Top 15 MLB First Basemen of Live-Ball Era
Top 15 MLB First Basemen of Live-Ball Era
There have been so many talented players that have graced the first base position that it was difficult to narrow it down to the top 15. However, after careful consideration, the following slides represent the top 15 Major League Baseball first basemen of the live-ball era.
The live-ball era consists of every Major League season since 1920 to the present day. It immediately followed the dead-ball era with numerous rule changes as well as a change to the ball. Prior to 1920, the same baseball was used throughout the game, even if there was wear and tear. In fact, even when a foul ball was hit into the stands it was returned to the field to be used in play.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the Commissioner of Baseball at the time, made it so a ball would be immediately replaced if there were any signs of wear. This resulted in the hitters being able to see the ball better, one of the reasons low-scoring contests turning into high-scoring ones. The long ball also became a huge part of the game, while the spitball was completely outlawed.
Since the live-ball era, first basemen have played a big role in producing runs on offense. It is one of the reasons why there are 25 first basemen in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Make sure to click through the slideshow of the Top 15 first basemen of the live-ball era. Also, make sure to comment on who you think is the best first basement of all time. If one of your favorite big league players who played first base did not make the list, please let me know below in the comment section.
15. Orlando Cepeda
Orlando Cepeda is an 11-time All-Star with a National League Rookie of the Year, a NL home run champion and two NL RBI champion awards under his belt. He also won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1967, the same year he won the NL MVP. That season he led the NL with 111 RBI while hitting 25 homers.
Cepeda finished his career batting .297 with 370 home runs and 1,365 RBI. He posted one of the best rookie seasons of the past 60 years in which he batted .312 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI. However, the best season of his career came in 1961 when he posted a .311 batting average with a career-high 46 home runs and 142 RBI in 152 games.
14. Jim Thome
Jim Thome is one of two players on this list that is not inducted into the Hall of Fame. However, like the other person on this list, Thome will be there one day. The five-time All-Star has a .276 career batting average with 2,328 hits, 1,699 RBI and is the only person on this list with at least 600 home runs. He also has 17 career postseason home runs, which is good for seventh in MLB history.
13. Ernie Banks
Ernie Banks is widely considered the greatest Chicago Cubs player of all time. He spent the first nine years of his career at shortstop and then made the switch to first base for the next 11 seasons. He won back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959 during a time in which some of the greatest players in the game were suiting up. Banks finished his career with a .274 batting average, while he is second all-time in Cubs franchise history in hits (2,583) and RBI (1,636). He is also second in home runs (512) with only Sammy Sosa ahead of him on the list.
12. Johnny Mize
Johnny Mize is the only player in MLB history to hit at least 50 home runs and strike out less than 50 times in a single season. He consistently ranked towards the top in a majority of the major offensive categories throughout his career. In fact, he led the NL in home runs four times in 15 years. He also hit three home runs in a single contest in six different games in his career.
Mize posted a career .312 batting average with 359 home runs, 1,337 RBI, 2,011 hits and a .397 on-base percentage. He had over a .300 batting average in each of his first nine seasons and over a .400 on-base percentage in each of his first six seasons in the big leagues. After he joined the New York Yankees in 1949, the team went on to win five straight World Series titles.
11. Rod Carew
Rod Carew is a member of the 3,000 hit club and is one of six players to win at least seven batting titles. He batted over .300 in 15 straight seasons, including a .388 batting average in 1977. Carew is an 18-time All-Star with an American League Rookie of the Year in 1967 and an AL MVP award in 1977. He played about half of his career at second base, but actually played more games at first base (1,184). He posted a.328 batting average with 92 home runs, 1,015 RBI and 3,053 hits in 2,469 career games.
10. Stan Musial
Stan “The Man” Musial got his awesome nickname from Los Angeles Dodgers fans during the 1946 season after his solid performance at Ebbets Field. That season Musial led the majors in games (156), at-bats (624), runs (124), hits (228), doubles (50), triples (20) and batting average (.365). He finished his career with 24 All-Star selections, three NL MVP awards, three World Series rings, seven NL batting titles and is a member of the MLB All-Century Team.
Musial posted a career .331 batting average, 475 home runs and 1,951 RBI, while his 3,630 hits rank fourth all time behind only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron. He also batted better than .300 in 17 of the 22 years he spent in the big leagues. In 1948, he was home run short of claiming the NL Triple Crown.
9. Willie McCovey
Willie McCovey is the second player on this list to be given a MVP Award 10 years after he received the Rookie of the Year Award. His career started off with a bang when he went 4-for-4, including two triples against Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts. He continued to shine at the plate from there as he was a three-time home run champion, two-time RBI champion and was elected to six All-Star games. Even though he struggled to remain healthy in the last half of his career, he still managed to bat .270 with 521 home runs, 1,555 RBI and 2,211 hits. McCovey is also the first player in MLB history to hit two home runs in one inning, a feat he accomplished twice.
