25 Greatest Third Basemen in Baseball History - Fueled by Sports

25 Greatest Third Basemen in Baseball History

25 Greatest Third Basemen in Baseball History

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Third basemen have been known to carry a bigger bat than shortstops and this list of the top 25 at third base does not include any hitters that are below average. At the “hot corner” as it so appropriately called, a player must be ready to have right-handed pull hitters send rockets down the line making it necessary to have quick feet and a strong arm to get it across the diamond to first.

Other Positions: C | 1B | SS | 3BOF

Here is our list of the top 25 third basemen of all time:

25. Toby Harrah

Toby Harrah started his pro career with the Washington Senators in 1971, but the following year the franchise packed up and moved to Texas to become the Texas Rangers. Between 1974 and 1982 Harrah averaged .272 at the plate, 17 home runs, 72 RBIs and 19 steal each season and was named to three all-star teams. For his career, Harrah averaged .264 at the plate with 195 home runs, 918 RBIs and 1,954 hits. Besides the Rangers, Harrah played with both the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees.

24. Bob Elliott

When Bob Elliott began his major league career he played the outfield with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Elliott played eight seasons with Pittsburgh, but after three seasons he switched to third base. The change was made due to Elliott’s strong arm and the team’s starting third baseman Lee Handley had to serve in World War II.

Elliott was an All-Star three times and received votes for the MVP four consecutive seasons between 1942 and 1945. After eight seasons with Pittsburgh Elliott was traded to the Boston Braves where he became a home run hitter at Braves Field. In 1946, he was named to his third all-star team and voted National League MVP.

23. David Wright

David Wright’s career is a what could have been due to several injuries he suffered the latter part of his career, but when healthy Wright was considered one of the best in baseball at the hot corner. Wright officially retired from baseball in 2018. The New York Mets drafted Wright No. 38th overall in the 2001 June supplemental draft.

During his best seasons, from 2005 through 2010, Wright played an average of 156 games and averaged .306 at the plate with 26 home runs, 104 RBIs, 100 runs scored, and 22 steals. He was named to five All-Star teams and helped the Mets reach the 2006 National League Championship Series. But his back began to fail him and Wright never reached the peak he enjoyed from 2005 to 2010 the final eight seasons of his career.

22. Evan Longoria

Longoria is still playing and is currently with the San Francisco Giants. Longoria was drafted in 2006 the same season Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw were drafted. He joined Tampa Bay two years later in 2008.

In his rookie season, Longoria hits .272 with 27 home runs and 85 RBIs in just 122 games and was named to his first All-Star team and voted the American League Rookie of the Year. Longoria was named to two more All-Star teams and earned a pair of Gold Gloves from 2009 to 2011.
Over the first six years (2008-2013) of his MLB career, Longoria averaged 133 games played, .272 at the plate, 27 home runs and 91 RBIs per season.

21. Stan Hack

Stan Hack was signed by the Sacramento Senators after he was seen playing baseball in a travel league on the weekends. In the Pacific Coast League Hack hit .352 in 164 games. The Chicago Cubs president Bill Veeck Sr. bought Hack’s contract and Hack became a member of the Cubs.

In 1932, his first season in the big leagues Hack hit just .236 and was demoted to Double-A. In 1934, Hack returned to the bigs and became well known for drawing walks and eventually would walk more than 1,000 times during his career and have a career OBP of .394. Hack played on five All-Star teams and in 1938 was seventh in voting for the National League MVP. Twice during his career he led the NL in hits and stolen bases.

20. Jimmy Collins

Collins started his professional career with the Boston Beaneaters in 1895. He came into his own in 1897 hitting .346 and the following season led the National League in home runs and was considered the best fielding third baseman of his generation thanks to a strong arm and very good range.
In 1901, Collins moved to the American League to play for the Boston Americans and took over the helm as player/manager. The Americans were second in 1901 and finished first in 1902 and 1903 under Collins.

