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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Latest Baseball News & Rumors Today / Top 20 Greatest Hitters in Major League Baseball History

Top 20 Greatest Hitters in Major League Baseball History: Where do Rose and Bonds Rank?

Top 20 Greatest Hitters of All-Time!
Publish Date: 04/25/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

The Greatest Hitters of All Time

This is a debate that will be sure to rage on as long as baseball is played. That is the great thing about baseball; the game hasn’t changed as much as others have through the years. The Deadball Era, lack of African-American players, Steroid Era were factors that could either hurt or help you, but in the end, being a complete hitter was most important to me. You may be a great singles hitter, but I lean towards a high batting average that includes extra-base hits more than just a straight-up singles guy.

20) George Sisler

Sisler was a first baseman for the St. Louis Browns who hit.402 in 1920 and.420 in 1922, leading both leagues in batting each year.

He amassed 257 hits in 1920, setting a record that would stand until Ichiro Suzuki broke it in 2004.

Sisler boasted a lifetime batting average of.340.

Video: George Sisler Highlight video

George Sisler Highlight video

19) Nap Lajoie

When it comes to dominant hitters, many of them came from the hitting-starved times of the dead-ball era. Nap Lajoie, in particular, earned himself a team named in his honor.

Lajoie spent most of his career with the Cleveland Naps, leading the league five times in batting and dominating nearly every offensive category in 1901. He often led both hits and doubles as well.

Lajoie had a career average of.338, 3,242 hits, 163 triples and an infamous team name; the only question left to decide which was greater: his statline or having his own team?



18) Pete Rose

Baseball’s all-time career hits leader also holds the record for the most plate appearances in MLB history. His 1,972 career wins as a player is also a record. Rose did not hit for power and his lifetime batting average was slightly above .300. He was a great hitter, but his records were more about longevity, but he was a great hitter.

Video: Pete Rose Top 14 Moments

Pete Rose Top 14 Moments

17) Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds has a lot of baggage, and some might criticize me for including someone who represents the face of the steroid era in my top five hitters list. Even before his surge in his 30s, though, he was an elite hitter and five-tool player, so I don’t see any issue here. He is dropped because of the steroid use later in his career.

In his 20s, Bonds was an all-around hitter who could hit 100 RBIs and 30 HRs while scoring triples and drawing walks. But then 2000 came around, and everything changed – instead of his numbers declining drastically, his numbers became truly remarkable.

He set a home run record of 73 in 2001, put up incredible on-base percentage numbers due to pitchers working around him, and continued hitting triple digit runs and RBIs en route to seven career MVP awards for his hitting prowess. Bonds should rank higher, but steroids drop him much lower than he would be. If there was an all-time steroid team, Bonds would be on it.

Video: Barry Bonds Before And After Steroids

Barry Bonds Before And After Steroids

16) Jimmie Foxx

Jimmie Foxx was one of the greatest players in 1930s baseball and deserves to be included among the hitters of all time, yet despite playing for much of his career with the Red Sox; he remains little remembered today.

Foxx was consistent.300 hitter, often leading the league in home runs and RBIs. His prowess earned him three MVP awards over his career.

People often overlook his running prowess, which included 125 triples in his career. He hit.325, had 534 home runs, over 2,600 hits, and even became a pitcher at the end of his tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies when everyone else was still active in the service.

Video: Jimmie Foxx - The Beast

Jimmie Foxx – The Beast

15) Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson had an impressive career to begin with, but his numbers look even better in retrospect since he played during such a dominant pitching era.

Robinson won the Triple Crown in 1966 and was twice MVP winner. He consistently hit home runs, doubles, and collected 100 RBIs with ease; furthermore, his ability to score runs allowed him to become a three-time Triple Crown champion.

At the conclusion of his career, Robinson had hit 586 home runs and amassed 2,943 hits to go with over 1,800 RBIs – making him an easy choice for a first-ballot Hall of Fame induction.

Video: Frank Robinson's groundbreaking baseball life!

Frank Robinson’s groundbreaking baseball life!

14) Lou Gehrig

Gehrig and Stan Musical are the only two players with at least 500 doubles, 150 triples, and 450 home runs for a career.

