Teams have often looked to corner infielders for power and run production. This is especially true of the first baseman. Many of the game’s most prolific hitters have manned the position over the years, from Cap Anson in the late 1800s to Albert Pujols in the present day. This list features the 10 greatest first basemen in Major League Baseball history.
1) Lou Gehrig, 1923-39
Gehrig represented one-half of the greatest offensive combo in MLB history. Along with teammate Babe Ruth, the New York Yankees terrorized American League pitching in the 1920s and 30s. The 2-time MVP and 6-time World Series champion led the AL in RBIs five times, runs and total bases four times, and home runs and OPS three times. But the durable Gehrig is perhaps best known for his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played, a record that stood for 56 years. Even 82 years after his retirement, Gehrig ranks third all-time in slugging percentage (.632) and OPS (1.080), fifth in on-base percentage (.447) and seventh in RBIs (1,995). The Yankees Hall of Famer was even better on the big stage, hitting .361 with 10 home runs, 35 RBIs, a .483 on-base, .731 slugging and 1.214 OPS in 34 World Series games.
2) Jimmie Foxx, 1925-42, 44-45
Foxx was one of the most feared hitters of his or any other generation. “The Beast” finished his career with 534 home runs, second only to Babe Ruth at the time, and still ranks fourth all-time in slugging (.609), fifth in OPS (1.038) and 10th in RBIs (1,922). He was also the first player to win three MVPs, earning two with the Philadelphia A’s and one with the Boston Red Sox. In 1933, he won the Triple Crown of batting, leading the league with a .356 average, 48 home runs and 163 RBIs. Foxx is also one of only three players to have a 50 home run season with two different teams. In the postseason, he hit .344 with four home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.034 OPS in 18 games, and helped lead the A’s to back-to-back World Series championships in 1929-30.
3) Albert Pujols, 2001-present
Few players in MLB history have been as consistently productive as Pujols. The 3-time MVP hit at least .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in his first 11 seasons, leading the league in runs five times, total bases four times, slugging and OPS three times and home runs twice during the stretch. In the postseason, Pujols led the St. Louis Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series championships, and has hit .323 with 19 home runs, 54 RBIs and a 1.030 OPS in 77 career playoff games. Besides his three MVPs, Pujols has won six Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year. The future Hall of Famer currently ranks third all-time in RBIs (2,100) and fifth in home runs (662), doubles (669) and total bases (5,923).
4) Hank Greenberg, 1930, 33-41, 45-47
In the equivalent of nine and a half seasons, Greenberg accomplished more than some of the game’s greatest players did in 20. Despite missing four and a half years to military service during World War II and another to injury, the Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer won two MVPs, two World Series championships and four home run and RBI titles. For his career, he hit .313 with 331 home runs, 1,274 RBIs and 1,046 runs in only 1,394 games. His .605 slugging and 1.017 OPS rank sixth all-time.
5) Miguel Cabrera, 2003-present
After beginning his career as a surprise playoff hero for the World Series champion Florida Marlins as a rookie in 2003, Cabrera has spent the next decade and a half as arguably baseball’s best all-around hitter. The future Hall of Famer has won two MVPs with the Detroit Tigers, seven Silver Sluggers, four batting titles and a Triple Crown in 2012 (.330 average, 44 home runs, 139 RBIs). Through his first 18 seasons, the 11-time All-Star has 487 home runs, 1,729 RBIs, 1,457 runs, 2,866 hits and 581 doubles.
6) Cap Anson, 1871-97
Anson was one of baseball’s first superstars, and still ranks among MLB’s all-time leaders in several major statistical categories. In a sprawling 27-year career, including 22 seasons with the Chicago White Stockings (now known as the Cubs), the Hall of Famer hit .330 with 2,075 RBIs, 1,999 runs, 3,435 hits and 582 doubles. He won four batting titles, and led the league in RBIs eight times and on-base four times. Anson still ranks fifth all-time in RBIs, seventh in hits and ninth in runs.
7) Johnny Mize, 1936-42, 46-53
In a career that was split by three years of service in World War II, Mize made an indelible mark on the game. He won a batting title, two home run titles, and led the league in slugging four times, and OPS and total bases three times each while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants before the war. After WWII, he won two more home run titles for the Giants and five World Series titles as a reserve with the crosstown Yankees. In 1947, Mize became the only player in MLB history to hit 50 home runs while striking out less than 50 times in a season.
8) Jeff Bagwell, 1991-2005
No player brought more tools to the position than Bagwell. The Houston Astros Hall of Famer hit for both average and power, had above average speed and was a superb fielder. He is the only first baseman to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season, having accomplished the feat in both 1997 and 99. In his 15 seasons with the Astros, Bagwell won Rookie of the Year, an MVP, three Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove.
9) Eddie Murray, 1977-97
Murray earned the nickname “Steady Eddie” for good reason, as the Hall of Famer was one of baseball’s most prolific hitters for two decades. Murray finished his career with 504 home runs, 1,917 RBIs, 1,627 runs and 3,255 hits. The 1977 AL Rookie of the Year was an 8-time All-Star, a 3-time Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger and a World Series champion with the 1983 Baltimore Orioles. He is the only switch hitter with both 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.
10) Frank Thomas, 1990-2008
Thomas did something no other player in MLB history could accomplish, hitting .300 with at least 20 home runs, 100 RBIs and 100 walks in seven straight seasons. During that streak from 1991-97, he won two AL MVPs, four Silver Sluggers and a batting title. Possessing both power and patience at the plate, the “Big Hurt” finished his career with 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs and 1,494 runs while hitting .301 with a .419 on-base, .555 slugging and .974 OPS.