19. Ron Cey

Cey began his career in the minors for the Los Angeles Dodgers before playing two games with the Dodgers in 1971 and eventually would become the regular third baseman for the Big Blue in 1973. For over eight seasons, Cey was a regular at third in an infield consisting of Steve Garvey at first, Davey Lopes at second and Bill Russell at short. Cey was named the co-MVP of the 1981World Series with teammates Steve Yeager and Pedro Guerrero.

From 1974 through the 1981 season, Cey averaged 24 home runs and 85 RBIs per season and earned a trip to the All-Star game six times. In 1983 the Dodgers sent Cey to the Chicago Cubs where he played another four seasons and then was traded to Oakland and played one season with the A’s before retiring.

18. Robin Ventura

Ventura played with the Chicago White Sox for 10 seasons and was known for his strong bat and better than average glove at third. Following his decade with the White Sox, Ventura played three seasons with the New York Mets and added shorter stints with both the Yankees and Dodgers.
Ventura finished his career with a .267 batting average, 294 home runs, 1,182 RBIs and 1,006 runs scored.

17. Darrell Evans

Darrell Evans did not have a strong career batting average at just .248, but Evans was strong at both slugging percentage and on-base percentage. Evans signed with Kansas City in 1967 but in 1968 he was claimed by the Atlanta Braves in the rule 5 draft.

The first five seasons with Atlanta, Evans did not play regularly but in 1973 he was named to the National League All-Star team and led the NL in walks with 124, while hitting 41 home runs, knocking in 104 runs and scoring 114 runs. The following season, Evans led the NL in walks with 126 and over his career had five seasons in which he walked 100 or more times. Evans finished his career with the Detroit Tigers.

16. Frank Baker

Nicknamed “Home Run,” Baker hit just 96 homers for his career. However, he led the American League in round trippers for 4 consecutive seasons between 1911 and 1914, hitting 11, 10, 12 and 9 dingers respectively from 1911 to 1914.

Baker went yard twice during the 1911 World Series versus the New York Giants. The home run in Game 2 of that series led to the A’s winning and his second home run that series was off the legendary Christy Mathewson and helped the A’s win Game 3. Baker finished his career with the Yankees playing in the Bronx for six seasons including 1921 and 1922 with Babe Ruth.

15. Sal Bando

Bando was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in 1965. In 1966 Bando played just 11 games in the majors and in in 1967 just 47. The Athletics relocated to Oakland following the 1967 season and Bando became a starter at third in the 1968 season. For the following nine years, Bando would average .256 at the plate with 21 home runs, 88 RBIs and 81 runs per season.

The Athletics would reach the postseason in 1971 for the first time in 40 years but would lose to Baltimore in the American League Championship Series, but would bounce back to win the next three World Series. Bando was voted to the All-Star team in each of those three seasons and was a top 5 vote getter for MVP in two of the three seasons.

14. Ken Boyer

Boyer took six years to reach the big leagues after signing as an 18-year old with the St. Louis Cardinals, but two of the six years were spent in the Army for the Korean War.
In 1955, Boyer replaced Ray Jablonski at third for the Cardinals. Boyer was voted to the All-Star team in his second season when he batted .306, hit 26 home runs and knocked in 98 runs. Boyer would be voted to a total of six All-Star teams during his career.

Boyer won five Gold Glove awards during his career. Statistically Boyer’s best season was in 1964 when he led the National League in RBIs and was voted the league MVP. The Cardinals and Boyer won the World Series that season and he hit a grand slam in Game 4.

13. Buddy Bell

Buddy Bell is considered one of the top 5 fielding third-basemen of all-time in MLB. Bell won six Gold Glove awards during this career as evidence of his talent at the hot corner. Bell was also voted to five All-Star teams while in the American League.

After playing seven seasons with Cleveland, Bell was traded before the 1979 season to the Texas Rangers. That season he enjoyed the best season of his career. For the next six seasons, Bell averaged .301 at the plate, won six straight Gold Gloves and earned four trips to the All-Star Game.
In 1985, Bell was traded to Cincinnati where he played five more seasons, but not up to the caliber of his six seasons with the Rangers.

