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"It is a haunted game, where each player is measured by the ghosts of those who have gone before."
Ken Burns' Baseball

Organized baseball is one of the oldest professional sports in the world (the National League having been founded in 1876), and so Major League Baseball has produced a large number of noteworthy players, as well as announcers, coaches, and team owners. Listed below are the most (in)famous among those. Also listed are a number of greats who never got their chance in MLB because of the vile "gentlemen's agreement" that excluded Black Americans from the Majors until 1947.

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    Infielders 

  • Honus Wagner, a Pennsylvania coal miner who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates around the turn of the 20th century, is widely considered the greatest shortstop ever. He played every position except catcher, only settling in at shortstop after seven years in the league. He's also known as the face on the most valuable baseball card ever. It was originally printed in 1909 and packaged with loose tobacco. Wagner, being strongly anti-tobacco, refused to allow production of this card to continue; over time, its rarity made it something of a Zillion-Dollar Bill. Recent sales have ranged from $200,000 to over $2,000,000 depending on the card's condition and backstory (for example, one card was briefly owned by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, and another by actor Charlie Sheen.)
  • Lou Gehrig - The "Iron Horse" played for the NY Yankees at around the same time as Babe Ruth, giving the Bronx Bombers two of the best hitters in the game's history for ten years. One of the things he's most notable for is formerly holding the record for most consecutive games played, with 2,130 games in a row from June 1, 1925 to May 2, 1939 without ever missing one. It was a record considered unbreakable for a long time, until Cal Ripken Jr. broke it in 1995. According to popular legend, the streak started when the Yankees' previous starting first baseman, Wally Pipp, asked for a game off due to some minor malady, and then Gehrig played so well in Pipp's absence that he never got his job back. In reality, Pipp simply hadn't been playing well, and was benched for his underperformance. Nonetheless, the expression "Getting Wally Pipped" is still used to describe a player in baseball (or other sports) who misses time due to injury and then loses his job to his backup. Gehrig's streak ended because of a rare disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is now also known (in North America) as, wait for it, Lou Gehrig's disease. Before his retirement he gave a famous speech at Yankee Stadium. Less well known is that no complete recording of the speech exists, only the newsreel highlights of it. Probably the most universally beloved baseball player in the history of the gamenote ; despite his team affiliation, to this day not even a member of the Red Sox Nation will say anything against him.
  • Rogers Hornsby, also known by his nickname "Rajah," was perhaps the greatest right-handed hitter to play the game and one of, if not the, greatest hitter of all time. Hornsby batted a lifetime .358 average (second only to Ty Cobb's .366), won the Triple Crown in the National League twice (one of which was also an MLB triple crown), was a two-time MVP, and batted .400 or higher three times. He actually collectively hit .400 over a five-year period from 1921 to 1925 (a period including his 3 seasons hitting .400 or above, a season with a .397 average, and a down year where he "only" hit .384), and he also hit 144 Home Runs over that period, more than anyone else not named Babe Ruth. Hornsby's .424 batting average in 1924 has never been matched in the modern era- nobody since Ted Williams in 1941 has even hit .400. Hornsby was also famous for a mean disposition and dislike of younger players; despite excellent offensive statistics, he was often traded because nobody else on the team could stand him. In one incident while assessing prospects for the New York Yankees, the nicest analysis he could muster was that one of the prospects only "looks like a Major League ball player" (the player in question? Mickey Mantle). Rajah was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942, but the Hall held no induction ceremony during U.S. involvement in World War II, and never bothered to include (among other players) Gehrig or Hornsby in later ceremonies. The Hall finally rectified that error in 2013, when Gehrig, Hornsby, and nine other figures voted in during the war years were part of the induction ceremony.
  • Jackie Robinson was an African-American who played in 1947 for the Dodgers after African-Americans had been informally banned from the major leagues for 60 years. After this, the other major league teams slowly integrated. So naturally, he's a pretty big deal, especially since he was an excellent player throughout his 10-year career. His number, 42, was retired across Major League Baseball in 1997, the only player to receive that honor, with two exceptions: First, players who wore 42 at the time were allowed to keep wearing it (Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who retired at the end of the 2013 season, was the last player to wear it),note  and second, every player in the game wears it on April 15, the anniversary of Robinson's Major League debut. The number has become associated with Robinson so much that a movie about his life simply had the number 42 as its title. Contrary to what some might say, Robinson did not refuse to leave Brooklyn when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. By the end of his career, he had begun to show symptoms of diabetes (and would be diagnosed with the disease mere months after his retirement), and had already planned to retire (to become an executive at the Chock full o'Nuts coffee company) before the rumors that the Dodgers would move came out.note 
  • Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs' longtime shortstop-first baseman, is generally considered to be one of the greatest players to never reach the playoffs. The first black player on the Cubs' roster, Banks was the first player to win two straight MVP awards. He retired with 512 home runs, and 2,528 regular season games. A perpetual optimist who had a great love of the game, he was well known for his catchphrase "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!", stemming from his desire to play doubleheaders. His unwavering cheerfulness led to him earning the nickname "Mr. Sunshine", and Banks was so well-liked during the team's Dork Age that he also earned the moniker "Mr. Cub". To this day, and even after his death in 2015, Banks remains an icon in Chicago.
  • Mike Schmidt was known for both his defensive prowess (earning 10 Gold Gloves by the time of his retirement), and his power-hitting ability (he finished his career seventh all time with 548 career home runs). Playing his entire career in Philadelphia, he earned three MVP awards (at that time unheard of for a third baseman), and played in two world series, winning one in 1980. Five years after his retirement, he was named to the Hall of Fame, and about five years after that, he was named to the MLB All Century team as the starting third baseman. Pete Rose once said about Schmidt: "To have his body, I'd trade him mine and my wife's, and I'd throw in some cash."
  • Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's career hits record, and somewhat coincidentally, is about as well-liked as Cobb was. (He's still revered in his hometown of Cincinnati, where he played for most of his career and also managed, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone from another city who likes him.) He gambled on baseball (as a player and manager), which caused him to be banned from the sport and made ineligible for the baseball Hall of Fame when he would have been elected easily for his achievements. He was proven to bet on his own team, though he swears to this day that he always bet on them to win. Since the original ban on gambling was made to prevent players from intentionally losing games, whether or not Pete Rose's ban is a fair judgment remains one of baseball's open debates. (Before PEDs came along, gambling was considered the single biggest scourge of the sporting world. Going back to the Black Sox scandal, betting on baseball in any way is prohibited, with a lifetime ban for betting on games you have a role in, so it's academic if your name isn't Bill James.) While Cobb sharpened his spikes, Rose is well known for once running over opposing catcher Ray Fosse in a run into home plate, separating the catcher's shoulder. This would have been acceptable play had it not happened in the All-Star Game, which at the time was a meaningless exhibition. (While the incident did not end Fosse's career as is often reported - he stayed in the lineup during the second half of the season, and played eight more seasons, three as a starter and one as an All-Star - he was never again as good as he was prior to the injury.)
    • Rose's reputation wasn't helped by his litigiousness: when the Commissioner (see the "Others" folder below) started an investigation against him for his gambling, he filed suit in Ohio state court against the Commissioner, the Reds, and MLB asking the court to stop the Commissioner's investigation. The case is famous for all kinds of amazing dick moves on Rose's part (well, technically his lawyers', but frankly they're such fantastic dick moves that it's hard not to see how he wasn't involved in the decision to make them), and as a result, Civil Procedure law casebooks often include his case in the introduction to show wet-behind-the-ears first-year law students how bizarre their profession can get...and reinforce baseball's universal agreement that Pete Rose is an asshole.
  • Ozzie Smith was a shortstop who played for three years with the San Diego Padres, before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he spent the remainder of his 19-year career. Though not known for his offense (he managed to collect over 2400 hits, but had almost zero power) Smith is perhaps the greatest defensive shortstop in the history of the game. He appeared on fifteen All-Star teams and collected thirteen Gold Gloves for his defensive play, won the 1985 NLCS MVP award, and was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He set the single-season record for assists in 1980 with 621, the career mark with 8372, has a lifetime fielding percentage of .978, (13th all-time among all shortstops) and his Range Factor of 5.215 ranks fifth all time at his position. Ozzie quickly became a beloved icon in St. Louis, where his athletic and acrobatic play quickly earned him the nickname "The Wizard of Oz." If there was ever a definition of the Human Highlight Reel it was Ozzie in his prime, and any countdown of the best defensive plays of all time will feature him prominently. American Idol fans might remember his name from season 4, when his son Nikko finished in 9th place.
  • Cal Ripken Jr. was an excellent shortstop and two-time Most Valuable Player who became famous for never missing a game for over 17 years (a whopping 2,632 games in a row), and this consecutive-game streak is one of baseball's "records to know", up there with Bonds' home run records and DiMaggio's hit streak. Furthermore, he started every single game during the streak, hardly ever left a game early, and for over five years, he played every single inning. He also played his entire career with one team (the Baltimore Orioles), which is seen as somewhat rare. A lot of people tend to forget that he had Hall-of-Fame numbers even without the consecutive game streak—in addition to his two MVP awards, he also has over 3000 hits and has the third-most home runs of any Shortstop in history, behind Alex Rodriguez and Ernie Banks (and Ripken stayed as a shortstop for a much bigger chunk of his career than those two did—Ripken moved to third in his last few years, but A-Rod and Banks moved to third and first respectively about halfway through their careers). Early in his career, some doubted that a player as large as Ripken was could stick at shortstop, but he proved them all wrong, playing great defense for most of his career and winning two gold gloves- and modern sabermetric analysis rates him as being one of the best defensive shortstops in the game's history. Made 19 consecutive all-star teams, between his third season in 1983 and final season in 2001, although his last few selections were a bit questionable and more because of how hugely popular and respected he was than how he was playing on the field. In his last all-star game in 2001, he was elected to start as a third baseman (the position he'd played for several years at that point), but Alex Rodriguez, the starting shortstop in that game, swapped positions with him at the start of the game to give him one last hurrah at short. He went on to hit a home run in the game (on a pitch that many allege was grooved by the opposing pitcher, Chan-Ho Park) and win the All-Star MVP Award. Some naysayers think that him keeping his streak alive when he was past his prime was to the detriment of his team.
  • Mark McGwire was the holder of the single-season home run record after Maris. He was scary dangerous as a rookie (he set the rookie home run record of 49, which held up for nearly three decades before Aaron Judge broke it), was one half of the "Bash Brothers" on Oakland's feared late-'80s teams, then got hurt a lot for a while. After this, he resurfaced in St. Louis where he broke the record. Almost immediately afterward, it was uncovered that he had used androstenedione, a legal but all-too-steroid-like performance-enhancing substance, an event which is generally considered the climax of the "Steroid Era". For years his reputation was ruined, but he slowly became an accepted member of the St. Louis sports community again after becoming the Cardinals' hitting coach. Most recently the bench coach for the Padres, but left after the 2018 season, citing family reasons.
  • Chipper Jones, during his 19-year career, was typically considered the best switch-hitter in the game and one of the best of all time. Among his many accolades, he's the only switch hitter to finish his career with a .300 batting average and over 400 homers. Plus the only switch hitter with 5,000 or more at bats with a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage, and .500 slugging percentage. And one of only two players with 5,000 or more at bats to have hit .300 from both sides of home plate, the other being Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch. And one of only two overall #1 draft picks to finish his career batting over .300 (along with Joe Mauer, in the "Catchers" folder of this page). He spent his entire career with the Atlanta Braves, at one point even re-working his contract with them so they would have more money to spend on other players. However, he was never that great of a power hitter, despite consistently putting up solid numbers over the past decade and a half. Given that he was hitting in the era of players such as Bonds, McGwire and later Pujols, he's basically a case of Overshadowed by Awesome. He retired at the end of the 2012 season, and was easily elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try in 2018, making him the second #1 overall pick in Cooperstown (preceded by Ken Griffey Jr., in the "Outfielders" folder of this page, and to be followed in 2019 by Harold Baines).
  • Jim Thomenote , who played for six teams in a 22-year career, most notably the Indians in the 1990s and the Phillies in the early 2000s, is something of a forgotten man in recent baseball history—despite being one of only nine players with 600 career homers. A big part of it was his personality. While universally considered one of the nicest individuals in sports, and also beloved everywhere he played (a Cleveland newspaper poll found him the most popular athlete in the city's history, though that was before LeBron came to town), he was noted for his reluctance to promote himself. One of the few power hitters of the steroid era who was never suspected of PED use. He last played in 2012, but didn't formally retire until 2014. Thome was elected to the Hall alongside Jones, also on his first try, in 2018.
  • David Ortiz (also known by his nickname "Big Papi") was a first baseman and designated hitter, first with the Minnesota Twins from 1997–2002 and most notably with the Boston Red Sox from 2003 until his retirement at the end of the 2016 season. Ortiz is the newest member of the 500-homer club, reaching the milestone in 2015. While he wasn't always the Bosox' best statistical player in any given season, he was certainly their most recognizable and famous player throughout his time in Boston, similar to Derek Jeter being the heart and soul of the Yankees. He's somewhat of a rarity among designated hitters in that he almost never played in the field- most American League teams, if they even employ a single full-time DH rather than rotating the position among several different players, will have them also play plenty of games (at least 20-30ish) as a non-DH. And with most of the other full-time DH's, they hardly ever play in the field either because they're really old, have suffered injuries that robbed their fielding ability but not their hitting, or both (Jim Thome, for example). While Ortiz retired just before turning 41, he never even played a substantial amount of games in the field even when he was younger (generally just no-DH games in National League stadiums), simply because he's an epically terrible fielder. Still, he was an amazing hitter, and his 50-homer season in 2006 remains the only 50 HR season by a Designated Hitter. In 2013, Ortiz won the World Series MVP Award for his excellent play during the championship games and the postseason as whole, including hitting a clutch grand slam during the 8th inning of Game 2 against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Big Papi went out in 2016 with a big bang, by several statistical measures having the most productive swan song for a hitter since at least Ted Williams' last season of 1960, and also setting new records for the most homers and RBI by a player in his final season.
  • Alex Rodriguez, best known for his tenure on with the New York Yankees, was baseball's highest-paid player from 2001, when he signed a 10-year, $250 million contract with the Texas Rangers, to 2014, when his salary was exceeded thanks to larger contracts given to Clayton Kershaw and Miguel Cabrera. A shortstop in the first half of his career with the Mariners and Rangers, he moved to third base upon being traded to the Yankees in 2004, as the Yankees already had Derek Jeter at shortstop. His status as one of the game's all-time greats has never been in any doubt; he was a prime MVP candidate every year from his age-21 season in 1996 to about 2010 (he won the award three times, and arguably should have won more), when age and injuries started to rob him of some of his skill. His large contract combined with the fact that he used performance-enhancing drugs several times throughout his career make him one of baseball's most passionately disliked figures. His most passionate haters are mostly fans of the Red Sox (for reasons including A) He's a Yankee, B) A failed trade that might have brought him to Boston instead of New York in 2003, and C) A number of in-game incidents, most notably slapping the ball out of Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove in the 2004 ALCS) or the Mariners (because he started in Seattle, then left after the 2000 season and signed the aforementioned massive contract). But even some Yankees fans hate him, for nebulous reasons ranging from "he's cold and distant" to "he hasn't played in a World Series" (not true after 2009) to "he doesn't deliver big hits when you need them" (an assertion not backed up by statistics), to opting out of his contract during the last game of the 2007 World Series (the Yankees weren't playing in it, having been eliminated in the first round of the postseason, but the timing still attracted lots of criticism) to sign a slightly bigger 10-year contract with the Yankees shortly after, to his late-career decline in production, among others. Known by his nickname "A-Rod", but prior to 2009 his lack of postseason performance led to detractors (including within the Yankees locker room) to call him "A-Fraud", and his admission in 2009 to having used steroids earlier in his career while playing for the Rangers inevitably led to him being called "A-Roid". Injuries slowed his production tremendously in his last few years, to the point where he was no longer considered an elite player. He was banned for the 2014 season due to allegedly obtaining (and using) large amounts of PEDs from Biogenesis, a now-closed South Florida "anti-aging clinic". While he had a bit of a resurgence in 2015, joining the 3,000-hit club and passing Willie Mays to go into fourth on the career home run list along the way, he struggled to produce the next season, leading the the Yankees benching and eventually cutting him from the team to make way for younger prospects (with one year on his contract left to go, this forced them to eat quite a bit of dead money). A-Rod played his last game as a Yankee in the middle of the 2016 season, and officially retired in 2017 (despite being only four home runs away from joining the 700-homer club) to work as a full-time baseball broadcaster.
  • Adrián Beltré was a third baseman who played for four teams in a 21-season career, retiring after the 2018 season. One of the longest-tenured players in baseball before his retirement, he came up with the Dodgers as a 19-year-old in 1998. Though he was generally well-regarded for his solid offense and great defense earlier in his career with the Dodgers, Mariners, and Red Sox, he didn't really hit his stride until he joined the Texas Rangers in 2011, and generally excelled for them for the rest of his career. Even with his ups-and-downs earlier in his career, he still has some very impressive career statistics, and he got his 3000th hit in 2017. Despite his impressive career statistics, he only has 4 all-star appearances, on account of his inconsistencies early in his career and having to share the spotlight with a lot of other great third basemen late in his career. He also never won an MVP award, although he was in contention for one a few times; notably, in 2004, his last year with the Dodgers, he put up numbers that would ordinarily be easily good enough to win the award, had Barry Bonds not been producing statistics that were utterly insane at the same time. A renowned bad-ball hitter, Beltré was frequently known to swing very hard at low pitches, sometimes falling on one knee during his follow-through while he hits the ball well over the fence. A very strong candidate for the Hall of Fame in 2024, he was also considered among the nicest and friendliest players in the game, and in his final years as a player was well known for his epic bromance with Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. Does not like being touched on the top of his head.

