The Top 100 First Basemen of All-Time
#1. Lou Gehrig
Years: 1923-1939 Primary Team: New York Yankees
He was good enough to be in the lineup when he was 20 years old, maybe even when he was 19, but Gehrig had to wait for Wally Pipp to "Wally Pipp" himself. Nearly 80 years after he played his last game, no first baseman has come close to Lou Gehrig's greatness. Year after year he piled up big numbers: Gehrig had nine seasons of 350+ total bases and nine straight years of at least 120 runs scored, 120 RBIs, and 70 extra-base hits. He drove in more than a run per game five times, the last time when he was 34 years old.
#2. Albert Pujols
Years: 2001-2017 Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols was even more consistent than Gehrig, but a notch below overall because of his descent back to the pack in his mid-30s. From age 22 to age 29, Pujols had a WAR between 8.4 and 9.7 every season. That's the foundation for his amazing run of success over his first ten years, when he won three MVPs and finished as runner-up four other times. Pujols actually outperformed Gehrig before the age of 30, leading in WAR, 74-66. But in their 30s, Gehrig stepped on the gas, producing 46 WAR, while as of age 37, Albert only has 26. A few of the first basemen who had a better career than Pujols after the age of 30: Bill Terry, Jeff Bagwell, Dolph Camilli, Norm Cash, and Mark Grace.
#3. Jimmie Foxx
Years: 1925-1945 Primary Team: Philadelphia Athletics
Among the famous position switches in history, Foxx's is the most important because of the magnitude of the two players involved. Years later the Brewers would convert Paul Molitor into a second baseman because they already had Robin Yount at short. The Yankees moved Alex Rodriguez to third to keep Derek Jeter in position. But when Connie Mack made teenage catcher Foxx into a first baseman because he already had Mickey Cochrane behind the plate, he launched a dynasty. The two future Hall of Famers helped the A's win three straight pennants and formed the heart of one of baseball's greatest teams. Foxx won two MVPs with Philadelphia and added one later with Boston. He retired having hit more home runs than any other right-handed batter, a record he held for 21 years until Willie Mays surpassed it.
#4. Johnny Mize
Years: 1936-1953 Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Mize was ahead of his time in the science of bat speed. He kept a trunk filled with bats in his locker, each of them of varying weights. He used the lighter bats against hard throwers and the heavier ones against softer tossers. It worked: Big Jawn had the second-most homers in NL history when he played his last game in that league in 1949. Mize was 29 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942. He missed three full seasons and part of another, but when he returned he was just as lethal with a bat. He won two home run titles in his mid-30s and probably missed 100 homers because of WWII. He and Greenberg both get a boost in our rankings for having missed prime years while in the military.
#5. Hank Greenberg
Years: 1930-1947 Primary Team: Detroit Tigers
Both Greenberg and Mize had a career OPS+ of 158, and both could hit for high average, draw walks, and hit for tremendous power. They were born almost exactly two years apart. The older Hank was righthanded and Mize was a lefty. Neither was a very good defensive player and both were huge specimens. But that's where the similarities stopped: Mize was a baptist country boy and Greenberg was a Jew born in New York City. Hank played with teammates who did not command headlines, so he became the star. Mize got somewhat lost among the personalities of Joe Medwick, the greatness of young Stan Musial, and later Mel Ott on the Giants. Both have lesser career numbers than they would if they hadn't missed their early 30s due to the war, but both rightly earned Hall of Fame induction.
#6. Jeff Bagwell
Years: 1991-2005 Primary Team: Houston Astros
The big difference between Jeff Bagwell and his "twin" Frank Thomas, is Bagwell's baserunning. He was successful seven out of ten times at stealing bases and over his career Bagwell gained 250 more bases than Thomas through his baserunning, which includes advancing on hits. The Big Hurt also takes a small hit in career value for playing so many years as a DH, though we think Thomas was the better offensive player out of the batters' box than Bagwell. Only two pairs of teammates appeared in more than 2,000 games together: Ron Santo and Billy Williams, and Bagwell and Craig Biggio. All four are in the Hall of Fame. The next duo, coming in at just under 2,000 games, is Hall of Famer Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.
#7. Frank Thomas
Years: 1990-2008 Primary Team: Chicago White Sox
Among the great first baseman, Thomas was not the worst in the field: Willie McCovey and Dick Allen were pretty bad, but Frank was a liability. His bat obviously offset that problem, we have him ranked offensively as the second most valuable career behind Lou Gehrig. The trouble? Big Hurt played 1,300 games as a designated hitter and only the equivalent of 800 or so games in the field. Regardless, Thomas was a monster with a bat in his hand, especially in his prime. In his first eight seasons he went 330/452/600 and won his two MVPs. Probably could have won the award when he was 23 in 1991, and in 1997 when he had his best season. Thomas won the MVP in his fourth and fifth best seasons, but not in any of his three greatest seasons. It's unlikely that has happened to any other player.
#8. Miguel Cabrera
Years: 2003-2017 Primary Team: Detroit Tigers
There's a big gap between Cabrera and those in front of him on the all-time list, but if Miggy can add three decent seasons (after his injury-marred '17 campaign) he can close that divide and inch his way up the rankings... Will likely end up spending his last few seasons as a DH because his lower back, hips, and legs are starting to betray him... Cabrera's OPS against RHP (.937) is the sixth-highest in baseball history by a righthanded batter. He trails Mike Trout, Manny Ramirez, Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas, and Albert Pujols. His career batting average against RHP (.317), is the second-highest by a RH hitter in history, trailing only Roberto Clemente.
#9. Jim Thome
Years: 1991-2012 Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
Four first basemen in this portion of the rankings match up well as "time twins." Sisler is a good match for Hernandez: both were excellent defensive players who made contact and won batting titles. Thome pairs well with Killebrew: both were tremendously powerful sluggers known for hitting high, towering home runs. Both Killer and Thome were also immensely likable lunch pail "Everyday Joe" type of guys. Thome will end up in the Hall of Fame once he's eligible, joining Sisler and Killebrew. But Hernandez has never received much support because his strengths were mismatched with his era when first basemen were mostly big home run hitters.
#10. Todd Helton
Years: 1997-2013 Primary Team: Colorado Rockies
We took three first basemen ranked ahead of Helton and three just below and normalized their road stats to a neutral ballpark. Here's their adjusted OPS in order: Allen (.915), Cabrera (.908), Bagwell, (.906), Thome (.902), McCovey (.892), Helton (.855), and Murray (.844). Sure, Coors Field helped Helton rack up gaudy offensive numbers, but he was a great hitter in road parks too. Helton is one of two players on this list who chose his uniform number as an homage to another player on this list. He wore #17 to honor Mark Grace.
#11. Eddie Murray
Years: 1977-1997 Primary Team: Baltimore Orioles
The highest-ranked switch-hitters at each position: Ted Simmons (C), Eddie Murray (1B), Frankie Frisch (2B), Chipper Jones (3B), Ozzie Smith (SS), Pete Rose (LF), Mickey Mantle (CF), Reggie Smith (RF), and Chili Davis (DH). Murray and Ozzie played on the same high school baseball team, and Davis and Reggie Smith also played high school ball in Los Angeles. Murray was the first rookie to play 100 games at designated hitter. Big Lee May was at first base for the Orioles in 1977, but in Murray's sophomore year the team shifted him to first base. "Steady Eddie" went on to play more games at first base than any player in history.
#12. Willie McCovey
Years: 1959-1980 Primary Team: San Francisco Giants
In his first four seasons McCovey was platooned and rarely faced left-handed pitchers because the Giants had another promising first baseman in Orlando Cepeda. McCovey had a .667 OPS from 1959-1962 against lefties, the Giants tried him in left field, tried Cepeda in left, and eventually traded Cepeda to the Cardinals, clearing the way for Big Mac. Cepeda ended up in the HOF too, but the Giants made the right decision. McCovey learned how to hit LHP: in the 10 years after he was made an everyday player, he had a .790 OPS and his 68 homers were the most against southpaws by a LH batter. Cepeda won the NL MVP in 1967, McCovey won it two years later and had a better career. He spent 19 seasons in a Giants uniform, and like Willie Stargell, McCovey became an elder statesman and mentor to younger players, including Jack Clark and Dave Winfield.
