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Top 10 First Basemen in Baseball History: Who was the Best Ever?

Publish Date: 04/18/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Baseball players understand the first baseman is an integral component of their field game. Recognized for their defensive prowess, power-hitting ability, and incredible field plays, first basemen have played an instrumental role in shaping Major League Baseball (MLB) history. Many legendary players have graced this position over the years and made significant contributions to their sport. In this article, we take a closer look at the Top 10 First Basemen from MLB history to commemorate their great achievements and contributions to baseball!

Criteria

As always, stats play a larger part, as does post-season play. How good you were in the era you played in is a large factor, so that’s how a Cap Anson makes this list. Ability to elevate the team you are on also comes into play.

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10) Harmon Killebrew, Minnesota Twins

Harmon Killebrew was an accomplished power hitter who spent most of his career with the Minnesota Twins. He hit 573 home runs at an astounding batting average throughout his career 256, while being honoured 13 times as an All-Star and even receiving the American League MVP award in 1969.

Harmon was a third baseman and left fielder before transitioning to first base in 1963, and as they say, the rest is history as Killebrew would make the all-star team every year until his retirement in 1972. Killebrew has to be only on any list of the greatest Minnesota Twins.

  • 13 Time All-Star
  • AL MVP 1969
  • 6 Time AL Home Run Leader
  • 3 Time AL RBI Leader
Video: Harmon Killebrew Highlights

Harmon Killebrew Highlights

9) Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox

Frank Thomas was an iconic force during the 1990s and early 2000s for the Chicago White Sox baseball team, famous for his power and average hitting ability. Winning back-to-back MVP awards in 1993 and 1994, Thomas amassed 521 homers during his career and held a.301 batting average while being named a five-time All-Star and a key component to their 2005 World Series victory.

I think a lot of times people forget what a force Thomas was, especially in the early to mid-90s when he burst onto the scene, and the whole country watched in amazement. Thomas was a special player and one of the ten Greatest Baseball players of the 1990s.

  • 5 Time All-Star
  • 2 Time AL MVP
  • 4 Time Silver Slugger
  • AL Batting Champion 1997
  • World Champion 2005
Video: Frank Thomas (The Big Hurt) Highlight Reel

Frank Thomas (The Big Hurt) Highlight Reel

8) Johnny Mize, Cardinals, Giants, and Yankees

Johnny Mize was known as “The Big Cat.” He was a powerful hitter who played for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants and New York Yankees throughout his career. A consistent threat at bat, Mize finished his career at.312, homered 359 times and collected 1,337 RBI to be awarded two World Series championships and selected ten-time All-Star status.

1937 he batted 364, though Cardinals teammate Joe Medwick won the batting title with a .374 average. Mize led the league in triples and OPS that year as well. By 1939 Mize had moved up into second place for the Most Valuable Player voting thanks to leading with an outstanding average (.349) and 28 homers, setting a Cardinals team record that stood for decades afterwards with 43 homers scored that year alone.

  • 10 Time All-Star
  • 5 Time World Champion
  • NL Batting Champion 1939
  • 4 Time NL Home Run Leader
  • 3 Time NL RBI Leader
Video: Johnny Mize 1981 Hall of Fame Induction Speech

Johnny Mize 1981 Hall of Fame Induction Speech

7) Mark McGwire, St.Louis Cardinals and Oakland A’s

McGwire spent his career between 1984 and 2001 playing for both the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, though his use of steroids cast a shadow over it. While some may question his athletic prowess, there can be no denying McGwire could hit baseballs hard; 12 All-Star selections, 1 Gold Glove award, 3 Silver Slugger awards and winning Rookie of the Year were just some of his accomplishments in 1998 alone he broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark of 61 homers off with 70 homeruns alone!

McGwire holds the lowest career hit total among players who have hit 500 or more homers (1,626). Big Mac finished his career with 583 homers and 1,414 RBIs; due to his admission of using steroids he will likely never be elected into the Hall of Fame.

