30 Greatest Third Basemen in Major League Baseball History
Well, however it is, I thought it would be a great idea to explore.
Today we're going to take a look at who has graced the hot corner over history and, out of those players, who winds up as the 30 greatest all time.
Kamm was one of the more dominate third baseman in the late 20s, early 30s, and he played for the Chicago white Sox most of his career, while finishing his time in baseball with the Cleveland Indians.
Kamm was also know for his hitting ability as a lifetime .281 hitter, and was considered a master of the “hidden ball trick.”
Wallach made a career for himself as not only a solid defenseman, but also a stellar offensive baseball player, even being called the poor man's Brooks Robinson by Bill James.
Wallach's awards include:
- Three Gold Glove awards for defensive excellence
- 2 Silver Slugger awards for offensive excellence.
- Five time All-star
Devlin was a formidable third baseman who played the majority of his career for the New York Giants, from 1904 to 1911, along with a small stint for the Boston Braves from 1911 to 1913.
Devlin was also know for his above average skill set as a football player,where he was a standout back for Georgetown University.
Devlin also coached football and baseball.
Groh is one of—if not arguably—the best third baseman for his time, and the Cincinnati reds and New York Giants were the proud owners of such a player.
Groh was the National League's top third baseman in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and was the Captain of two championship teams with the 1919 Reds and 1922 Giants.
Groh was known for his "bottle-style bat (a thicker bat that he shaved the handle down so his hands could fit around the handle) and it was due to this bat that he was an effective leadoff hitter, batting .300 four times and leading the league in doubles twice and in hits, runs and walks once each.
Defensively, Groh led the NL in double plays (six times), fielding percentage (five times) and in putouts (three times).
Friberg was known more for his defensive prowess at third than he was as a hitter, despite putting up admirable numbers at the plate for both the Chicago Cubs, and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Friberg entered major league play at just 20 years old, making him one of the youngest to start third baseman in history.
Ned "Ed" Williamson
Williamson was one of the lesser known players who played from 1878 to 1890—most of the those years he played for the Chicago White Stockings.
Shortly before the Babe Ruth era, it was Williamson who held season records for both doubles and homeruns, broken by—you guessed it—Mr. Ruth.
During the first eight years of his career, Williamson also led the league, at his position, in both fielding percentage and double plays five times, and assists six times.
He was also moved to shortstop later on in his career where he again led the league in both assists and double plays.
Bell had one of the more lengthy careers as a professional third baseman, most notably with the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.
Career wise, his awards include:
- 5× All-Star selection (1973, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984)
- 6× Gold Glove Award winner (1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984)
- Silver Slugger Award winner (1984)
- 1988 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
- Texas Rangers Hall of Fame
One of the most indelible memories within Cubs' fans minds has got to be the late Ron Santo.
Santo played for the Cubs for 13 All-Star seasons where he also won five Golden Gloves during that time.
Santo set a Cubs record with 41 double plays at third base in his career, breaking the previous mark of 33 set by the previously mentioned Bernie Friberg in 1923.
In 1962, Santo led the National League in assists for the first time with 332, setting the team record for assists at third base, breaking the mark of 323 set by Randy Jackson in 1951.
Santo lead the National League in assists every year after 1962, through 1968, breaking previously mentioned Ned Williamson's major league record of leading the league six times.
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There's only a few players in Red Sox history that are arguably better than "Youk" but he is still not only a driving force behind this team, he is also a team leader, motivator, and one of the best third base man in the game today.
Youkilis' award sheet is a mile long that includes, but is not limited to, being a 3 time All-Star, two-time World Series Winner and a Golden Glover.
Youk is also know for his ability to hit, whether it be for distance, or play.
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Typically, when talking about the best player at any given position all-time, many would not mention a player who has only been playing a few years.
I don't think it would be right to leave Longoria off this list when you consider the following accomplishments in such a short time.