    Outfielders 

  • "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was a really good player for the White Sox until he got accused of helping out some gamblers during the 1919 World Series (the infamous "Black Sox" scandal). He was not one of the major figures in the scandal (he played exceptionally well in the game his teammates intentionally lost), but he was still banned for knowing about the incident and not reporting it (and taking the bribe money like his teammates), and was easily the most popular player to be banned. The phrase "Say it ain't so, Joe" is a reference to this incident, and occasionally comes up in Vice-Presidential debates every now and then.
  • Babe Ruthnote  was, for many years, recognized as the greatest player ever, and probably the most influential player ever. If you've only heard of one ballplayer, it's probably him. He was originally a pitcher, and awesome, but changed position when management determined he was even more awesome as an everyday position player—and absolutely glorious as a hitter. He basically invented the modern concept of power hitting, and was more or less the prototypical "fat power hitter" of the kind that populates today's outfields and first bases (he was even left-handed). He hit lots of home runs at a time when everybody else hit hardly any, which prompted baseball leaders to change the ball and thus lower the Difficulty Levels of hitting, leading largely to today's game. Was sold to the NY Yankees by the Boston Red Sox, which supposedly cursed the Sox to not win a World Series ever again (or at least until 2004). His records have since mostly been broken (but as any hardcore fan will point out, while Ruth's records have been broken by a collection of men, you must remember that they were all set by one). A great Boisterous Bruiser, he loved eating,note  drinking,note  womanizing,note  and general carousing, and he is subject of numerous tall tales about his sex and alcohol-related experiences; he was nevertheless noted for being a fundamentally decent, fun-loving guy who was good with kids. Was rumored to be partially black, which back in his day was a pretty big deal. He was once given a rather enormous contract which let him earn more than the President, in an era when people didn't think that was a good thing. His response: "I had a better year than he did." note 
  • Willie Mays, another name frequently cited as the best baseball player ever (even by other great players; Joe DiMaggio once claimed that although there was no such thing as a perfect ballplayer, Mays was the closest thing to it; and Mickey Mantle consistently maintained that Mays had the better career), was a center fielder who spent the majority of his career with the New York/San Francisco Giants. Mays excelled in all aspects of the game, including hitting for both power and average, and possessing great running speed and incredible defensive skills. He had 660 career home runs, fifth all-time behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Alex Rodriguez. Coincidentally, Mays is also Barry Bonds' godfather. Mays' most famous moment on the diamond was probably the incredible over-the-shoulder running catch he made in the 1954 World Series, a moment often cited as the single greatest defensive play in baseball history.
  • Mickey Mantle is another name that often comes up in greatest player ever debates. An incredible power hitter with lumberjack-like arms, Mantle was also once considered the fastest man in the sport, and one of its greatest fielders. He hit the longest documented home run in baseball history, which became the first homer to be known as a 'tape-measure' home run due to a team official (allegedly) using a tape measure to record its distance. Baseball historians agree that he almost certainly would have broken the career home run record had injuries not hampered him for a large part of his career; the bones of his particularly injury-prone left leg had been weakened by a case of osteomyelitis contracted playing football in his youth, and late in his rookie season, he suffered a serious injury to his right knee that was most likely a torn ACL (which couldn't have been repaired in his day). It should be noted that with all of his achievements, the first line on his Monument Park plaque reads "A great teammate", which Mantle was far more proud of than any other accomplishment. He was one of the most beloved of all Yankee greats, and one of the few Yankees to be well-liked by fans of other teams.
  • Ty Cobb was a superlative player in the early part of the 20th century, leading the American League in batting average twelve times. He held the all-time record for most career base hits until it was broken by Pete Rose, held the record for career stolen bases until it was broken by Lou Brock (and subsequently again by Rickey Henderson), and had a career batting average of .366, a record that still stands today. Despite that, he's also one of the least-liked figures in the game's history, largely because of some less-than-great behavior on his part. It was said he sharpened his spikes to injure opposing fielders. He once jumped into the stands to beat up a heckler who had no hands. Upon being told that the man had no hands, Cobb is reported to have said "I don't care if he has no feet!" In the years after his death, he was reputed to be a raging racist and overall violent man during his life. Despite this, had his own brand of Crazy Awesome, and his legacy has recently been subject to reappraisal and accusations of Historical Villain Upgrade from his biographers (in particular, his racism tempered considerably, to the point where he was an early endorser of integrated baseball); there's also been a lot of psychological analysis of his douchebaggery, some of which appears to have been the result of his father constantly hounding him for not being good enough, and part of which seems to be deep-seated anger issues that we would probably consider mental health problems today. In 2017, his name became more prominent in the news when an identically-named distant relative (not a direct descendant) became a prominent member of the White House legal team for Donald Trump.
  • Ted Williams is one of the best hitters in history, and was the last person to have a batting average (hits divided by at-bats) of over .400 in a season, batting .406 in 1941. (No player since 2000 has hit over .372, and no player since that time who had enough at-bats to qualify for a league title has had a .400 average at any point after late May.) Well loved in Boston (where he played) and San Diego (where he was from), and there are highways named for him in both cities. After he died in 2002, he received a lot of media attention over the bizarre battle that took place within his surviving family; his son and daughter claimed that the three of them were to be cryogenically frozen together. At Fenway Park, there is a single seat in the right field bleachers painted red to mark the landing spot of one of his home runs, the longest in the park's history. The home run ball actually hit the guy sitting in the seat while he was taking a nap, and broke his straw hat. Hit a homerun in the last at-bat of his career. Oh yeah, and he had his incredible career while serving his country twice (WWII & Korea) as a combat pilot in the United States goddamn Marines. He was somewhat of an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy with an almost unhealthy focus on just being the best hitter in history (Mickey Mantle had a story of trying to have an ordinary conversation with Williams, but Williams was only interested in talking about hitting styles), and had a reputation of seemingly not appreciating the fans (he held a serious grudge against them and the local media for booing him and saying less than pleasant things early in his career). He did get over it though, with a truly heartwarming moment at the 1999 All-Star Game where he tipped his cap to the Fenway crowd, an act he had refused to do almost his entire playing career. In his Hall of Fame induction speech he called for Negro League greats to be inducted into the Hall, regardless of whether they had met the "10 years in the majors" rule since many failed that standard solely because Major League Baseball had been segregated.
  • Stan "The Man" Musial played his entire career for the St. Louis Cardinals and is considered not only the greatest Cardinal of all time, but also one of the greatest men ever to play the game. Not just as a player, but as a person. He was a 3-time MVP, 3-time World Series Champion, 24-time All-Star, and had a .331 lifetime batting average, 3,630 hits, 475 home runs, and 1,951 RBIs, but he also gave away more autographs than any other player and became an iconic civic figure in the city of St. Louis. He was so nice and kind—he cheered up everyone he met (from sick children in hospitals to ordinary adults) and aged into a Cool Old Guy with a harmonica—that he verges into Boring Invincible Hero territory, but in the best way possible (like a Real Life Superman or Captain America—he was just that good). A proud son of Polish (father) and Rusynnote  (mother) immigrants, he made trips to Poland to help popularize baseball there, and became good friends with Pope John Paul II in the process; they eventually named a stadium after him and gave him Poland's highest civilian honor. He was just about the best and least-controversial example of a Sacred Cow there ever was. Hank Aaron has said of him, "I didn't just like Stan Musial. I wanted to be like him." Even Ty Cobb said that Stan was the closest there'd be to a perfect player. Oh, and he once found out on a family trip that he had fans in Australia and Tahiti. Stan the Man ranks among the greatest of the greats, but he's not often talked about because he was never a Yankee or a Dodger. In fact, sportswriter Jayson Stark wrote in 2007, "I can't think of any all-time great in any sport who gets left out of more who's-the-greatest conversations than Stan Musial." But when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969, then-Commissioner Ford Frick said, "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight." Those words were etched into The Man's statue at Busch Stadium, which has been covered in flowers and memorabilia since he passed away on January 19, 2013, at age 92. Before his death, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.'s highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama in December 2011, thanks to a grassroots petition campaign conducted by members of Cardinal Nation.note 
  • Joe DiMaggio was a graceful centerfielder and one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, having recorded at least one hit in 56 consecutive games (bearing in mind that hitters who succeed 33% of the time are phenomenal). He was nicknamed "Joltin' Joe" and also "The Yankee Clipper" (he spent his entire career with the NY Yankees). No one has come close to his record in 60 years; when a hitter reaches about 30 consecutive games he begins to get serious media attention. Also extremely famous for marrying Marilyn Monroe and having a nation turn its lonely eyes to him in a Simon & Garfunkel song. And, later, for endorsing Mr. Coffee.
  • Roger Maris was a relatively obscure player who was good for a few years and who most everybody today would have forgotten about, if not for this one season where he got really lucky and broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, which stood for 37 years. note 
  • Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career home run record. Being African-American, he quite naturally had to deal with a little bit of intolerance as he approached the record. However, Aaron holds many records such as Total Bases earned, a record he is particularly proud of since he considers it more indicative of how much he contributed for his team. He also holds the career record for runs batted in with 2,297, and had 3,771 total hits. (Anyone who gets close to 3,000 is considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.) Aaron was a model of consistency; he never hit 50 homers in a season, but he hit 40 or more eight times, 30 or more 15 times, and had a streak of 19 straight years in which he hit at least 24 homers. He is one of the leading candidates for the title of best baseball player ever.
  • Roberto Clemente was one of the sport's first Latin American stars. He spent his entire 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and over the course of that career, he became a 15-time all-star, got exactly 3,000 hits, was a part of two teams that won the World Series, and became known as one of the best defensive right fielders of all time. Well-respected for his skills at the game, he was also well-respected for his humanitarian deeds, frequently working in charities in Latin American countries. Sadly, he and his career met an untimely end in 1972, when he was in a plane crash on his way to deliver aid to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. After his death, the league named an award after him, which is awarded each year to the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team"—generally a player who both plays the game well and gets involved in charities, like Clemente. He was also promptly inducted into the Hall of Fame, setting a precedent that the 5-year retirement period rule does not apply to deceased players.note  Is the subject of two different campaigns advocating him for a) league-wide retirement of the number 21, and b) sainthood.
  • Curt Flood was a defensive center fielder who played for the St. Louis Cardinals. However, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, he vehemently did not want to go there, so he refused to report, then wrote a letter to MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn requesting to be made a free agent, in circumvention of the league's Reserve Clause (which said that the team that a player played for keeps his rights, meaning that he could not sign with another team even after his contract expired). When Kuhn refused, Flood sued under the Sherman Antitrust Act for the right to be a free agent. His case went to the Supreme Court, where Flood was denied the right (in an opinion penned by baseball aficionado Justice Harry Blackmun, which opened with a seven-page essay on how awesome baseball is and how many great players had been screwed by the Reserve Clause, but went on to say, in effect, "MLB has gotten some special exceptions under the Sherman Act in the past that apply to the Reserve Clause, and we're not in a position to change them at this time; sorry."). Flood's rather ill-advised comparison of the Reserve Clause to slavery probably didn't help. However, Flood's action strengthened the Major League Baseball Players Association such that the reserve clause would be struck down in 1975, creating the "free agency" era in Major League Baseball.
