Best Baseball Hitters of All Time
Ty Cobb (1886-1961) was a 6'2", 180 pound country boy from Georgia. Even after he became the biggest baseball star of his generation, he was insecure because of his unsophisticated background. This insecurity would turn into a burning rage if Cobb felt his honor was disrespected.
In 1905, his father snuck up on his own house, trying to catch his wife cheating on him. His mother heard a rustle in the bushes, and thinking it was an intruder, shot her husband dead. She was charged with murder, but later acquitted.
Three weeks after his father's death, Cobb made his debut in center field for the Detroit Tigers, for whom he played for nearly his entire career. He was 18 years old.
Cobb was mercilessly abused by the veteran Detroit ballplayers as a rookie. These actions hardened him into a notoriously mean and aggressive hothead. He was prone to dirty plays, racist rants, heated arguments, and fistfights. Cobb famously fought an umpire after a game—and whipped him good. Nobody in baseball liked him, not even his own teammates.
He played hard and lived hard. He was a heavy drinker and smoker. His wife finally divorced him after 39 years in a marriage that produced five children. Cobb was a major stockholder in Coca-Cola and this made him rich. He was a major philanthropist, but he died a lonely, regretful man.
He has the highest lifetime batting average of any player in history at .366. His record of 12 batting titles still stands unmatched. He also holds the records for having the second most most hits, runs scored, and triples. He is in fourth place for the most stolen bases and doubles, fifth place for the most total bases, and seventh place for the most runs batted in.
After his first season, he never batted below .316 for 23 consecutive years. Cobb was the youngest player to win a batting title until 1955. He won the Triple Crown in 1909 and he is still the only player to have two 35-game hitting streaks. He is the only player to steal his way from first to home four times in his career.
Cobb was the youngest player to ever garner 3,000 hits. No other player has gotten to that mark in fewer at-bats. Cobb was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with more votes than Babe Ruth (whom he was intensely jealous of), and the most votes ever until 1992. He played in the major leagues from 1905 to 1928.
Rogers Hornsby (1896-1963) was from Central Texas. His first name was his mother's maiden name. He spent the majority of his career playing second base for the St. Louis Cardinals. He never smoked nor drank, but he loved to gamble on horses. He was known as a cold, brutally frank, and hateful man. However, he never argued with an umpire. He died of a heart attack after cataract surgery, leaving behind a son.
Hornsby (5'11", 175 lbs.) posted a career batting average of .358—the best in history for a right-handed hitter, and the highest ever in the National League. He won seven batting titles, and is the only two-time Triple Crown winner in the history of the National League. Additionally, he found success as a manager while also playing. He led the Cardinals to an upset win over the supposedly unbeatable New York Yankees in the 1926 World Series.
Hornsby holds many records for twentieth-century baseball players. In 1922, he hit over .400 with 40 home runs. He had 450 total bases that same year. In 1924, he hit .424 with a .507 on base percentage. In 1925, his slugging percentage was .756. Hornsby averaged .402 for five seasons; he also led the National League in slugging percentage nine times. None of these totals have been matched since by any man. He played in the major leagues from 1915 to 1937.
Jimmie Foxx (1907-1967) grew into a big, strong young man (6'0", 225 lbs.) from doing heavy work on his family farm in Maryland. He became known as the "right-handed Babe Ruth" during his career as a first baseman. Foxx was a good-natured, well-liked man who always picked up the check. Unfortunately, he drank heavily and was not good with money. Foxx ended up broke, and died from choking on a piece of meat at dinner with his brother in Miami. He was survived by a son and a daughter.
He debuted in the major leagues at the tender young age of 17 with the Philadelphia Athletics. He played in that club for 11 seasons, followed by six years with the Boston Red Sox. He was the second player to reach 500 career home runs, and is still the second youngest to ever do so. His major league record of 12 seasons with 30 or more home runs stood until 2004.
Foxx was a three-time Most Valuable Player, a nine-time All Star, won a Triple Crown title, and won two World Series championships. He finished his career with 534 home runs, 1922 runs batted in (8th place for the all-time record), and a .325 batting average. Of all the men who ever played in the big leagues, Jimmie posted career numbers that are 10th best in on base percentage, 5th in slugging percentage, and 6th in OPS. He played in the major leagues from 1925 to 1945.
Stan Musial (1920-2013) was a Polish kid from Pennsylvania who stood at 6 feet tall and weighed in at 175 pounds. He played high school baseball with Buddy Griffey, the father of Ken Griffey Sr.
Musial was married to his high school sweetheart and they had four children. He was widely known as a humble, modest man. He once asked his team for a 25% salary reduction because his production had fallen off. They gave it to him. It is said that Musial played a mean harmonica back in the day.
He made his major league debut in 1941 for the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the only team he ever played for during his 22 year career. He was a 24-time All Star, won three MVP Awards, and won three World Series rings. He played first base and the outfield.
He finished with a .334 lifetime batting average. He holds the record for the second most total bases at 6,134, third for most doubles at 725, fourth for most hits at 3,630, sixth for most RBIs at 1,951, and ninth for most runs scored at 1,949. Musial finished with 1,815 hits at home, and 1,815 hits on the road. He is the oldest man to hit three home runs in a game at age 41.
