The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Baseball Players of all time. This list of famous American Baseball Players is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Baseball Players.
With an HPI of 74.37, Babe Ruth is the most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 55 different languages on wikipedia.
George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr. (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948) was an American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball (MLB) spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935. Nicknamed "The Bambino" and "The Sultan of Swat", he began his MLB career as a star left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees. Ruth established many MLB batting (and some pitching) records, including career home runs (714), runs batted in (RBIs) (2,213), bases on balls (2,062), slugging percentage (.690), and on-base plus slugging (OPS) (1.164); the last two still stand as of 2019. Ruth is regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture and is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time. In 1936, Ruth was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its "first five" inaugural members. At age seven, Ruth was sent to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory where he was mentored by Brother Matthias Boutlier of the Xaverian Brothers, the school's disciplinarian and a capable baseball player. In 1914, Ruth was signed to play minor-league baseball for the Baltimore Orioles but was soon sold to the Red Sox. By 1916, he had built a reputation as an outstanding pitcher who sometimes hit long home runs, a feat unusual for any player in the pre-1920 dead-ball era. Although Ruth twice won 23 games in a season as a pitcher and was a member of three World Series championship teams with the Red Sox, he wanted to play every day and was allowed to convert to an outfielder. With regular playing time, he broke the MLB single-season home run record in 1919. After that season, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the Yankees amid controversy. The trade fueled Boston's subsequent 86-year championship drought and popularized the "Curse of the Bambino" superstition. In his 15 years with the Yankees, Ruth helped the team win seven American League (AL) pennants and four World Series championships. His big swing led to escalating home run totals that not only drew fans to the ballpark and boosted the sport's popularity but also helped usher in baseball's live-ball era, which evolved from a low-scoring game of strategy to a sport where the home run was a major factor. As part of the Yankees' vaunted "Murderers' Row" lineup of 1927, Ruth hit 60 home runs, which extended his MLB single-season record by a single home run. Ruth's last season with the Yankees was 1934; he retired from the game the following year, after a short stint with the Boston Braves. During his career, Ruth led the AL in home runs during a season 12 times. During Ruth's career, he was the target of intense press and public attention for his baseball exploits and off-field penchants for drinking and womanizing. After his retirement as a player, he was denied the opportunity to manage a major league club, most likely due to poor behavior during parts of his playing career. In his final years, Ruth made many public appearances, especially in support of American efforts in World War II. In 1946, he became ill with nasopharyngeal cancer and died from the disease two years later. Ruth remains a part of American culture, and in 2018 President Donald Trump posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
With an HPI of 72.24, Joe DiMaggio is the 2nd most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.
Joseph Paul DiMaggio (November 25, 1914 – March 8, 1999), nicknamed "Joltin' Joe" and "The Yankee Clipper", was an American baseball center fielder who played his entire 13-year career in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees. Born to Italian immigrants in California, he is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and is perhaps best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15 – July 16, 1941), a record that still stands.DiMaggio was a three-time Most Valuable Player Award winner and an All-Star in each of his 13 seasons. During his tenure with the Yankees, the club won ten American League pennants and nine World Series championships. His nine career World Series rings is second only to fellow Yankee Yogi Berra, who won ten. At the time of his retirement after the 1951 season, he ranked fifth in career home runs (361) and sixth in career slugging percentage (.579). He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955 and was voted the sport's greatest living player in a poll taken during baseball's centennial year of 1969. His brothers Vince (1912–1986) and Dom (1917–2009) also were major league center fielders. DiMaggio is widely known for his marriage and lifelong devotion to Marilyn Monroe.
With an HPI of 70.30, Jackie Robinson is the 3rd most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 47 different languages.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American professional baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. Robinson broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. When the Dodgers signed Robinson, they heralded the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues since the 1880s. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.During his 10-year MLB career, Robinson won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949—the first black player so honored. Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers' 1955 World Series championship. In 1997, MLB retired his uniform number 42 across all major league teams; he was the first professional athlete in any sport to be so honored. MLB also adopted a new annual tradition, "Jackie Robinson Day", for the first time on April 15, 2004, on which every player on every team wears No. 42. Robinson's character, his use of nonviolence, and his talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation that had then marked many other aspects of American life. He influenced the culture of and contributed significantly to the civil rights movement. Robinson also was the first black television analyst in MLB and the first black vice president of a major American corporation, Chock full o'Nuts. In the 1960s, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem, New York. After his death in 1972, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his achievements on and off the field.
