Duke Snider Passes: Power Ranking MLB's 15 Greatest Living Players

Christopher HowlandCorrespondent IIIMarch 1, 2011

Duke Snider Passes: Power Ranking MLB's 15 Greatest Living Players

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Duke Snider is and forever will be among the greatest baseball players in MLB history, but as the Duke’s journey in life comes to an end, 15 other spectacular ball players are given the right to be named MLB’s greatest living players.

    These players showcase exactly what it means to be a role model and do things the right way, not to mention being able to excel in one of the hardest games in sports.

    As we remember the legacy that Duke Snider left behind on the game of baseball, we take a look at 15 men who have also left their mark and are among the greatest living players in MLB history.

15. Cal Ripken, Jr.

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Age: 50

    Baltimore Orioles SS-3B


    Cal Ripken, Jr. is a living legacy that not only the Baltimore Orioles should be proud of, but also every fan of Major League Baseball.

    Inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2007, Ripken is credited with bring baseball back to the public eye while crusading to his consecutive games played record of 2,632.

    Announcing his retirement in 2001, Ripken ended his career with 3,184 hits, 431 home runs and a record that will probably never be broken, solidifying him as one of the best the game has ever seen.

14. Ken Griffey, Jr.

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    Jacob de Golish/Getty Images

    Age: 41

    Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox OF


    How much more praise can be sent Ken Griffey, Jr.’s way until he gets bigheaded and cocky like some players today?

    That answer is none.

    Junior is and will be the definition of the classiest player to ever suit up for a major league team.

    He always played the game the right way, hustled out to his position and had as much fun as he could playing the game he loved.

    He was an 18-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove Award recipient, seven-time Silver Slugger and the MVP of the AL in 1997, all while keeping a positive outlook on life outside of baseball.

    He is a true baseball hero and a first ballot Hall of Famer once eligible and will forever be remembered as the kid with the backwards hat having fun and goofing off with his teammates.

13. Joe Morgan

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    Scott Gries/Getty Images

    Age: 67

    Houston Colt .45s, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland A’s 2B


    Standing at a diminutive 5’7”, “Little” Joe Morgan was a standout early in his career for the Houston Colt .45s and then continued his dominance for the Cincinnati Reds.

    Teaming up with Pete Rose, Morgan epitomized the speed-over-power philosophy the Reds enacted in the ‘70s, but he also showed some incredible pop for a little second baseman.

    Morgan was a 10-time All-Star, two-time World Series Champ, five-time Gold Glover and two-time NL MVP, all on his way to being inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1990.

12. Tony Gwynn

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    Christopher Ruppel/Getty Images

    Age: 50

    San Diego Padres OF


    Statistically one of the most consistent hitters in baseball history, Tony Gwynn, or Mr. Padre, is a living legend from the city of San Diego.

    With 3,141 hits and a career .338 batting average to his name, Gwynn proved that power wasn't the name of the game during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

    Second on the list only behind Ty Cobb, Gwynn secured eight batting titles throughout his illustrious career and got the Hall of Fame nod in 2007 with 97.6 percent of the votes.

11. Nolan Ryan

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Age: 64          

    New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers RHP


    Throughout his 27-year career, Nolan Ryan played a great hand in making the pitcher position as dominant as we see it today.

    Averaging 302 strikeouts per year during his seven-year stint with the Angels, Ryan also has four no-hitters to his name and three retired numbers from three different teams.

    With an MLB-record 383 strikeouts in 1973 and the all-time lead in strikeouts with 5,714 to his name, Ryan is remembered as one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball’s history.

10. Tom Seaver

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 66

    New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox RHP


    Just as big-time hitters and the long ball were all the craze in Major League Baseball, rookie Tom Seaver broke out on the scene, nabbing the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1967 by winning 16 games and posting a solid sub-3.00 ERA as a 23-year-old.

    In addition to his ROY selection, “Tom Terrific” took home three Cy Young Awards and a 1969 World Series victory and was a 12-time All-Star.

    Dubbed “The Franchise” of the New York Mets organization, Seaver retired in 1986, accumulating 311 wins, a career 2.86 ERA and 3,640 strikeouts, making him eligible for the Hall in 1992, when he was elected on the first ballot with an MLB-record 98.8 percent of the votes.

9. Rickey Henderson

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    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Age: 52

    Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers OF


    Nicknamed “The Man of Steal,” Rickey Henderson is widely acknowledged as the greatest leadoff hitter and baserunner Major League Baseball has ever seen.