#13. Dick Allen
Years: 1963-1977 Primary Team: Philadelphia Phillies
In one of his books, Bill James did a hatchet job on Allen, and as a result one of the few images that remain of the former slugger is a reputation as a toxic team player. I'm not sure why James did that, but it was misguided. Allen was a tremendous player who had the misfortune of coming up in an organization (the Phillies) that was indelicate about the issue of race. He was asked to play third base in the major leagues after never having played it at any level. Still, he thrived as one of the best sluggers of his era. From his rookie season through 1974, a span of 11 seasons, Allen ranked second in baseball in slugging to Henry Aaron. He ranked fifth in on-base percentage and second in OPS. Only six players scored more runs or drove in more runs than Allen during that stretch, and all of them are in the Hall of Fame. He out-slugged 10 future Hall of Famers who who were his contemporaries, including Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, and Roberto Clemente. He was surly and he liked betting on the horses, but Dick Allen could hit the hell out of a baseball. Next to Bonds, he's the best hitter not in the Hall of Fame.
#14. Keith Hernandez
Years: 1974-1990 Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
To my knowledge, Bill James never wrote a bad word about Keith Hernandez, never called him a bad teammate or clubhouse lawyer. But he said all of that about Dick Allen. Oddly, those things were untrue about Allen but applied perfectly to Hernandez for at least the first half of his career. At the July trade deadline in 1983, the World Champion Cardinals shipped Hernandez to the Mets for middling starter Neil Allen and ho-hum pitching prospect Rick Ownbey. For St. Louis GM/manager Whitey Herzog it was a case of addition by subtraction. Hernandez was a one-man shit show in the clubhouse: doing drugs, fomenting dissension, splitting the team apart. The Cards got better after he left, and Hernandez went on partying in New York, while helping that hard-partying team to a title. He was implicated in the infamous Pittsburgh drug trials of the 1980s, though he escaped punishment because he turned in drug dealers and fellow ballplayers. He eventually gave up the cocaine and got clean, and he had a fine career, but for a long time, Hernandez wasted his gift.
#15. John Olerud
Years: 1989-2005 Primary Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Olerud, Will Clark, and Fred McGriff suffer from the Steroid Era even though they followed the rules. That's because their numbers look less impressive when you have Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jason Giambi putting up cartoon numbers on drugs. The greatest players who never spent a day in the minor leagues are Bob Feller and Al Kaline because they were good players even as teenagers. Others, like Sandy Koufax and Harmon Killebrew, spent years in an apprenticeship as bonus babies. Olerud is the best player since 1980 to have bypassed the minors (Bryce Harper will have something to say about that). He went from Washington State University to the Blue Jays and was their starting first baseman at 21. Three years later he flirted with .400 and had one of the best seasons by a first baseman in the last 50 years.
#16. Joey Votto
Years: 2007-2017 Primary Team: Cincinnati Reds
The ability to get on base should be a very obvious skill, but it's amazing how long it takes for teams to realize when they have a player who can do it exceptionally well. When Votto was in rookie ball he had an on-base percentage above .450. He had two more seasons with an OBP above .420 before he was 22. The Reds finally handed Votto a regular job when he was 24 and he immediately paid dividends. But like Wade Boggs, Edgar Martinez, and others who have an incredible talent at getting on base via hit or walk, Votto was ready for the majors well before he was given a chance. Through 2017, Votto has six seasons with a .420 OBP. Only 19 others have exceeded that. Among the top 20 first basemen, only Dick Allen, George Sisler, and Votto never played in a World Series. There has only been one player born in Canada elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame: Fergie Jenkins.
#17. Harmon Killebrew
Years: 1954-1975 Primary Team: Minnesota Twins
Had they measured exit velocity, launch angle, and home run distance in his day, Killebrew would have been among the league leaders. He was famous for high, long home runs. He is one of only two righthanded batters to hit a ball out of Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Killebrew was a bonus baby and because of that his big league career was stalled for the first few seasons. The Senators had to keep him on their active roster, and as a result he couldn't get at-bats in the minors, which would have helped him mature quicker. More importantly it would have proven to Washington that he would hit more than enough homers to cancel out all those strikeouts. Back then, the worst thing a batter could do was strike out.
#18. Will Clark
Years: 1986-2000 Primary Team: San Francisco Giants
Let's play the comparison game, this time with Bill Terry and Will Clark. Both men were named William, and born in the south. Both players had lefthanded swings that were considered the prettiest in the game in their era. Both were very good defensive players who liked to range to the right to cut off ground balls. Both Terry and Clark were intense: so much so that they pissed off their competition on many occasions. Both played for the Giants for many years and developed a hatred for a team rival. For Terry it was the Cardinals, a team he battled for the pennant as a player and later as player/manager of the G-Men. For Clark it was the Dodgers, who had grown into the Giants most hated rival by that time. Both players hit third in the lineup and drove in runs: Terry averaged 101 per season while Clark averaged 99. Both players had celebrated performances in the postseason: in the 1933 World Series, Terry hit a game-tying homer and helped the Giants defeat the favored Senators; in the 1989 NLCS, Clark was unstoppable, hitting .650 with 13 hits and 8 RBIs in five games. Terry was called "Memphis Bill" and Clark was known as "Will The Thrill." The two first basemen ended their careers with almost exactly the same number of runs scored and hits. And finally, in an eerie coincidence, both men were famous for their characteristic facial expression: Terry was known as "Smiling Bill" because he rarely smiled on the field; Clark was famous for his pouty scowl.
#19. Tony Perez
Years: 1964-1986 Primary Team: Big Red Machine
Much has been written about The Big Red Machine, and rightfully so: the 1975-76 Reds are the best team since integration. The team's dominance ended abruptly when they traded Perez to the Expos at the winter meetings in 1976 for relievers Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray. Looking at it logically, the deal made sense: Perez was going to turn 35 in 1977 and was coming off his most disappointing season in several years. At that time, a 35-year old ballplayer was ancient, and the Reds had a young hard-hitting replacement in Dan Driessen, who was champing at the bit for a chance to prove himself. Cincinnati GM Bob Howsam was making an unpopular move in trading Perez, one of the team's famed "Big Four," but it wasn't a bad decision on paper. But Perez was more than a set of statistics. He was the glue that kept the Reds clubhouse together, the man who bridged the divide between Pete Rose and Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench. He was skilled at keeping Dave Concepcion, who desperately wanted to join his more famous teammates in the inner circle, happy. Perez was the man who went to manager Sparky Anderson and gave him a heads up when Bench or Rose had their nose out of joint about something. And Perez (or "Doggie" as his teammates affectionately called him), was a great player who had a knack for rising to the occasion. After he was exiled from the Reds, the Bench/Rose/Morgan team never won another pennant. Sparky was fired two years later. Meanwhile, Perez bounced back to form in Montreal and ended up playing until he was 44 years old. He completed the circle and came back to Cincinnati for his last three seasons, serving in a platoon with former teammate Rose, who was managing the team.
#20. George Sisler
Years: 1915-1930 Primary Team: St. Louis Browns
Branch Rickey used some underhanded tactics to get Sisler on the Browns, shenanigans that would look right at home in NCAA basketball recruiting. Sisler played under Rickey at the University of Michigan and later when Rickey was president of the Browns he used borderline legal wrangling to get Sisler out of a contract and promised Sisler a fast track to the big leagues if he came to the Gateway to the West. Initially, Sisler was a lefthanded pitcher, and he even defeated Walter Johnson once, but he soon proved more valuable as a first baseman. He was known for his glove work and line-drive hitting, he was a bit like Ichiro with the stick. Sisler hit over .400 twice, including a .420 mark in 1922 when he set a record for hits in a season, a mark later bested by Ichiro. Like Kirby Puckett, Sisler's career was ended early due to an eye injury.