Video: Lou Gehrig Baseball Career Highlights

Lou Gehrig Baseball Career Highlights

13) Shoeless Joe Jackson

Jackson, one of the most famous players on this list, batted.375 in the 1919 World Series and had 12 hits. He knew that some of his teammates took bribes to throw this Series. Jackson was then banned from the game for the rest of his life. We all wonder what could have been. We know that Jackson was an all-time great hitter who was forced out of baseball with a lifetime .356 batting average.

Video: Shoeless Joe Jackson: Hall of Fame Worthy?

Shoeless Joe Jackson: Hall of Fame Worthy?

12)Harry Heilmann

Harry Heilmann of the Detroit Tigers was a career.342 hitter, hitting.394,.403,393 and.398 each other year since 1921 – an impressive streak!

But Heilmann was the most impressive in 1921. This year he engaged Cobb, then Detroit’s manager, in an epic AL batting title battle and eventually prevailed with a.394 average to Cobb’s.389.

Video: Harry Heilmann Gravesite

Harry Heilmann Gravesite

11) Wade Boggs

Wade Boggs, one of several left-handed batting champions to wear Red Sox uniforms, won five AL batting titles – four consecutively from 1985-88 – during which span he hit.368,.357.363 and.366, respectively.

Boggs, a third baseman, was later traded to the Yankees and hit.342 in 1994 – his final great season with them.

Boggs achieved his 3,000th hit–a home run–with his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999.

Boggs boasts a.328 average and 3,010-lifetime hits, thanks to his superb bat control and keen eye. In seven consecutive seasons, he hit 200 or more balls en route to joining the 3,000-hit club.

Video: Wade Boggs - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Wade Boggs – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

10) Honus Wagner

won eight NL batting titles, tied for the most in NL history with the legendary Tony Gwynn. Wagner hit a career-high .381 in 1900 and won four batting titles in a row, starting in 1906 and culminating with a World Championship Pittsburgh team in 1909. He also led the league in slugging six times and in stolen bases five times.

Video: Honus Wagner - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Honus Wagner – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

12) Rod Carew 

Carew won seven American League batting titles, including four straight from 1972-75. Carew hit a career-high .388 in 1977 and wound up with a .328 lifetime average and 3,053 hits. He was selected to 18-straight all-star games.

Video: MIN@LAA: Carew collects his 3,000th career hit

MIN@LAA: Carew collects his 3,000th career hit

11) Joe Dimaggio

The Yankee Clipper’s numbers are impressive enough on their own, but when you consider that he missed three prime years and has only 13 seasons under his belt – lower than most this high – his achievements become even more remarkable.

His first season saw him emerge as an MVP contender, leading the league in triples and home runs during a remarkable 1937 campaign that should’ve earned him MVP honors. Ultimately, he won three MVP awards over his career and led the league twice in batting average.

DiMaggio batted.325 throughout his career and amassed 2,214 hits along with over 1,500 RBIs. He was the driving force of the Yankees during World War II, playing alongside Gehrig and Mantle for most of their success.

Video: Joe DiMaggio Baseball Career Highlights

Joe DiMaggio Baseball Career Highlights

10) Tony Gwynn 

Since the retirement of Ted Williams, Gwynn has been the best hitter in baseball. Gwynn owns a record-tying eight NL batting titles. He hit .394 in 1993, the highest average since Ted Williams batted .406  in 1941. That kicked off a string of four-straight batting titles, as Gwynn hit .368, .353 and .372 the next three years, respectively. Gwynn finished with 3,141 hits and a .338 lifetime batting average. Gwynn was selected to 15 All-Star Games and helped lead the Padres to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.

How great was Tony Gwynn? Was he one of the best right-fielders of all time?

Video: The Legend of Tony Gwynn | Career Highlights

The Legend of Tony Gwynn | Career Highlights

9) Tris Speaker

Speaker’s career record of 792 doubles is still intact. He hit 50 doubles in 1920 and batting.388 to help Cleveland Indians win their first World Series. His career doubles record has stood for 100 years.

Video: Who is Tris Speaker? The Most Forgotten Legend in the History of Baseball (Baseball Storytime #4)

Who is Tris Speaker? The Most Forgotten Legend in the History of Baseball (Baseball Storytime #4)

8) Mickey Mantle

When Mickey Mantle became a Yankee, he was following in the footsteps of Joe DiMaggio, who was on his way out in 1951. Despite such big shoes to fill, Mantle not only did so but established himself as one of the best hitters in MLB history.