- 3× All-Star selection (2008, 2009, 2010)
- 2008 AL Rookie of the Year
- 2009 AL Player of the Month award for April
- 2× Gold Glove Award winner (2009, 2010)
- 1× Silver Slugger Award winner (2009)
- 1× Fielding Bible Award winner (2010)
Any Phillies, Tigers or even Cardinals fan who are familiar with Polanco will immediately say, this guy knows defense.
And it was his defensive prowess that gave him the fame he has today, but Polanco was incredibly well rounded as a player and still is today.
- Silver Slugger Award winner (2007)
- 3x Gold Glove Award winner (2007, 2009, 2011)
- 2× All-Star (2007, 2011)
- 2006 ALCS MVP
- 2007 MLB "This Year in Baseball Awards" Defensive Player of the Year
It's hard to really say what Johnson was better at, fielding or hitting, but because such an debate surrounds Johnson, he is one of the best third baseman to ever play the game.
His claims to fame include:
- 2× All-Star selection (1933, 1936)
- Negro League World Series champion (1925)
- Lifetime batting average: .344
Johnson, interestingly enough, was never intended to play baseball as his father wanted him to be a boxer, either way, it was clear then and now that Johnson was a rare athlete to say the least.
Kell began his baseball career in 1943 with the Philadelphia Athletics, and ended it in 1957 as a Baltimore Oriole.
He also played for the Tigers, RedSox and White Sox in between.
During that time, Kell became of the best third basemen to ever play the game earning accoladed after accolade:
- 10-time All-Star (1947–54, 1956–57)
- 8-consecutive .300 seasons (1946–53)
- Led league in batting average (1949)
- Holds record of the fewest strikeouts for a batting champion (13, 1949)
- Twice led the league in hits and doubles (1950–51)
- Hit for the cycle (June 2, 1950)
- Top 10 in AL MVP vote (1947, 1949, 1950)
Despite what Kell achieved in his playing career, Kell is equally known for his 40 stint as the soft spoken broadcaster for MLB.
To the casual baseball fan, the name Ray Dandridge is one that probably goes unrecognized which is a shame, because Dandridge was one of the greatest fielders in the history of baseball, and one of the sport's greatest hitters for average in his time.
Also, because of the "gentleman's agreement" not to allow African Americans in Major League Baseball, Dandridge was dismissed as being too old by the time of integration.
Dandridge's career included the following achievements:
- 3× All-Star (1935, 1937, 1944)
- 1949 American Association Rookie of the Year
- American Association MVP (1950)
- Salón de la Fama del Beisbol Profesional de México (1989)
- Lifetime batting average: .355
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.
Yet another name that can be thrown into the pot as one of the all-time greats at third, is Graig Nettles.
Nettles was known for his defensive prowess, but it was his hitting that was defined as curious.
Nettles was not known for a quality average hitter (.248 lifetime) but he was known to be an excellent contributor on offense despite the fact setting an American League record for homeruns hit by a third baseman.
Nettles was also a six time All-Star and a two time Gold-Glover.
Boyer made name for hi9mself primarily as a St. Louis Cardinal depsite p[laying for three other teams.
During his time in St. Louis, however, Boyer was the winner of the 1964 National League MVP Award, becoming the second player at his position to hit 250 career home runs, while retiring with the third highest slugging average by a third baseman (.462).
Boyer hit 255 homers as a Cardinal, which rank second for right-handed hitters to Albert Pujols, and he ranks third in club history to teammate Stan Musial's 475.
Boyer is a five-time Gold Glove Award winner, he also led the NL in double plays five times and retired among the all-time leaders in games (6th, 1,785), assists (6th, 3,652) and double plays (3rd, 355) at third base.
Some of the older Cleveland fans should remember the "Hebrew Hammer," Al Rosen.
But for the younger base, his name may be a mystery, so let me introduce you.
Rosen played his entire career (10 years from 1947 to 1956) for the Indians, and during that time Rosen was renowned for his fielding and renowned—specifically—for his ability to send balls into orbit.