8. Tony Perez
Tony Perez was the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine, something Cincinnati Reds general manager Bob Howsam did not fully understand when he traded Perez after the 1976 season. Perez batted .279 with 2,732 hits, 379 home runs and 1,652 RBI in 2,777 career games. He won three World Series titles with the Reds, twice as a player and once as a coach. He is known as one of the greatest clutch hitters of all time, and he proved it as much as he hit three home runs in the 1975 World Series.
7. Harmon Killebrew
Harmon Killebrew crushed more than 40 home runs in a single season eight times in his 22-year career. He also led the AL in home runs in six different seasons, including hitting 49 twice. By far the greatest season of his career occurred in 1969 when he led the big leagues in games (162), homers (49), RBI (140), walks (145) and on-base percentage (.427) to garner the AL MVP Award. He concluded his career with 2,086 hits, 573 home runs and 1,584 RBI.
6. George Sisler
George Sisler began his career in the dead-ball era, but the fact that he played 10 years in the live-ball era makes him eligible for this list. Sisler posted the greatest season of his career in 1922 in which he took home AL MVP honors and was the league’s batting champion. He led the league in runs (134), hits (246), triples (18), stolen bases (51) and batting average (.420). He also posted a 41-game hitting streak that season. Sisler finished his career with a .340 batting average, 102 home runs, 1,175 RBI, 2,812 hits, 425 doubles and 164 triples.
5. Eddie Murray
Eddie Murray is one of three players, along with Willie Mays and Aaron, to have more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in career. He has a career .287 batting average, 3,255 hits, 504 home runs and his 1,917 RBI are the most by a switch-hitter in MLB history. Murray is an eight-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner at first base, a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a World Series champion and earned AL Rookie of the Year honors in 1977.
4. Hank Greenberg
Hank Greenberg hit 331 home runs in his career, including more than 40 in four separate seasons. In fact, he finished the 1938 season two home runs shy of Babe Ruth’s record of 60. The two-time AL MVP and five-time All-Star missed four prime seasons while spending time in the military during World War II. He struggled at first when he returned to the big leagues, but he did lead the league in home runs (44) and RBI (127) in 1946. The two-time World Series champion posted eight straight seasons with over a .300 batting average and nine consecutive seasons of over a .400 on-base percentage.
3. Albert Pujols
There is no question Albert Pujols is the greatest player of the last decade and one of the best players to suit up at first base. He is a nine-time All-Star, a three-time NL MVP, a six-time Silver Slugger, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, has two World Series rings and earned NL Rookie of the Year in 2001. Pujols has also won a NL batting title, two home run titles and a RBI title.
The 33-year-old is widely considered the most dangerous hitter in all of baseball when healthy. He can change the outcome of a game with one swing, which is why he has 1,041 career walks. Pujols posted four consecutive seasons with more than 40 home runs, while 47 is the most he has ever hit in a single year. He has a career .324 batting average, 477 home runs, 1,442 RBI, 509 doubles, 2,260 hits, a .413 on-base percentage and a 1.018 OPS.
2. Jimmie Foxx
Jimmie Foxx posted 13 straight seasons with at least 100 RBI in which he led the league in 1932, 1933 and 1938. Foxx also happened to win the AL MVP in those three years. In fact, his 175 RBI in 1938 currently ranks third all-time in the AL. Foxx’s best season came in 1933 when he won the Triple Crown with a .356 batting average, 48 home runs and 163 RBI. The nine-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion posted a .325 batting average, 534 home runs, 1,922 RBI and 2,646 hits in 2,317 career games.
1. Lou Gehrig
Is there anyone in the world that is surprised to see the great Lou Gehrig No.1 on this list? The Iron Horse appeared in 2,130 consecutive games, which was later broken by Cal Ripken Jr. a whopping 56 years later. Gehrig recorded more than 100 runs and 100 RBI in 13 straight seasons, in which he averaged 139 runs and 148 RBI over that span. He recorded 128 runs, 49 home runs, 165 RBI and a .363 batting average to win the Triple Crown in 1934.
The Yankees captain was a seven-time All-Star, a two-time AL MVP and is a member of the MLB All-Time team. His 184 RBI in 1931 is the second most all-time in a single season, and the most in the AL. He helped the Yankees win six World Series titles in which he batted .361 in seven World Series appearances. Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez are tied with 23 grand slams, the most in MLB history.
Gehrig posted a .340 batting average, 493 home runs, 1,995 RBI, 2,721 hits and a .447 on-base percentage in 2,164 career games. He is truly one of the greatest players to ever step foot on a baseball field, and he is most certainly the best player to ever stand at first base.
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