25 Most All-American Players in Major League Baseball History
Baseball is our national pastime, so it's only fair that we expect most, if not all, of the players we watch to fit a certain label. I'm talking about that of the All-American man—one who plays the game with honor, toughness and passion. The game is their life, and they treat it as such.
The sad truth is that these types of players died out long ago, but a small handful still exist today. Take New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, for example. He goes out and gives his all night after night, treating his job like the valuable gift and treasure that it is. We rarely hear about him acting like a head case, and his overall charisma is just off the charts.
Seeing as how it's a national holiday and we're celebrating our nation (to a degree), let's go through the annals and look at 25 players who fit this persona almost perfectly.
No. 25: Robin Roberts
Roberts pitched for 19 years, only five of which could really be considered great. Still, his durability and willingness to go the distance start after start is what makes him kick our list off.
You see, from 1951-1955, Roberts went 118-67 with a 2.91 ERA over an astounding 1,633.1 innings pitched. That's an average of 327 innings per year, something that no pitcher today would ever do. Even more incredible was his WHIP over that stretch—a ridiculous 1.07.
That said, for being so team-committed and the epitome of a pitcher putting his arm on the line, we salute Roberts.
No. 24: Gaylord Perry
This list is also going to honor some players who are/were just plain old school, and Perry simply defines that.
Over a 22-year career, this man defied convention (not to mention the rules of the game) and threw the infamous spitball. The crazy part is that he didn't even get caught until 1982—his 21st season.
Like it or not, that's pretty badass, along with the fact that Perry brought some of the old-time baseball to his game.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MAXPREPS.COM
No. 23: Rick Monday
I could go on about stats, personality and many other things, but none of them would be appropriate for Monday.
This guy served in the Marine Corps Reserves in the 1960s, and if you ask me, that's the definition of All-American right there.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GOLDENRANKINGS.COM
No. 22: Willie Mays
No matter how you look at his story, it's impossible to not love Mays.
For someone just 5'10", 170 pounds, he was an incredible athlete. That slight frame provided him with some phenomenal strength, and after a 22-year career, he retired with a .302 lifetime batting average and 660 career home runs.
Given how he was also a pioneer of African-Americans making an impact in the major leagues, we love him even more for that.
PHOTO COURTESY OF NNDB.COM
No. 21: Kirk Gibson
There's no justifiable way to explain Gibson as an All-American player. Just watch the video and have your mind blown.
No. 20: Steve Garvey
Getty Images/Getty Images
Garvey played in an era that was defined by big Oscar Gamble-like afros and players with images that were just plain loud—a key example being the Oakland A's teams of the early 1970s.
Still, Garvey defied this trend and kept a clean-cut image, earning himself the nickname "Mr. Clean."
On top of that, he's probably one of the best players to not make the Hall of Fame. In 19 seasons, the man made 10 All-Star teams, won a World Series and took home four Gold Gloves.
Upon retirement, he had a .294 lifetime average and 2,599 career hits.
No. 19: David Wright
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Though I will never ever root for the New York Mets, there's something special about Wright. He's just the nice boy-next-door from Virginia, and he has a genuine passion for the game. He plays hard, and his determination to win is off the charts.
Love or hate his team, it's hard to not like him.
No. 18: Roger Maris
Maris's story is not just a great one for the baseball record books, but is the American Dream at its finest? He grew up in North Dakota as the son of Croatian immigrants, eventually becoming a reliable power hitter.
However, despite other accomplishments, Maris is known for just one season—the 1961 campaign. That year, he fought hard all year long and broke Babe Ruth's long-standing record for home runs in a season. On the last day before the World Series, Maris hit his record-breaking 61st home run—a record that would stand until 1998.
Given his background, it's only right that he make the list.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SILIVE.COM
No. 17: Derek Jeter
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Today, baseball is obsessed with players who can run fast and hit the ball out of the park regularly. Jeter has speed but has never been much of a power hitter, and that's OK. He makes up for it with his constant 110 percent effort and ability to hit the ball all over the field.
On top of that, there's not one player in the game today more charismatic or approachable than the Yankee captain. The newest member of the 3,000-hit club has always been a team player and a great leader—the epitome of what an All-American player should be.
No. 16: Pete Rose
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Say what you want about Rose's off-the-field issues and the fact that he's currently banned for life and not in Cooperstown. If you look up toughness in the dictionary, you'll see his picture.
The all-time hits leader was nicknamed "Charlie Hustle" throughout his career because he had no qualms about sliding hard into a base or playing through nagging injuries. It saddens me to say that no player today has that approach, except for maybe Jeter.
That said, we'll give Rose his due credit in spite of what most may think about him as a person.
No. 15: Andy Pettitte
Al Bello/Getty Images
Like his teammate Derek Jeter, Pettitte is someone who just bleeds charisma. He's known for being a phenomenal big-game pitcher and is the all-time leader in postseason wins, with 19.
On top of that, have you ever listened to Pettitte speak? It's tough to not fall hard for that soft Texas drawl.
His comeback season has been great thus far, and here's hoping it continues as such.
No. 14: Nolan Ryan
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Ryan is a lot like the aforementioned Robin Roberts in the fact that he had no qualms about going the distance and putting his arm on the line for the good of the team.
The only difference between the two is that Ryan has seven no-hitters on his resume and pitched 27 years to Roberts' 19. As a result, he finished his career as the all-time strikeouts leader with 5,714 and is probably the most beloved player in the history of Texas baseball.
Adding to Ryan's All-American case is the fact that, on occasion, he wasn't afraid to dish out his own brand of Texas Justice.