#21. Mark Teixeira
Years: 2003-2016 Primary Team: Texas Rangers
When he came up with the Rangers, the big first baseman got off to a Hall of Fame type of start. He was the fifth batter to hit 100 homers in his first three seasons, joining Joe DiMaggio, Ralph Kiner, Eddie Mathews, and Albert Pujols. He became the sixth player to have four 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons in his first five years. The others were Chuck Klein, DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Kiner, and Pujols. "Tex" was the fifth switch-hitter to reach 400 homers, and he holds the record for most games with home runs from both sides of the plate. He did all of that, and also set the Rangers' franchise record for most consecutive games played (with 507) despite playing with pain for much of his career. His childhood hero was Don Mattingly, who also had his career curtailed bu injury. Teixeira wore #23 in his honor when he was with Texas (later when he was in a Yankee uniform he wore #25 because Mattingly's #23 was retired).
#22. Bill Terry
Years: 1923-1936 Primary Team: New York Giants
Terry's life is a story of desperation, perseverance, and redemption. He grew up extremely poor in a splintered family. He was only 15 when he left the house to take a job in the rail yards near Atlanta. He was a good athlete and eventually got a chance with the Atlanta Crackers. Initially he was a lefthanded pitcher, but he struggled to get batters out, and the gig didn't pay much, so when his wife was pregnant with their first child, he gave up baseball and moved to Tennessee to take a better paying job. He couldn't keep himself away from baseball and eventually started playing first base where he showed off a great stick in leagues around Memphis. The Giants had a scout traveling through the area to see a younger prospect when he caught a glimpse of 23-year old Terry. He had been out professional ball for five years when the Giants scout offered him a contract, which Terry only accepted after he secured a guarantee that it would pay him more than he made in the factory. Things happened fast, and a year later he was playing for legendary manager John McGraw in New York. Two years after that he replaced future Hall of Famer George Kelly as McGraw's first baseman. By his early 30s he had hit over .400 and set a league record for hits in a season. Terry was always mature for his age and serious-minded, he had to be considering his rough childhood and poor circumstances. Completing the Cinderella story, when McGraw retired, the ballplayer they called "Memphis Bill" was named his replacement as manager of the mighty Giants. Terry had a fierce competitive streak and he approached the pennant race as if it was life or death. He led the Giants to a championship in his first full season, hit .354 as a player/manager, and led the team to two more pennants. He could have continued to play, but retired at the age of 37 to concentrate on managing. He was a very important figure in the history of New York baseball, but few people remember his inspirational story or his accomplishments.
#23. Fred McGriff
Years: 1986-2004 Primary Team: Toronto Blue Jays
There's not much difference between Tony Perez and Fred McGriff as far as career value. Their peaks were nearly identical too. Both were key players on many successful teams: Perez's teams were in the playoffs six times and won five pennants; McGriff's teams were in the playoffs five times and won two pennants. Both were extremely popular and drove in lots of runs. They had similar nicknames: Big Dog (Perez) and Crime Dog (McGriff). Perez is in the Hall, though it took him nine years on the ballot. Through 2017, McGriff has been on the HOF ballot eight times and has yet to reach 24 percent. Perez benefitted from playing for one great team for (most) of his career. While McGriff played five seasons with the Braves, five with the Blue Jays, five with the Rays, and three with the Padres. His narrative is split between too many landscapes. Perez was the great RBI man of the Big Red Machine, while McGriff was a hired bat who bounced around the league a lot. That's the primary reason the Crime Dog is not seen as a Hall of Famer while Perez was.
#24. Orlando Cepeda
Years: 1958-1974 Primary Team: San Francisco Giants
Cepeda is the only member of the Hall of Fame whose father was a better player than he was. Pedro Cepeda was the greatest baseball player to ever swing a bat on the island of Puerto Rico, and he starred in professional leagues there for nearly a quarter of a century. The elder Cepeda played baseball year round for more than a decade after the creation of the Puerto Rico Winter League. He reportedly won six batting titles and hit over .400 on more than one occasion. He was called "The Babe Ruth of Puerto Rico" but most people called him "Bull." So naturally, Orlando was called "Baby Bull" when he started playing ball in Puerto Rico just as his father's career was coming to an end. Orlando was a taller version of his father - a strong right-handed hitter with quick wrists and the ability to hit the ball all over the field. There was one thing he didn't inherit from his father: a temper. "Baby Bull" (or Cha-Cha as his teammates called him) was much quieter than his volatile father. He won a battle for the first base job with Willie McCovey and was named Rookie of the Year with the Giants in 1958. Nine years later he won an MVP award while wearing the uniform of the Cardinals and finished out a great career that saw him earn induction to the Hall of Fame 25 years after his final game by the veterans committee.
#25. Norm Cash
Years: 1958-1974 Primary Team: Detroit Tigers
The most freakish seasons for top first basemen: Cash (3.9 WAR difference between best season and second best), Ted Kluszewski (2.7), Derrek Lee (2.3), and Will Clark (2.0). Other highly-ranked position players with freakishly good seasons: Sammy Sosa (4.9), Al Rosen (4.1), Darrell Porter (3.5), Robin Yount (3.3), Craig Biggio (2.9), Dave Winfield (2.7), and Harry Heilmann (2.6). Cash admitted he used a corked bat in 1961, but physicists will tell you the cork doesn't help a ball go farther, it only helps a batter swing faster. But the most likely reason for Cash's phenomenal season in '61 was expansion and the weak pitching across the league. Cash hit .390 with a .724 SLG against teams in the bottom half of the league that season. The same year, Roger Maris hit 61 homers and his teammate Mickey Mantle hit 54.
#26. Dolph Camilli
Years: 1933-1945 Primary Team: Brooklyn Dodgers
Camilli played eight years in the minor leagues, most of them in his native state of California. Few Phillies' fans remember him, and that's a good thing, because in 1938 the team traded him to the Dodgers for an outfield prospect who never played a game for Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Camilli blossomed in Brooklyn as the Dodgers' cleanup man. He put up a lot of black ink with the Dodgers, leading the league in walks twice, in games once, and in homers and RBIs in 1941 when he won the MVP award and helped Brooklyn to their first pennant in 21 years. He hated the Giants so much that when the Dodgers traded him to the G-Men after the 1943 season, Camilli retired and went back to California instead of wearing the New York uniform. Though his career only last a dozen seasons, Camilli averaged 102 runs, 26 homers, 103 RBIs, and 103 walks per season.
#27. Gil Hodges
Years: 1943-1963 Primary Team: Brooklyn Dodgers
The three first basemen who most often get compared to each other are Hodges, Orlando Cepeda, and Tony Perez. The last two are in the Hall of Fame, while Hodges is not. All three played for great NL teams and were run producers. They each hit between 370 and 380 home runs and were overshadowed by more famous teammates. Perez ranks highest in career WAR (54), with Cepeda next (50), and Hodges (45) third. Perez has a slight edge in peak value and was better in his late 30s than the other two guys. Ultimately the three are real close, and if one of them is in Cooperstown, all three should be. Perez and Cepeda had cute nicknames: Doggie and Cha Cha. No one ever said cute things about the serious Hodges.