  • Jose Canseco was the other half of the "Bash Brothers" (along with Mark McGwire) who was for a while one of baseball's most notorious and disliked figures. After his career, he wrote a book called Juiced where he not only admitted that he used steroids during his career, but also "outed" a number of prominent players as steroid users. However, sportswriters and baseball experts regard him as a shameless scandal-monger who merely lobbied blind accusations at players who he suspected might have been "juicing" and by chance happened to be right about a few. (Mark McGwire, for instance, admits to using steroids, but flatly denies Canseco's account of events.) During Canseco's career, he was known for his speed and power; in 1988, the year he won the MVP award, he became the first player to both hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season (Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano have since accomplished the same feat). On the other hand, he was commonly lampooned for his defense; he once had a ball bounce off his head for a home run, a mainstay of "blooper" reels. In recent years, he has occasionally made headlines for various other reasons, most notably for a few reality show appearances and for accidentally shooting off one of his fingers while cleaning a gun. He wrote a second book, Vindicated, but a third book that he'd teased would reveal a "juicer" already in the Hall of Fame does not seem to have materialized.
  • Kirby Puckett joins Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente in baseball's pantheon of players whose career was cut brutally short. One of the most productive and popular stars in Major League Baseball from 1984 until 1995, Puckett was a stalwart presence in the Twins dugout. Most nationally famous for winning Game Six of the 1991 World Series (the second of his two World Series rings) with a walk-off home run against Charlie Leibrandt. Puckett was one of the few good things going for the Twins from 1992 until 1995. During the preseason of the 1996 baseball season, Puckett woke up without vision in his right eye - he would eventually lose the eye and be forced to retire from baseball. He was a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame in the Class of 2000, shortly before a series of low-level incidents and a bitter divorce, unfortunately, tainted his name in Minnesota and forced him to leave for Arizona to get away from the cloud of media suspicion. Puckett died in 2005 of a hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Rickey Henderson, as mentioned above, holds the major league record for both career stolen bases and stolen bases in a single season. He also holds the records for career runs scored (2,295) and unintentional walks (2,129), and is among the few players in baseball history to amass 3,000 hits. All of these skills combined to make him not only arguably the best leadoff hitter of all time, but one of the greatest all around players of all timenote . Though he's often cast as a singles hitter like most leadoff hitters, he had a decent amount of power, too, sometimes hitting as many as 28 home runs, a large total for a leadoff hitter, especially one who played most of his career in the pitcher's era of the 1980's. He played for 25 years and for a lot of teams, but is best remembered for his 5 years with the Yankees and many stints with the Athletics, with whom he won one of his World Series rings in 1989 and his only MVP Award in 1990. Also known for being extremely eccentric, in particular for his Third-Person Person tendencies.
    • As of 2017, the A's have named the field at the Oakland Coliseum after him, which goes to show how iconic he is, not just as an Athletic, but as a player in general.
  • Tony Gwynn was an outfielder who played his entire 20-year career with the San Diego Padres. Known as an intense student of hitting—he was one of the first players to use video to analyze his swing—he became a member of the 3,000 hit club, his career .338 batting average is the highest among players who began their careers after World War II, and his eight NL batting titles are tied with Honus Wagner for the most all-time. Gwynn's .394 batting average in 1994 was the closest any player has come to hitting .400 since Ted Williams in 1941. Gwynn also played in 15 All-Star Games and won five Gold Gloves, and was elected alongside Ripken to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. In 2003, he became the head baseball coach at his alma mater of San Diego State (where he had played both baseball and basketball) and served in that role (as well as part-time gigs on the side with ESPN and Yahoo! Sports) until dying of cancer in 2014.
  • Ken Griffey (Jr.) was one of the best (arguably the best) players of The '90s. Well-marketed (even having his own series of baseball games made by Nintendo for the SNES and the Nintendo 64) and excelling in all facets of the game, he led the previously pathetic Seattle Mariners out of obscurity and enjoyed tremendous popularity. He's also the first of two players in history (Tim Raines Jr. joining him in 2001) to play on the same team with his father (of the same name), who was a successful if not Hall-of-Fame caliber outfielder. After many good years with the Mariners, he requested a move to his hometown Cincinnati Reds,note  where he would mostly spend the next nine years and last years of baseball injuring his hamstring. Still, he became the 6th player to hit 600 home runs (and, some argue, the first since Hank Aaron to do so legitimately, since the 4th and 5th [Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, respectively- see below] were both linked to performance-enhancing drugs). Elected to the Hall of Fame at his first chance in 2016, getting what was then the highest percentage of votes ever from the writers. Despite having a prodigious Hall of Fame career, many fans consider there to be an element of What Could Have Been to his career, because for years he seemed destined to break Aaron's all-time home run record, and if not for constant injuries nagging him for those seasons on the Reds he may well have done so. (His time in Seattle may have been part of the problem—the Kingdome, where the M's then played, was infamous for its concrete-hard artificial turf.) May have had the most beautiful swing in history during his prime. One darker and lesser-known fact about Junior is that he has on occasion been an advocate for suicide/depression awareness, himself having attempted suicide (and nearly succeeding) early in his minor league career.
  • Sammy Sosa was the right fielder for the Chicago Cubs for most of the 90's and early 00's. He was a pretty good player at the start of his career, excelling at most aspects of the game, but then in 1998, he suddenly went from good to otherworldly, becoming one of the best home run hitters in a time filled with them. He and Mark McGwire both chased Maris's home run record that year, and both ultimately broke it, but McGwire broke it first and broke it by more, hitting 70 home runs to Sosa's 66, although Sammy did set a record for the most home runs in a single month with 20 in June. Sosa remained among the best power hitters in the game for the next few years, hitting 292 home runs from 1998 to 2002 (by quite a bit, the highest number in the major leagues over that period) including 3 60-home run seasons (making him the only player in history to accomplish that feat 3 times). His stats declined and his reputation started to sour a bit after that, though- in 2003, he was suspended for using a corked bat, and like most other power hitters of the time, he was long the subject of steroid rumors for his enormous physique and incredible number of home runs. His comments at a congressional hearing in 2005 asking him about steroid use certainly didn't help his cause (he claimed he didn't speak English in response to a question, which, given that he'd spoken it fairly regularly to teammates and reporters over his career, clearly wasn't the case). After he retired, he was reported to have been on a list of players testing positive for PEDs in 2003, and so in spite of his impressive career and his being one of only nine players to hit 600 home runs, he's been unable to get much support for induction to the Hall of Fame.
  • Barry Bonds, a former San Francisco Giant, considered one of the best all-around players in baseball history. He holds the record for both the single-season and career record for home runs, which is even more impressive when you consider that he also holds the career records for both walks and intentional walks. He has won 7 MVP awards, more than any other player (his closest competitor in this department has 3). Despite the fact that he holds these feats, he failed to gain entry to the Hall of Fame when first eligible, receiving only 34% of the vote. Why? Steroids. Bonds was one of the central figures in the performance-enhancing drug scandals that rocked baseball in The '90s and early 00s, going from a wiry rookie as a Pittsburgh Pirate to an imposing hulk in his later years. While PEDs were widely used throughout MLB, even before the "Steroid Era", Bonds has become the face of the scandal, aided by his frigid relationship with the media. Despite his tarnished legacy and the inability of any of his teams to win a World Series, Bonds remains the owner of some of baseball's most cherished records, and simply the most dominant player of his generation.
    • Perhaps the most illustrative example of Barry Bonds' general ridiculousness is that he is the only member of the 500-500 club - players with 500+ career home runs and stolen bases. For that matter, he's the only one who even has 400 of both home runs and stolen bases, and one of just 6 with 300 of one and 400 of the other (his father, Bobby Bonds, himself a great all-around player, is the only other player with 300 homers and 400 stolen bases; the four other players with 400 homers and 300 steals are Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, and Carlos Beltrán).
    • Bonds drew so much attention for his alleged PED use in large part because of the absurd nature of some of his performances; his 2001-2004 seasons are not only regarded as some of the greatest in the history of the game, Bonds, in some ways, fundamentally altered the game he was playing in. There's an old saying that even the best MLB hitters fail far more often than they succeed; Bonds, in 2004, put up a .604 on-base percentage, meaning he successfully reached base in more than 60 percent of his plate appearances.
    • After a long absence from baseball, Bonds returned to the sport full-time at the end of 2015, as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. He lasted only one season until being let go for unspecified reasons at the end of the 2016 season; he then returned to the Giants in a front-office role, before working as a color commentator for Fox Sports.
  • Vladimir Guerrero played for 16 years, mostly for the Expos and the Angels. During his prime, he was considered one of the most feared hitters in baseball, usually hitting for both high average and power. He had a 10-year streak in which he hit at least .300 with 27 home runs and a .900 OPS, and at least 100 RBIs in every season except for one that was shortened by injury. He never hit lower than .290. In 2004, his first year with the Angels, he hit .337 with 39 homers and 136 RBIs and won the AL MVP. He also was a decent base-stealer early in his career, and came just one home run short of the 40-40 club (40 home runs, 40 steals) in 2002. He was also famed as one of baseball's best "bad-ball hitters"; that is, he frequently swung at and got hits off of balls thrown well outside the strike zone—he once even got a hit off a curveball that bounced in the dirt. He narrowly missed out on Hall of Fame election at his first try in 2017, but easily got in the next year. His son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., currently plays in the Toronto Blue Jays' minor league system, and has gained acclaim for his incredible hitting performances, even though he hasn't actually played a game in the major leagues yet.
  • Ichiro Suzuki, an outfielder who was most famous during his time with the Mariners but also played for the Yankees and Marlins, is the first Japanese position player (i.e., non-pitcher) to have a protracted, successful career in the American majors. After many years of being one of the NPB's biggest stars, including 3 MVP awards, he came to America in 2001, signing a contract with the Mariners. He immediately became one of Major League Baseball's best players, hitting .350 and stealing 56 bases that year, helping the Mariners win a record-tying 116 regular-season games, and winning both the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards. He continued to play at an elite level for the next decade, with a record 10 straight seasons with at least 200 hits from 2001 to 2010. In 2004, his best season, he collected 262 hits, breaking the major league record for hits in a single season. He went into a steady age-related decline from 2011 on, going from perennial all-star to okay player to backup outfielder, but was still good enough to play in the big leagues despite his age. By the end of his playing career, he was the oldest position player in the major leagues by around 5 years, and he long stated that he wanted to keep playing until at least 50. He rejoined the Mariners in 2018 after spending the previous five and a half years elsewhere, but got off to a fairly bad start and moved from the field to the front office in May, though he hadn't yet officially retired. That would come after the second game of the M's 2019 season-opening series in Tokyo. Ichiro had been signed to a minor-league contract and placed on the active roster for the Tokyo series.note  He is well-known for his unusual hitting style–rather than try to always hit the ball as hard as he can, Ichiro preferred to "slap" the ball into gaps, trying mainly to hit balls wherever no fielder is standing. Despite not appearing in the majors until he was 27, he reached 3,000 MLB hits while playing for the Marlins in 2016, even though by then he was no longer a regular starter due to age-related decline. If you combine the 1200+ hits that he got in Japan with his MLB totals, he has more hits than Pete Rose, leading to an intense debate over whether Ichiro should be considered baseball's hit king instead of Rose. Ichiro is considered a lock for the Hall of Fame once he becomes eligible in 2025. He is also an apparent victim of Memetic Mutation.

