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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Latest Baseball News & Rumors Today / Top 20 Center Fielders in Baseball History: Willie, Mickey or the Duke?

Top 20 Center Fielders in Baseball History: Willie, Mickey or the Duke?

Top 10 Centerfielders of all-time!
Publish Date:11/07/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Centerfield is a glamorous position in Baseball, and today we will look at the greatest ever to play the position. To me, the top six are the top six; you can’t go wrong with any of the top six.

Yes as the old song says, you will find Willie, Mickey and the Duke high on this list. Active players are not eligible, so please stop bitching about Mike Trout being on the list. We will judge him against the others when his career ends.

20) Richie Ashburn

His bat may not have had much pop, but Richie Ashburn was a master of contact hitting (.308 average) and on-base skills (.396) that still stand out decades after his 1962 retirement. As the speedy center fielder led the National League in OBP four times, hits three times, and triples twice during his 15-year career, Ashburn made five All-Star Games and entered the Hall of Fame in 1995.

Video: Richie Ashburn - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Richie Ashburn – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

19) Kenny Lofton

Kenny Lofton was an unstoppable force between 1992 and 2000, leading the league in steals five straight times and earning four consecutive Gold Gloves as a center fielder. A career.299 hitter with 1,528 runs, Lofton is on the fringe of Hall of Fame consideration due to his unimpressive postseason play; however, his regular-season numbers are impeccable – advanced stats rank him fifth-best defensive center fielder in baseball history.

Video: Kenny Lofton ASCENDS the fence to rob B.J. Surhoff of a home run

Kenny Lofton ASCENDS the fence to rob B.J. Surhoff of a home run

18) Jim Edmonds

Jim Edmonds achieved incredible feats over his 17-year career, mainly with the Angels (1993-99) and Cardinals (2000-07). His 393 HR rank ninth all-time among center fielders, while his.284 average and.903 OPS reflect his complete offensive approach. Furthermore, Edmonds was an undisputed star on the field, earning eight Gold Gloves – a number few players have ever achieved.

Video: Jim Edmonds' Greatest Defensive Gems You Need to See!

Jim Edmonds’ Greatest Defensive Gems You Need to See!

17) Vada Pinson

Pinson was often overlooked playing next to the great Frank Robinson in Cincinnati. Pinson, while in Cincinnati, was a four-time all-star.

Pinson is one of only 10 players with at least 250 home runs and 300 steals; the others being Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds, Eric Davis, Andre Dawson, Steve Finley, Rickie Henderson, Willie Mays, Joe Morgan, and Ryne Sandberg.

This list of outstanding players can be further narrowed when considering that 2,700 hits, 450 doubles and 100 triples are included in the calculations.

On this list, Pinson and Mays would be the only two players.

Video: Vada Pinson Reds highlights 1958-68

Vada Pinson Reds highlights 1958-68

16) Oscar Charleston

He was not an MLB player, and this is an MLB list. Sure Negro league players didn’t play the best of competition, but neither did MLB players. MLB players didn’t have to play against the best African-American players, but nobody holds it against them for some reason. Considered the Ty Cobb of the Negro Leagues, he hit .353 in his career according to Baseball Library and was the all-time Negro League leader in stolen bases. He also, like Cobb, was known for his competitiveness and his temper. He was the manager of the Negro League’s most outstanding team – the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the 1930s – and hit .446 in 1921. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.

Video: Oscar Charleston Biography

Oscar Charleston Biography

15) Robin Yount

In 1985, a shoulder injury sidelined him from shortstop and forced him into center field. Despite this setback, Yount quickly established himself as one of baseball’s premier center fielders. In 1989, Yount earned his second MVP award after hitting.318 with 21 HRs, 101 runs, 103 RBI, and 19 stolen bases.

Over the course of his 20-year career, the Brewers only reached the playoffs twice; however, they did make it to the World Series in 1982 – the year he earned his first MVP award. Though Milwaukee lost in seven games to end Yount’s remarkable run of hits (.414/.452/.621 with a homer, six runs and six RBI), Yount still did his best with six hits in seven at-bats.