#28. Rafael Palmeiro
Years: 1986-2005 Primary Team: Texas Rangers
Which is worse? Admitting that you used performance-enhancing drugs and acknowledging the mistake, or steadfastly refusing to admit that you cheated despite evidence to the contrary? The answer lies somewhere between Palmeiro and the next man on this list, Jason Giambi. Raffi told a congressional committee that he never took PEDs, and evidence emerged later that proved he clearly lied. Sources revealed Giambi's grand jury testimony where he admitted to getting steroids from the drug dealer linked to Barry Bonds. Giambi later publicly admitted his mistake and spoke at length about the dangers of PEDs. Palmeiro is a pariah. After his playing career, Giambi got a job as a hitting coach and saw his reputation somewhat restored. Once Barry Bonds is eventually elected to the Hall of Fame (and it appears he will be soon) Palmeiro is destined to be the asterisk on baseball lists for eternity. He'll be the 3,000-hit and 500-homer guy who isn't in the Hall, though ARod could join him in the doghouse. In some ways that singular exclusion makes Palmeiro more remembered than if he had a plaque in Cooperstown.
#29. Carlos Delgado
Years: 1993-2009 Primary Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Delgado is one of only six players to hit 30 homers in ten consecutive seasons, yet he fell off the Hall of Fame ballot his first year with less than four percent of the vote. He's emblematic of the sluggers from the steroid era: he put up excellent power numbers and drove in oodles of runs, but doesn't impress HOF voters because they view him as one dimensional. Delgado's career OPS+ was 138 in about 2,000 games, most of them at first base. David Ortiz played 2,029 games at DH and had a 141 OPS+. Ortiz averaged 95 runs scored, 36 homers, 119 RBIs, and 89 walks per season. Delgado averaged 99 runs, 38 homers, 120 RBIs, and 88 walks. Ortiz's career OPS was 931, Delgado's was 929, and they played at almost exactly the same time and mostly in the same league. Ortiz failed a drug test in 2003, while Delgado's name has never been linked to PEDs. Ortiz played about 370 more games, but Delgado was in the field for 13,000 more innings, while Big Papi was a specialist, albeit a very good one. Ortiz will get more than 90 percent of the vote when he's eligible for the Hall of Fame. Delgado was only given one chance with the voters. There isn't that big of a difference between the two, and an argument could be made that Delgado was a more valuable player to his teams over his career.
#30. Don Mattingly
Years: 1982-1995 Primary Team: New York Yankees
Like another legend from Indiana (Larry Bird), Mattingly suffered from degenerative discs in his lower back that caused him terrible pain and curtailed his career. Through the age of 28, Mattingly posted a 144 OPS+, a figure surpassed by only five first basemen in history (Gehrig, Foxx, Mize, Greenberg, and Sisler). The Yankee all-star had won an MVP, a batting title, five Gold Gloves, and was the highest-paid player in baseball. Then his back started to bark and his for-sure Hall of Fame career came off the rails. Where he had once spent three hours a day in the batting cage, Mattingly was barely able to swing the bat before games and his power virtually disappeared. He hit only 58 homers in his final five seasons but in 1995 he when he finally got to the playoffs for the first time, he mustered his old magic and banged out 10 hits and a homer in a five-game division series loss. The final play of his career was when he was at first base for New York when Ken Griffey Jr. slid across home plate with the winning run in Game Five for the Mariners to eliminate the Yankees.
#31. Adrian Gonzalez
Years: 2004-2017 Primary Team: San Diego Padres
Adrian Gonzalez and Steve Garvey share a set of characteristics. Both played for the Dodgers, obviously, and they also both spent time with the Padres. Each was very durable: Garvey set a league record for most consecutive games played and Gonzalez missed very few games (about three per season) over an 11-year stretch. Both were middle-of-the-order run producers who played for successful teams. Both men were considered good teammates and leaders in the clubhouse, and each had a reputation during their careers as "squeaky clean" good guys. Both players won several Gold Gloves. But that's where the similarities cease. Gonzalez deserved his hardware, but Garvey (who at best was a mediocre defensive first baseman), did not. Also, both players had home run power, but Gonzalez was a patient version of Garvey, who never met a fastball he wouldn't swing at. It appears that both players will settle around 2,500 hits with 1,300 RBIs or so. Most Dodger fans would instinctively rate Garvey ahead of Gonzalez. But Gonzalez walked twice as many times per season as Garvey and was a superior defender with a tad more power. That's why he ranks higher.
#32. Mark Grace
Years: 1988-2003 Primary Team: Chicago Cubs
Of the Cubs stars from the 1980s and 1990s, Grace was the only one who went to another team and won a championship. At 37 he was still a very good player when he helped Arizona win a thrilling World Series in 2001. Grace's single off Mariano Rivera started the series-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Seven. Grace had a little bit of George Brett in him. He was a throwback and a "guys' guy" in the clubhouse, always having a good time, but between the lines a tough competitor. Both Brett and Grace liked to pound some beers after games. Like Brett, Grace shunned batting gloves and hit a lot of doubles. They are both baseball lifers. Gracie enjoyed imitating his teammates batting and pitching styles, which Brett also did (do yourself a favor and find George Brett's impression of pitcher Jim Kaat on YouTube).
#33. Frank Chance
Years: 1901-1914 Primary Team: Chicago Cubs
Talk about pressure: the Cubs named Chance to replace a future Hall of Fame manager when he was only 28 years old. But Chance had been a catcher and he was comfortable taking charge on the diamond. In his first season as manager and first baseman, Chance led the team to 116 wins. In his seven full seasons, the Cubs never won fewer than 91 games. In Chance's era it was unusual for players from California to make the big leagues. The west coast may as well been as far away as the moon. Prior to him, only one California-born player had ever had a long career in the big leagues and fewer than 40 players from that state had ever appeared in the majors. Chance was rewarded for his managerial skill with a bonus that included partial ownership of the Cubs. Later after World War I, in retirement in California, he sold his share in the franchise for $150,000 (over $2 million in 2017 dollars).
#34. Boog Powell
Years: 1961-1977 Primary Team: Baltimore Orioles
Parents in Florida would call their mischievous kids "boogers," but Johnny Powell's father shortened that to "Boog" and a nickname was born. The younger Powell, who got to the majors at the age of 19, was never called anything but Boog as a popular fixture at first base for Baltimore. Powell looked like a professional wrestler but he had quick feet at first base and even played a few seasons in left field. He was a unique offensive player: in 1970 when he won the MVP Award, he walked more than he struck out and showed the power he was known for, slugging 35 homers. He was a power threat for Orioles' teams that won four pennants in six seasons.
#35. Bill White
Years: 1956-1969 Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
If you wanted to create a timeline of the best fielding first basemen in baseball since World War II, it would look like this: Mickey Vernon, Vic Power, Bill White, George Scott, Keith Hernandez, Mark Grace, J.T. Snow, Adrian Gonzalez. In the late 1950s the Giants had three first basemen who made their way onto this Top 50 list: Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and White. They tried to convert McCovey and White into outfielders before eventually trading White to St. Louis. The socially conscious White fit in well with Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Lou Brock, and the progressive Cards, who won the World Series in 1964. That season, White won the fifth of his seven straight Gold Gloves and finished third in MVP voting.
#36. Elbie Fletcher
Years: 1934-1949 Primary Team: Boston Braves
When he was an 18-year old high school ballplayer in the Boston area, Fletcher entered a newspaper contest with the prize a trip to spring training with the Braves. He was one of three young Massachusetts players to win the contest and go south to Florida for a tryout. Fletcher impressed the lowly Braves and was offered a professional contract. The tall, lean left-hander was the Braves' starting first baseman three years later. Fletcher had excellent range to his right and led NL first sackers in assists six times. He also worked himself into a good line-drive contact hitter with a keen eye. He led the league in walks three times and averaged 97 bases on balls against 57 strikeouts in his career. He was coming into his prime when he was drafted into the Navy during World War II, missing his age 28-29 seasons and forever stunting his career. When he returned from the Navy he wasn't quite the same, and then he severely injured his ankle in spring training in 1946. With the Pirates by this time, Fletcher lost his starting job to Hank Greenberg and never recovered. His career was impaired by his absence to WWII: we estimate he missed two of his best seasons and probably could have had 2-3 seasons as a regular had he not been forced to miss action.