    Catchers 

  • Josh Gibson was one of the greatest players of all time, and arguably the greatest catcher of all time. Unfortunately, on account of being black, he never got the chance to play in the majors at all, playing his entire career before the league was integrated in 1947, tragically dying of a stroke a few months before the 1947 season started, at the age of 35. His prodigious power led to him being called "The Black Babe Ruth"—although some said (and Ruth himself is reported to have been willing to admit) that Ruth should have been called "the White Josh Gibson." Like Babe Ruth, he hit a huge number of home runs- it's hard to say exactly how many because of the sketchiness of Negro Leagues records and the large number of unofficial games Negro League teams tended to play, but some sources credit him with as many as 800, which would be more than any Major League player ever hit. He was the subject of numerous tall tales about his power, the most famous being that he once hit a home run in Pittsburgh note  that came down in another city (usually Philadelphia) the following day, in another ballpark, in a game that Gibson was playing against the same team. It was caught by an outfielder, leading the umpire to exclaim, "You're out, yesterday in Pittsburgh!"
  • Yogi Berranote  was the catcher on the great Yankees teams of the late '40s through early '60s, with his 10 World Series rings being the most out of any player in history. Despite being one of history's greatest catchers both defensively and offensively (for one thing, he was an excellent "bad-ball hitter" who could hammer even pitches thrown well out of the zone, making him notoriously difficult to strike out), he is mostly known today as one of the funniest Cloudcuckoolanders ever. He was once complimented by a female reporter: "You look cool out there, Yogi." "Thanks, you don't look so hot yourself!" He said of a restaurant in his native St. Louis, "Nobody goes to that place anymore. It's too crowded." There are many other examples; of course, he also said "I didn't really say everything I said." Yogi also enjoyed some success as a manager, leading the 1964 Yankees and 1973 Mets to the World Series (though both teams lost). Though it may seem obvious that Yogi Bear was named after him, Hanna-Barbera always maintained the notion that this was coincidental. Passed away on September 22, 2015 at the age of 90.
  • Johnny Bench is a Hall of Fame catcher who spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds, most notably during the team's Big Red Machine era of the 1970s, and named by ESPN as the greatest ever at that position. He came up to the majors in late 1967; although he got off to a slow offensive start, he impressed everyone with his defense and throwing ability, with none other than Ted Williams predicting he would be "a Hall of Famer for sure!" In his rookie season of 1968, he became the first rookie ever to win the NL Gold Glove for catchers, and the first catcher ever to be named NL Rookie of the Year. Two years later, he became the youngest-ever NL MVP, an award he won again in 1972. Bench went on to win 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, make 14 All-Star teams, and hit the most homers ever by a catcher (a record since surpassed by Carlton Fisk and later Mike Piazza). He stopped regularly catching after the 1980 season, playing his last three seasons at first or third until retiring in 1983. Williams' prediction came true, as Bench was easily elected to the Hall of Fame at his first chance in 1989. Bench is also notable for popularizing the hinged catcher's mitt (though he wasn't the first player to use it), which is now standard equipment for the position.
  • Carlton Fisk is another Hall of Fame catcher, born in the same month as Bench (December 1947). A New England native, he had cups of coffee with the Red Sox in 1969 and 1971 before coming up to stay in 1972. In that season, he followed in Bench's footsteps by winning AL Gold Glove and Rookie of the Year honors (though without Bench's added milestones). He suffered a knee injury in 1974 so severe that doctors told him he'd never come back. He proved them wrong, coming back the next year to hit .331 for the pennant-winning Bosox. That season saw Fisk end perhaps the most famous game in World Series history with his iconic "stay fair" walk-off homer in the 12th inning of Game 6... though the Series would go to Bench's Reds. After seven All-Star appearances with Boston, he had something of a falling-out with the team's general manager, and left as a free agent after the 1980 season when the GM missed a deadline to send him a new contract. Fisk joined the White Sox, where he would play for 13 seasons (longer than he did in Boston), making four more All-Star rosters. He ended his career with the most homers ever as a catcher (since surpassed by Piazza) and the most games ever played at the position (a record now held by Iván Rodríguez). Fisk entered Cooperstown on his second try in 2000.
  • Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, the longtime backstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, is generally considered the best offensive player in the history of his position. Piazza was an extremely late-round draft picknote  - even that much only, famously, a favor to his godfather, then-Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda - and had to learn his position on the fly as a professional. His excellent contact rate and opposite field power nonetheless shot him through the Dodgers' system and he debuted in September of 1992, winning rookie of the year honors the next year. His best season came in 1997 with a ridiculous .362/.431/.638 triple slash line, but with his contract due the next season the new Dodgers ownership gave a lowball offer and, on his refusal, dealt him to the then-Florida Marlins in a salary dump. One week later, the notoriously cheap Marlins sent Piazza to the Mets, then in surprise playoff contention, for several prospects. The Piazza-led Mets reached the playoffs in 1999 and 2000 with several near-misses thereafter, while interleague play brought his famous showdowns with then-Yankee Roger Clemens, who by most accounts resorted to just hitting him when pitching failed to work. Late in the 2001 season, Piazza famously hit a dramatic home run to left center in the first major league game played after the September 11 terrorist attacks, remaining the signature hit of his career (the rest of September did not go so well for his team, alas). Although his defensive reputation was a punchline for much of his career as he was historically poor at throwing out base stealers, Piazza's defense has been surprisingly Vindicated by History. Repeated studies of pitch framing - catching a pitch specifically to show it as a strike - showed him as one of the best catchers of his era at the skill. He probably would like you to know that he only dates women.
  • Joe Mauer retired during the 2018 offseason after spending his entire 15-season MLB career with the Minnesota Twins. He's considered one of the best-hitting catchers in MLB history, having led the American League in batting average 3 times (2006, 2008, 2009), the most batting titles won by any catcher—in fact, it's just one fewer than the total number of batting titles won by every catcher in history who isn't Joe Mauer. He also won the 2009 AL MVP, a year when he had one of the best seasons any catcher has ever had at the plate, including the highest batting average by any catcher in the modern era (.365). He was often thought of as the second-best player in baseball (after Albert Pujols) when he was in his mid-20s. Due to injuries sustained from catching, the Twins moved him to playing full-time first base in 2014; unfortunately, he was a shell of his former self ever since he went down with a concussion in 2013, although he enjoyed something of a resurgence since 2017. However, he missed more than 30 games after another concussion in 2018, and in the end decided to call it a career. The Twins, anticipating his retirement, treated their final game in 2018 (which was at home) as a farewell to Mauer—capped off by moving him to catcher to start the 9th inning (he was subbed out after one pitch). He ended his career as one of only two overall #1 draft picks to hit over .300 for a career, with Chipper Jones as the other. Mauer is also the 22nd MVP to have played a career of 15 or more seasons with only one team. The 21 who preceded him are all in the Hall of Fame. Also notable for being something of a hometown hero, as he grew up in the Twin Cities. Was one of the most marketable players in his prime, having been in commercials for Head & Shoulders and Sony's MLB The Show series. Well played, Mauer.