No. 13: Tom Seaver
Seaver was the first Mets player who really stood out, and he was largely instrumental in their march to a 1969 World Series championship. He helped them get to the World Series again in 1973, where they lost to the Oakland A's, but the man called "Tom Terrific" was still one of the best of his generation.
On top of that, he was one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball history. In 20 seasons, he went 311-205 and had an incredible 2.86 ERA. To maintain those numbers over such a lengthy career is just plain incredible, and combined with his overall charismatic nature, he makes this list.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SPORTSILLUSTRATED.CNN.COM
No. 12: Satchel Paige
Segregation kept Paige out of the majors during the prime of his career, so fans never got to see the amazing numbers he put up in the Negro Leagues and other leagues in which he played. By the time he made his MLB debut for the Cleveland Indians in 1948, he was 41 years old and at an age where most baseball players are thinking about retirement.
Instead, Paige went on to pitch for five seasons and continued to put up decent numbers as a relief pitcher. He just loved the game that much. He even played in one game for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, when he was 58 years old. In that one game, he pitched three innings and gave up just one hit, striking out one batter.
His love of baseball will probably never be matched and with his commitment to playing, we salute him.
PHOTO COURTESY OF NNDB.COM
No. 11: Ty Cobb
Say what you want about him probably being the biggest jerk to ever play the game, but the numbers don't lie. Cobb is the greatest hitter to ever play the game.
In 24 seasons, he won eight batting titles and hit over .400 twice. To date, he has the highest lifetime batting average at .366.
Even more impressive is that Cobb was such a good hitter and rarely hit home runs. He relied on being a scrappy hitter with great speed, just using raw physical ability to get on base.
Up until Pete Rose came along, there was no man tougher than the one known as "The Georgia Peach."
PHOTO COURTESY OF SABR.ORG
No. 10: Sandy Koufax
One of the first Jewish players to make an impact in the majors, Koufax was just incredible. As the ace of the Dodgers' pitching staff, he won four World Series rings and was a phenomenal strikeout pitcher.
Had arthritis not forced him to retire at 30, there's a great chance he could have finished his career as the all-time strikeout leader, and Nolan Ryan may very well be in second place.
On top of that, Koufax threw four no-hitters—one of which was a perfect game. Throw in his million-dollar smile, and you can see why he would be featured here.
PHOTO COURTESY OF NYTIMES.COM
No. 9: Stan Musial
Musial's story is another case of the American Dream at its finest.
The son of European immigrants went on to become one of the most popular players in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals, having spent all of his 22 seasons with them.
Also, you don't get a nickname like "The Man" without being approachable and charismatic, and Musial defined that throughout his career.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PATHEOS.COM
No. 8: Honus Wagner
Like his contemporary Ty Cobb, Wagner was a hitter who relied on making contact and just getting on base, where his speed would take over.
In 21 years, he won eight batting titles and retired with a .328 lifetime mark. He also led the majors in steals three times.
The man just did it on pure desire to be great and win, something rare in today's players.
No. 7: Cal Ripken
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Forget the fact that Ripken grew up in the Baltimore area and then went on to play for the Orioles.
The fact is that you don't play in 2,131 consecutive games (winning a World Series and AL MVP Award along the way) and NOT make this list.
No. 6: Lou Gehrig
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The same can be said for Gehrig, who played in 2,130 straight games before Ripken broke the record in 1995.
However, Gehrig's 493 career homers and six World Series rings put him above Baltimore's Iron Man.
No. 5: Mickey Mantle
The son of a coal miner from Oklahoma, Mantle was the epitome of the All-American Golden Boy when he first debuted in 1951.
He was a switch-hitting power hitter—something extremely rare at the time. Sure enough, he took the majors by storm and became one of the most popular players of his generation, winning the much-heralded Triple Crown in 1956 (.353 average, 52 home runs and 130 RBI).
More importantly, all stats aside, how many players can say they had a song written about them?
PHOTO COURTESY OF NOTABLEBIOGRAPHIES.COM
No. 4: Hank Aaron
At just six feet tall and 180 pounds, Aaron didn't exactly look like the kind of guy who would hit home runs left and right. He would later prove us wrong as he led either the majors or the National League in that category four times.
Even more impressive, he would ignore death threats and hate mail on his way to becoming the home run king, finishing a 23-year career with 755 dingers (since broken by Barry Bonds). He is also the all-time leader in RBI with 2,297.
You can say what you want about how he's the true home run king, but the fact remains that Aaron had everyone watching him and knew how to make the fans cheer.
PHOTO COURTESY OF COLLIDER.COM
No. 3: Jackie Robinson
The same can be said for Robinson, who endured much more than Aaron as he became the first African-American to play in the major leagues in 1947. Still, he put on his bravest face and played his hardest to win the fans over, and that he did.
He only played 10 years, but taking home the 1949 NL MVP Award and a 1955 World Series title certainly helped him go down in history not only as a pioneer, but a great player.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MLB.COM
No. 2: Joe DiMaggio
Dimaggio was the son of Italian immigrants, making his story another case of the American Dream at its finest.
He went on to have a great career highlighted by nine World Series titles, three MVP awards and a record 56-game hitting streak.
Still, forget about the stats and personality that make DiMaggio an All-American player. Why is he really on this list? The dude was married to Marilyn Monroe!
Kudos, Joe D. Just kudos.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BRITANNICA.COM
No. 1: Babe Ruth
Come on. Did you really think anyone else would be No. 1?
Ruth came from a rough background in Baltimore, spending most of his youth in a Catholic reform school for boys. The fact that he went from there to becoming one of the most dominant players in baseball history without any truly positive family influence(s) is just incredible.
With 714 home runs and almost a century later, we're STILL celebrating his legacy. You can't get more All-American than that.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DEADSPIN.COM