#37. Mark McGwire
Years: 1986-2001 Primary Team: Oakland A's
If we hadn't made a downward adjustment due to his admitted steroid use, McGwire would rank 12th on this list. It's quite possible that without illegal drugs, McGwire would have been out of baseball before he hit 300 home runs. Injuries were taking their toll, but the needle ensured his survival in the game. According to WAR, McGwire's best five seasons are a virtual match for the best five seasons by Keith Hernandez. That's how good Hernandez was at playing the position and getting on base. Mac's best three seasons according to WAR rate the same as those by Will Clark, a clean player who deserves Hall of Fame consideration far more than the man who dishonestly accepted the role of hero during the Home Run Chase of 1998.
#38. Paul Goldschmidt
Years: 2011-2017 Primary Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
It's always hard to project a player in mid-career, but if Goldschmidt stays on track he could end up in the top 15 all-time at first base. Goldschmidt's first big league manager was Kirk Gibson, who shared a technique that helped the young player at the plate. Gibson taught Goldschmidt the art of "visualization", a practice where an athlete imagines a positive outcome in specific detail. "I think a good bit of my success early in my career goes to him," Goldschmidt said. Goldie has surpassed Luis Gonzalez as the greatest position player in the history of the Diamondbacks. The team has him under contract through his age 31 season, and he's already won three Gold Gloves and been MVP runner-up twice.
#39. Steve Garvey
Years: 1969-1987 Primary Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Most Dodger fans would probably select Garvey as the greatest first baseman in team history, but there are actually five first basemen here who played significant time with the team who rank ahead of him. How can that be? Because Garvey was a poor defensive first baseman, he rarely walked, his power was only slightly above average, and he aged quickly. To be fair, Garvey did a lot of very good things for Los Angeles in the 1970s when he was in the lineup every day as one-fourth of the longest running infield in baseball history: he drove in runs and he frequently topped 200 hits. He also contributed greatly to the postseason success of his teams.
#40. Pedro Guerrero
Years: 1978-1992 Primary Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Guerreo was a designated hitter playing with the wrong organizations in the wrong league. He split his career with the Dodgers and Cardinals, both of whom tried to find a defensive position for the moody Dominican but never tried hard enough. He won at least three batting titles in the minor leagues, but Guerrero was stuck in a deep Dodger farm system. His natural position was shortstop but he wasn't good enough to play there at the pro level, so the Dodgers moved him to third. But his path at third was blocked by Ron Cey, and when he shifted to first, he had Steve Garvey in front of him. By the late 1970s, Pedro was the best hitter the Dodgers had but they didn't know where to play him. They tried him as an outfielder, in center, then right, and finally in left where he settled in for his best seasons for LA. He clashed with Tommy Lasorda and his teammates and also struggled with injuries that kept him from playing full seasons, but he continued to hit. The Dodgers traded him to St. Louis, where he had a few great seasons, but was a typical liability in the field. Had he been on an AL club when he came up, Guerrero could have possibly been one of the game's greatest DH's, but he never had that opportunity. He clashed (and even fought) with teammates in St. Louis and succumbed to a back injury that ended his career at .36. He'd hit an even .300 in a 15-year career that he never seemed to get comfortable in.
#41. Mickey Vernon
Years: 1939-1960 Primary Team: Washington Senators
For 40 years, from 1916 to 1955, the Senators basically had three first basemen: there was Joe Judge, then Joe Kuhel, and finally Vernon. Washington were briefly without Mickey when they traded him to the Indians during the 1948 winter meetings in a terrible deal that also sent pitcher Early Wynn to Cleveland. But after one year, the Nats got him back and Vernon played six more years in the nation's capitol. His WAR total after the age of 34 is the second-highest in history for first basemen, behind only Rafael Palmeiro. In the field, Vernon was considered to be the best glove man in the AL at first base. At the plate he was a little like Rod Carew: able to make contact and spray the ball around the field. He won a pair of batting titles. He was Dwight Eisenhower's favorite player, and when the Senators traded Mickey again when he was 38 years old, Ike sent a telegram wishing him good luck in Boston.
#42. Jack Fournier
Years: 1912-1927 Primary Team: Brooklyn Dodgers
The worst defensive first basemen on this list are Carlos Delgado, Pedro Guerrero, Steve Garvey, and Fournier, who might be the worst. Fournier could hit for average and for power, but he was run out of Chicago after a feud with White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, and was quickly dumped by his next team, the Yankees, because he was dreadful with the glove and hard to get along with. The Cards kept his big bat in the lineup in the 1920s until Sunny Jim Bottomley came along, then they traded Fournier to Brooklyn. With the Dodgers, Fournier had three .300/.400/.500 seasons and won a home run title. That type of slugging kept him in the lineup even though he had trouble fielding popups and bunts, and threw the baseball away far too often.
#43. George Scott
Years: 1966-1979 Primary Team: Boston Red Sox
Years before Dennis Eckersley coined colorful phrases that we now take for granted, like "walkoff homer" and "cheese," Scott was adding to the baseball dictionary. A strikeout was "big wind" and a great defensive play was "a bad beauty." But Scott was most famous for calling a home run a "tater." The big lefty hit 27 taters for the Red Sox as a rookie in 1966 and 271 in his 14-year career. Few players came from more impoverished backgrounds: Scott quit school when he was 15 to support his mother. He was only a few weeks past his 18th birthday when he played his first professional game. Though he was a large man, he was agile and athletic, and he impressed Red Sox coaches immediately with his work around the bag at first base. Scott went on to win eight Gold Gloves and led the AL in assists three times.
#44. Cecil Cooper
Years: 1971-1987 Primary Team: The Brew Crew
The Red Sox traded 26-year old Cooper to the Brewers at the winter meetings in 1976 to reacquire George Scott and Bernie Carbo. While it was initially popular with Milwaukee fans, the trade proved to be a big mistake for the Sox. Scott gave Boston one last good season, while Cooper was a five-time All-Star for Milwaukee where he hit .302 and became a dangerous middle-of-the-order run producer. Coop altered the trajectory of his career when he changed his batting stance to emulate perennial batting champion Rod Carew. Cooper opened his front foot, lowered the bat, and increased the depth of his crouch. He hit as high as .352 and won two RBI titles while frequently driving in teammates Paul Molitor and Robin Yount.
#45. Ed Konetchy
Years: 1907-1921 Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
In contrast to Jack Fournier, Konetchy was one of the best defensive first baseman in the National League during the deadball era and he was well liked. His career was basically split between seven years with the Cardinals and three years each with the Braves and Dodgers. Because those teams were terrible at that time, Konetchy was often the subject of trade rumors. He briefly jumped to the rival Federal League to cash in, but came back to play out his career that ended in 1921 with more than 2,100 hits and 182 triples, which ranked tenth all-time and still rates in the top 15 in baseball history.
#46. Kent Hrbek
Years: 1981-1994 Primary Team: Twinkies
Who was the most popular Twin of all-time? It comes down to Harmon Killebrew, Bert Blyleven, Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, and Hrbek. The last two grew up in Minnesota and spent (so far for Mauer) their entire careers with the Twins. It's easy to forget how exciting Hrbek was when he came up as a rookie in the early 1980s. He finished second to Cal Ripken Jr. in Rookie of the Year voting, hit .300, and showed very good power. He played the game with a college football sort of excitement. He had more than 200 homers before his 30th birthday and helped his hometown team to two World Series titles. But the AL was filled with better first basemen and Herbie petered out in his early 30s, so he got leapfrogged in the pecking order. He still had a very good career, and a great sense of timing. On the night he announced his retirement during the strike-torn 1994 season, Hrbek hit two home runs in front of the home crowd.
