This is part five of my series ranking the top 250 baseball players ever. For more information about how this list was compiled please refer to part one. This section is for players ranked 150-126.
150: Bill Dickey won seven World Series championships with the Yankees, and was an eleven time All-Star at catcher. He served with the U.S. Navy during World War II.
149: Dan Brouthers was one of the game’s first great run producers. He led the N.L in batting average five times, on-base percentage five times, and slugging percentage seven times. He finished his career with a slash line of .342/.423/.519, good for an OPS+ of 170, which is tied for 7th best all time.
148: Masaichi Kaneda is widely considered the best pitcher in the history of Japanese baseball. He is NPB’s career leader in wins (400), strikeouts (4,490) and innings pitched (5,526.2). He later became a manager and led the Lotte Orions to a Japan Series championship in 1974. He also founded the Meikyukaki Hall of Fame.
147: Larry Doby started playing in the Negro Leagues at the age of 17. A few years later he put his baseball (and basketball) career on hold to serve in World War II. Returning in 1946 he immediately helped the Newark Eagles win the Negro League World Series. The next year he was signed by the Cleveland Indians. He was the first African-American to play in the American League and the second to join MLB after it integrated. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
146: Dennis Eckersley spent the first half of his career as a starter. He was twice an All-Star in that capacity but injuries eventually forced him to the bullpen, where he dominated, and helped lay the blueprint for what today’s closer would become. In 1990 he allowed only five earned runs all season and posted an ERA of 0.61. He won both the AL Cy Young and MVP awards in 1992. He gave up one of the most famous home runs in baseball history to Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series.
145: Cap Anson was perhaps baseball’s first true star. A dominant hitter of the dead-ball era, he was the first player to reach 3,000 career hits. He was also a racist instrumental in establishing segregation in baseball. Anson regularly refused to take the field against opponents playing African-American players, he got into numerous altercations with them when he did. Just a reminder he’s in the Hall of Fame but players who used steroids before MLB was even testing for them are not. Further reading on Anson can be found here, here, and here.
144: Willie Wells’ playing career lasted nearly 25 years. He was an elite defender, runner, and contact hitter. He was the shortstop on the “million dollar infield.” Many credit him as being the first to wear a batting helmet. Here’s Cool Papa Bell on Wells, “The shortstops I’ve seen, Wells could cover ground better than any of them. Willie Wells was the greatest shortstop in the world.”
143: Don Sutton has been unfairly labeled a compiler but he was much better than that term would suggest. He threw 58 shutouts, led the National League in WHIP four times, and ERA once. He’s one of only ten pitchers in MLB history with 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts. Among all pitchers he ranks 14th all time in fWAR, 30th in bWAR, and 13th in DRA. He was suspected of doctoring the ball throughout his career.
142: Carl Hubbell’s primary pitch was the screwball. He won two MVP awards, led the NL in WHIP six times, wins three times, and ERA three times. During the 1934 All-Star game he struck out five future Hall of Famers in a row, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin.
141: Mickey Cochrane played baseball, basketball, and football at Boston University. He decided on baseball and became one of the greatest catchers of all time. He won three World Series titles, 2 MVP awards, and among players who played at least 50% of their games at catcher he has the highest career AVG and OBP. His career ended abruptly after he was hit in the head by a pitch in 1937. He served with the U.S. Navy during World WAR II.
140: Pee Wee Reese was captain of the Dodgers when Jackie Robinson joined the team. He refused to sign a player petition boycotting his arrival. He had long been credited with a putting him arm around Jackie’s shoulder in a game in Cincinnati during Jackie’s rookie season in 1947 however, new evidence suggests the gesture actually took place the following year in Boston. The gesture is considered a crucial moment in Robinson’s career and for the acceptance of African-Americans players in Major League Baseball, it’s remembered by a statue outside MCU Park in Coney Island. Reese missed three full seasons (age 24-26) while serving with the U.S. Navy during World War II.
139: Shigeo Nagashima won five MVP awards, and was named Best Nine every year of his seventeen-year career. He won six batting titles, and finished his career with 444 home runs. A long time teammate of Sadaharu Oh together they won 11 Japan Series championships (including 9 in a row from 1965-1973). He was named Japan Series MVP four times.