    Pitchers 

  • Cy Young was a pitcher in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who was so awesome, baseball eventually named their top award for pitchers after him. Holds the record for career wins with 511, which is literally in "will never be broken" territory due to differences in the way baseball is played today (Young pitched every third or fourth game or so, which would be unacceptable to today's players)note 
  • Christy Mathewson was, like Honus Wagner, a Pennsylvania working-class boy who achieved great fame in the early 1900's, although in his case it was as a pitcher with the New York Giants. Also like Wagner, Mathewson was a very kind and polite man off the field, noted for his devoutness (he refused to play on Sundaysnote  and one of his nicknames was "the Christian Gentleman"). On the field, he was a devastating pitcher, and the first major leaguer to use what is now called the "screwball"—a breaking pitch that breaks the opposite of the pitcher's other breaking pitches (Mathewson himself called it a "fadeaway;" legend has it that he learned it from the Black pitcher Rube Foster, who also called it that). He was one of the first wholesome "all-American" baseball stars, and his appearance in baseball in 1900 was one of several around that time convincing Americans that baseball was no longer the sport of ruffians it had been in the 1890s. Mathewson's pitching carried the Giants to many wins for nearly 20 years, but in World War I he joined the military, where he was a captain in the Chemical Warfare Service (serving, incidentally, alongside Ty Cobb)—and was exposed to poison gas in a training accident. Mathewson had to quit baseball, and although he tried to make himself useful where he could (he served on the team that investigated the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal), the gas got the better of him in the end; his weakened respiratory system was vulnerable to tuberculosis, and he caught the disease, dying of it in 1925. Eleven years later, he was one of the first five men to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the only one of the five inducted posthumously.
  • Walter Johnson was a pitcher who spent his entire career with the original Washington Senators during the early 1900's. As this was the dead-ball era, his low-90's fastball, which would be considered fairly average today, made him one of the best power pitchers in the game at the time- or at least, what could be considered "power pitchers" in the dead-ball era. And he certainly had success- his 417 career wins are second only to Cy Young's 511, and his ERA regularly went below 2.00 (his career ERA is 2.17). His major league record of 110 shutouts still stands today and is considered unbreakable. He also was the first (and for a long time, only) pitcher to get at least 3,000 career strikeouts, and he held the major league record with 3,509 until 1983, when it was broken by Nolan Ryan (and, later in the same year, by Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry). His long list of accomplishments led to him being one of the five players inducted into the Hall of Fame in its first year of existence, although he's since become much more obscure, largely due to the fact that the Senators were generally terrible while he played there (and for the entirety of their 60 years in Washington, for that matter).
  • Satchel Paige is widely considered one of the greatest pitchers ever. Unfortunately, he was also black, which meant he couldn't play in the Majors until 1948, when he was in his 40s (probably). He was still pretty good at this age, though, considering his team was the first integrated team to win the World Series. Was coaxed out of retirement to pitch one game at 59 (not a misprint), went three scoreless innings. One of the two biggest stars of the Negro Leagues, Paige was known for being extremely cocky, though he almost never failed to back it up. On barnstorming tours, he would have his infielders sit down behind him and then he would strike out the side. Supposedly, Paige once intentionally walked the bases loaded in a playoff game (records of Negro League games are somewhat sketchy) just to set up a confrontation with the other big star of the Negro Leagues, slugger Josh Gibson, and responded by striking Gibson out to clinch the championship. He expressed resentment at the time that Jackie Robinson was the one chosen to break the Majors' color line and not himself, though he later conceded that Robinson was probably the right choice. Well-known for pithy sayings, the most famous being "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you."
  • Bob Feller was a Hall of Fame pitcher who spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians, interrupted by a three-year stint in the Navy during World War II. He burst onto the national scene as a 17-year-old in 1936, making it to the Indians without ever playing a game in the minors, striking out 15 in his very first start, and a then-record-tying 17 later that season, making him the first pitcher to strike out a number of batters equal to his age in a major league game, a feat which was equaled in 1998 when a 20-year-old Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters. The next season, he made the cover of Time magazine, and his high school graduation in Iowa (he was able to attend because he was recovering from an injury) was nationally broadcast on radio. In 1938, he set what was then a single-game record with 18 strikeouts, and went on to throw three no-hitters (a record until Sandy Koufax and later Nolan Ryan came along) and 12 one-hitters (still a record, now shared with Ryan) and win 266 games (he would likely have won 300 if not for the war). Probably the hardest thrower of his day, and possibly measuring up with later flamethrowers such as Ryan and Aroldis Chapman. After his playing career, he became the first president of the players' union. He entered Cooperstown at his first chance in 1962.
  • Warren Spahn was a Hall of Fame pitcher who spent almost all of his 21-season MLB career with the Braves, first in Boston and then in Milwaukee. A "thinking man's" pitcher, perhaps his most famous remark about his craft was, "Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing." He first came up in 1942, but was quickly sent down by manager Casey Stengel, who years later considered that his biggest managing mistake. At the end of that season, he enlisted in the Army, returning to the Braves after the war. The next year he won 20 games, a feat he would accomplish 12 more times, leading the NL in wins eight times. Spahn also led the NL three times in ERA and four times in strikeouts, and appeared in 14 All-Star Games, the most of any 20th-century pitcher. By the end of his career, his longevity had become something of a byword in the game. Ironically, after 20 seasons with the Braves, he would be briefly reunited with Stengel in 1965, who by that time had become manager of the memetically bad Mets after an epically successful stint with the Yankees; Spahn would say about that, "I'm probably the only guy who played for Casey before and after he was a genius." Moving to the Giants later in that season, he would retire at its end. Spahn's 363 career wins are the most for any left-hander in history, and also the most among pitchers who spent their entire careers in the post-1920 live-ball era. He also tops all live-ball pitchers in career complete games and shutouts. Was immortalized in a poem written in 1948 by Boston post editor Gerald V. Hern along with his teammate Johnny Sain (himself a pretty good pitcher in the late 40's), which is often condensed as "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain," referring to the excellent performance of the two as the Braves chased the NL pennant that year, specifically a period in September featuring a couple of rainouts in which Spahn and Sain combined to win 8 games in 12 days. The "pray for rain" part of the poem comes from the rest of the Braves' staff at the time being... considerably less good than those two, and the poem is often referenced if a team has two very good starting pitchers at the front of their rotation but not much talent backing them up.
  • Bob Gibson was one of the most dominant pitchers of all time. A 9-time All-Star and first-ballot Hall of Famer, Gibson won nine Gold Gloves, two Cy Young awards, pitched one no-hitter, set records with 35 strikeouts in a World Series and 17 K's in a single World Series game, threw 255 complete games, and holds the single-season record for ERA with a 1.12 mark set in 1968. In fact Gibson's 1968 performance (combined with other dominant pitching performances that year) changed the game of baseball, by leading Major League Baseball to lower the mound by five inches and reduce the size of the strike zone. Gibson was also famous for his fierce intensity on the mound, and earned a reputation for knocking down and hitting batters (102). In addition to his pitching, Gibson also possessed great skill with the bat, and is one of only two pitchers since WWII with a career line of a .200+ batting average, 20 or more home runs, and over 100 runs batted in. He also played for the Harlem Globetrotters before turning to baseball full-time.
  • Sandy Koufax is widely held to be one of the finest pitchers in the history of the game, despite having serious control difficulties in his early career. He actually was far more interested in basketball than he ever was in his own sport, and had it not been for the fact that he could throw a 100-mile-an-hour fastball, might have ended up in that sport than baseball. He is said to have studied the "art and science" of pitching, to the point that he became one of the finest technicians in that position in the game. Mickey Mantle once pointed out that Koufax always signaled his pitches before his windup. "If Koufax was going to throw you a fast ball, his elbows would be out away from his body; if it was gonna be a curve, his elbows would be in close to his body. Every batter who ever faced Koufax knew precisely what he was about to get, but it didn't matter because the pitches were so good you couldn't hit them anyways." He was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award three times—and did so in an era when there was only one Cy Young winner for all of MLB.note  Koufax was also the first to pitch four no-hitters, and the eighth pitcher in MLB to pitch a perfect game. He had a higher career strikeout total than a career innings-pitched total, the first starting pitcher to accomplish that feat with a minimum of 1000 innings pitched. (Among players who played most of their career before the 2010s, the only other starters to achieve that are Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martínez. Many relief pitchers have done this over short periods, but the only ones to do that while meeting the 1000-inning minimum are Trevor Hoffman and Kerry Wood. In recent years, with the rise of strikeout rates, the feat has become much more commonplace.) He left the game when he was only 30 due to arthritis in his left (throwing) elbow, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame five years later (becoming the youngest player ever so honored).
  • Tommy John pitched for numerous teams for a long time, achieving his greatest success with the Dodgers and Yankees. Though he's somewhat remembered for his pitching, he's far better remembered for the elbow surgery now named after him that he was the first patient of. In the middle of the 1974 season, he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm, making pitching effectively impossible; at the time, the injury was considered career-ending. Not willing to let his career end like this, he spent the next few months working with one of the Dodgers' team doctors, Frank Jobe, attempting a comeback. After exhausting several other options, they decided to replace the ligament with a tendon from his other arm, the procedure that would later be known as "Tommy John surgery". At the time, Jobe thought that the odds of a comeback were about 1 in 100, but it worked great; far better than he could have ever expected, in fact. John was able to return to pitching in 1976, and would continue pitching until 1989, never being bothered by the elbow again. His career numbers from both before and after the surgery include having won 288 games and having pitched for Twenty-Six seasons—a major league record, until Nolan Ryan broke it a few years later. Now, the surgery is fairly commonplace, in both baseball and other sports, but especially for baseball and even more so for pitchers; about 1 in 4 of currently active pitchers have had the surgery at least once, a few more than once.
  • Bert Blyleven is a Hall of Fame pitcher born in the Netherlandsnote  but raised in Southern California, known for his devastating breaking ball and long, productive career. A member of the 3000 Strikeout Club, his career spanned over two decades and included two World Series rings (with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979 and the Minnesota Twins in 1987). He was an inveterate dugout prankster (teammate Kirby Puckett noted that he would crawl under the bench to light somebody's shoelaces on fire - and this was BEFORE Major League Baseball banned chewing tobacco) and overall loose cannon. Currently the color commentator for the Twins.
    • Blyleven's post-playing career is notable in part for the path the pitcher took to Cooperstown. He received precious little Hall of Fame support in his first several years on the ballot. Internet baseball fans took up his cause and relentlessly, tirelessly advocated on his behalf, writing countless blog posts and emails to voters. This, along with the facts that many more recent pitchers being under a cloud of suspicion for alleged or admitted use of steroids and HGH and new approaches to statistical analysis steadily revealing that Blyleven had a much more dominating career than he had been given credit for, made the tide turn in Bert's favor. Blyleven's eventual election is almost certainly the first in baseball history attributable largely to the Internet.
  • Nolan Ryan, aka "The Ryan Express", was a pitcher who played for four different teams. One of the first pitchers to be documented throwing at 100 miles an hour, he first became famous for putting up ridiculous strikeout numbers and later became famous for having been around forever, as he played for a record 27 seasons. He holds numerous pitching records (most famously, strikeouts in a career, strikeouts in a season, no-hit games in a career) that are widely considered to be in "will never be broken" territory, as well as others (bases on balls, hit batters, wild pitches) that he probably wishes would be broken. Needless to say, had some control problems, and is often regarded by detractors as a flashy .500 pitcher. He is also famous for beating up Robin Ventura, when the latter charged the mound. (Ryan was age 46 at the time.) He became president of the Texas Rangers in 2008 and part-owner in 2010; he committed himself to making the team a contender, and did a pretty good job of itnote . He had something of a falling out with other members of the Rangers' leadership in 2013 and sold his stake in the team, jumping ship to the Astros; the Rangers ended up completely collapsing on account of a ridiculous number of injuries in his absence.
