Top 100 MLB players of all time: Nos. 50-26

Illustration by ESPN

Legendary teammates -- and rivals -- highlight the next 25 stars unveiled on our all-time MLB Top 100 list.

Today we crack the top half of our ranking with Nos. 50-26. On Tuesday, we presented the first half of our list and we'll finish with the top 25 on Thursday (see full methodology here).

Are the leaders of the Big Red Machine in the right order? Would you take Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez? Who's too high or too low? Let the debate continue!

The List: 100-51 | 50-26 | 25-1

Key links: Full rankings | Snubs | Debating our selections

Doolittle: The difficult case of Oscar Charleston

Olney: Which current stars are destined to join the list?

50. Bob Feller

Team(s): Cleveland Indians (1936 to 1941, 1945 to 1956)

Stats: 266-162, 3.25 ERA, 2,581 SO, 3,827 IP, 65.2 bWAR

Primary position: Starting pitcher

What he's best known for: Feller was probably the most dominant pitcher of his era, the speed of his fastball the stuff of legend -- and yet it's hard not to think about how much better he could have been had he not spent four years serving in World War II. Feller was a phenom who bypassed the minor leagues and debuted at 17. From 1939 to 1941, his ages 20 to 22 seasons, he won 76 games, accumulated 960 innings, posted a 2.88 ERA and finished within the top three in MVP voting all three years. In late 1941, he became one of the first American professional athletes to enlist, joining the U.S. Navy just two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After serving in active combat, he returned to baseball in 1945 to continue his Hall of Fame career. -- Alden Gonzalez

49. Frank Thomas

Team(s): Chicago White Sox (1990-2005), Oakland Athletics (2006, 2008), Toronto Blue Jays (2007-08)

Stats: .301/.419/.555, 521 HR, 1,704 RBI, 2,468 H, 73.8 bWAR

Primary position: First base/designated hitter

What he's best known for: The Big Hurt combined the artistry of a singles hitter in the body of a tight end (a position he played at Auburn before switching to baseball full time) with the plate discipline of Ted Williams, making him one of the game's great all-around hitters. Thomas was a star the moment he reached the majors, leading the AL in OPS his first two full seasons and hitting over .300 his first eight seasons -- a remarkable .330/.452/.600 line from 1990 to 1997, with two MVP Awards along the way. He had more walks than strikeouts in his career, and his 1.217 OPS in 1994 is the third-highest since World War II from somebody not named Barry Bonds. The Big Hurt? Indeed. -- David Schoenfield

48. Nap Lajoie

Team(s): Philadelphia Phillies (1896-1900), Philadelphia Athletics (1901-02, 1915-16), Cleveland Naps (1902-1914)

Slash line: .338/.380/.466, 82 HR, 1,599 RBI, 3,243 H, 106.9 bWAR

Primary position: Second base

What he's best known for: The fiercely competitive Lajoie was the American League's first great hitter. An established star when he jumped from the Phillies to the Athletics for the junior circuit's inaugural season, Lajoie hit .426 that year (1901), still the highest-ever for any MLB hitter during the modern era. Lajoie went on to win multiple batting titles for Cleveland (the exact number of which remains a matter of historical debate), and was so respected that his team adopted the moniker of "Naps." Even opponents loved him: Legend has it the St. Louis Browns played so far back against Lajoie during a season-ending doubleheader in 1910 that Nap dropped down seven bunt hits, aiding his successful attempt to edge bitter rival Ty Cobb for the batting crown. -- Bradford Doolittle

47. Warren Spahn

Team(s): Boston/Milwaukee Braves (1942, 1946 to 1964), New York Mets (1965), San Francisco Giants (1965)

Stats: 363-245, 3.09 ERA, 2,583 SO, 5,243 2/3 IP, 92.4 bWAR

Primary position: Starting pitcher

What he's best known for: Only five pitchers have won more games than Spahn, and none of them threw a pitch after 1930. You can make the case that no pitcher was more productive or more durable during the live-ball era, and this one nugget would be enough: In 1963, his age-42 season, Spahn went 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA in 259 2/3 innings and led the league in complete games. It was his seventh consecutive time leading the league in complete games, and the end of a span of eight consecutive years in which he threw at least 250 innings and won at least 18 games. His ERA in that stretch, which should have marked the decline phase for what had already been an illustrious career: 2.96, sixth-lowest in the sport. -- Alden Gonzalez

46. Ichiro Suzuki

Team(s): Seattle Mariners (2001 to 2012, 2018-19), New York Yankees (2012 to 2014), Miami Marlins (2015 to 2017)

