Top 15 MLB Shortstops of Live-Ball Era
Top 15 MLB Shortstops of Live-Ball Era
Shortstop is a difficult position that has seen some of the greatest players in Major League Baseball man the No. 6 spot. It was certainly not easy to determine the top 15 MLB shortstops 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.
Shortstops have played a big role in keeping offenses at bay with their terrific defensive skills. The fact that there are more right-handed batters than there are left-handed ones, shortstops see a lot of action on ground balls and screamers. A shortstop that is not only a solid defensive asset, but also one that can perform at a high level at the plate is certainly hard to come by. It is one of the reasons why there are 23 shortstops in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Click through the slideshow of the Top 15 shortstops of the live-ball era, and make sure to comment on who you think is the best shortstop of all time.
15. Joe Sewell
Joe Sewell just made the cut for the live-ball era as he began his career in 1920. Sewell was not a big power numbers guy, but he definitely knew how to hit for average and get on base. He posted a career .312 batting average with 49 home runs, 1,054 RBI, 2,226 hits and a .391 on-base percentage in 14 seasons. His best attribute is that he hardly ever struck as he averaged only eight strikeouts per season. In fact, he holds the record for most at-bats per strikeout (62.6) in MLB history.
14. Pee Wee Reese
Pee Wee Reese is another great player from the 1940s who missed the prime of his career by serving in World War II. Reese was a 10-time All-Star, two-time World Series Champion and had his number retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He might be most famous for being one of Jackie Robinson’s closest friends, and helped break the color barrier in baseball. In fact, Reese famously put his arm around Robinson as No. 42 was heckled by fans, which silenced the crowd. Reese batted .269 with 126 home runs, 885 RBI and 2,170 hits in his 16-year career.
13. Luis Aparicio
Luis Aparicio had tremendous speed and was a great defensive shortstop. The 1956 American League Rookie of the Year recipient led the league in stolen bases in his first nine seasons, including a career-high 57 in 1964. The 13-time All-Star was given nine Gold Glove Awards and led the league in fielding percentage eight times. He finished his 18-year career with a .262 batting average, 83 home runs, 791 RBI, 506 stolen bases, 2,677 hits and a .653 OPS. To cap it all off, he set a Major League record with 13 consecutive seasons of at least 500 plate appearances.
12. Lou Boudreau
Lou Boudreau won a batting title in 1944 (.327 batting average), won a World Series in 1948 and was an eight-time All-Star. He also was the AL MVP in 1948 after he posted a .355 batting average, .453 on-base percentage, 18 home runs, 106 RBI, 34 doubles, 98 walks and only nine strikeouts. Boudreau finished his career with a .295 batting average, 68 homers, 789 RBI and 1,779 hits.
11. Omar Vizquel
Omar Vizquel is widely considered the second greatest defensive shortstop of all time. He won nine Gold Glove Awards in a row (1993-2001) and 11 total in his 24-year career. Vizquel holds the record for most games played at shortstop (2,211) in Major League history, surpassing Aparicio on May 30, 2008 to accomplish the feat. He finished his career in 2012 with a .272 batting average, 80 home runs, 951 RBI, 404 stolen bases and 2,877 hits.
10. Alan Trammell
Alan Trammell was a six-time All-Star, a four-time Gold Glove Winner, a three-time Silver Slugger and the World Series MVP in 1984 after he won the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 1983. His best season by far occurred in 1987 when he batted .343 with 28 home runs, 105 RBI, 34 doubles, 21 stolen bases and a .402 on-base percentage. He is considered to be one of the greatest shortstops that is not in the Hall of Fame, despite not playing since 1996.
9. Joe Cronin
Joe Cronin was a seven-time All-Star and the AL MVP in 1930 when he batted .346 with a whopping 126 RBI, 13 home runs, 41 doubles, nine triples, 17 stolen bases and a .422 on-base percentage. He posted eight seasons of at least 100 RBI, including five in a row, and also posted at least a .300 batting average eight times. Cronin finished his 20-year career with a .301 batting average, 170 home runs, 1,424 RBI and 2,285 hits.