  • Roger Clemens pioneered the modern concept of the "power pitcher" with the Red Sox in the 1980s. Nicknamed "The Rocket", Clemens threw harder than almost anyone else at the time, and had a dominant, macho personality that intimidated hitters and made him almost synonymous with Boston at the time. Clemens set a then-record in 1986 by striking out 20 batters in one game and very nearly won Boston the infamous "Game Six" of the World Series that year. Clemens has won a total of seven Cy Young awards in his career, a record for any pitcher. Unfortunately, his personality translated into a long, long, long record of bad behavior over the years that tarnished the public's perception of his career more and more. Split acrimoniously from the Red Sox in 1996 (but not before tying his own single-game strikeout record—which still stands, though it's been tied twice more since) and went on to play for the Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros, winning two World Series with the Yankees. Opinions vary of the man, but these days he is almost universally despised in Boston. Although acquitted of charges of lying under oath to Congress about using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, he is still widely believed to have used them.
  • Dennis Eckersley was one of the first pitchers to be a closer in the current sense of the word, and more than any other was the one who defined the position as a ninth inning specialist. He was a good but generally unspectacular starter for the first half of his career, highlighted by getting two all-star selections and throwing a no-hitter in 1977. He was switched to being a closer when he joined the Oakland A's in 1987, and had several ridiculous years during the A's dominant run in the late 80's and early 90's. His best year was probably 1990, when he had an ERA of 0.61, a ridiculously low ERA (even for a relief pitcher) that would go unmatched until Rays closer Fernando Rodney finished the 2012 season with an ERA of 0.60 (a record that lasted all of 4 years- in 2016, Orioles closer Zach Britton did even better, with an ERA of just 0.54). In 1992, he became one of the few relief pitchers to ever win both the Cy Young and the MVP Award. Though he's a Hall of Famer and generally considered an all-time great, his skills fell off a bit after 1992, and he was never nearly that good again. His most famous moment is probably giving up a walk-off home run to Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. He's also one of only two pitchers with both 20-win and 50-save seasons in his career, the other being fellow Hall of Famer John Smoltz.
  • Pedro Martínez pitched for five teams in his major league career, but was best known for his time with the Boston Red Sox. In the '90s, he was on everyone's short list of "greatest ever", as he was putting up ridiculous, video game-esque pitching numbers at a time when the trend was toward ridiculous, video game-esque hitting numbers. He was controversially cheated out of an MVP award in 1999 because two writers refused to list pitchers, even though one of them had done so the year before. He was also one of the central characters of the recent Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. In the 2000s, his performance began tailing off. He was clearly still a talented pitcher, but in the latter part of the decade had a great deal of trouble staying healthy (he threw the ball very hard and had a slight frame, not an ideal combination), causing most teams to shy away from him. Voted into the Hall alongside Randy Johnson in 2015.
  • Greg Maddux Also known as "Mad Dog" or "The Professor", Maddux pitched for the Cubs, Braves, Padres, and Dodgers. He was discovered at a young age when scouts went to see his brother Mike, and his father said "you'll be back later for the little one". Most scouts were turned off by the scrawny kid who had no velocity on his fastball, but Chicago Cubs scout Doug Mapson saw past it saying "I really believe this boy would be the number one player in the country if only he looked a bit more physical". 1987 was his first full year in the majors, and Maddux went 6–14 record and 5.61 ERA, with several people saying "we told you so, he won't make it. Too scrawny and not enough juice on the ball." Then, in 1988 it started (finishing 18–8 with a 3.18 ERA). Gregory Alan Maddux cut a swath of devastation not seen in major league history, going SEVENTEEN seasons with at least fifteen (15) wins. During this time Maddux would often have an ERA lower than his batting average, Gold Gloves (a record 18 in his career), and Cy Young Awards (four). To give an indication of his dominance during this period; "On July 22, 1997, Maddux threw a complete game with just 76 pitches, against the Cubs. Three weeks earlier, he had shut out the defending champion New York Yankees on 84 pitches, and five days before that, he'd beaten the Phillies with a 90-pitch complete game. Maddux allowed just 20 bases on balls in 1997, including six intentional walks. Ignoring those six intentional walks, Maddux only went to a 3-0 count on one batter in all of 1997". He eventually joined the 3000-strikeout club, and passed Clemens in career wins. Maddux's 355 career victories are the most of any pitcher whose career began after World War II, and the second-most (behind Warren Spahn) of any pitcher whose career began after 1920. His mind and ability to read players was uncanny; he once intentionally gave up a homer to Jeff Bagwell so later on in the season Bagwell would look for that pitch again. On another occasion, while sitting on the bench, Maddux once told everyone "watch this, we might need to call an ambulance for the first base coach." The batter then drove the next pitch into the chest of the Dodgers' first base coach. There are several other stories about Greg Maddux, and no one should argue his credentials as one of the greatest of all time. Maddux was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2014, along with his longtime Braves teammate Tom Glavine; a third member of the Braves rotation of that era, John Smoltz, would be elected the next year.
  • Randy Johnson, a.k.a. "The Big Unit" (he's 6'10"/2.08 meters tall), is one of the hardest throwing, most intimidating pitchers in recent history, and is often regarded as the greatest left-handed pitcher ever. He spent most of his career playing with the Mariners or the Diamondbacks, plus a few short stints with the Expos, Astros, Yankees, and Giants. He retired with over 300 victories and the second-most strikeouts in baseball history, behind only Nolan Ryan. He is also one of only 23 pitchers to throw a perfect game. He also formed one-half of the pitching duo that ended up winning the Diamondbacks their first World Series in 2001 and also won them co-MVP honors that year. Also notable for inadvertently killing a dove with a pitch during a preseason game. One of three pitchers voted into the Hall of Fame in 2015 in their first year of eligibility. He also unofficially tied Clemens' single-game strikeout record—"unofficially" because while he did strike out 20 batters in nine innings pitched, it was not actually a "9-inning game" as the game went into extra innings with Johnson having been pulled for a relief pitcher.
  • Trevor Hoffman was a relief pitcher who spent the majority of his career with the San Diego Padres. He came up with the Florida Marlins but was traded to the Padres halfway through his rookie season. He became the Padres' closer shortly after joining them, and, somewhat unusually for a closer, held onto it for the next decade and a half (the volatile nature of relief pitching means that most closers tend to flame out fairly quickly), making a few all-star appearances and generally being consistently able to lock down games for the Padres. As he came into the league right around the same time as Dennis Eckersley codified the current role of the closer as the guy who got all the saves, he got a lot of saves pretty much every year in his career, and because closers with this type of role weren't as common prior to Eckersley's dominant run in the early 90's (especially ones who were closers for almost their entire careers), he managed to completely destroy the all-time career saves record with 601. Shortly after he retired, that record was itself broken by Mariano Rivera, who had similarly been a great closer for a really long time. That Hoffman's career largely overlapped with Rivera's caused him to generally be Overshadowed by Awesome, as Rivera was always considered the slightly better closer and was far more popular. Still, Hoffman was undeniably a great closer, and his 601 saves and 9.36 strikeouts/9 innings pitched ratio (the latter is the highest of any reliever with at least 1000 innings pitched), among other stats, eventually got him into the Hall of Fame on his third try in 2018. He became just the sixth pitcher elected who was primarily a reliever note , and just the second pitcher elected who never started a game, following Bruce Sutter. Throughout pretty much his entire career, he had the song "Hells Bells" played as his entrance music, which would end up inspiring the Yankees' staff to play "Enter Sandman" whenever Mariano Rivera entered games (in keeping with Rivera's larger popularity, "Enter Sandman" would become far more iconic for Rivera than "Hells Bells" ever was for Hoffman).
  • Kerry Wood was a starting pitcher turned reliever for the Chicago Cubs, where he pitched one of the greatest games of all time, yielding just one hit and no walks while striking out a record-tying 20 batters... at age 20, making him one of only two pitchers in MLB history to strike out the same number of players as their age (the other being the aforementioned Bob Feller). He, along with Cubs teammate Mark Prior, are among the poster children for promising careers derailed by injuries (which are believed to have been exacerbated by overwork).
  • Curt Schilling during his playing career was known for not only being an outstanding pitcher (helping the Philadelphia Phillies enter the 1993 World Series, as well as forming the other half of the co-MVP pitching duo that won the Diamondbacks the 2001 World Series), but one of the gutsiest competitors you'll ever find. While pitching for the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees, he tore a ligament in his ankle, yet was able to pitch again in the series thanks to a brand new experimental surgical procedure, albeit one which did not prevent him from bleeding. The Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to win that series, and Schilling's bloody sock became an iconic image of the team's first World Championship in 86 years. Later in his career and after his retirement, Schilling became known for his outspoken political views. He's a hardcore Republican who has openly supported several prominent Republican candidates for public office, notably actively campaigning for John McCain during his 2008 Presidential run and Donald Trump during his 2016 run. Rumors have long abounded that Schilling would run for public office himself, and he has announced intentions to run for one of Massachusetts' Senate seats in 2018. He's also known as a fairly hardcore gamer who plays MMORPGs (once another player that hit a home run off of him claimed it was to avenge an Everquest character Schilling had betrayed) and started his own game studio, 38 Studios, after his jersey number. 38 Studios released only one game, the 2012 RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which was well liked by critics, but ultimately failed sales-wise. This led to a major scandal after the company defaulted on its loan to the state of Rhode Island, leaving the company bankrupt and Schilling's reputation in ruins. Worked as an ESPN analyst, while battling cancer, until being fired in 2016 for posting comments critical of pro-transgender bathroom policies on his personal Facebook page. Though he has a Hall of Fame-worthy career, he's struggled to get support from the Hall's voters in recent years, likely in part because of his political views—in the 2017 round of balloting (the one right after he'd supported Donald Trump's presidential campaign and made the aforementioned comments about transgender bathroom policies, in addition to some other controversial political comments), he was one of just two players who got fewer votes than he'd gotten the previous year (and the other player, Billy Wagner, lost only one vote from the 2016 balloting—Schilling lost over 30).
  • Mariano Rivera, a pitcher who spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, most of it as their closer, is baseball's all-time saves leader with 652 saves and believed by many to be the best relief pitcher in baseball history. He is particularly known for his many clutch postseason performances, often working up to two innings for a save. (Saves lasting more than one inning had become extremely rare by the time Rivera began pitching.)note  Just to give you an idea of his postseason dominance, more men have walked on the moon than scored an earned run on him in the playoffs. note  His signature pitch, the cut fastball or "cutter" (a fastball thrown with a slightly off-center grip to give it extra lateral movement), has been compared by opposing batters to a chainsaw, because its late, fast movement breaks bats off in batters' hands. A torn ACL early in the 2012 season could have brought his career to an end, but he said that he didn't want his career to end like this and would try his best to recover in time for the 2013 season. He then announced he would retire at the end of the 2013 season, and came back as if he hadn't had a day off, much less a year. In his final All-Star Game appearance in 2013, he was named MVP. As noted above, he is also the last player ever to wear jersey number No. 42 in MLB. Unquestionably his greatest accolade came when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019—Rivera became the first player ever to be unanimously elected by the writers.
  • Jamie Moyer was the oldest active player in baseball (turned 50 in November 2012) at the time of his retirement in 2013—and actually had been the oldest active player in baseball for several years by that point. He started in the majors in 1986. He holds the distinction of having allowed more home runs than any other pitcher in history, though when you consider how long he had to pitch to reach that mark, it isn't that embarrassing an accomplishment at all. He also became the oldest pitcher to ever win a game in 2012, and weeks later became the oldest player ever to collect an RBI.
  • Roy Halladay, who last played for the Philadelphia Phillies, was arguably the best pitcher in the game in the late 2000's and early 2010's. He began his career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, but in 2000 became so bad that he was demoted all the way down to the Blue Jays' Single-A team to relearn how to pitch. It worked: he had a breakout season in 2002 and won the AL Cy Young award in 2003. In December 2009, he was traded to the Phillies, giving him a shot at pitching in the postseason. note  During his first season with the Phillies, he threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins, and in his first-ever postseason appearance, he threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds - only the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history, following Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Halladay won the NL Cy Young in 2010, one of only six pitchers to do so in both leagues (the others are Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martínez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Max Scherzer). Sadly, injuries over the next few years severely impacted his ability to pitch, and ultimately forced him to retire after the 2013 season after signing a ceremonial contract with the Jays. In an even bigger Downer Ending, he only got to enjoy a few years of retirement, dying when the plane he was flying crashed into the Gulf of Mexico near his Florida home in November 2017. This also obviously meant that he would not live to see his Hall of Fame induction in 2019.