With an HPI of 67.50, Lou Gehrig is the 4th most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.
Henry Louis Gehrig (born Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig; June 19, 1903 – June 2, 1941) was an American professional baseball first baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees (1923–1939). Gehrig was renowned for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability, which earned him his nickname "The Iron Horse". He was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once, an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player twice, and a member of six World Series champion teams. He had a career .340 batting average, .632 slugging average, and a .447 on base average. He hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in (RBI). He still has the highest ratio of runs scored plus runs batted in per 100 plate appearances (35.08) and per 100 games (156.7) among Hall of Fame players. In 1939, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was the first MLB player to have his uniform number (4) retired by a team. A native of New York City and a student at Columbia University, Gehrig signed with the Yankees in 1923. He set several major-league records during his career, including the most career grand slams (23) (since broken by Alex Rodriguez) and most consecutive games played (2,130), a record that stood for 56 years and was long considered unbreakable until surpassed by Cal Ripken Jr., in 1995. Gehrig's consecutive game streak ended on May 2, 1939, when he voluntarily took himself out of the lineup, stunning both players and fans, after his performance on the field became hampered by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable neuromuscular illness; it is now commonly referred to in North America as "Lou Gehrig's disease". The disease forced him to retire at age 36, and was the cause of his death two years later. The pathos of his farewell from baseball was capped off by his iconic 1939 "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech at Yankee Stadium. In 1969 the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted Gehrig the greatest first baseman of all time, and he was the leading vote-getter on the MLB All-Century Team chosen by fans in 1999. A monument in Gehrig's honor, originally dedicated by the Yankees in 1941, currently resides in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award is given annually to the MLB player who best exhibits Gehrig's integrity and character.
With an HPI of 64.82, Hank Aaron is the 5th most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.
Henry Louis Aaron (born February 5, 1934), nicknamed "Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank," is an American retired Major League Baseball (MLB) right fielder who serves as the senior vice president of the Atlanta Braves. He played 21 seasons for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves in the National League (NL) and two seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League (AL), from 1954 through 1976. Aaron held the MLB record for career home runs for 33 years, and he still holds several MLB offensive records. He hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973, and is one of only two players to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Aaron fifth on its "100 Greatest Baseball Players" list.Aaron was born and raised in and around Mobile, Alabama. Aaron had seven siblings, including Tommie Aaron, who played major-league baseball with him. He appeared briefly in the Negro American League and in minor league baseball before starting his major league career. By his final MLB season, Aaron was the last Negro league baseball player on a major league roster. Aaron played the vast majority of his MLB games in right field, though he appeared at several other infield and outfield positions. In his last two seasons, he was primarily a designated hitter. Aaron was an NL All-Star for 20 seasons and an AL All-Star for 1 season, from 1955 through 1975. Aaron holds the record for the most All-Star Game selections (25), and is tied with Willie Mays and Stan Musial for the most All-Star Games played (24). He was a Gold Glove winner for three seasons. In 1957, he was the NL Most Valuable Player (MVP) when the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series. He won the NL Player of the Month award in May 1958 and June 1967. Aaron holds the MLB records for the most career runs batted in (RBI) (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), and total bases (6,856). Aaron is also in the top five for career hits (3,771) and runs (2,174). He is one of only four players to have at least 17 seasons with 150 or more hits. Aaron is in second place in home runs (755) and at-bats (12,364), and in third place in games played (3,298). At the time of his retirement, Aaron held most of the game's key career power hitting records. In 1982, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Since his retirement, Aaron has held front office roles with the Atlanta Braves. In 1988, Aaron was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1999, MLB introduced the Hank Aaron Award to recognize the top offensive players in each league. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. He was named a 2010 Georgia Trustee by the Georgia Historical Society in recognition of accomplishments that reflect the ideals of Georgia's founders. Aaron resides near Atlanta.
With an HPI of 64.65, Cy Young is the 6th most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
Denton True "Cy" Young (March 29, 1867 – November 4, 1955) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher. Born in Gilmore, Ohio, he worked on his family's farm as a youth before starting his professional baseball career. Young entered the major leagues in 1890 with the National League's Cleveland Spiders and pitched for them until 1898. He was then transferred to the St. Louis Cardinals franchise. In 1901, Young jumped to the American League and played for the Boston Red Sox franchise until 1908, helping them win the 1903 World Series. He finished his career with the Cleveland Naps and Boston Rustlers, retiring in 1911. Young was one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game early in his career. After his speed diminished, he relied more on his control and remained effective into his forties. By the time Young retired, he had established numerous pitching records, some of which have stood for over a century. He holds MLB records for the most career wins, with 511, along with most career innings pitched, games started, and complete games. He led his league in wins during five seasons and pitched three no-hitters, including a perfect game. Young was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. In 1956, one year after his death, the Cy Young Award was created to honor the best pitcher in each league for each season.