After his 1993 season, Yount retired his #19 and the Brewers honored him with a posthumous Hall of Fame induction in 1999, receiving 77.5% of the vote for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Video: 1992 - Robin Yount Records His 3000th Hit

1992 – Robin Yount Records His 3000th Hit

14) Andruw Jones

Jones, a five-time All-Star who didn’t always keep himself in top condition, may never make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet no one doubts Jones was an extraordinary player during his peak with the Atlanta Braves; it’s fair to say he was one of baseball’s great fielders between 1998 and 2007, winning ten consecutive Gold Glove Awards while graded out as one of the position’s best fielder’s ever. Additionally, Jones hit 34 or more home runs six times throughout his career, with 51 in 2005 alone.

Video: Top 5 Andruw Jones Catches | Historic Moments

Top 5 Andruw Jones Catches | Historic Moments

13) Bernie Williams

Williams was one of the greatest underrated Yankees ever. Throughout his 16-year career with the club, he hit.297 with an on-base percentage of.380 and hit 287 home runs, 1257 RBIs, 1366 runs scored on 2336 base hits plus 449 doubles and 147 stolen bases, earning him five selections to the All-Star team–starting at center field once.

He was among the best defensive outfielders, winning four consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1997 to 2000. Additionally, he received one Silver Slugging Award in 2002 and won the batting title with a.339 average in 1998. Finally, he is remembered as one of the postseason’s most outstanding winners, with four championships and 22 home runs and 80 RBIs during that span.

Video: Bernie Williams | Career Highlights

Bernie Williams | Career Highlights

12) Larry Doby

Legendary Indians center fielder Larry Doby often goes unappreciated throughout Major League Baseball despite being the second African American player to play in the majors (and first in the American League). Doby earned seven All-Star selections over his 13-year career, culminating with leading his team to their last World Championship in 1948.

His best season at the plate came in 1948, when he hit.272 with 32 HR and 126 RBI to finish second to Yankees catcher Yogi Berra in AL MVP voting.

Doby finally earned his place in history by being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. Additionally, his No. 14 jersey number has been retired by the Indians as a tribute to him.

Video: 1948 WS Gm4: Doby launches a solo homer in the 4th

1948 WS Gm4: Doby launches a solo homer in the 4th

11) Kirby Puckett

Puckett was the centrepiece of two World Series-winning teams in his short, 12-year career ended by glaucoma. He hit .318 in his career and had more hits in his first ten years (2,040) than any player in the 20th century. He also hit for power with 207 career homers and was a 10-time All-Star who won a batting title in 1989. He starred in the postseason, making a famous leaping catch and a game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. The Twins won the World Series in seven games.

Video: 1991 WS Gm 6: Kirby's homer forces Game 7

1991 WS Gm 6: Kirby’s homer forces Game 7

10) Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran cemented himself as one of baseball’s all-time greats. His 421 HR ranks him among the top five switch-hitters, and his 68.4 fWAR ranks him among the top 10 center fielders. Though never a league leader in any category, Beltran was the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year and three-time Gold Glover winner for the New York Mets, boasting a.284 average career and.845 OPS for his teammate Aaron Judge.

Video: Carlos Beltran Career Highlights

Carlos Beltran Career Highlights

9) Cool Papa Bell

He was renowned for his speed – it was said he could turn off the light and be asleep before it got dark – which would have been even greater had he been allowed to play in the majors before the color barrier ended the year after he retired.

Video: Cool Papa Bell - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Cool Papa Bell – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

8) Dale Murphy

By 1982, Murphy had transformed remarkably from an unassuming catcher to an All-Star MVP outfielder who started each of Atlanta’s 162 games. His improvement as a fielder was equally dramatic; in 1978, he led all National League first basemen in errors; five years later, while playing all three outfield positions, Murphy earned himself five consecutive Gold Gloves and received his first MVP award since 1957 when Hank Aaron won it. Murphy’s star was blazing for a period of seven years, and then it quickly burnt out.

Video: Murphy collects his 300th career homer

Murphy collects his 300th career homer

7) Duke Snider

Snider was one of the greatest power hitters ever. In his 18 year career, he had a .295 average, a .380 on-base percentage, 407 home runs, 1333 RBI’s, 1259 runs scored, 2116 base hits and 99 stolen bases. He was selected to the All-Star game eight times.

Video: Duke Snider career highlights

Duke Snider career highlights

ย 

6) Joe Dimaggio

In his short 13 year career, he had a .325 average, 361 home runs, 1537 RBI’s, 1390 runs scored, 2214 base hits, 389 doubles and 131 triples. He had two batting titles, two home runs titles, and two RBI titles. He was selected to the All-Star team thirteen times, starting in center field in six.