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    Managers and Owners 

  • Cornelius McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack,note  was the longest-serving manager in MLB history, having managed the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1890s before becoming the manager of the Philadelphia Athletics for their first 50 seasons of play. The son of Irish immigrants, he was a catcher in the majors who had an undistinguished playing career, but noted for his sharp baseball mind. In 1901, he became manager and part-owner of the A's, and achieved numerous milestones—first manager to win three World Series; the first and still only one to win consecutive World Series more than once (1910–1911, 1929–1930); and the most wins, losses, and games managed in MLB history, with his win total being more than 1,000 greater than that of second-place John McGraw. Of course, the fact that he owned the team was a major factor in his long managing tenurenote . While he enjoyed periods of great success, he also struggled with finances, exacerbated by the fact that he had virtually no income outside of baseball. This led to the breakup of all of his best teams, and the legacy that had put him in Cooperstown in the second induction class of 1937 was somewhat tarnished by the A's increasing lack of competitiveness, leading to his retirement, subsequent sale of the team, and its relocation to Kansas City in 1955, the year before his passing. To American political junkies, he's better known as the ancestor of two recent US Congressmen from Florida— former Representative and Senator Connie III, and former Representative Connie IV.note 
  • Charles Dillon Stengel, better known as Casey Stengel, was one of the great characters of baseball history. He started out in the majors as a right fielder in 1912 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, having a solid but not spectacular career that also included stops with the Boston Braves (twice), Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, and New York Giants. He would also be known for on-field and in-dugout pranks. Stengel then went into managing, first in the minors and then with the Dodgers and Braves, with little success (as noted above, he sent a young Warren Spahn down to the minors while in Boston). He went back to the minors with more success—enough to pique the interest of the Yankees, who hired him shortly after the end of the 1948 season. He immediately led the Yankees to an unprecedented five straight World Series wins, and also became famous for his humorous and sometimes disjointed speech (much like one of his stars in New York, Yogi Berra). Despite 10 pennants and seven World Series wins in 12 years, the Yankees ownership eventually saw him as old and out of touch with the players, and fired the 70-year-old Stengel after the team's loss in the 1960 World Series.note  But he wasn't done yet. In 1962, he became the first manager of the New York Mets, where he was arguably more of an attraction than his players, given that the team was historically bad in its first years.note  He finally retired in 1965 after breaking a hip, entering the Hall of Fame the next year, and spent his final years as an ambassador for the game. The Mets and Yankees both retired his number 37. Also of note: Stengel is the only individual to have worn the uniform of all four teams that played in New York City in the 20th century (Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, Mets).
  • George Steinbrenner was the longtime owner of the New York Yankees. His deep pockets were historically an asset to the team; his meddling nature and tendency to fire managers was not. He was suspended from the game twice - in 1974 after he was convicted of illegally contributing to Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign, and again in 1990 for hiring a small-time gambler to dig up dirt on Yankees star Dave Winfield. Steinbrenner passed away in 2010; during his time as owner of the Yankees, the team won seven World Series championships. His son Hank now runs the team, and Hank is shaping up to be very much like his father. A fictionalized version of George Steinbrenner was George Costanza's boss on Seinfeld.
  • Billy Martin was the hard-nosed second baseman for the great New York Yankee teams of the 1950s. After his retirement, he became a successful major league manager known for his ability to turn losing teams into winning ones. However, Martin's abrasive and blunt nature also caused him to perpetually feud with upper management, leading to him being frequently fired despite his success on the field. He served five different stints as manager of the Yankees, in addition to stints in Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, and Oakland; all but Texas reached the postseason at least once under his leadership, and he at least took them from last place to second in the span of a year. He was preparing to become Yankee manager for the sixth time when he died in a car crash on Christmas Day 1989.
    • Martin was also well-known for being willing to back up his words with his fists. He sucker-punched Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer during an on-field altercation in 1960 (Brewer required reconstructive surgery), fought two of his own players as manager of the Minnesota Twins in 1969, and in 1979 decked a marshmallow salesman after a heated argument.
    • Despite his tempestuous relationship with Steinbrenner, he had George Jetson Job Security in spades. He was fired five times from the Yankees and yet was never taken off the team's payroll.
  • Earl Weaver was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles from 1968-1982 and 1985-1986, during which time he led them to six division titles, four American League Championships, and a World Series Victory in 1970. He was notable for many innovative and unusual tactics, many of which were similar in principle to sabermetrics, which had not yet been invented when he was managing. For example, he hated plays like bunts, base-stealing, and hit-and-runs that he viewed as giving up outs—two of his philosophies were "On offense, your most precious possessions are your 27 outs" and "If you play for one run, that's all you'll get," preferring fighting it out and waiting for big innings to playing small-ball to get maybe one run. He had many other quotable mottos, the most commonly remembered being "Pitching, Defense, and Three-Run Homers." Weaver was also known for his very animated arguments with umpires; he typically turned the bill of his cap around when he came out to argue so that he could get right in the umpires' faces. Died during a Caribbean cruise on January 19, 2013, the same day that Stan Musial died.

