The 100 Greatest Left Fielders of All-Time

The Top 100 Left Fielders

Ted Williams

1939—1942, 1946—1960
HALL OF FAME

1

Teammate Johnny Pesky called him “the smartest, unhappiest ballplayer I was ever around.” Williams huffed at pitchers, barked at his managers, and spit venom at reporters. He could make unsuspecting reporters soil themselves with a glare. He got pissed at the fans too. The no hat tipping bit stemmed from an unusual slump Williams suffered during one of his first years back after World War II. The Boston fans booed him, they booed the greatest hitter alive, and Williams couldn’t forgive them. He vowed to never acknowledge them again, and he didn’t while he was in uniform.

Barry Bonds

1986—2007

2

Bonds was consumed with jealousy in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa soared to popularity during their Great Home Run Chase. In response, he found his own drug specialists, forming a team of sycophants to concoct a magic elixir that made a great ballplayer superhuman. It was a predictable response from Barry, who always had a giant “I’ll show them” chip on his shoulder.

Stan Musial

1941—1944, 1946—1963
HALL OF FAME

3

Musial had 3,266 more at-bats than Ted Williams, yet he struck out 13 fewer times. He credited his ability to make contact to being poor. “I learned to hit with a broomstick and a ball of tape,” he said… As of 2020, more than 55 years after he played his final game, Musial still ranks second all-time in total bases, behind only Henry Aaron.

Rickey Henderson

1979—2003
HALL OF FAME

4

He was singularly unusual, a man who was in excellent condition, blessed with a thoroughbred body. His tentpole skills, which were drawing walks, stealing bases, and baserunning, were still intact when he was in his mid-40s. He was an underrated outfielder.

Carl Yastrzemski

1961—1983
HALL OF FAME

5

“I never saw a player beat a team with his glove, especially an outfielder. Until Yaz did it to us.” — Sal Bando, on the 1975 playoffs

“He stood for the love of the game, you could see it in his eyes.” — Jerry Remy

Pete Rose

1930—1947

6

A cautionary tale on the dangers of hero worship, Pete Rose was deeply flawed. But he possessed a supernatural ability to focus, and he squeezed more out of his raw ability than just about any athlete in history. He was an egomaniac, compulsive, and a braggart. But he was also tireless, pertinacious, and heady. He was never the best player on his team, but he was always the best thing for the team.

Tim Raines

1979—2002
HALL OF FAME

7

Raines lost 142 games due to labor stoppages and other factors outside his control, probably the biggest impact on any player from that era. In 1981 he was having a fantastic rookie season when the game halted for two months for a strike, in 1987 he was coming off his best season when team owners decided not to sign free agents, causing him to miss a month. In 1994-95, Raines was still playing good ball for the White Sox when 67 games were wiped off the schedule due to the strike. All those missed games probably cost Raines 100 runs, 150 hits, 50 stolen bases, and far more than the 20 RBIs he needed to get to 1,000 for his career.

Shoeless Joe Jackson

1908—1920

8

As a result of shoddy journalism, Shoeless Joe Jackson has become a sympathetic figure, a tragic hero supposedly felled by circumstances outside his control. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jackson conspired to throw the World Series. He did this willingly, fully aware and in defiance of the consequences. He accepted bribe money and he was peeved when the organized crime figures who hatched the plan failed to pay what he was promised. His legacy, to most baseball fans, is one of being wronged. But he was actually crooked, and despite being a fantastic ballplayer, he deserves the stain that besmirches his reputation.

Al Simmons

1924—1941, 1943—1944
HALL OF FAME

9

His batting stance was unusual: a righthanded batter, Simmons pointed his lead (left) foot toward third base, and he swung hard with one of the game’s heaviest bats. He was called “Bucketfoot Al” for that strange stance, a nickname he hated. He was one of the best opposite field hitters in baseball, reaching outside pitches with a 34-inch, 38-ounce bat.

Minnie Miñoso

1949, 1951—1964, 1976, 1980

10

Minoso had more than 4,000 hits in professional baseball: roughly 1,900 in Major League Baseball, 1,100 in the Mexican League and minors; and 1,000 hits in the Cuban League and the negro leagues. He’s one of nine hitters to top 4,000 professional hits. The other eight are (in order of hits): Pete Rose, Ichiro Suzuki, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter, Jigger Statz, Julio Franco, and Stan Musial. The folks keeping Minoso out of the Baseball Hall of Fame are failing to appreciate the full measure of his career.

