamed “Iron Man” and played third base as an Oriole for 21 years. He was one of the most offensively productive third basemen, compiling 3,184 hits, 431 HRs and 1,695 RBIs during his career. He won two Gold Glove Awards for his defense, was a 19-time All-Star and twice named AL MVP. Ripken holds the record for consecutive games played at 2,632, surpassing Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 that had stood for 56 years.
3. Mariano Rivera
NY Yankees 1995-2013 – Rivera spent most of his career as a relief pitcher, 17 seasons as the Yankees go-to closer. He had two nicknames: “Mo” and “Sandman.” Rivera was a thirteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, He is MLB’s career leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). Rivera won five AL Rolaids Relief Man Awards and three Delivery Man of the Year Awards and he finished in the top three in voting for the AL Cy Young Award four times. In 2019, he was the first player ever to be elected unanimously into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
2. Derek Jeter
NY Yankees 1995-2014 – Jeter is a shortstop that spent his entire 20-year MLB career with the Yankees. A five-time World Series champion, Jeter is regarded as one of the primary contributors to the Yankees’ success of the late 1990s and early 2000s for his hitting, base-running, fielding, and leadership. He is the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits (3,465), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), times on base (4,716), plate appearances (12,602) and at bats (11,195). His accolades include 14 All-Star selections, five Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards, two Hank Aaron Awards, and a Roberto Clemente Award. Jeter was the 28th player to reach 3,000 hits and finished his career ranked sixth in MLB history in career hits and first among shortstops.
1. Barry Bonds
Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants (1986-2007) – Bonds is a talented all-around left fielder who is considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He received a record seven NL MVP awards (no other player has won more than three MVP awards), eight Gold Glove Awards, a record 12 Silver Slugger Awards, and 14 All-Star selections. Bonds was regarded as an exceptional hitter, placing within the top five hitters in 12 of his 17 qualifying seasons. He holds many MLB hitting records and his career stats are stellar: .298, 2,935 hits, 762 HRs, 1,996 RBIs, and 2,558 BBs (all-time leader). Bonds is the all-time leader in home runs and walks (2,558) and he also holds the top two spots in single-season on-base percentage. His .609 on-base percentage in 2004 is the highest and his .582 OBP in 2002 ranks second. (Barry Bonds also ranks as No. 6 on the By George Journal‘s Top Ten Baseball Players of All–Time.)
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