  • 12 Time All-Star
  • 1 Gold Glove Award
  • 3 Silver Slugger Awards
  • Rookie of the Year 1987
  • 2 Time World Champion
  • 5 Time NL Home Run Leader
  • NL RBI Leader
Video: Buck calls McGwire's 62nd homer of 1998

Buck calls McGwire’s 62nd homer of 1998

6) Willie McCovey, San Fransisco Giants

Willie McCovey played 21 seasons for Major League Baseball, amassing 521 homers, 1,555 RBIs and 2,211 hits during that span. The slugger earned 6 All-Star selections, 1959 NL Rookie of the Year honors and ultimately won 1969 NL MVP honors.

McCovey is widely considered to be one of the greatest left-handed power hitters ever in baseball. At just 21 years old, he entered as a rookie to bat.354 during his inaugural 52-game season – earning Rookie of the Year honors and eventually reaching 500 homers! Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame upon first ballot vote.

  • 6 Time All-Star
  • NL MVP 1969
  • NL Rookie of the Year 1959
  • 3 Time NL Home Run Leader
  • 2 Time NL RBI Leader
Video: Willie McCovey 1986 Hall of Fame Induction Speech

Willie McCovey 1986 Hall of Fame Induction Speech

5) Hank Greenburg, Detroit Tigers

Hank Greenberg played between 1930 and 1947 and earned himself the moniker “the Hebrew Hammer” due to his impressive hitting abilities. During 1935 alone, he knocked in 168 runs while adding an astounding 184 RBIs during 1937!

Greenberg hit 58 home runs in 1938, second only to Babe Ruth. Unfortunately, World War II abruptly cut short Greenberg’s career when he left only 19 games into 1941’s season and missed all but half of 1942-1944 and 1945’s campaigns.

Greenberg earned four All-Star selections and two AL MVP awards, hitting for an astoundingโ€”313 average with 331 home runs. Greenberg was honored with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

  • 5 Time All-Star
  • 2 Time World Champion
  • 2 Time AL MVP
  • 4 Time AL Home Run Leader
  • 4 Time RBI Leader
Video: SportsCentury: Hank Greenberg

SportsCentury: Hank Greenberg

4) Jimmy Foxx, Philadelphia Athletics

Jimmie Foxx, better known as ” Double X,” was an elite force during the 1930s and 1940s. He played for multiple teams, such as the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs, with Philadelphia Athletics leading him to three consecutive World Series wins (1929-1921). Foxx notched over 500 homers during his career while collecting three MVP awards and leading this team to victory to two consecutive World Series in 1929 and 1930; his statistics include a.325 batting average and 1,922 RBI total in his long career numbers.

Foxx is one of the most forgotten all-time players, but watch the film on him, and I think you will agree he deserves to be at least this high.

  • 9 Time All-Star
  • 2 Time World Champion
  • Triple Crown 1933
  • 3 Time AL MVP
  • 2 Time AL Batting Champion
  • 4 Time AL Home-Run Leader
  • 3 Time AL RBI Leader
Video: Jimmie Foxx - The Beast

Jimmie Foxx – The Beast

3) Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals

Stan Musial, one of baseball’s beloved figures, spent 22 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals as a highly versatile first base and outfield player renowned for his trademark left-handed swing which earned him the moniker “Stan the Man.”

Musial was honored as a three-time MVP, seven-time Batting Champion, 24 All-Star selection as well as 3630 hits with 475 home runs for an average batting average of.331. Musial was great in the field and with the bat, which is why he is one of St. Louis’s most beloved figures.

  • 24 Time All-Star
  • 3 Time NL MVP
  • 7 Time Batting Champion
  • 3 Time World Champion
  • 2 NL RBI Leader
  • MLB All-Century Team
Video: Stan Musial Highlights

Stan Musial Highlights

2) Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols is a modern-day legend who has solidified his place among the all-time greats. He burst onto the scene in 2001 with the St. Louis Cardinals and quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. Pujols possesses a rare combination of power, consistency, and defensive prowess.