    Broadcasters 

  • Mel Allen was a well-known broadcaster, who served as the voice of the New York Yankees from 1939 to 1964, a period that coincided with what was arguably the team's golden age: during Allen's years behind the mike, the Yankees won 19 American League pennants and 13 World Series championships, and fielded such legendary players as Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Phil Rizzuto (who himself became a popular and long-tenured broadcaster for the team after retiring as a player). Allen also called numerous World Series and All-Star Games on radio and television, and served as a narrator for Fox Movietone newsreels, making him (and his catchphrase, "How about that!") well-known to sports fans throughout the country. He was unceremoniously fired from the Yankees in 1964, but re-emerged in the late '70s as host and narrator of the syndicated highlights series This Week in Baseball, a role he held until his death in 1996. Allen was—along with his Brooklyn Dodgers counterpart, frequent World Series partner, and eventual Yankees colleague Red Barber—the first to receive the Ford C. Frick Award for baseball broadcasting from the Hall of Fame in 1978.
  • Harry Caray is pretty much regarded as one of the most colorful Large Ham Announcers of all time. He's best remembered for broadcasting Chicago Cubs games on WGN-TV in the 1980s and '90s, although the first and longest part of his career was spent with the St. Louis Cardinals and he worked for the Oakland A's and Chicago White Sox at various points too. Caray, who brought a boisterous, fanlike enthusiasm into the booth with him, is highly quotable to this day, with his frequent calls of "Holy Cow!" and "It might be...it could be...It is! A home run!" Apparently his talent was In the Blood, as shown by both his son (longtime Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Caray, now also deceased) and his grandsons (Cubs/Braves broadcaster Chip Caray and AAA Braves broadcaster Josh Caray). Younger fans may be most familiar with him from Will Ferrell's impressions of him on Saturday Night Live.
  • Harry Kalas started out as an announcer for the Houston Astros in the 1960s. In 1971, he became the announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he remained until his passing in April of 2009. Kalas's deep, baritone voice was well known not only among Phillies fans, but also to the rest of of the country due to his voiceover work for NFL Films, after the passing of original voiceover artist John Facenda. Kalas was known for his memorable home run calls, and had the catch phrase "Swing... and a long drive, this ball is... outta here!" when calling a home run.
  • Vin Scully, a TV/radio announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers for more than sixty seasons (going back to their last few years as the Brooklyn Dodgers), is widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball announcers ever, if not the greatest. A recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting, he is revered in California (where he was named state Sportscaster of the Year an unmatched 33 times), and was listed as the greatest sports announcer ever by the American Sportswriters Association. But, more importantly, he's regarded as the soul of the Dodgers, much like Chick Hearn was for basketball's Los Angeles Lakers. During the 1980s Scully was the main play-by-play announcer for NBC's baseball coverage, where his warm, friendly voice became familiar to a nationwide audience. Some of his most iconic calls include Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965, Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run (against a Dodgers pitcher) in 1974, Bill Buckner's error in the 1986 World Series, and Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. After 67 seasons and more than 9,000 games, Scully called his final Dodgers broadcast on October 2, 2016; fittingly, it was a game against the Dodgers' arch-rivals the Giants, who had also been Scully's favorite team in his New York City boyhood.

    Others 

  • Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the first commissioner of baseball, brought in by the club owners in 1920 in the wake of the "Black Sox" scandal to help clean up the image of the game. A federal judge note , Landis was the one who banished "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and the other "Black Sox" from baseball for life. He cracked down on gambling (banishing 18 players over his tenure), helped lay out the rules for how major league teams could work with minor league ones, and was a proponent of the All-Star Game. But he was also responsible for enforcing the rigid "color line" that kept African-American players out of the leagues, even maneuvering to prevent the sale of the Philadelphia Phillies to Bill Veeck in 1942 when Veeck made it known he would sign several Negro League stars.
  • Branch Rickey, a Hall of Fame executive for multiple teams, arguably had more impact on the game than anyone this side of Babe Ruth. After an undistinguished playing career in professional football and baseball, he eventually found his calling in the front office. After a few mediocre years with the St. Louis Browns (though with a highlight of signing Hall of Famer George Sisler to his first big-league contract), he jumped ship across town to the Cardinals. Rickey started out as manager and president, but gave up the presidency to a new owner. After some mediocre years as manager, he was fired—but the owner wanted him to stay on in the front office. One big reason was that he had invested in several minor-league clubs, soon forging them into an actual farm system that made the Redbirds a National League powerhouse. Landis actually tried to keep Rickey from creating a farm system, releasing well over 100 minor leaguers whose contracts had been controlled by the Cards... but in this, he failed. The Rickey-created farm system continued to thrive, and was soon copied by the rest of MLB; ironically, it saved the minor leagues by keeping them a necessary part of the game after the dawn of the television age. Rickey remained with the Cardinals through the 1942 season, after which he moved on to become general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Under his tenure, Brooklyn became the first MLB team with a full-time spring training facility; popularized the use of now-common tools such as batting cages, pitching machines, and batting helmets;note  pioneered the use of what would become known in later decades as sabermetrics; and most famously signed Jackie Robinson to break baseball's color line. But he wasn't done. In 1951, he went to the Pirates, helping to build the team that would win the 1960 World Series (though he was long gone by then). Rickey also championed the Continental League, a potential third major league that was planned to launch in 1961 but never got off the ground after MLB offered expansion franchises to several of the league's owners. He came back to the Cardinals for a final front-office stint, but it ended in 1964 after conflict with the ownership, and he died a little more than a year later. Nonetheless, his titanic legacy was intact, and he would enter Cooperstown in 1967.
  • Happy Chandlernote  succeeded Landis as commissioner. A Kentucky politiconote  best known for approving Jackie Robinson's contract with the Dodgers, having made it clear that he would support integration even it cost him his job. He also established MLB's first pension fund.
  • Bowie Kuhnnote  served as commissioner from 1969 to 1984. His tenure could best be described as a mixed bag, with huge increases in attendance and TV revenue juxtaposed with labor unrest (most notably a players' strike in 1981) and, by the end of his tenure, owner disenchantment. He battled outfielder Curt Flood (see "Outfielders" above) over the reserve clause, winning that battle but eventually losing the war, as an arbitrator invalidated the clause in 1975, leading to the modern free agency era. Kuhn was also known for his rigid anti-drug stance, suspending numerous players for drug-related episodes. He also famously banned Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle from MLB for taking jobs in casino promotion, even though neither was involved in gambling; his successor Peter Ueberroth (below) lifted their bans shortly after taking office. Kuhn also had high-profile conflicts with team owners Charlie Finley and Ted Turner. Kuhn was also responsible for the first World Series night games, a practice which is now standard, and embarrassed the Hall of Fame into inducting Negro Leagues figures as full members.
  • Jim Bouton is mostly an obscure pitcher who had a couple of good years for the Yankees. He is famous, however, for writing the 1970 book Ball Four, which was a controversial "tell-all" book about the "behind the scenes" life of the sport while he was playing for the Seattle Pilots for their only season in existencenote . Was blacklisted for this, and Kuhn tried to get him to disown the book. He was also the co-creator of Big League Chew bubble gum, with fellow ballplayer Rob Nelson.
  • Peter Ueberroth succeeded Kuhn as commissioner. A businessman who made his fortune in the travel industry, he entered the spotlight as head of the organizing committee for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which arguably saved the Olympic movement by being a solid moneymaker at a time when the Olympics were already notorious for rampant cost overruns. He officially succeeded Kuhn shortly after the Games ended, and was immediately faced with a threatened umpire strike during the postseason. Ueberroth quickly hammered out an agreement for the umpires to return, and the next year quietly worked to limit a midseason players' strike to one day. As mentioned above, he reinstated Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays after Kuhn had banned them—though he also became noted for his anti-drug policies, suspending many players for cocaine use. He also negotiated a big national TV deal with CBS, expanded the League Championship Series from best-of-5 to best-of-7, persuaded the Cubs to install lights in Wrigley Field, and found a new source of revenue for MLB by introducing corporate sponsorships, specifically persuading major corporations to pay for the privilege of calling one of their products "the official X of Major League Baseball". The teams' financial pictures also improved greatly; when he took office, 21 of the 26 teams at that time were losing money, but all were at worst breaking even by the time he left. Despite these successes, Ueberroth's tenure was still a mixed bag, much like his predecessor's, because he facilitated collusion among the owners to limit player free agency, violating the labor agreement between the owners and players. The players' union filed three separate suits against the owners, winning all three. Later commissioner Fay Vincent blamed him for the labor unrest that plagued baseball in the first half of the 1990s, most infamously the strike that scuttled the 1994 postseason. He also initiated the investigation into Pete Rose's baseball betting habits, which would fall in the lap of...
  • Bart Giamattinote  — the commissioner who brought Pete Rose down. An English professor at Yale University who went on to become the school's president, he had long been a die-hard baseball fan. When he was first rumored to be a candidate for the Yale presidency, he said, "The only thing I ever wanted to be president of was the American League." After leaving Yale, he instead became president of the National League, where he focused on improving the fan experience and pushing for teams to hire more minorities in key roles. Giamatti became commissioner in April 1989, in the midst of the Rose investigation.note  It wound up getting enough on Rose that Giamatti persuaded him to accept a lifetime ban from the game. Only five months after becoming commissioner and eight days after banning Rose, Giamatti died of a massive heart attack at his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard.
  • Allan "Bud" Selig was the MLB commissioner, officially and unofficially, from 1992–2014.note  He made a number of risky changes in Major League Baseball's format which risked alienating the sport's traditionalist fanbase but since have proven very successful, such as interleague play (before 1997, American and National league teams did not play each other except in the World Series), the introduction of the new three-round playoff format, and the institution of "instant replay" review in his final year as commissioner. His most important achievement would probably be the addition of the wild card (and later, the second wild card), which increases overall fan interest by keeping many teams relevant much later into the season than they normally would be. However, he's largely blamed for the performance-enhancing drug scandals which more or less happened on his watch, and this fact has caused him to be portrayed as inept and bumbling.

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