12. Craig Nettles

Nettles’ best seasons were with the New York Yankees in the 1970s with teammates such as Reggie Jackson, Mickey Rivers, Lou Piniella and the legendary backstop Thurman Munson.
Nettles was above average with the glove and possessed a powerful bat. Nettles won back-to-back World Series in 1977 and 1978 with the Yankees. Nettles was a nomad of sorts in the game playing for six teams during his professional career. For his career, Nettles averaged .248 with 390 home runs and 1,193 RBIs.

11. Paul Molitor

Molitor played in just 64 games in the minors before being called up by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1978. Molitor finished second in Rookie of the Year voting for the American League that season behind Detroit’s Lou Whitaker.

Molitor was selected to seven All-Star teams during his career. In 1982, Molitor enjoyed his best season batting .302 and led the American League in plate appearances and runs scored. He batted .355 that season during the Brewers loss in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
In 1987, Molitor chased Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, but reached just 39 before going hitless in his 40th game. Molitor played 15 seasons with the Brewers and in 1991 led the league in hits, triples, and runs scored.

10. Scott Rolen

Rolen was drafted and signed by Philadelphia in 1993. He played 37 games in 1996, but was still rookie eligible in 1997 when he batted .283 with 21 home runs, 92 RBIs, 93 runs scored and 16 stolen bases and earned National League Rookie of the Year honors.
Rolen had four seasons that followed his rookie year that were as good if not better than 1997. Between 1997 and 2001 he won three Gold Glove awards. In 2002, Rolen was dealt by the Phillies to the Cardinals.

Rolen was chosen for the All-Star team each season between 2002 and 2006, with his best season in 2004, with a batting average of .314, 34 home runs, 124 RBIs and 109 runs. That season Rolen was fourth in MVP voting. Rolen lost one and won one World Series with the Cardinals.

9. Ron Santo

Santo played in the Majors between 1960 and 1974 during which he hit .277. Santo led the National League in walks four times and was the on-base percentage leader twice.
Santo was great with the glove as well earning five Gold Glove awards and was chosen for nine All-Star teams. Santo’s No. 10 jersey was retired by the Cubs in 2003. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012 by the Veteran’s Committee, but unfortunately Santos passed away in 2010.

8. Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones was as good with the bat as a third baseman as Brooks Robinson was with the glove. Jones was chosen by the Atlanta Braves first overall in the 1990 draft. Jones was in the minors for three seasons, and then missed all of 1994 with an ACL tear.

His career took off in 1995 as he was second in Rookie of the Year voting in the National League and played his first of eight times in the All-Star Game. In 1999, Jones was the NL MVP with a .319 batting average, 45 home runs, 110 RBIs, 116 runs and 25 stolen bases. Over a run between 1995 and 2009, Jones would average 28 home runs, 96 RBIs and 97 runs scored per season while batting an average of .307. Jones won one World Series in three trips with the Braves.

7. Adrian Beltre

Beltre played his first game in the majors at age 19 during the 1998 season, but for the first five seasons averaged just .265 at the plate. However, 2004 was his break out season when he was second in voting for the NL MVP.

The next season, Beltre joined the Seattle Mariners. However, his career stalled in the Pacific Northwest but was jump started again following one season with the Red Sox before joining the Texas Rangers. Between 2010 and 2016 with the Rangers, Beltre would average .310 at the plate with 28 home runs, 95 RBIs and 86 runs scored per season. He won three Gold Glove awards and was voted to four all-star teams during those seven seasons. Beltre finished his career with a batting average of .286, 477 home runs and 1,707 RBIs.

6. Alex Rodriguez

While Rodriguez played shortstop well enough be considered one of the top 5 of all-time at that position, his play at third makes him the sixth best all-time at the hot corner. His first 10 seasons were at short.