Goose Goslin

1921—1938
HALL OF FAME

11

Goslin earned the nickname “Goose” because of the odd way he played the outfield, not his big nose. Early in his minor league career (Goslin started playing professionally when he was 16), teammates noticed that Goslin flapped his arms when he chased a fly ball. Mike Donlin, a talented outfielder in the first decade of the 20th century, was called “Turkey” for the same reason.

Billy Williams

1991—2012
HALL OF FAME

12

Williams liked to explain why so many great players came from Mobile by retelling an old myth. “It’s the water,” he said. “You have to go into the woods, and find a nice spring and you see the water bubbling up. You have to drink it, but it has to have a crawfish in it. If there’s not a crawfish, you won’t be as good a hitter.” The great Mobile ballplayers: Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, and Sweet Billy must have sipped a lot of crawfish water.

Ralph Kiner

1946—1955
HALL OF FAME

13

“Ralph had a natural home run swing. All he needed was somebody to teach him the value of hard work and self-discipline. Early in the morning on off-days, every chance we got, we worked on hitting.” — Hank Greenberg

Kiner was major league-ready when he was 21 years old. But at that time he was flying anti-submarine missions for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific instead of swinging a bat. As a rookie in 1946 he led the National League in home runs. He did the same thing for the next six years.

Charlie Keller

1939—1943, 1945-1952

14

Had it not been for World War II, Charlie Keller would be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His career suffered nearly as much as any player from the war. Over his first four full seasons with the Yankees, Keller was one of the best hitters in the league: he averaged 102 runs scored, 102 RBIs, 107 walks, and 28 home runs. His on-base percentage was over .400 and his slugging was well over .500. “King Kong” Keller finished among the top vote getters for MVP several times. He missed two seasons in WWII, and when he came back he was hampered by back troubles.

Willie Stargell

1962—1982
HALL OF FAME

15

People probably said more nice things about Willie Stargell than any player in history, with the possible exception of Mariano Rivera. Maybe Bobby Doerr is in that conversation. When the Pirates held “Willie Stargell Day” in 1980, Houston second baseman Joe Morgan sent a telegram that read: “Some people are only superstars statistically, but you are a .400 hitter as a person. When I grow up, I want to be just like you.”

Manny Ramirez

1993—2011

16

Joe Medwick

1932—1948
HALL OF FAME

17

Once, Chicago Cubs manager Charley Grimm was going over the St. Louis lineup with his starting pitcher prior to the game. When they came to Medwick, the pitcher asked Grimm how he should pitch him. Grimm replied, “Just throw the ball and back up third base.”

Lance Berkman

1999—2013

18

A fantastic professional hitter, he was a line-drive waiting to happen, Berkman rests on that outer rim of the Hall of Fame, a great player who just missed accomplishing the things needed to nudge the voters into his camp.

José Cruz

1970—1988

19

Describing his hitting philosophy, Jose Cruz said, “I go for choppers and bloopers.” For most of his career, Cruz played in two professional baseball leagues: in the States in the spring, summer, and fall, and in his native Puerto Rico in the winter. Despite being a great player, he went relatively unnoticed outside of Houston and San Juan. “Nobody has ever written or said much about me, but I’m quiet and don’t say much myself,” Cruz said. “I just love to play baseball. I play 12 months a year and I never get tired.”

Sherry Magee

1904—1919

20

Magee never spent a day in the minors before he was signed by the Phillies after being discovered in a small Pennsylvania mining town. He won a batting title, led the league in runs batted in three times, led the league in slugging twice, and also led the league in hits one year. He was one of the fastest players and best base stealers in the league for many years. But for all that good, Magee couldn’t win over the fans in Philly. The reason was his ugly personality. Magee was intense, but his actions were never taken by the home crowd as a positive, instead he was seen as selfish and boorish. For much of his career in The City of Brotherly Love, there was no love lost between Magee and the followers of the team.

George Foster

1969—1986

21

What sort of player was George Foster? He was the type of player who could steal home standing up (which he once did against the Braves) and also hit a home run into the upper deck in Pittsburgh, where witnesses said they’d never seen a ball travel, not even in batting practice.

Roy White

1965—1979

22

White’s career .271 average adjusts to .286 in a neutral run-scoring environment, and his on-base percentage goes from .360 to .377, his slugging percentage from .404 to .425 under the same adjustments. His career OPS+ of 121 is higher than that of Lou Brock, Pete Rose, and Don Baylor. White’s career WAR (46.7) is higher than that of Hall of Fame left fielder Heinie Manush, who batted .330. Batting averages be damned, throwing arm be damned, 100 RBIs or not, White was an excellent baseball player.