Stats: .311/.355/.402, 117 HR, 780 RBI, 3,089 H, 60.0 bWAR

Primary position: Right field

What he's best known for: The iconic Ichiro -- first name only required -- was the first position player from Japan to play in the majors and his unique style of hitting seemed straight out of the dead-ball era instead of the steroids era. Remarkably durable (he averaged 159 games his first 12 seasons), he lined, blooped, slapped and outraced more than 200 hits in each of his first 10 seasons, including an all-time record 262 in 2004. Despite not coming to the Mariners until he was 27, he still reached 3,000 hits -- 4,367 when you include his Japanese career. In an era of power hitters, he was one of a kind: Who else has a YouTube video showing nothing but his infield hits? -- David Schoenfield

45. Wade Boggs

Team(s): Boston Red Sox (1982 to 1992), New York Yankees (1993 to 1997), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1998-99)

Slash line: .328/.415/.443, 118 HR, 1,014 RBI, 3,010 H, 91.4 bWAR

What he's best known for: The easiest way to sum up Boggs' legacy is "batting average" -- and all the things that go into having a lofty one. He was disciplined (.415 career OBP), rarely struck out, almost never popped up, took almost every first pitch. After Boggs' age-30 season, he had a career average of .356 and had won five batting titles over his first seven big league seasons. He was obsessive about routine which manifested in both work habits and superstitions. On the latter, Boggs may be best remembered for eating chicken before every game. When "Chicken Man" won a World Series title with the Yankees in 1996, he famously rode a police horse around Yankee Stadium. Ironically, despite Boggs' career-long mania for base hits and batting average, in 1999 he became the first player to reach the 3,000-hit milestone by hitting a home run. -- Bradford Doolittle

44. Tony Gwynn

Team(s): San Diego Padres (1982 to 2001)

Stats: .338/.388/.459, 763 XBH, 3,141 H, 319 SB, 69.2 bWAR

Primary position: Right field

What he's best known for: Gwynn was a magician with the bat. He could seemingly place the ball wherever he pleased, most notably in the "5.5 hole" between the opposing third baseman and shortstop. Watching Gwynn hit -- with his crouched stance and his light bat -- was among the greatest baseball experiences of the 1980s and '90s. Three numbers that most stick out: Gwynn played in 2,440 games and struck out three times only once. He compiled 541 plate appearances against 18 Hall of Fame pitchers and batted .331/.371/.426. Against Greg Maddux, the man he faced more than any other, he hit .415. -- Alden Gonzalez

43. George Brett

Team(s): Kansas City Royals (1973 to 1993)

Stats: .305/.369/.487, 317 HR, 1,596 RBI, 3,154 H, 88.6 bWAR

Primary position: Third base

What he's best known for: Brett's run at a .400 batting average in 1980 captivated the sports world and established him as one of his generation's iconic ballplayers and ultimate big-game performers. Brett's frenetic, hair-on-fire playing style merged that year with a picture-perfect swing that was largely attributed to his early career collaboration with famed hitting coach Charlie Lau. The result was perhaps the most amazing prolonged hot streak a hitter has ever had. From his return from injury on July 10 through the end of the 1980 season, Brett hit .424, finishing at .390 overall, and was at .400 as late as Sept. 19. That campaign resulted in one of his three career batting crowns, each in a different decade, and his only MVP trophy. Three years later, Brett's furious charge from the dugout in the infamous Pine Tar Game would become iconic. -- Bradford Doolittle

42. Nolan Ryan

Team(s): New York Mets (1966 to 1971), California Angels (1972 to 1979), Houston Astros (1980 to 1988), Texas Rangers (1989 to 1993)

Stats: 324-292, 3.19 ERA, 5,714 SO, 5,386 IP, 81.3 bWAR

What he's best known for: Ryan was to pitchers what his home state -- Texas -- is to America: Everything seems a little bit bigger than life. Ryan was long recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as baseball's fastest pitcher, but that's just the tip of his iceberg. He did throw as hard as anybody, but he did it from 1966 to 1993. He is the all-time leader in strikeouts, but also walks. He has the lowest rate of hits allowed per nine innings in history, but also ranks second in wild pitches. He won 324 games, but lost 292. He threw a record seven no-hitters, the last nearly 18 years after the first. Simply put, there has never been anyone else quite like the Ryan Express. -- Bradford Doolittle

41. Satchel Paige

Team(s): Negro Leagues (1927 to 1947, Birmingham Black Barons, Cleveland Cubs, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Kansas City Monarchs, others), Cleveland Indians (1948-49), St. Louis Browns (1951-53), Kansas City Athletics (1965)