He won three MVP awards, with his best season coming in 1939, as he had a .381 average, 30 home runs, 126 RBI and 108 runs scored in only 120 games played. He led his team to the World Series an amazing ten times, winning the championship nine times.

Video: Joe DiMaggio Highlights

Joe DiMaggio Highlights

5) Tris Speaker

In his long 22 year career, he had a .345 average, 117 home runs, 1529 RBI’s, 1882 runs scored, 3514 base hits, 792 doubles, 222 triples and 432 stolen bases. He had one batting title, four on base % titles, one slugging percentage title and one OPS title.

He ranks fifth all-time in total hits, sixth all-time in total triples and is the all-time leader in career doubles. His best season came in 1912, when he won his only MVP award. He had a .383 average in that season, ten home runs, 90 RBI’s, 136 runs scored, and 52 stolen bases. Finally, he won three championships, two with the Red Sox and one with the Indians.

Video: Who Is the Greatest Centerfielder Ever? Tris Speaker. The Gray Eagle, aka Spoke.

Who Is the Greatest Centerfielder Ever? Tris Speaker. The Gray Eagle, aka Spoke.

4) Ken Griffey Jr.

He is a fantastic defensive player, winning ten consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1990 until 1999. He led the league in home runs four times, in runs once, and in RBI’s once. His best season was in 1997, as he won his only MVP award. He had a .304 average in that season, 56 home runs, 147 RBI’s, 125 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. However, several injuries hurt his career ever since he signed with his hometown Reds. Griffey is one of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history; his 630 home runs rank as the sixth-most in MLB history. Griffey was also an exceptional defender and won 10 Gold Glove Awards in center field. He is tied for most consecutive games with a home run (8 games, with Don Mattingly and Dale Long).

Video: Ken Griffey Jr Career Highlights

Ken Griffey Jr Career Highlights

3) Mickey Mantle

In his 18 year career, he had a .298 average, a .421 on-base percentage, 536 home runs, 1509 RBI’s, 1677 runs scored, 2415 base hits and 153 stolen bases. He won four home run titles, six scored titles and one RBI title. He was selected to the All-Star team a fantastic twenty times, starting in center field in twelve of them.

He won three MVP awards and finished second in the voting three times. His best season came in 1956 as he won the Triple Crown and his first MVP award. He had a .353 average, a .464 on-base percentage, a .705 slugging percentage, 52 home runs, 130 home runs, 132 runs scored and ten stolen bases. Finally, he was a solid defensive player, winning a Gold Glove award in 1962 and leading the Yankees to the World Series a fantastic twelve times.

Video: Mickey Mantle hits his 500th home run in 1967

Mickey Mantle hits his 500th home run in 1967

2) Ty Cobb

In his 24-year career, he had a .366 career average, 117 home runs, 1937 RBIs, 2246 runs scored, 4189 base hits, 724 doubles, 295 triples and 892 stolen bases.

He won eleven batting titles, seven on-base percentage titles, eight slugging percentage titles and ten OPS titles. He ranks second all-time in hits and runs, fourth in doubles, second in triples, seventh in RBI and fourth in stolen bases.

He won the MVP award in 1911, with a .420 average, eight home runs, 127 RBIs, 147 runs scored and 83 stolen bases. However, he was an average defensive player at best.

Video: History in Five: The Real Ty Cobb

History in Five: The Real Ty Cobb

1) Willie Mays

In his 22-year career, he had a .302 average, a .384 on-base percentage, 660 home runs, 1903 RBI’s, 2062 runs scored, 3283 base hits, 523 doubles, 140 triples and 338 stolen bases. He won one batting title, two on-base percentage titles and four home run titles. He was selected to the All-Star team an unheard of 24 times, starting in center field 18 times.

On top of all that, he is arguably the most outstanding defensive player ever. Even though the Gold Glove award started five to six years into his career, he still won twelve consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1957 until 1968.

Video: Willie Mays Career Highlights

Willie Mays Career Highlights

Honorable Mention

Jim Wynn

Fred Lynn

Cesar Cedeno

Chet Lemon

Cesar Geronimo

Willie Davis

Hack Wilson

Wally Berger

ย 

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