#47. Kevin Youkilis
Years: 2004-2013 Primary Team: Boston Red Sox
Few players were more unlikely stars than Youkilis. He was drafted in the eighth round by Boston and did not have a defensive position. They tried to teach him to play third base and the outfield. He wasn't very good at that. They couldn't play him at DH because they had David Ortiz. Youkilis settled at first base and ended up winning a Gold Glove and being a three-time All-Star. Like Lu Blue, who ranks just a few notches below him on this list, Youk's specialty was drawing walks. He finished in the top ten in on-base percentage three times and posted a career .382 on-base percentage. Youkilis had a running feud with Joba Chamberlain when the latter was on the Yankees. Chamberlain frequently buzzed Youk's tower but didn't actually hit him with a pitch until he was with the Tigers years later. There have been many one-on-one feuds in baseball history, some of the most famous are Honus Wagner vs. Ty Cobb, Ty Cobb vs. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb vs. Smoky Joe Wood. Well, Cobb had a lot of personal feuds. Another famous feud that's been lost to history a bit was the one between Frankie Frisch and Burleigh Grimes. The two were in the National League for 16 years and had many battles. Frisch was a brash player and very aggressive. Grimes was ornery as hell. He used to throw at Frisch any chance he got, and he probably hit Frankie fifteen times over the years. Frisch would bunt on Grimes, pushing the ball toward first so he would draw Grimes into the base path so he could spike him. The two old warriors were briefly teammates on the Cardinals in the early 1930s, but they never became friends. In the late 1930s, after they'd retired as players, Grimes and Frisch managed the Dodgers and Cardinals respectively. Grimes used to tell his pitchers to throw at Frisch's slugger Johnny Mize. But Frisch's Cards beat Grimes and the Bums 27 out of 43 times in the two years they faced each other from the dugout. When Grimes was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964, Frisch was the first Hall of Famer to call him with congratulations.
#48. Joe Judge
Years: 1915-1934 Primary Team: Washington Senators
Only 5'8, Judge still managed to stand tall at first base for the Senators, where he played 18 seasons, 15 of them as their starter. After years of toiling for a second-division club, Judge took advantage of his first chance at the postseason: he had ten hits and got on base 15 times in the 1924 World Series. Though he hit just a tick below .300 and had more than 2,300 hits in his career, Judge was best known for his range at first base. Had there been Gold Gloves back then, he would have earned a load of them. Judge and outfielder Sam Rice were teammates for 18 seasons, a record surpassed by only one duo: Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.
#49. Frank McCormick
Years: 1934-1948 Primary Team: Cincinnati Reds
McCormick was a statuesque figure, standing at 6'4, a real giant for the 1930s. But strangely, few in baseball took notice of him as a prospect and he failed to impress any of the teams that scouted him. The Reds eventually signed him but it still took a minor league batting title and a near .400 average for McCormick to get a job in the big leagues. Finally a big league regular at 27, he led the NL in hits in each of his first three seasons and captured the MVP award. His emergence ignited the Reds to back-to-back pennants in 1939-40, and the franchise's second World Series title. He was best known for his ability to make contact: he struck out only 189 times in his 13-year career, a figure that's surpassed in one season by some sluggers today.
#50. Rudy York
Years: 1934-1948 Primary Team: Detroit Tigers
York was probably 200 pounds when he was 17 years old, he was always a very big man-child. That's why it's incredible that he was a second baseman in his first professional season at Shreveport in the Detroit organization. He was a hulking 6-foot-one-inches tall with broad shoulders and big arms and chest. The Tigers moved him to the outfield corner and then he was trained as a catcher, though he never got very good at it. He was mature enough as a hitter to be in someone's regular lineup when he was 21, but the Tigers owned his rights and they had two Hall of Famers blocking his path: Mickey Cochrane and Hank Greenberg. In '37 York made the team out of spring training and the Tigers played him at third base, a position he'd never played before as a pro. He was terrible at the hot corner, and after Cochrane was beaned (and nearly died) the team tried Birdie Tebbets before realizing he was going to hit about two line drives a month. In August the catching job was handed to York, who set the MLB record for home runs in a month with 18. A few years later he pushed Greenberg to left field and took over at first base. You have to be a damned good hitter to take Hank Greenberg's job. He was: York's 256 home runs from 1937 to 1946 ranked first in baseball for that span. Some sources claim York sort of drank himself out of the big leagues, exiting at the age of 34. But while he did have an alcohol problem, that wasn't why Rudy lost his job in the majors. It was his slowing bat, and even when he played five more seasons in the minors trying to find his power, it never came back.
#51. Derrek Lee
Years: 1997-2011 Primary Team: Florida Marlins
Lee got stuck behind the ancient Wally Joyner in San Diego in the late 1990s, so the Padres traded him to Florida for Kevin Brown when the Marlins had a fire sale. Brown was great for the Padres for one season but then he chased the money and went to the Dodgers. Meanwhile, Lee embarked on a fine 15-year career that took him to the Cubs where he had his best success. Built like a power forward, Lee was a three-time Gold Glove winner and finished third in NL MVP voting in 2005 when he hit .335 and hit 46 home runs. It's the best single season ever by a Cubs' first baseman. Lee was drafted by the Padres with the 14th pick in the first round of the 1993 draft, the same draft that produced Alex Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, Torii Hunter, Chris Carpenter, and Jason Varitek. Among that class, Lee's career WAR trails only ARod and Hunter.
#52. Jim Bottomley
Years: 1922-1937 Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
He ranks 51st based on the statistical record, but Bottomley was a famous figure in baseball in his time, and that counts for something when it comes to legacy. It's the Baseball Hall of FAME, after all. Bottomley played on four Cardinals teams that won the pennant, and twice he was integral in pennant races that were hotly contested. In 1930 he caught fire at the plate and helped the Redbirds erase the Cubs 12-game lead down the stretch. He had five RBIs in the Cards first World Series victory, in 1926 over the Yankees. Those type of things go a long way to getting attention, and then there was his happy-go-lucky personality, which made him popular. Sort of like Bobby Bonilla years later, Bottomley usually had a smile on his face when he was on the diamond.
#53. Ted Kluszewski
Years: 1947-1961 Primary Team: Cincinnati Reds
Though he was larger than most football players of his era, Ted Kluszewski was a good all-around ballplayer, more than a simple slugger. He used his famous 15-inch biceps to hit a lot of home runs, topping 40 three times and accumulating 171 in a four-year stretch. But even though he turned heads with high-flying, long home runs, Klu rarely struck out. He was a big man who was also a good percentage baseball player, like Miguel Cabrera later. Kluszewski minimized mistakes on the field: he walked more than he struck out, he was sure-handed and steady at first base, didn't needlessly throw the ball around the infield, and he was a smart base runner. Like Cabrera, Kluszewski was troubled by back problems, he played his final game in 1961 for the expansion Angels.
#54. Jason Giambi
Years: 1995-2014 Primary Team: Oakland A's
If we didn't penalize him for steroid use, Jason Giambi would rank 19th, just behind Will Clark and ahead of six Hall of Famers, including Tony Perez, George Sisler, Bill Terry, and Orlando Cepeda. But the Giambi story, much like Mark McGwire, reads vastly different because of performance-enhancing drugs. His career is split evenly between The Steroid Years (ten years from 1995-2004) and The Shamed Years (ten years from 2005-2014). In his first career Giambi hit a home run every 16.9 at-bats and had a 148 OPS+. In his second career, when his body also started to break down without the aid of the drugs, he hit a homer every 15.9 at-bats and posted a 123 OPS+. He was helped in the last half of his career by playing in two ballparks perfectly suited for his down-the-line pull swing (Yankee Stadium and Coors Field). He was a good power hitter with a good eye even when he was clean, but when he juiced it was the extra singles and doubles combined with those homers that made him a freak.