After stints in Seattle and Texas playing short, when he joined the Yankees in 2004 he became New York’s third baseman. The move was surprising since Rodriguez was considered far better at short than Yankees starter Derek Jeter, but Jeter was the Captain and remained at the No. 6 spot.
The move did not bother Rodriguez who would earn his second and third MVP awards while with the Yankees for 12 seasons. His PED suspension put a cloud over his entire career, but baseball pundits are very aware of the talent Rodriguez possessed PED’s or not. Rodriguez finished his career with a batting average of .295 with 696 home runs, 2, 086 RBIs and a .380 on-base percentage.

5. Brooks Robinson

Brooks Robinson was and is hand’s down the best fielding third baseman in Major League Baseball history. However, he was one of the weakest hitters to ever play the position.
Robinson started his pro career at 18 years of age in 1955 with six games, but he would need three more years before he played his first complete season in the majors. Between 1960 and 1974, Robinson was selected to the American League All-Star teams each season and earned a Gold Glove award in each of those 15 seasons.

At the plate, he hit 20 home runs or more in five seasons and 100 RBIs or more in two seasons. In 1964, Robinson led the AL in RBIs and was voted AL MVP. Robinson won two World Series with Baltimore and the World Series MVP in 1970.

4. George Brett

Brett was not selected until the second round of the 1971 draft by Kansas City. In 1974, Brett was third in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year.
Brett was a magician with the bat. For 16 seasons between 1975 and 1990, Brett averaged .314 at the plate, earned 13 trips to the All-Star Game, and won three batting titles, one Gold Glove award and the 1980 AL MVP award. Brett was the AL leader in hits, triples and slugging percentage three times and won three Silver Slugger awards.

Brett came close to hitting .400 in 1980. In September that season he was batting .403 but ended the season at an incredible .390. If he would have had five more hits during the course of the season Brett would have hit .400. In 1999, Brett was voted to the Hall of Fame.

3. Wade Boggs

Boggs learned as a youngster to swing at just strikes and would have 100 or more walks four seasons and would lead the American League six times in on-base percentage.

Boggs career started in the majors in 1982 and he promptly hit .349 over 104 games and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. While with the Red Sox and Yankees between 1983 and 1996, Boggs averaged 184 hits per season with a .332 batting average. He was chosen to 12 All-Star teams, won eight Silver Slugger awards, five batting titles, and two Gold Glove awards, before retiring in 1999.
Since 1939, Boggs has the fourth highest batting average of all time behind just Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn and Stan Musial. In 2005 Boggs was elected to the Hall of Fame.

2. Eddie Mathews

Mathews started his career with the Boston Braves following his graduation from high school. He took the third base job over in 1952 at 20 years of age and that season had 25 home runs and was third in NL MVP voting.

At 21, Mathews led the NL in homers with 47 and had 135 RBIs. Mathews was an All Star that season and 11 other times during his career and finished second to Roy Campanella in MVP voting. For 13 years, Mathews would average .277 at the plate, 35 home runs, 98 RBIs and 100 runs.
Mathews was the league leader in homers twice and averaged 90 walks or more each season, leading the NL in walk in four seasons. Mathews retired with 512 career home runs which was sixth when he retired. Mathews is a member of the Hall of Fame.

1. Mike Schmidt

The selection of Mike Schmidt as the best all-time third baseman is not a difficult one. Schmidt was drafted one selection after George Brett in the 1971 draft.
Schmidt was called up to the Philadelphia Phillies in September of 1972 and was given the starting job at third to begin the 1973 season. He struggled as a rookie batting .196 with 136 Ks.
But success quickly followed as he led the National League in homers and slugging percentage during 1974, and led the league in home runs in both 1975 and 1976. Eight times during his career he led the league in home runs, four times in RBIs, four times in walks, three times in on-base percentage and five times in slugging percentage.

Schmidt was great with a glove as well earning 10 Gold Glove awards. He earned three MVP awards in the NL and won the 1980 World Series and was named MVP of the Fall Classic that year.
Schmidt finished his career with a .267 batting average, 548 home runs, 1,595 RBIs and a .380 on-base percentage. His numbers at the plate and on the field easily make Schmidt the top choice of all-time at the hot corner.

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