Stats (Negro Leagues and Major Leagues combined): 118-80, 2.70 ERA, 1,438 SO, 1,695 IP, 46.6 bWAR

Primary position: Starting pitcher

What he's best known for: Paige's major league debut came two days after his 42nd birthday. Before that, he spent more than 20 years dazzling in the Negro Leagues. And through that, he established himself as something of a baseball mercenary, leveraging his talent while barnstorming in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and throughout the continental United States, from Birmingham to Cleveland to Pittsburgh to Kansas City. He established himself with a blistering fastball but later expanded his repertoire to throw practically everything -- from a variety of angles and in a variety of tempos. He was also a showman, famously commanding his infielders to sit down before striking out hitters. -- Alden Gonzalez

40. Jimmie Foxx

Team(s): Philadelphia Athletics (1925 to 1935), Red Sox (1936 to 1942), Cubs (1942 to 1944), Phillies (1945)

Stats: .325/.428/.609, 534 HR, 1,922 RBI, 2646 H, 93.1 bWAR

Primary position: First base

What he's best known for: One of the most menacing hitters in the game's history, Foxx's nickname was, simply, "Beast." And well-earned. He twice hit 50 home runs, including 58 in 1932, but he was no mere slugger, winning two batting titles and the Triple Crown in 1938 (one of his three MVP seasons). At 6 foot, 195 pounds, Foxx wasn't a giant, but he wore his jersey sleeves short to show off the biceps, made strong growing up on a farm in Maryland. As Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez once said, "Even his hair had muscles." -- David Schoenfield

39. Yogi Berra

Team(s): New York Yankees (1946 to 1965)

Stats: .285/.348/.482, 358 HR, 1,430 RBI, 2,150 H, 59.6 bWAR

Primary position: Catcher

What he's best known for: Quotes, perhaps more than anyone in history. Quotes like, "Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical" and "If people don't want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?" The persona sometimes overshadowed the player. Make no mistake, Berra is on the short list of greatest backstops, a superstar who was at the center of 10 championship clubs for the Yankees. If not for all those colorful Yogisms, the bad-ball-hitting Berra would be most remembered for a preternatural ability to get good wood on pitches no matter where they were thrown. Six times Berra's home run total equaled or surpassed his strikeout total. Only Joe DiMaggio (seven) had more such seasons. -- Bradford Doolittle

38. Jackie Robinson

Team(s): Negro Leagues (1945, Kansas City Monarchs), Brooklyn Dodgers (1947 to 1956)

Stats (Major Leagues): .311/.409/.474, 464 XBH, 1,518 H, 197 SB, 61.8 bWAR

Primary position: Second base

What he's best known for: Robinson's No. 42 is retired throughout Major League Baseball, his legacy inspiring the sport's most cherished holiday. Seventy-five years ago, Robinson became the first Black man to play in the major leagues, changing the course of baseball -- and America -- forever. Robinson faced intolerance and hatred while breaking baseball's color barrier but handled it with grace. He also performed spectacularly, making six consecutive All-Star teams, winning an MVP Award and bringing a palpable electricity to every field he stepped upon. -- Alden Gonzalez

37. Joe Morgan

Team(s): Houston Colt .45s/Astros (1963 to 1971, 1980), Cincinnati Reds (1972 to 1979), San Francisco Giants (1981-82), Philadelphia Phillies (1983), Oakland Athletics (1984)

Stats: .271/.392/.427, 268 HR, 1,133 RBI, 2517 H, 100.4 bWAR


position: Second base

What he's best known for: A younger generation may only remember Morgan as the longtime analyst on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" and not even realize he is arguably the greatest second baseman of all time. When the Big Red Machine finally won back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976, Morgan was their best player (he was NL MVP both years), not Johnny Bench or Pete Rose. From 1972 through 1976, after coming over from the Astros in the heist of the decade, "Little Joe" (he was 5-foot-7) was about as perfect a ballplayer as you could find: He hit .303/.431/.508 while averaging 60 steals (at a high success rate) and winning five Gold Gloves. He probably should have won the MVP Award all five seasons. -- David Schoenfield

36. Tris Speaker

Team(s): Boston Americans/Red Sox (1907 to 1915), Cleveland Indians (191626), Washington Senators (1927), Philadelphia Athletics (1928)

