Third base requires the quickest reflexes and strongest arm, and these 10 players combined that ability - and great hitting skills - to become the hottest at the hot corner. It's not the deepest position, as just seven of these players who primarily played third base are in the Hall of Fame as of 2011. A look at the top 10 third basemen in Major League Baseball history:
1. Mike Schmidt
Philadelphia Phillies (1972-89)
No player combined power with grace at third base like Schmidt. He hit 548 homers, drove in 1,595 and won 10 Gold Gloves in his 18-year career. He was rarely injured, allowing him to the lead the National League in home runs eight times and winning three MVP awards. He also helped lead the Phillies to the 1980 World Series title.
2. George Brett
Kansas City Royals (1973-93)
The careers of Brett and Schmidt paralelled in many ways, over virtually the same seasons in different leagues. They were on opposite sides in the 1980 World SEeies, and incredibly, they both finished with the same number of RBI (1,595). Brett didn't have as much power and wasn't quite as good in the field, but he was a more complete hitter, becoming the first player in history to accumulate more than 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, 600 doubles, 100 triples, 1,500 RBI and 200 stolen bases. Brett was MVP in 1980, when he batted .390 with 24 homers and 118 RBI. Brett, who hit 10 postseason home runs, won a World Series in 1985.
Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves (1952-66), Houston Astros (1967), Detroit Tigers (1967-68)
The only other player with 500 homers as a third baseman, Mathews provided consistent power for the Braves of the 1950s and 1960s. He led the league in homers twice and was a 10-time NL All-Star. He also won two World Series, including one in his final season, with the Tigers. Interesting trivia: Mathews is the only player to play in all three of the cities the Braves played in.
Baltimore Orioles (1955-77)
There's little debate that Robinson was the finest fielding third baseman of all-time, as his 16 consecutive Gold Gloves would attest. He was a darn good hitter as well, driving in 1,367 in his career with 268 homers. His finest season came in 1964, when he hit .317 with 28 homers and 118 RBI. He played more games at third base than anybody (2,870) and has the best fielding percentage (.971). His acrobatic plays in the 1970 World Series are a staple of historic highlight packages, and he batted better than .500 that postseason, too, going 16 for 33 with two homers.
5. Wade Boggs
Boston Red Sox (1982-92), New York Yankees (1993-97), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1998-99)
The superstitious Boggs (he ate chicken on game days, took exactly 150 grounders before games and always took batting practice at 5:17 p.m.) won five batting titles with his smooth line-drive stroke and batted .328 in his career, good for 35th all-time as of 2011. In his 18-year career, Boggs reached base in 80 percent of his games and was the only batter in the 20th century to have seven consecutive 200-hit seasons.
Atlanta Braves (1995-)
His Hall of Fame credentials are under debate as his career winds down, but there's no doubt that Jones is the best third baseman of his generation. A former No. 1 overall draft pick, he broke in during the Braves' World Series championship season in 1995 and was NL MVP in 1999, when he hit .319 with 45 home runs and 119 RBI and stole 25 bases. He hit 20 or more home runs for 14 consecutive seasons, and only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray have more home runs as switch hitters.
7. Pie Traynor
Pittsburgh Pirates (1920-35, 1937)
A career .320 hitter and a slick fielder, he was with the Pirates for more than 50 years as a player, manager, broadcaster or scout. He had 164 triples and drove in 1,273 runs in his 17-year career and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting six times.
Philadelphia A's (1908-14), New York Yankees (1916-19, 1921-22)
Baker earned his nickname not for the number of home runs he hit, but for when he hit them. In 1911, he hit clutch home runs in the World Series against the Giants, and led the league in homers for four consecutive seasons. He finished with 96 in his career, which was a lot before Babe Ruth came along and became his teammate in 1920. Baker was a .307 career hitter, stole 235 bases in his 13-year career and had a very good career OPS - especially for his era - of .805.
9. Ron Santo
Chicago Cubs (1960-74)
Perhaps the best third baseman not in the Hall of Fame (who is eligible), Santo hit 342 career homers and won five Gold Gloves with the Cubs. Santo drove in 1,331 runs and became a beloved Cubs broadcaster after his playing career ended.
10. Scott Rolen
Philadelphia Phillies (1996-2002), St. Louis Cardinals (2002-07), Toronto Blue Jays (2008-09), Cincinnati Reds (2009-)
Surprised? Rolen has quietly put up good career numbers heading into 2011 and has always been considered one of the best defensively. Despite battling injuries throughout his career, the 1996 NL Rookie of the Year hit his 300th homer in 2010 and has a .284 career average to go with eight Gold Gloves.
The next five: Darrell Evans, Stan Hack, Al Rosen, Ken Boyer, Graig Nettles
Honorable mention: Negro Leagues stars Ray Dandridge and Judy Johnson