#55. Ferris Fain
Years: 1947-1955 Primary Team: Philadelphia Athletics
He won two batting titles, one of them when Ted Williams was flying planes in Korea, so there's that. But Ol' Burrhead was a smart hitter, sort of like a left-handed Carnely Lansford or like Hal Morris, another high-average hitter whose career ended due to knee injuries.
#56. Ron Fairly
Years: 1958-1978 Primary Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
A slew of teams got into a bidding war over Fairly when he was a hotshot prospect out of the University of Southern California in the late 1950s. They were right to fight over him: Fairly played 21 years in the majors and was a useful player who collected nearly 2,000 hits and won three World Series with the Dodgers in the 1960s. The redhead (he bore a striking resemblance to Rusty Staub) was one of Smoky Alston's favorite players, because Fairly could spot start at all three outfield spots or at first base with reliability. He smacked a pair of homers in the '65 World Series which came in losses, but his biggest hit came in Game Four when he delivered a two-run single to break open the game as the Dodgers won and tied the series. Fairly bridged the gap between the 1950s Boys of Summer Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1960s dynasty. He was traded to the Expos (where he was a teammate of Staub) and later he played for the Blue Jays, becoming the only player to ever be an All-Star for both Canadian teams.
#57. Phil Cavarretta
Years: 1934-1955 Primary Team: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have had more long-term first basemen than any other franchise. The team has employed six first basemen who spent at least ten seasons with the team: Cap Anson, Frank Chance (#33), Charlie Grimm, Phil Cavarretta, Ernie Banks (ranked at shortstop), and Mark Grace (#32). Anthony Rizzo (currently #67) will probably make it seven. Cavarretta also played 4-5 years as a solid outfielder, even taking care of center field for a year. He won an MVP during World War II when he helped drag the team to the 1945 flag, their first pennant under the "Billy Goat Curse" and the last one for the franchise for 71 years.
#58. Lu Blue
Years: 1921-1933 Primary Team: Detroit Tigers
Blue debuted in 1921 and Jim Bottomley made his first appearance a year later. They never faced each other because they were in different leagues, though for three years they were both first basemen in the same city: Blue for the Browns and Sunny Jim for the more successful Cardinals. Bottomley hit in the middle of the order and drove in runs. Blue hit leadoff and scored runs. Bottomley was a free swinger who won a home run crown and an MVP. Blue was patient, drew 100 walks a season, and was overshadowed by famous teammates. The Cardinal first sacker was tall and a dreadful defender. Blue was two inches shorter, quick, and good around the bag. Blue's ability to get on base and his defense made him a superior player to Bottomley, though no one realized it at the time. Decades later, in an overt act of cronyism, Frankie Frisch got his teammate into the Hall of Fame, while Blue, who was clearly a better baseball player, is lost to history.
#59. Harry Davis
Years: 1901-1917 Primary Team: Philadelphia Athletics
No other player has ever won as many as two home run titles in their home town, but Harry Davis won four in a row in his native Philadelphia, all while wearing the cap of the Athletics, for whom he served as team captain. Davis started as an outfielder but his proclivity for fielding bunts precipitated his move to first. He declined quickly after age 34 and surrendered his starting spot to Stuffy McInnis (#66 on this list).
#60. Wally Joyner
Years: 1986-2001 Primary Team: California Angels
Arrived in the big leagues with great fanfare and after a really good rookie campaign expectations were high. Joyner's sophomore season was even better, as he slugged 34 homers and drove in 117 runs. He was mentioned with Don Mattingly and Will Clark as one of the best first basemen in the game, but those comparisons faded. Joyner never hit more than 21 homers again and never drove in as many as 100 runs. He played 16 seasons and was a nice, solid player, but once the league adjusted to him, he stagnated. Some players don't ever adjust to the pitchers figuring them out, it can be lack of talent or stubbornness, or it could be lack of mental acuity. Joyner was talented, he had a good stroke, but for some reason he was never able to make a living off the breaking pitches he was fed after his first two seasons.
#61. Andres Galarraga
Years: 1985-2004 Primary Team: Colorado Rockies
Was a pretty good hitting first baseman who struck out a lot until he signed with Colorado where the thin air made him a home run champion. There was nothing special about his defensive statistics, but Galarraga won a pair of Gold Gloves, which he probably didn't deserve. He looked flashy in the field, but his range was pretty average. Among first basemen he ranks 46th in career Win Shares, 53rd in Win Shares in his best seven seasons, and 67th for his best three seasons. Had a similar peak performance as that of Hal Trosky, who also had a 150+ RBI season.
#62. Jake Daubert
Years: 1910-1924 Primary Team: Brooklyn Dodgers
Daubert was one of three prominent National League first basemen of the first twenty years of the twentieth century, along with Ed Konetchy and Jack Fournier. The three were each born between 1884 and 1889 in the midwest: Daubert in Pennsylvania coal country; Konetchy in the lumber town of La Crosse, Wisconsin; and Fournier in Michigan in a small town on Lake Huron. Daubert won two batting titles, Fournier won a home run crown, and Konetchy was a speed merchant. As players they were pretty dissimilar. Fournier was a terrible defensive first baseman, while Daubert and Konetchy were known for being slick with the glove. After Daubert pissed off Brooklyn's owner in a contract dispute and was traded to the Reds, Konetchy replaced him with the team, which was known as the Robins at the time. A few years later, Fournier replaced Konetchy at first base in Brooklyn. Thus, all three played for the precursor to the Dodgers, each a star in their own right, even if only for a brief time. Fournier was the slugger and the better of the three, while Daubert was most like a deadball era player, only hitting more than eight homers in a season once.
Daubert was very intelligent, he was elected vice-president of the Players' Fraternity during his career and he frequently stood up to the front office in labor disputes. He was a close friend with Zach Wheat, the Hall of Fame outfielder who was his teammate for many years in Brooklyn. After Daubert died suddenly following the '24 season due to a spleen condition, Wheat supported his widow and children financially for several years.
#63. Joe Adcock
Years: 1950-1966 Primary Team: Milwaukee Braves
Adcock hit the longest recorded home runs in about half of the ballparks in the National League during his career. He was a scary power hitter and one of those guys who was never "the man", but served as a very important part of the team. He was unusually big for his era, a 6-foot-4 southern boy who was country strong. He probably could have been a professional in basketball and football.
#64. Earl Torgeson
Years: 1947-1961 Primary Team: Boston Braves
In February of 1953 four National League teams shook up their rosters in an elaborate trade that shuffled players around the senior circuit. As part of the deal the Braves got Joe Adcock from the Reds and sent Torgeson to the Phillies. The Braves were starting their first season in Milwaukee and wanted Adcock's power bat for cozy County Stadium. Torgeson was seen as being an old 28 and he certainly never had the pop in his bat that Adcock had. He'd been a fan favorite in Boston but no one in Milwaukee cared about him, so he was expendable. Torgeson plowed on and played nine more years for four different teams, though he was never again as valuable. A left-handed batter who made contact, Torgeson was really a platoon player for much of his career, hitting very little off southpaws. Torgeson and Adcock were forever linked because of the trade and their time as Braves' first basemen, but they couldn't have been more different. Adcock was a hulking muscular specimen who hit long home runs. Torgeson was a tall, skinny man who wore glasses. Adock was fairly gentile however, while Torgeson was on edge once the game started. He frequently got into rows with opposing teams and umpires.
#65. Hal Trosky
Years: 1933-1946 Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
Trosky was signed by the same scout who got Bob Feller for the Indians, a man named Cy Slapnicka, who scoured Iowa and the midwest for talent. When old Cy found Trosky he was a pitcher who batted crosshanded, but Cleveland made Hal a first baseman and fixed his swing. In his rookie season Trosky hit like Lou Gehrig: .330 with 35 homers and 142 runs batted in. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite Gehrig (no one was) and the American League also had two other great first basemen in Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg. In the pecking order, Trosky was down the list and practically forgotten. He never once made the All-Star team despite averaging .317 with 30 homers and 126 RBIs in his first six full seasons. Migraine headaches halted his career when he was 28, and after two comeback tries during World War II, Trosky finally retired at the age of 34. His peak was comparable to that of Rudy York and Frank McCormick, contemporaries who rate above him on this list. Had Trosky been able to fill in his career and play regularly after the age of 28, he might have been a top 30 player at his position.