Stats: .345/.428/.500, 117 HR, 1,531 RBI, 3,514 H, 134.7 bWAR

Primary position: Center field

What he's best known for: The Grey Eagle's prowess in center field marks him as an all-timer with the glove. Only Willie Mays recorded more putouts in center, and Speaker's penchant for playing shallow helped him to a record 448 assists, 173 more than any other center fielder. He's also far and away the leader in double plays at the position, occasionally recording unassisted twin kills at second base because of how close he played to the infield. He was pretty good at the plate, too. Speaker led the AL in doubles seven times and is the all-time leader with 792 two-baggers. -- Bradford Doolittle

35. Josh Gibson

Team(s): Negro Leagues (1930 to 1946, Memphis Red Sox, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Homestead Grays)

Stats (Negro Leagues): .374/.458/.719, 165 HR, 806 H, 725 RBI, 38.6 bWAR

Primary position: Catcher

What he's best known for: They called him "The Black Babe Ruth." Or maybe Ruth was "The White Josh Gibson." Gibson's Hall of Fame plaque states he "hit almost 800 home runs in league and independent baseball during his 17-year career." But the Negro Leagues didn't schedule many league games, allowing players to barnstorm against semi-professional competition in order to earn a little extra money. From 1933 to 1939, Gibson played in just 339 official games, as tabulated by Baseball-Reference. He led his league in home runs in every season of that seven-year stretch and RBIs six times, totaling 105 and 429, respectively. The 162-game average amounts to 50 home runs and 205 RBIs (to go along with a .375/.454/.746 slash line). Ruth's best seven-year stretch, from 1926 to 1932, produced a 162-game average of 55 home runs and 171 RBIs. -- Alden Gonzalez

34. Pete Rose

Team(s): Cincinnati Reds (1963 to 1978, 1984 to 1986), Philadelphia Phillies (1979 to 1983), Montreal Expos (1984)

Stats: .303/.375/.409, 160 HR, 1,314 RBI, 4,256 H, 79.6 bWAR

Primary position: He was a regular at five of them! (First base, second base, third base, left field, right field)

What he's best known for: He's the Hit King, he's Charlie Hustle, he's the player who had a 44-game hitting streak and made 17 All-Star teams. He's also the guy who bet on baseball, received a lifetime ban, wrote a book titled "My Prison Without Bars," only to finally come clean. Fans idolized Rose, sportswriters admired him and he was a great player, averaging 5.6 WAR from 1965 to 1976. He played wherever the Reds needed him and played every day (10 seasons with 162 games). He also selfishly hung on way too long to break Ty Cobb's record (playing first base, he hit six home runs in 3,229 at-bats over his final seven seasons). He's overrated, he's underrated, he's beloved, he's despised. -- David Schoenfield

33. Bob Gibson

Team(s): St. Louis Cardinals (1959 to 1975)

Stats: 251-174, 2.91 ERA, 3,117 SO, 3,884 1/3 IP, 89.1 bWAR

Primary position: Starting pitcher

What he's best known for: There may be no athlete more synonymous with fierce competitiveness than Gibson, who once faced three batters after suffering a broken leg. But Gibson was much more than just an intense pitcher. At his best, Gibson was the prototype for what we still think of as a rotation ace. It all came together in 1968, when Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA during the "Year of the Pitcher." That season, Gibson threw 13 shutouts and enjoyed one unfathomable stretch: From June 6 to Sept. 2, Gibson started 18 games, completed 17 of them and went 16-1 with a 0.60 ERA. Yet his greatness was most on display in the World Series. In nine Fall Classic starts, Gibson went 7-2 with eight complete games. -- Bradford Doolittle

32. Sandy Koufax

Team(s): Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers (1955 to 1966)

Stats: 165-87, 2.76 ERA, 2,396 SO, 2,324 1/3 IP, 53.1 bWAR

Primary position: Starting pitcher

What he's best known for: Six years. That's all it took for Koufax to establish himself as one of the greatest pitchers in history. From 1961 to 1966, Koufax won three Cy Young Awards unanimously -- back when there was only one award for the entire sport -- and an MVP, while accumulating 129 wins, a 2.19 ERA and 1,713 strikeouts in 1,632 2/3 innings. Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once compared hitting against Koufax to "drinking coffee with a fork." He boasted a big fastball and a devastating curveball and retired with more strikeouts than innings pitched. But that retirement came abruptly, after a brilliant season in 1966, when Koufax was still just 30 years old and chronic arthritis in his left elbow finally became too much to bear. -- Alden Gonzalez

31. Mariano Rivera

Team(s): New York Yankees (1995 to 2013)