Mantle was the cornerstone of the Yankees in the 50s and 60s, winning baseball’s triple crown in 1956, the only year he led the league in batting average. He frequently led the league in runs and home runs and could still hit for power even in his final years.

Mantle finished his career nearly hitting .300 with 536 home runs and over 1500 RBIs. He also cemented his status as the greatest switch-hitter of all time, and his three MVP wins could have easily been five had it not been for Roger Maris’s short dominant streak.

Video: 1964 WS Gm3: Mantle hits a walk-off home run

1964 WS Gm3: Mantle hits a walk-off home run

7) Willie Mays

Perhaps the greatest five-tool player in baseball history batted in more than 100 RBIs in 10 of his 22 seasons. Mays could hit for power, as his 660 lifetime home runs can attest, and the lifetime batting average was brought down as Mays played much longer than he should have.

Video: Willie Mays Career Highlights

Willie Mays Career Highlights

6) Hank Aaron

With all the focus on his career home run record that Barry Bonds broke in 2007, it is easy to forget that Aaron is the all-time career leader in RBIs, extra-base hits (1,477) and total bases (6,856). Aaron was much like Ruth, who could beat you however he needed. He had a lifetime batting average of over .300, hitting 755 home runs for his career and over 3,700 hits.

Video: Remembering Hank Aaron, one of the greatest MLB players ever

Remembering Hank Aaron, one of the greatest MLB players ever

5) Stan Musial 

Musial was a great hitter, and I have him this high on the list because he also hit with great power, belting 475 Home Runs in his career. Musial stands fourth all-time with 3,630 hits. The most impressive statistic in all of those hits is that he had 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road. Musial won seven batting titles and ended his career with a lifetime batting average of .331 and almost 2,000 RBI’s.

Video: Stan Musial Tribute- career highlights, greatest plays, games.

Stan Musial Tribute- career highlights, greatest plays, games.

4) Rogers Hornsby 

Hornsby is a man that is seemingly on every baseball historian’s top 5 hitters list, and yes, he is on mine also. Hornsby had the highest single-season batting average in baseball history, .424, in 1924. Between 1922 and 1925, Rogers batted .401, 384, .424 and .403. He won his final batting title with the Boston Braves in 1928 when he hit .387. Hornsby ranks second in history with a .358 lifetime average. Hornsby won a pair of triple crowns in 1922 and 1925. Hornsby was also the first National Leaguer to notch 300 career Home Runs.

Video: Rogers Hornsby - Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

Rogers Hornsby – Baseball Hall of Fame Biographies

3) Babe Ruth

Ruth once said, “If I’d just tried for them dinky singles, I could’ve batted around .600.” He may have been right, but we’ll never know. Over 2,800 hits, a lifetime batting average of .342, and 714 home runs tell you all you need to know about the greatness of Ruth.

Video: Babe Ruth Highlights

Babe Ruth Highlights

2) Ty Cobb 

As he was known, the “Georgia Preach” was one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. His reputation was unjustly soiled by a drunken sportswriter named Al Stump and later Ken Burns in his PBS Documentary Baseball. But the truth about Cobb was that he was as good a man as a baseball player. Beginning in 1907, Cobb won an unprecedented nine-consecutive AL batting title. Then after losing the 1916 race, he won three more in a row, starting in 1917. He is second all-time in base hits at 4,191 and has the highest lifetime batting average in Major League Baseball history at .367. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that he batted over .400 three times, hit above .300 for 23 straight seasons, and won the 1909 triple crown.

Video: History in Five: The Real Ty Cobb

History in Five: The Real Ty Cobb

1) Ted Williams 

This is a no-brainer selection for me. The “Splendid Splinter” could do it all. The most fantastic stat may be that Williams lost five of his best years to military service and still put up odd numbers. Williams hit .344 lifetime, won six American League batting titles and was the last man to beat over 400 for an entire season. Williams won the triple crown not once but twice in 1942 and 1947. He won his final batting title at the age of 39 when he hit an astounding .388. To me, number one was undoubtedly the “Splendid Splinter”.

The legacy of the Green Monster begins with Teddy Ballgame.

Video: Ted Williams Highlights

Ted Williams Highlights


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