    Henderson is a 10-time All-Star, three-time World Series Champion and a 2009 first ballot Hall of Famer, but all this doesn’t even begin to describe the gritty type of player Henderson was.

    With an MLB-record 1,270 stolen bases to his name, Rickey Henderson will forever go down in history as the greatest baserunner to ever play the game.

8. Yogi Berra

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 85

    New York Yankees, New York Mets C-OF


    It's only fitting that Yogi Berra comes in at No. 8 on our list.

    Elected to the Hall in 1972, Berra is as eccentric and nutty a player as Major League Baseball has ever seen.

    Famed for his crazy but hilarious quotes, such as, “90 percent of the game is half mental,” and, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” Berra always knew how to have fun while consistently producing on the field.

    An astonishing 13-time world champion (three as a coach), 18-time All-Star and three-time AL MVP, Berra sits atop many lists as one of the best catchers to ever grace the game of baseball.

7. Rod Carew

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 65

    Minnesota Twins, California Angels 1B-2B


    Starting his baseball career for the Bronx Cavaliers of a semi-pro "sandlot" league, Rod Carew got his chance to break into the MLB in 1967 as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

    Teaming up with Harmon Killebrew at first base, Carew played a mean defensive second base but was also known for his consistent bat.

    Ending his career with 3,053 hits and a lifetime .328 batting average, Carew won seven batting titles and had four 200-hit seasons as a Twin.

    He was a 12-time All-Star, MVP in 1977 and Rookie of the Year in 1967, solidifying him as one of the best the game has ever seen.

6. Al Kaline

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Age: 76

    Detroit Tigers OF


    Breaking onto the scene as a 19-year-old backup outfielder for the 1953 Detroit Tigers, Al Kaline quickly became dominant in a potent Tigers starting lineup.

    The 18-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glover started and ended his 22-year career with the Tigers posting a career .297 batting average, 3,007 hits and 399 home runs.

    Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980, Mr. Tiger, as he is known by some, will always be a fixture in Detroit history along with the storied history of MLB.

5. Sandy Koufax

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Age: 75

    Brooklyn Dodgers, Los Angeles Dodgers LHP


    Dubbed “The Left Hand of God,” Sandy Koufax showed Los Angeles and the world that a pitcher can play as exciting baseball as any hitter in the league.

    Leading the NL in ERA every season from 1962 to 1966, Koufax had stellar years later in his career but then abruptly retired as one of the most decorated pitchers in MLB history.

    His 2,389 strikeouts, 2.76 career ERA and three Cy Young Awards make him one of the premier pitchers in baseball history.

    While other pitchers may have pitched more and had longer careers, Koufax’s 11-year career was a collection of brilliance, culminating in a 1972 first ballot Hall of Fame selection.

4. Ernie Banks

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Age: 80

    Chicago Cubs SS-1B


    Known to many around the baseball world as Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks got his start in the Negro American League and then eventually found his way over to the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 1953.

    Wearing No. 14 his entire time in Chicago, Banks ended his career with 512 homers, a lifetime .274 batting average and 2,583 hits, leading to 14 All-Star game selections, two NL MVPs and a Hall of Fame induction in 1977.

3. Stan Musial

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Age: 90

    St. Louis Cardinals OF-1B


    Stan “The Man” Musial was a big part of the Cardinals’ dominance in the early 1940s and 1950s.

    Leading the Cards to three World Series victories in 1942, 1944 and 1946, Stan the Man is a 22-time All-Star, fourth all-time with 3,630 hits, belted 475 career home runs and is a three-time NL MVP.

    Musial was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969. His No. 6 was retired by the Cardinals and will forever be a symbol of one of the greats of the game.

2. Henry Aaron

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Age: 77

    Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers OF


    Never reaching 50 home runs in a single season during his 23-year career, Hank Aaron was still able to reach and then eclipse one of the most sacred records in MLB history.

    Passing Babe Ruth’s 714 home run mark on April 8, 1974, Hammerin’ Hank was one of the greatest to ever play, but don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully had to say right after Aaron’s moon shot landed over the fence:

    “What a marvelous moment for baseball; what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia; what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly Henry Aaron.” (New York Times)

1. Willie Mays

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Age: 79

    New York Giants, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets OF


    Historically thought of for his over-the-shoulder catch in deep center field of the Polo Grounds during the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians, Willie Mays brought a lot more than his superior glove to the cities of of New York and San Francisco.

    The second member of MLB’s “30-30” club, Mays is also a 24-time All-Star, 1954 World Series champion, 12-time Gold Glover and two-time NL MVP.

    He was inducted as a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 and will forever be remembered as “The Say Hey Kid.”