Rosen drove in 100 or more runs five years in a row, was a four-time All-Star, twice led the league in home runs and twice in RBIs, and was an MVP.
Not to mention the guy, physically was a beast.
Rosen was a .285 career hitter, with 192 home runs and 717 RBIs in 1,044 games.
Rosen was also selected for the All-Star Game every year between 1952 and 1955 with an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1955.
What would be a third baseman list without Stan Hack?
Hack was one of the greats who played for the Cubs batting.301 lifetime, while scoring 100 runs seven times while leading the NL in hits and stolen bases.
Hack's 1092 walks ranked fourth in NL history when he retired— a franchise record— and he also hit .348 over four World Series.
Hack's .394 career on base percentage was the highest by a 20th-century third baseman until Wade Boggs exceeded it in the late 1980s, and was the top NL mark until 2001.
Defensively, Hack led the NL in putouts five times, in double plays three times and in assists and fielding percentage twice each.
Another diamond in the rough who played at third base at the turn of the century was Jimmy Collins.
Collins' achievements include:
- World Series champion: 1903
- National League pennant: 1897, 1898
- American League pennant: 1904
- National League home run champion: 1898
- 5 seasons with a .300+ batting average
- 2 seasons with 100+ RBI
- 4 seasons with 100+ runs scored
To his credit, Pendleton was a All-Star in 1992, a three time Gold Glove Award winner (1987, 1989, 1992), the 1991 NL MVP winner and held the 1991 NL batting title while also achieving the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 1991.
Fans of the Cardinals, Braves, Marlins, Reds and Royals all enjoyed his services, although it was his time as a Cardinal that made him who he is.
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Some may be surprised to see Rolen on this list, but don't be.
Despite Rolen being a player who competed at multiple positions, it was his prowess as a third baseman that defined Rolen, even to this very day.
Rolen is also an eight time Golden Glover and nine time All-Star, and still plays to this day.
If there is anybody who would be found on this list it would certainly be Gary Gaetti.
Gaetti played from 1981 to 2000 for six different teams, but his better years came as a member of the Minnesota Twins and Califonia Angels.
Gaetti was known for his defensive prowess, as well as being a true power third baseman.
His achievements include:
- 2× All-Star (1988, 1989)
- World Series champion (1987)
- 4× Gold Glove Award winner (1986, 1987, 1988, 1989)
- Silver Slugger Award winner (1995)
- 1987 ALCS MVP
Why was he called "homerun" Baker?
- World Series Champion: 1910, 1911, 1913
- American League pennant: 1914, 1921, 1922
- American League home run champion: 1911-1914
- American League RBI champion: 1912, 1913
- 6 seasons with a .300+ batting average
- 3 seasons with 100+ RBI
- 2 seasons with 100+ runs scored
That's why. Baker was also known, however, as one of the greatest players to ever play at third base period, and even has the distinguished honor of being a member of the famed $100,000 infield as a member of the Philadelphia Athletics.
The $100,000 infield was an infield consisted of Baker, first baseman Stuffy McInnis, second baseman Eddie Collins and shortstop Jack Barry and it was considered the greatest infield in all of baseball history.
Traynor was one of the greatest post-war third baseman to ever play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, even to this day in comparison.
Traynor was a gritty player with quick action on the ball and he was also a lifetime .320 hitter who helped the Pirates win the World Series in 1925.
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Jones' career may be nearing the end of the road, but what a career it has been for him and his fans.
It is hard to mistake Jones' ability as a power hitter, a hitter for average and as a fielder making him one of the best well-rounded players in baseball history.
His seven-time All-Star awards and two-time Silver Slugger awards are just the tip of the iceberg for a player who has had a storied career as one of the most famous p[layers to ever wear a Braves uniform.
Not to be out-done, Eddie Matthews was yet another Atlanta braves great, despite not being too familiar to the younger generational fans.