Stats: 82-60, 2.21 ERA, 652 saves, 1,173 SO, 1283 IP, 56.3 bWAR

Primary position: Closer

What he's best known for: The greatest reliever of all time -- and, unlike every other position, there isn't even a debate. Throwing his famous cut fastball over and over and over, a pitch that suddenly appeared one day in 1997 when Rivera was playing catch, Rivera single-handedly kept Louisville Slugger in business with all the broken bats he induced. "The Lord gave it to me," Rivera once said. He didn't even change his grip. The ball just started moving. He had 11 seasons with a sub-2.00 ERA and a this-can't-be-real 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings. The most respected player of his generation, in 2019 he became the first player elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame. -- David Schoenfield

30. Albert Pujols

Team(s): St. Louis Cardinals (2001 to 2011), Los Angeles Angels (2012 to 2021), Los Angeles Dodgers (2021)

Stats: .297/.375/.544, 679 HR, 2,150 RBI, 3,301 H, 99.6 bWAR

Primary position: First base

What he's best known for: The first half of Pujols' career was defined by almost metronomic greatness. In each of his first 11 seasons, Pujols hit at least .299 with 30 homers, 99 RBIs and 99 runs scored and won three NL MVP Awards. He also provided one of the signature moments of the 2000s when he hit a moonshot off Houston's Brad Lidge with the Cardinals down by two runs with two outs and two runners on in a 2005 NLCS elimination game. A 13th-round draft pick out of a Kansas City-area junior college, Pujols was so consistently dominant that he became known simply as "The Machine." -- Bradford Doolittle

29. Johnny Bench

Team(s): Cincinnati Reds (1967 to 1983)

Stats: .267/.342/.476, 389 HR, 1,376 RBI, 2,048 H, 75.1 bWAR

Primary position: Catcher

What he's best known for: A lot has been left up for debate, but not this: Johnny Bench is the greatest catcher in MLB history. He brought uncommon offensive prowess and unquestioned defensive excellence to the sport's most rigorous position, accumulating 10 Gold Glove Awards and twice leading the majors in home runs. "The Big Red Machine" dominated the 1970s, winning two World Series titles and four National League pennants. And Bench was their leader. He made 13 consecutive All-Star teams from 1968 to 1980, and in that stretch he played in more than 140 games nine times. -- Alden Gonzalez

28. Derek Jeter

Team(s): New York Yankees (1995-2014)

Stats: .310/.377/.440, 260 HR, 1,311 RBI, 3,465 H, 71.3 bWAR

Primary position: Shortstop

What he's best known for: The Yankees won the World Series in Jeter's rookie season of 1996 -- the first time they'd been there since 1981 -- and nearly every October for almost two decades after that, we invited Jeter into our living rooms and watched him deliver clutch hits and iconic moments and pump his fist from the top step of the dugout. Yankees fans loved him; non-Yankees fans grew to resent not only his success, but the idolatry directed his way. Jeter seemed only concerned with winning. Overrated or not, you can't deny the five World Series rings. -- David Schoenfield

27. Roberto Clemente

Team(s): Pittsburgh Pirates (1955 to 1972)

Stats: .317/.359/.475, 240 HR, 1,305 RBI, 1,416 R, 94.8 bWAR

Primary position: Right field

What he's best known for: The annual award named after Clemente signifies his legacy, honoring the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team." Clemente will always be remembered for the way his career ended (getting his 3,000th hit on the last day of the 1972 season) and the way he died, in a plane crash on a humanitarian mission to aid victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. But he will also be remembered simply as a great baseball player, one who won 12 Gold Gloves as perhaps the best defensive right fielder in history. Clemente reached his pinnacle in 1971, when he starred with the glove and at the plate while carrying the Pirates to a World Series win over the Orioles. -- Bradford Doolittle

26. Alex Rodriguez

Team(s): Seattle Mariners (1994 to 2000), Texas Rangers (2001 to 2003), New York Yankees (2004 to 2016)

Stats: .295/.380/.550, 696 HR, 2,086 RBI, 3,115 H, 117.5 bWAR

Primary position: Shortstop/third base

What he's best known for: A-Rod, a No. 1 overall pick at 17, was an incredibly skilled hitter with power who played shortstop gracefully and boasted a cannon for an arm. The numbers and the hardware -- three MVPs, two Gold Gloves, 10 Silver Sluggers -- make his case as one of the greats. When he joined the Yankees in 2004, he moved to third base to accommodate Derek Jeter, going on to win his lone World Series title in 2009. But Rodriguez's career is defined as much for his missteps as it is for his triumphs, most notably a PED-related, season-long suspension in 2014 -- five years after admitting to using steroids early in his career and claiming he never did so again. -- Alden Gonzalez