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Top 10 Shortstops In Baseball History


This might be the toughest position to judge from the early days of baseball to today, as shortstops typically fell into two camps: hitters and fielders. Only the best have done well at both, and the powerful (Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken) have only emerged in recent years.

1. Honus Wagner

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 4: Shortstop Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees makes a throw to first base to get Jeff Keppinger #7 of the Chicago White Sox to end the first inning in a MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on September 4, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
He's probably better known for his baseball card, which is more valuable than anybody else's because of its rarity. But his career was better than any other shortstop in big-league history, too. In 21 seasons, he hit .329 and stole 722 bases, and in a career entirely in the dead-ball era, he hit 101 home runs. He was in the original five-man class in the Hall of Fame in 1936. He hit better than .300 in 17 consecutive seasons and won eight NL batting titles. Wagner broke in with the Louisville Colonels and played his final 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wasn't the greatest fielder (.940 career precentage), but that was among the best of his era, which was before there was such as thing as Gold Gloves or smoothed-out infields.

2. Alex Rodriguez

He has played more games at shortstop, so he remains on this list as of 2009. A-Rod will go down as one of the greatest - if not the greatest - power-hitting infielders of all-time. As of August 2009 he has a .304 career average, three MVP awards (but no World Series titles, of course) and is on pace to hit more homers than anybody, all-time. He won three Gold Gloves as well. On the downside, he's also admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs. That doesn't affect him on this list, but when Cooperstown comes calling, it probably will.

3. Derek Jeter

The all-time hits leader as a shortstop - Wagner had more, but played a lot in the outfield, first base and at third - Jeter will be remembered as a winner and a leader as much as for his production. And he also has a .316 career average as of August 2009, and hits for decent power. He's won three Gold Gloves as well (but doesn't have great range). And Jeter has 17 homers in the postseason that augment those four World Series rings with the New York Yankees. In his 15th season, he's already a lock for Cooperstown.

4. Cal Ripken

His career was similar to Jeter's, but with a little more power and not as good an average. Ripken hit .276 with 3,184 career hits and 431 homers, and moved to third base for the final five years of his 21-year career for the Baltimore Orioles. He won two AL MVPs and a World Series in 1983. And for playing in 2,632 consecutive games, the most in history, his place in baseball history is secure. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.

5. Luke Appling

Appling won two American League batting titles, and his .388 average in 1936 remains the highest by a shortstop in history. He hit .310 in his career and had a splendid .798 OPS, which is better than Ripken. However, he never even played in the postseason in his 20-year career for the Chicago White Sox. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964.

6. Robin Yount

Yount almost played as many games in the outfield (1,218) as at shortstop (1,479). He was good enough to win a Gold Glove at shortstop in 1982, when he was the AL MVP, hitting .331 with 29 homers, both career-highs. Yount was consistent, with a career average of .285, 251 homers and 1,406 RBI, and personified Milwaukee Brewers baseball from age 18 in 1974 to age 37 in 1993. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999.

7. Lou Boudreau

Perhaps the best of the middle 20th century, the former Indians shortstop had a career average of .295 in 15 seasons and drove in 789 runs. He also led Cleveland (as a player/manager at age 30) to its last World Series in 1948, when he was the AL MVP. He hit .355 with 18 homers and 106 RBI that season. Even more incredible that year: He walked 98 times and struck out only nine times in 676 plate appearances. His career ended somewhat early as he concentrated on managing at age 34. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.

8. Arky Vaughan

He replaced Wagner in Pittsburgh and was a perennial All-Star through the 1930s for the Pirates. He missed three seasons because of World War II, and that kept his totals low. But he still had 2,103 hits and a .318 career average (but wasn't fantastic defensively, a .951 percentage). Vaughan is largely forgotten, however, as he died in a boating accident in 1952. He hit .385 at age 23, and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1985.

9. Joe Cronin

A .301 career hitter, this Red Sox shortstop topped .300 11 times and played a solid shortstop, and was player-manager from 1933-45. He was almost out of his time, when the position was typically a small, slick fielder. Cronin was more like Ripken or Jeter, hitting for power and average. His career fielding percentage was .951. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956.

10. Ozzie Smith

The Wizard is generally considered the best fielding shortstop ever (although fans of Luis Aparicio and Omar Vizquel might disagree). Smith won 13 Gold Gloves, a World Series in 1982 with the St. Louis Cardinals and was a career .262 hitter. He hit .300 only once, in 1987 (.303, 0 HR, 75 RBI), but was so highly regarded that he finished second in the NL MVP vote. His fielding percentage was .978, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Next five: Barry Larkin, Omar Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, Alan Trammell, Joe Sewell.

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