He was the General Manager for the Cardinals for one season in 1967; they won the World Series that year. He then resigned to devote more time to his restaurant. He played in the major leagues from 1941 to 1963.
Mickey Mantle (1931-1995) was the son of a coal miner from Oklahoma. Mantle (5'11", 195 lbs.) was the greatest switch-hitter in the history of baseball. He was also an extraordinary center fielder with blazing speed. His memorabilia sells for more today than that of any other player, except for Babe Ruth. Mantle had an ineffable hold on the imagination of baseball fans across America.
He was a heavy drinker and a womanizer. His wife and four sons all became alcoholics as well. He lived too high on the hog and made bad investments. As he was dying of cancer, he famously said, "If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."
Mantle played his first game with the New York Yankees at the age of 19. He replaced Joe DiMaggio as the center fielder in the following season. By the time Mantle retired, he had amassed 536 career home runs, the third most for the all-time record.
Mantle was a 16-time All Star, a three-time league MVP, a Triple Crown winner, and a seven-time World Series champion. His career numbers currently have him as the 12th all-time best for OPS, and seventh for base on balls. He may be more revered for the distance of his home runs; several traveled over 550 feet. He played in the major leagues from 1951 to 1968.
Frank Robinson was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1935. He was reared in Oakland, California as his father worked on the railroad. He was the last his mother's ten children. He played high school basketball with the great Bill Russell. Robinson has been married for 49 years and has has a son and a daughter. He was active in the civil rights movement and became the first black manager in the major leagues.
Robinson (6'1", 183 lbs.) broke into the big leagues as an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds in 1956, winning the Rookie of the Year Award. He led the National League in slugging percentage for three consecutive seasons (1960-1962) while developing a reputation as a vicious player for his aggressive style of play.
He played 10 years for the Reds, followed by six seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. He is the only man to win the Most Valuable Player Award in both leagues. Robinson also won the Triple Crown title and played on two World Series championship teams.
He finished his playing career with 586 home runs, the eighth for the all-time record. His career statistics place him at 11th in all-time total bases, 14th in runs scored, and 19th in runs batted in. These numbers are all the more remarkable considering Robinson played in an era when pitching dominated baseball. He played in the major leagues from 1956 to 1976.
Hank Aaron (b. 1934) is from Mobile, Alabama. He grew up poor as one of eight children and picked cotton as a young lad. Some say this gave him strong hands. After his playing career ended, Aaron owned many car dealerships and worked in the front office of the Atlanta Braves. He also worked for the Turner Broadcasting Network. He is married to his second wife and he has five children.
Aaron (who stood at six feet tall and weighed 180 lbs.) broke into the major leagues in 1954 as the right fielder for the Milwaukee Braves. In 1957, he won the MVP Award while leading the Braves to the World Series championship.
He broke Babe Ruth's record for career home runs (714) in 1974. By the time he retired, he had 755 of them. Aaron remains the only player to hit 30 home runs in 15 seasons. He did all this while batting cross-handed.
Aaron became the first player to reach 500 home runs and 3,000 hits in a career. He is the all-time leader in total bases with 6,856. He also leads in runs batted in with 2,297. He ranks in third for the all-time record in hits at 3,771, fourth in runs scored at 2,174, and 10th in doubles at 624.
He is a 25-time All Star and has won two batting titles. Aaron led his league eight times in total bases, three times in runs scored, and four times each in home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and doubles. His major league career lasted from 1954 to 1976.
Barry Bonds (b. 1964) is the son of former baseball star Bobby Bonds and the cousin of Reggie Jackson. He grew up in California. Barry was a surly man and a polarizing, insufferable braggart with an enormous ego. He was also a user of steroids and amphetamines. He is also the greatest hitter ever.
Bonds, at 6'1" and 185 lbs. (including his enormous head, which got noticeably bigger over the years), played left field for the Pittsburg Pirates for seven years. He then played for the San Francisco Giants for 15 years. He is a 14-time All Star and an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner. He is the only baseball player to win four consecutive MVP Awards and the only one to win the award seven times. No one else has ever won it more than three times.
Let's take a look at his stats. Barry owns the all-time single season record for on base percentage (.609), walks (232), intentional walks (120), slugging percentage (.863), OPS (1.422), and home runs (73).
Barry won two batting titles and led the league in on base percentage 10 times; he is sixth for the all-time career OBP record. He led the league seven times in slugging percentage and is sixth for the all-time record. He led the league in OPS nine times and is fourth for the all-time record. He is in third place for career runs scored and fourth in career total bases. He led the league in bases on balls 12 times and hit the most home runs in a career with 762. And he stole 514 bases.
Barry Bonds is the only player to ever hit 500 home runs and steal 500 bases. He played in the major leagues from 1986 to 2007.
There are a few big hitters still active that are among the best that ever played the game, such as Albert Pujols. Also, the statistics of Mark McGuire and Frank Thomas earned them some serious consideration for inclusion on this list. Additionally, I would like to extend honorable mentions to Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Mel Ott, Hank Greenberg, and Joe DiMaggio.