Fred Clarke

1894—1915
HALL OF FAME

23

One of the most integral figures in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Fred Clarke was player-manager during the deadball era, establishing the team as one of the most successful in baseball. Leading the team from his position in the outfield, the Bucs won four pennants and one world championship, and his teams won nearly 60 percent of their games. Under Clarke, the Pirates favored defense, pitching, and aggressive baserunning. He was an excellent ballplayer with no weaknesses.

Ken Williams

1915—1916, 1918—1929

24

Years before the league moved defenders to the right side of the infield to foil Ted Williams, teams used the original “Williams Shift” against Ken. Both the shortstop and second baseman would move to the right of second base when Williams came to the plate, especially in St. Louis. The shift took some hits away, but it didn’t halt Williams from hitting .319 for his career.

Monte Irvin

1949—1956
HALL OF FAME

25

Luis Gonzalez

1990—2008

26

The Highest Percentage of Career Value that came after age 30, among the left fielders in the Top 100:

Bob Johnson … 78 percent
Joe Cruz … 72 percent
Willie Stargell … 66 percent
Luis Gonzalez … 63 percent
Don Buford … 61 percent

Albert Belle

1989—2000

27

In 1995, Belle became the first player to hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles in the same season and he led the league in nearly every power category. Yet he finished a close second in MVP voting to Mo Vaughn, who had a good season but one not even in the same neighborhood as Belle’s. One Cleveland writer who undoubtedly felt the wrath of Albert’s moodiness on a daily basis, ranked Belle tenth on his ballot.

Jim Rice

1974—1989
HALL OF FAME

28

During a 1982 game at Fenway Park, a line drive was hit into the stands along the first base line, hitting a small child. Rice popped his head out of the dugout, saw that the child was bleeding, and hopped in the crowd. He carried the four-year old into the Boston clubhouse where the child was attended by the team physician until emergency medical personnel arrived. The child recovered, but doctors credited Rice’s actions with having saved his life.

Bob Johnson

1933—1945

29

When he retired, Bob Johnson ranked eighth all-time in home runs. Yet, he’s hardly remembered today. He was an All-Star in eight of his 13 seasons, and received MVP votes in six seasons, including his rookie year and the final year of his career. Denied a spot in the majors until he was 27 years old, the Oklahoma-native stepped into Al Simmons’ vacated spot and had an outstanding rookie campaign for the A’s in 1933, batting .290 with 44 doubles, 21 homers, 93 RBI, and 103 runs scored. That was just a warm-up for what was to come. From 1935 to 1941, Johnson drove in 100 runs and topped 20 homers every season. He was often the only offensive threat in the weak Philadelphia lineup. He led the team in RBIs for seven consecutive seasons.

Matt Holliday

2004—2018

30

Zack Wheat

1909—1927
HALL OF FAME

31

The Missouri farm boy was a terrific outfielder, had very small feet, and liked to swing a heavy bat. Though he was a country boy, Zack was interested in many things and he was well-read. Unlike most of his teammates, Wheat did not drink much, refrained from gambling, and never cussed. His vices were chewing tobacco and fine cigars. He ranked among National League leaders in extra-base hits, total bases, and home runs during the low-scoring deadball era of the 1910s. He had a rivalry with the cantankerous Edd Roush, the two of them jostling for the batting title a few times.

Bobby Veach

1912—1925

32

The forgotten third member of the famed Detroit outfield, which included Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, and later Harry Heilmann. Veach was the cleanup man on those Detroit teams that scored a lot of runs, and with Ty and Wahoo Sam on base a lot, Bobby drove in a lot of runs: he averaged 104 RBIs per season.

Ryan Braun

2007—

33

“The Hebrew Hammer” crushes lefthanded pitching, always has. His career rate of 33 homers per 500 at-bats against southpaws rates among the best in history, and it’s comparable to that of Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Jimmie Foxx. The highest rate of home runs per 500 ABs against lefties is 49 by Babe Ruth, who batted lefthanded, of course. The next 19 batters on the list are righthanded until you get to Barry Bonds (34 HR). Braun averages 25 home runs per 500 ABs against righties.

Lou Brock

1961—1979
HALL OF FAME

34

Brock was cerebral about his approach to stealing bases. He was fond of saying that the bases were not 90 feet apart, but rather 13 steps, the number he needed to get from one to the other. Brock studied opposing pitchers and usually figured out what they were going to do.

