Chronological List of the Best Defensive Shortstops in Baseball History

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A chronological list of the best fielding shortstops since the assassination of William McKinley:

Bobby Wallace (1899-1902)
Joe Tinker (1903-1913)
Art Fletcher (1914-1919)
Roger Peckinpaugh (1920-1924)
Dave Bancroft (1925-1927)
Travis Jackson (1928-1931)
Luke Appling (1935-1940)
Marty Marion (1941-1950)
Pee Wee Reese (1951-1956)
Luis Aparicio (1957-1967)
Mark Belanger (1968-1978)
Ozzie Smith (1979-1992)
Omar Vizquel (1993-1999)
Rey Sánchez (2000-2002)
Adam Everett (2003-2009)
Yunel Escobar (2010-2011)
Andrelton Simmons (2012-2021)
Carlos Correa (2022-)

This is sort of like the Heavyweight Championship of Shortstops, it’s not based on any one season of work, but rather encompasses their reign as the best at the craft. Once a shortstop starts to wane, he drops off the list and a new champion is crowned. Remarkably, for much of history it works out rather neatly. There are only a few times when there isn’t an historically great defender to take the title, such as in the early 21st century. Bancroft was at the end of his career when he briefly held the title in the 1920s, but his best work with the glove occurred earlier. It happened to be an era with several outstanding shortstops. Peckinpaugh, Fletcher, and Bancroft at their peaks were all better than Reese, for example. Phil Rizzuto was also excellent, but Marion was a smidge better in the 1940s, and he wasn’t drafted into the military for WWII.

In almost every case, when a team has baseball’s greatest defensive shortstop, a dynasty ensues. The Cubs won four pennants in five years with Tinker; the Giants won four pennants with Fletcher at short; the Senators won back-to-back pennants, their first two pennants, with Peckinpaugh; John McGraw had his second dynasty and won three flags with Beauty Bancroft in the middle of his infield; Marty Marion was scampering all over the infield for the Cardinals when they won four pennants in five years in the 1940s; Reese was at the heart of the Dodgers 1950s dynasty; Aparicio was at short for the start of the O’s dynasty; Belanger filled out the balance of it; Ozzie’s Redbirds won three pennants in six years in the 1980s.

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is the author of three books about baseball, including Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Major League Baseball Advanced Media. He lives in Michigan where he writes, runs, and enjoys a good orange soda now and again.
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