8. Barry Larkin
Barry Larkin was an incredible defensive and offense shortstop for 19 years. The 12-time All-Star, nine-time Silver Slugger, three-time Gold Glove Award winner, 1995 NL MVP and World Series champion was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. The year he won MVP, he batted .319 with 15 home runs, 66 RBI and 51 stolen bases. Larkin also became the first shortstop in MLB history to record at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season.
7. Arky Vaughan
Arky Vaughan won a batting title in 1935 when he batted .385 in 609 plate appearances. He also led the National League in walks (97), on-base percentage (.491) and slugging percentage (.607) that season. The nine-time All-Star’s career .318 batting average is the best among shortstops in the live-ball era, and second all-time only to the legendary Honus Wagner. In fact, he batted at least .300 in 10 of the 14 years he played in the big leagues. Vaughan also led the league in runs, triples and walks three different times in his career.
6. Luke Appling
Luke Appling recorded two batting titles in his 20-year career. He hit an incredible .388 in 1936 with a whopping 128 RBI and .328 in 1943. In fact, his .388 batting average is still the best among shortstops in a single season in MLB history. Appling was a leadoff hitter who posted over a .300 batting average nine times and over a .400 on-base percentage eight times. The seven-time All-Star batted .310 with 45 home runs, 1,116 RBI and 2,749 hits in 2,422 career games.
5. Robin Yount
The great Robin Yount is only the third player in Major League history to win two MVP awards at two different positions (shortstop and center field). He is also only one of three shortstops in the live-ball era to join the 3,000 hit club. Yount’s first MVP season in 1982 helped carry the Milwaukee Brewers to their only World Series appearance in franchise history. That year he batted .331 with 29 home runs, 114 RBI, 12 triples and 14 stolen bases. He also led the league that season in hits (210), doubles (46), slugging percentage (.578) and OPS (.957). Yount concluded his 20-year career with a .285 batting average, 126 home runs, 1,406 RBI and 3,142 hits.
4. Ernie Banks
Ernie Banks is widely considered the greatest Chicago Cubs player of all time. Even though he spent the first nine years of his career at shortstop, and then made the switch to first base for the next 11 seasons, Banks put up solid numbers in the first half of his career. 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), home runs (512) and RBI (1,636).
3. Ozzie Smith
There is no question Ozzie Smith is the greatest defensive shortstop in the history of the game. In fact, he may be the greatest defender of all time at any position. The 15-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove Award winner, Silver Slugger and World Series champion has posted some of the best defensive statistics by a shortstop in history. His 8,375 assists, 1,590 double plays and 12,905 total chances are all records for a shortstop.
2. Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter is the only player on this list that is still playing today, and is one of the greatest players to ever wear the pinstripes. Jeter is a 13-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, five-time Silver Slugger and a five-time World Series champion. He is also the first player for the New York Yankees to become a member of the 3,000 hit club. The team captain also owns the record for most career hits and stolen bases in Yankee franchise history.
Jeter is a career .313 hitter with 255 home runs, 1,254 RBI, 524 doubles, 348 stolen bases, 3,304 hits and a .382 on-base percentage. He has also posted some of the best postseason numbers of all time as he has batted .308 with 20 home runs. Jeter’s 158 games, 650 at-bats, 111 runs, 200 hits, 302 total bases, 32 doubles and five triples rank first in Major League postseason history.
1. Cal Ripken Jr.
Many people would argue that Jeter deserves to be ahead of Cal Ripken Jr. on the list of the top shortstops in the live-ball era. However, I believe baseball’s Iron Man deserves the top honor. The 19-time All-Star, eight-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove Award winner, two-time AL MVP (1983, 1991), AL Rookie of the Year (1982) and World Series champion is a member of the MLB All-Century Team. Ripken is most famously known for starting 2,632 consecutive games over a 17-year span, a record that will never be broken.
Ripken finished his 21-year career with a .276 batting average, 431 home runs, 1,695 RBI, 603 doubles, 1,129 walks, 3,184 hits and a .340 on-base percentage. His 345 home runs as a shortstop are the most in MLB history.