Sid Gordon

1941—1943, 1946—1955

35

A conversation between Sid Gordon and Giants’ coach Red Kress changed Gordon’s career. In 1947 during spring camp, Kress, the old infielder, told Gordon he should be an everyday player earning a full-time salary, but he was wasting his power by hitting to the deep parts of the field. Kress taught Gordon to pull the ball down the line, adjusting his stance and approach. Gordon hit 13 home runs (more than he’d hit in his four-year career to that point) and he followed with 30 in 1948. He was 30 years old, but it was the first of five straight years where he hit at least 25 dingers.

Don Buford

1963—1972

36

For five years, Buford served as catalyst for the Orioles at the top of the lineup, setting the table for Paul Blair, Frank Robinson, and Boog Powell. He averaged 84 walks, 17 stolen bases, and 13 home runs per season, playing in three World Series. In Game One of the 1969 Fall Classic, Buford hit a leadoff homer off Tom Seaver in the only game the O’s won in that series.

Lefty O'Doul

1919—1920, 1922—1923, 1928—1934

37

If not for the baseball missionary work of Lefty O’Doul there might have never been an Ichiro Suzuki. O’Doul was baseball’s polymath: star pitcher, batting champion, father of professional baseball in Japan, successful manager, innovative batting coach, conduit to major league’s expansion to the west coast. He even created a popular Bloody Mary recipe. If there was ever a reason for inducting a person into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his lifetime contribution to the sport, the life of Francis Joseph O’Doul is it.

Heinie Manush

1923—1939
HALL OF FAME

38

Manush was noticed by Ty Cobb when the Tigers were training in Texas and soon signed with Detroit. He had to fight his way into the lineup, because the Tigers had Cobb, Harry Heilmann, and Bobby Veach in the outfield, with Fats Fothergill, Ivey Wingo, and Babe Herman coming along too. Once he got to play, Manush hit .330 with more than 2,500 hits.

Augie Galan

1934—1949

39

“Augie Galan originally was a second baseman, but we had Billy Herman, so Charlie [Grimm] moved him out to center field, because we needed a center fielder, and Augie turned out to be one of the best fielding center fielders I’ve ever seen. He had a great arm, and he was a good little hitter. He was our leadoff man. Billy Herman was hitting second, and I’m not just saying this just because they were my teammates, but as far as hit-and-run men are concerned, to me Augie Galan and Billy Herman were the best.” – Phil Cavarretta

Brian Downing

1973—1992

40

An underrated player who transformed his body the legal way through weightlifting, and spent two decades in the majors. Downing was forced to prove himself at every level. He was cut from his high school team, resorted to walking on at a junior college, but failed to make the club. Originally a catcher, he was scrawny and looked like a nerd, and people underestimated him.

Alex Gordon

2007—

41

Gordon came up as a third baseman, but has evolved into the best defensive left fielder since probably Joe Rudi. He’s won seven Gold Gloves and though he’ll be 36 in 2020, has a chance to win a few more. Gordon is still quick, has a great first step, and tremendous instincts. His throwing arm is the strongest by a left fielder in a generation.

Brett Gardner

2008—

42

Hustle and determination has been Gardner’s calling card during his career with the Yankees. He’s not a superstar, he’s not even a star, but he uses every ounce of talent the almighty gave him. His best asset is speed, which Gardner’s used well in the outfield as well as to steal more bases than all but two players in Yankees’ history.

Carl Crawford

2002—2016

43

Despite the cliff-fall that was the second half of his career, Crawford was an exciting player during his nine years with Tampa Bay. Only Crawford and Goose Goslin averaged at least 12 doubles, triples, homers, and stole bases per season for their career.

Jimmy Sheckard

1897—1913

44

The overlooked guy on the great Cubs teams of the early part of the 1900s, teammate Johnny Evers said that Jimmy Sheckard was “a bigger cog in the old invincible Cub machine than he ever received credit for being.” A bit of a maverick and a flake, Sheckard was the leadoff man on four Chicago teams that won pennants between 1906 and 1910.

George Burns

1911—1925

45

A speedburner, a sort of Carl Crawford type, Burns led the NL in stolen bases twice and in runs scored six times. He had the good fortune of batting leadoff for the Giants and played in three World Series for them. Unlike Crawford, Burns was patient: he paced the league in walks five times. He was a graceful outfielder, sportswriter Frank Graham once saying that Burns “played his position so effortlessly and was so self-effacing that he had to make an error to get his name in the headlines.”