138: Jim Palmer finished his career with 268 wins, 2,212 strikeouts, and an ERA of 2.86. He won three Cy Young awards, and three World Series championships. He pitched nearly 4,000 innings in the majors and never gave up a grand slam.
137: Dave Winfield was a 12-time All-Star who finished his career with 3.110 hits and 465 home runs. He’s one of just nine players in Major League history to reach both milestones. In addition to being drafted by the San Diego Padres, he was also drafted by the Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Utah Stars (ABA), and the Minnesota Vikings (NFL).
136: Al Simmons finished his career with 2,927 hits and a batting average of .334. He’s one of six players in Major League history with a career batting average of at least .330 and 300 or more home runs. He won back-to-back World Series championships with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1929 and 1930.
135: Tom Glavine led the National League in wins five times and finished his career with 305 of them. He won two Cy Young awards, and the World Series MVP in 1995. Glavine’s value varies greatly depending on which WAR model and measurement of league average you use. His bWAR based on run prevention is 74.0, his ERA+ is 118, which suggests over the course of his career he was 18% better than league average. His fWAR based on FIP is 66.9 with a FIP- of 94, that’s 6% better than league average. His DRA WARP however, is 39.2 and his DRA- is 106, which is actually 6% worse than league average. One site views him as an all-time great, another as a compiler who was consistently above average throughout his career, the other as a guy who was below average innings eater. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his 1st ballot.
134: Hal Newhouser won back-to-back AL MVP awards in 1944 & 1945. However, MLB’s talent pool was diluted then because many top players were serving in WWII. Newhouser tried to enlist several times but was rejected due to a leaky heart valve. After his playing career he became a scout for the Houston Astros. He recommended the team select Derek Jeter with the 1st pick in 1992 draft, they chose Phil Nevin instead, Newhouser resigned shortly thereafter.
133: Cool Papa Bell began his career as a teenager and as a knuckleball pitcher. Bell’s speed was too much to ignore and he eventually moved full time to center field where he became an elite defender. He was a standout in the Negro, Mexican, and Cuban Leagues for nearly thirty years. In 1974 he was the 5th Negro Leaguer elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
132: Mariano Rivera is almost universally considered the best reliever ever to play the game. He has the career record for saves (652), games finished (952), and ERA+ (205). He was a 13-time All-Star, and five-time World Series champion. In 141 postseason innings he posted an ERA of 0.70 and a WHIP of 0.759. He threw the cutter almost exclusively and helped popularize the pitch.
131: David Ortiz just concluded one of the great final seasons in history. He is retiring with 541 home runs, 632 doubles, and 1,768 RBI. He’s one of just four players in Major League history to reach each of those milestones. He won three World Series championships with the Red Sox, his career postseason OPS is .947. The New York Times reported that he failed Major League Baseball’s initial survey test for steroids in 2003.
130: Rafael Palmeiro is of just five players with at least 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. He was consistently an above average hitter for the duration of his 20-year career, however, he’s most remembered for his involvement with MLB’s doping scandal. He was accused of doping by former teammate Jose Canseco, eventually called in front of congress where he adamantly denied Canseco’s claims, then a few months later he was suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for steroids. Palmeiro claims he was set up and to this day denies he ever knowingly took steroids of any kind.
129: Edgar Martinez didn’t become a starter until his age 27 season, from that point on he was one of the better hitters in all of baseball. He is a member of the .300/.400/.500 club, and has a career OPS+ of 147.
128: Lou Boudreau was a seven-time All-Star, he won the AL MVP in 1948, and was a player/manager for the World Series winning Indians later that season. The defensive shift has been around for over 100 years or so but Boudreau is widely credited with popularizing it, he frequently shifted his infield against Red Sox great Ted Williams.
127: Harry Heilmann led the AL in batting average four times, this includes his 1923 season where he hit .403. His career average if .342 ranks 12th all time. He missed half of his age 23 season (1918) due to his military service with the U.S. Navy during World War I.
126: Larry Walker hit like Ted Williams when he played at Coors Field and Billy Williams when he played everywhere else. Both of those players are in the Hall of Fame, Walker is not. Walker, like his former teammate Helton still needs to be given credit for the runs and wins he helped generate in Colorado. Unlike Helton, he only played 30% of his career games in Denver, and was a above average fielder and runner.
I will post the list in chunks of 25 over the next two weeks. Part six will be up on Monday. Follow me on Twitter @RossCarey and join the conversation at #Top250