As the saying goes for many of the players on this list, Matthews was also known as the greatest third baseman to ever play the game, and arguably the best to ever play for the Braves with achievements such as:
- 12× All-Star selection (1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1959², 1960, 1960², 1961, 1961², 1962²)
- 2× World Series champion (1957, 1968)
- Atlanta Braves #41 retired
It would definitely be a great debate who is better, Matthews of Jones, although it is interesting to note that both players look awfully similar.
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Primarily known for his work as a Boston Red Sox, Wade Boggs is one of the most accomplished baseball players to ever play the game.
But it wasn't just his time as a Red Sox that defined him, as Boggs also played for the Yankees and Rays.
His achievements include:
- 12× All-Star (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996)
- World Series champion (1996)
- 2× Gold Glove Award winner (1994, 1995)
- 8× Silver Slugger Award winner (1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994)
- Tampa Bay Rays #12 retired
If there is one shining example in Kansas City Royals history, it has got to be George Brett.
Brett is as indelible on Royals history, as Babe Ruth is to baseball history, and he is hands down the greatest player to ever play for Kansas City, as well as, one of the greatest to ever play at third.
Brett's accomplishments include:
- 13× All-Star selection (1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988)
- World Series champion (1985)
- Gold Glove Award winner (1985)
- 3× Silver Slugger Award winner (1980, 1985, 1988)
- 1980 AL MVP
- 1985 ALCS MVP
- 1986 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
- 1980 Hutch Award
- Kansas City Royals #5 retired
Michael Jack Schmidt is one of the greatest players to ever wear a Phillies uniform, and is widely accepted as one of the greatest players to ever play third base, and in some circles, he is even considered one of the few players to set the bar for all third baseman.
Schmidt played with poise, grace and an above average level of professionalism that any Phillies fan—or baseball fan of that era—can easily recall.
The guy was able to play small-ball, hit for power, challenge defensive players with situational hitting, and was renowned for his ability as a defensive third baseman.
Schmidt's achievements are as follows:
- World Series champion (1980)
- 1980 World Series MVP
- 12× All-Star (1974, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989)
- 8× National League Home Run Champion (1974, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986)
- 4× National League RBI Leader (1980, 1981, 1984, 1986)
- 10× Gold Glove Award winner (1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986)
- 6× Silver Slugger Award winner (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986)
- 3× NL MVP (1980, 1981, 1986)
- 5× NL Player of the Month (April 1976, July 1979, May 1980, August 1981, July 1982)
- 1983 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
- 4 home runs in one game (April 17, 1976)
- Philadelphia Phillies #20 retired
- Major League Baseball All-Century Team
- Major League Baseball All-Time Team
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The argument over who exactly is the best third baseman of all-time is a tad bit moot, when you consider the top eight players who would most likely be thrown into that debate.
Each individual who graced the hot corner were so close in accomplishments and individual play, that achievements and awards alone simply isn't a solid measure.
One of those players who would certainly be one of the top two would be Brooks Robinson.
Before Mike Schmidt, Chipper Jones, George Brett and even Wade Boggs, it was Robinson that defined how to play the position, and how to carry one's self as a professional player.
Ultimatly, he was the grandfather who originally set the bar for third baseman.
Nicknamed the "Human Vacuum Cleaner" Robinson seemingly was on top of every ball he ever fielded, making him one of the best to play at third defensively, and he is also one of the few players on this list who can boast playing his entire career for one team: the Baltimore Orioles.
His award sheet is as follows.
- 18× All-Star selection (1960, 1960², 1961, 1961², 1962, 1962², 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974)
- 2× World Series champion (1966, 1970)
- 16× Gold Glove Award winner (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975)
- 1964 AL MVP
- 1970 World Series MVP
- 1966 MLB All-Star Game MVP
- 1972 Roberto Clemente Award
- 1970 Babe Ruth Award
- 1966 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
- Baltimore Orioles #5 retired
- Major League Baseball All-Century Team