#66. Stuffy McInnis
Years: 1909-1927 Primary Team: Philadelphia Athletics
Stuffy McInnis was the best fielding first baseman in the American League for nearly a decade, and two dynasties employed him as he helped the A's and Red Sox win five pennants in the years between 1910 and 1918. McInnis was superb at fielding bunts, which was an important skill in the deadball era when opposing batters usually dropped down five or six bunts every game trying to get on base or push runners along. A right-handed thrower, Stuffy was skilled at charging in to field the bunt, spinning to his left so his back faced away from second or third and firing the ball to get a lead runner. He and shortstop Jack Barry crafted the play through diligent repetition while they were teammates in Philadelphia. McInnis had been a shortstop as an amateur and early in his pro career, and he never lost that range and agility. He and Barry were lifelong friends, but the competitive McInnis bristled when Barry gave him a low throw that resulted in an error that ended Stuffy's errorless streak. McInnis would remind Barry of the low throw for years. Stuffy was no slouch with the bat, hitting over .300 twelve times as a singles hitter. He came out of retirement to sign with the Pirates on June 1, 1925, and proceeded to hit .368 in 59 games to help the Bucs to the pennant. In the World Series he was inserted into the lineup after the Pirates fell into a 3 games to 1 hole and helped spark the team to a comeback to win the World Series. It was the fourth world championship for Stuffy.
#67. Anthony Rizzo
Years: 2011-2017 Primary Team: Chicago Cubs
#68. Freddie Freeman
Years: 2010-2017 Primary Team: Atlanta Braves
#69. Mike Hargrove
Years: 1974-1985 Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
#70. George Burns
Years: 1914-1929 Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
#71. Tino Martinez
Years: 1990-2005 Primary Team: New York Yankees
#72. Bob Watson
Years: 1966-1984 Primary Team: Houston Astros
#73. Justin Morneau
Years: 2003-2016 Primary Team: Minnesota Twins
#74. Carlos Pena
Years: 2001-2014 Primary Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Pena had an odd career. For the first five or six years of his career he was a study in extremes. He was either way up or way down. He went 1-for-31 and struck out eight times in three games. Then he'd hit three homers in a game, or get six hits while batting eighth in the lineup, the first player to do that since before the Spanish/American War. He would get sent to the minor leagues then hit 15 homers in 38 games when he was called up (that happened with Detroit in 2005). He hit the longest home run (461 feet) in the history of Comerica Park but then got released in the first month of the 2006 season. He signed with this team and then that one, before the Devil Rays gave him a look. At that time Tampa Bay was as low as you could go and still be in the big leagues. Pena became a star for the Rays, winning a home run title, a Gold Glove, and a Silver Slugger in his first three years there. He ended up with 286 home runs, exactly 200 of them after his 29th birthday.
#75. Wally Pipp
Years: 1913-1928 Primary Team: New York Yankees
#76. Prince Fielder
Years: 2005-2016 Primary Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Prince Fielder never really loved baseball. It was a job, actually it was the family business. It was the game his Dad loved, but the game Prince was merely good at. The younger Fielder was a better hitter than his old man, who was a good hitter himself. But Prince never seemed to warm to the pressure of major league ball. When the Brewers eked into the playoffs in 2008 Fielder struggled on the big stage, going 1-for-14 in the series loss, his only hit a home run. Detroit owner Mike Ilitch fell in love with the idea of bringing Prince "home" to Detroit and overpaid for the free agent in 2012 after Victor Martinez went down with a season-ending injury. The Tigers went to the World Series in Fielder's first season in their uniform, but it was downhill for Prince in Motown after that. A teammate had a publicized affair with his wife, and after the team was eliminated from the 2013 AL Championship Series (with Fielder failing to drive in a run), he told reporters in the clubhouse that losing "wasn't that important." Detroit couldn't trade him fast enough and a devastating injury ended his playing career less than three years later. He ended with 319 home runs, the exact same number as his father.
#77. John Mayberry
Years: 1968-1982 Primary Team: Kansas City Royals
#78. Bill Skowron
Years: 1954-1967 Primary Team: The Bombers
#79. Paul Konerko
Years: 1997-2014 Primary Team: White Sox
#80. Lee May
Years: 1965-1982 Primary Team: Cincinnati Reds
#81. John Kruk
Years: 1986-1995 Primary Team: Philadelphia Phillies
#82. Chris Chambliss
Years: 1971-1988 Primary Team: New York Yankees
#83. Carlos Santana
Years: 2010-2017 Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
#84. George Kelly
Years: 1915-1932 Primary Team: The Giants
#85. Jason Thompson
Years: 1976-1986 Primary Team: Detroit Tigers
#86. Roy Sievers
Years: 1949-1965 Primary Team: Washington Senators
#87. Andre Thornton
Years: 1973-1987 Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
#88. Joe Harris
Years: 1914-1928 Primary Team: Boston Red Sox
#89. Ripper Collins
Years: 1931-1941 Primary Team: Gas House Gang
#90. Joe Kuhel
Years: 1930-1947 Primary Team: Washington
#91. Wes Parker
Years: 1964-1972 Primary Team: LA Dodgers
#92. Aubrey Huff
Years: 2000-2012 Primary Team: Tampa Bay Rays
#93. Zeke Bonura
Years: 1934-1940 Primary Team: Chicago White Sox
#94. Dan McGann
Years: 1901-1908 Primary Team: New York Giants
#95. Mike Sweeney
Years: 1995-2010 Primary Team: Kansas City Royals
#96. Johnny Hopp
Years: 1939-1952 Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
#97. Norm Siebern
Years: 1956-1968 Primary Team: Kansas City A's
#98. Joe Cunningham
Years: 1954-1966 Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
#99. George McQuinn
Years: 1936-1948 Primary Team: St. Louis Browns
#100. Alvin Davis
Years: 1984-1992 Primary Team: Seattle Mariners
A far-from-inclusive list of "franchise" players: Ernie Banks (Mr. Cub), Al Kaline (Mr. Tiger), Tony Gwynn (Mr. Padre), Todd Helton (Mr. Rockie), Tim Salmon (Mr. Angel), Tom Grieve (Mr. Ranger), Jeff Conine (Mr. Marlin), and Alvin Davis (Mr. Mariner). Willie Horton was called "The Ancient Mariner" during his brief (but successful) stretch with the M's at the tail end of his career.
Davis made a great first impression. He hit home runs in his first two big league games and reached base in his first 47 games. He had a Joe DiMaggio-type of rookie season, hitting 34 doubles, 27 homers, and driving in 116. He was patient, he walked 97 times times in his first season, one of four times he topped 90, and he walked more than he struck out in his career. He wasn't Joe D, of course, but he was a very good first baseman, winning Rookie of the Year and finishing 12th in AL MVP voting. By 1989 the Mariners had Ken Griffey Jr. in center field and Randy Johnson in their rotation. They also should have had 26-year old Edgar Martinez at third base, but the front office couldn't get out of their own way and commit to one of the greatest hitters of the generation. Davis was 28 in 1989 and still a good player, he batted over .300, had an OBP over .400 and slugged nearly .500, and he walked 101 times and had 52 extra-base hits. He was young enough that he should have been part of the good times that were bound to come in Seattle, but within two years Davis' career was essentially over due to back injuries. He'd had eight fine years with the Mariners when they were a bad team, and he was overshadowed by other first basemen in the league like Don Mattingly, Eddie Murray, Kent Hrbek, and Wally Joyner. At his peak he was better than Joyner, and he's worth remembering from an otherwise forgettable period in franchise history.