With over 600 home runs and 3,000 hits to his name, he is one of only four players in MLB history to achieve this feat. Pujols has won three MVP awards and has been selected to the All-Star team ten times.

  • 11 Time All-Star
  • 2 Time World Champion
  • 3 Time NL MVP
  • NL Rookie of the Year 2001
  • NLCS MVP 2004
  • 2 Time Gold Glove Winner
  • 6 Time Silver Slugger Winner
  • NL Comeback Player of the Year
  • Roberto Clemente Winner 2008
  • NL Batting Champion 2003
Video: Albert Pujols Career Highlights (One of the GOATs retires from MLB after hitting his 700th homer)

Albert Pujols Career Highlights (One of the GOATs retires from MLB after hitting his 700th homer)

1) Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees

Lou Gehrig, better known as the “The Iron Horse,” is considered one of baseball’s greatest first basemen. From 1923-1939 he served with the New York Yankees, helping lead them to six World Series Championships during this period and amassing an impressive career stat line: lifetime batting average of.340 with 493 homers and 1,995 RBI’s for an astounding lifetime average batting average of.340 plus two American League MVPs and seven All-Star awards during his playing years at first base. Gehrig wasn’t just one of the greatest Yankees of all time; no, Lou Gehrig was much more than that!

Gehrig is one of the greatest baseball players ever, regardless of position. He was a solid defensive player and one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history. He could hit for power or average, whichever was needed from him.

  • 7 Time All-Star
  • 6 Time World Champion
  • 2 Time AL MVP
  • Triple Crown 1934
  • AL Batting Champion 1934
  • 3 Time AL Home Run Leader
  • 5 Time RBI Leader
Video: Lou Gehrig Highlights

Lou Gehrig Highlights

Honorable Mentions

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins

Cabrera began his Major League Baseball career with the Florida Marlins as a third baseman. However, he was later traded to the Detroit Tigers. Over his career, he has earned 11 All-Star game appearances, 7 Silver Slugger awards and been twice named AL MVP.

Cap Anson, Chicago

Cap Anson was one of the earliest true stars in professional baseball, known for the time he spent with the (now Chicago Cubs) for most of his career and for his extraordinary hitting ability and outstanding leadership qualities. Career highlights for Anson include a batting average of.334, 3,435 hits, and 97 homers.

Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros

Jeff Bagwell was an outstanding first baseman with the Houston Astros during his entire career, notably claiming National League MVP honors in 1994, hitting 449 home runs, and scoring 1,529 runs during that span. A four-time All-Star, Bagwell led his team through their late 1990s and early 2000s triumphant run.

The Houston Astros had never been a World Series team until Bagwell and Biggio came around. Because of injury issues, Bagwell only had a few at-bats in that 2005 World Series loss to the White Sox, but he had a significant impact on the Astros organization.

Eddie Murray, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers

Eddie Murray was a powerful switch-hitting first baseman who excelled in the 1970s and 80s. He played for several teams, such as the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers, collecting an astounding 3,255 hits, 504 home runs, 1,917 RBIs, and three Gold Glove awards while being an eight-time All-Star.

Murray was one of the Greatest Baltimore Orioles of all time. He was an integral part of the 1979 and 1983 World Series teams. The Orioles won it all in 1983.

Jim Thome, Cleveland Indians

Jim Thome had an outstanding MLB career with six different teams but is most widely remembered for his tenure with the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies. A five-time All-Star who also won one Silver Slugger, Thome was widely celebrated.

From 1991-2012, Thome amassed 612 home runs, 1,699 RBIs, and 451 doubles over an 18-year career that began as the designated hitter and ended as the full-time designated hitter in 2008.

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