Christian Yelich

2013—

46

In a few years he should rate in the top thirty among left fielders. Yelich is the third major league ballplayer to appear in an episode of Magnum P.I., the first two being Detroit middle infielders Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, who appeared together in 1983, 36 years before Yelich’s appearance on the reboot of the show.

Lonnie Smith

1978—1994

47

He was nicknamed Skates because he slipped a lot in the outfield. There were two reasons for that: Smith’s feet were very tiny, and he was prone to turning the wrong way on hard-hit balls. He also preferred to back-pedal when running with his back to the infield would have been preferable. In Game Seven of the 1982 World Series, Smith stumbled and slipped in left field before making a grab of a fly ball that (if it had dropped) would have scored a few runs. Smith is most likely the worst defensive outfielder who had a career of any length since Babe Herman.

Moises Alou

1990—2008

48

Alou is the oldest man to have a 30-game hitting streak in the majors, which he accomplished with the Mets in 2007 when he was 40 years old. It’s the longest streak in team history. It’s damn difficult to raise your career batting average late in your career, but Moises managed it: through age 37 he was batting an even .300, but in his final four seasons he hit .322 and raised his mark to .303.

Frank Howard

1958—1973

49

Once Howard escaped the Dodgers, he fulfilled his promise in Washington, averaging 34 homers per season from 1965 to 1971. From 1968 to 1970 he averaged 45 homers and 114 runs batted in, and he was an All-Star every season. He was a team leader and he played through nagging injuries. There was no one else in the Washington lineup as dangerous, so pitchers intentionally walked Howard a lot, but he still pounded the baseball at RFK Stadium. He hit home runs in bunches: one time he hit ten homers in a six-game stretch, at least one every game; he belted 15 homers in one month. When he got on a roll, he was like something no one had ever seen.

Yoenis Céspedes

2012—

50

“Ol’ Suitcase Cespedes” has played on four teams in only seven seasons in the major leagues, but despite packing and unpacking, he’s continued to perform in the field and at the plate. He’s already had two seasons split between two teams where he still managed to drive in 100 runs. He’s won a Gold Glove in left field and also been crowned champion of the All-Star Home Run Derby twice.

George Stone

1903—1910

51

Stone was a good left-handed hitter who won the batting title in 1906 for the St. Louis Browns. He saved his money and retired at the age of 33 to open a bank. He later owned a minor league team. 

Ron Gant

1987—2003

52

During the 1993/94 offseason, Gant broke his leg while riding a motorbike. It was a violation of his contract, and the Braves voided millions of dollars they owed him. He missed the entire 1994 season and signed with the Reds. After the accident, Gant regained his power, but he never again stole 30 bases.

THE REST OF THE 100

  • 53. Dusty Baker
  • 54. Kevin Mitchell
  • 55. Hideki Matsui
  • 56. Hank Sauer
  • 57. Jeff Heath
  • 58. Starling Marte
  • 59. Del Ennis
  • 60. Alfonso Soriano
  • 61. Chick Hafey (HOF)
  • 62. Kevin McReynolds
  • 63. Michael Brantley
  • 64. Greg Vaughn
  • 65. Gen Woodling
  • 66. Rico Carty
  • 67. B. J. Surhoff
  • 68. Mike Greenwell
  • 69. Mike Donlin
  • 70. Jason Bay
  • 71. Riggs Stephenson
  • 72. Larry Hisle
  • 73. Hal McRae
  • 74. Cliff Floyd
  • 75. Ben Oglivie
  • 76. Topsy Hartsel
  • 77. Joe Rudi
  • 78. Shane Mack
  • 79. Gary Matthews Sr.
  • 80. Carlos Lee
  • 81. Greg Luzinski
  • 82. Bernard Gilkey
  • 83. Wally Moon
  • 84. Ryan Klesko
  • 85. Shannon Stewart
  • 86. Tommy Harper
  • 87. Garret Anderson
  • 88. Tom Tresh
  • 89. Willie Horton
  • 90. Don Baylor
  • 91. Rusty Greer
  • 92. Bob Meusel
  • 93. John Stone
  • 94. Steve Kemp
  • 95. Tillie Walker
  • 96. Rondell White
  • 97. Cleon Jones
  • 98. George Bell
  • 99. Tommy Davis
  • 100. Bibb Falk