With an HPI of 64.10, Ty Cobb is the 7th most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.
Tyrus Raymond Cobb (December 18, 1886 – July 17, 1961), nicknamed The Georgia Peach, was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) outfielder. He was born in rural Narrows, Georgia. Cobb spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, the last six as the team's player-manager, and finished his career with the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1936 Cobb received the most votes of any player on the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 222 out of a possible 226 votes (98.2%); no other player received a higher percentage of votes until Tom Seaver in 1992. In 1999, the Sporting News ranked Ty Cobb third on their list of "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players".Cobb is widely credited with setting 90 MLB records during his career. His combined total of 4,065 runs scored and runs batted in (after adjusting for home runs) is still the highest ever produced by any major league player. He still holds several records as of the end of the 2019 season, including the highest career batting average (.366 or .367, depending on source) and most career batting titles with 11 (or 12, depending on source). He retained many other records for almost a half century or more, including most career hits until 1985 (4,189 or 4,191, depending on source), most career runs (2,245 or 2,246 depending on source) until 2001, most career games played (3,035) and at bats (11,429 or 11,434 depending on source) until 1974, and the modern record for most career stolen bases (892) until 1977. He still holds the career record for stealing home (54 times) and for stealing second base, third base, and home in succession (4 times), and as the youngest player ever to compile 4,000 hits and score 2,000 runs. Cobb ranks fifth all-time in number of games played and committed 271 errors, the most by any American League (AL) outfielder. Cobb's legacy, which includes a large college scholarship fund for Georgia residents financed by his early investments in Coca-Cola and General Motors, has been somewhat tarnished by allegations of racism and violence, largely stemming from a couple of largely-discredited biographies that were released following his death. Cobb's reputation as a violent man was fanned by his first biographer, sportswriter Al Stump, whose stories about Cobb have been discredited as sensationalized, and have largely proven to be fictional. While he was known for often violent conflicts, he spoke favorably about black players joining the Major Leagues and was a well known philanthropist.
With an HPI of 63.96, Ted Williams is the 8th most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
Theodore Samuel Williams (August 30, 1918 – July 5, 2002) was an American professional baseball player and manager. He played his entire 19-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career, primarily as a left fielder, for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 to 1960; his career was interrupted by military service during World War II and the Korean War. Nicknamed "Teddy Ballgame", "The Kid", "The Splendid Splinter", and "The Thumper", Williams is regarded as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Williams was a nineteen-time All-Star, a two-time recipient of the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player Award, a six-time AL batting champion, and a two-time Triple Crown winner. He finished his playing career with a .344 batting average, 521 home runs, and a .482 on-base percentage, the highest of all time. His career batting average is the highest of any MLB player whose career was played primarily in the live-ball era, and ranks tied for 7th all-time (with Billy Hamilton). Born and raised in San Diego, Williams played baseball throughout his youth. After joining the Red Sox in 1939, he immediately emerged as one of the sport's best hitters. In 1941, Williams posted a .406 batting average; he is the last MLB player to bat over .400 in a season. He followed this up by winning his first Triple Crown in 1942. Williams was required to interrupt his baseball career in 1943 to serve three years in the United States Navy and Marine Corps during World War II. Upon returning to MLB in 1946, Williams won his first AL MVP Award and played in his only World Series. In 1947, he won his second Triple Crown. Williams was returned to active military duty for portions of the 1952 and 1953 seasons to serve as a Marine combat aviator in the Korean War. In 1957 and 1958 at the ages of 39 and 40, respectively, he was the AL batting champion for the fifth and sixth time. Williams retired from playing in 1960. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, in his first year of eligibility. Williams managed the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise from 1969 to 1972. An avid sport fisherman, he hosted a television program about fishing, and was inducted into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame. Williams's involvement in the Jimmy Fund helped raise millions in dollars for cancer care and research. In 1991 President George H. W. Bush presented Williams with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States government. He was selected for the Major League Baseball All-Time Team in 1997 and the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999.
With an HPI of 62.61, Mickey Mantle is the 9th most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.
Mickey Charles Mantle (October 20, 1931 – August 13, 1995), nicknamed The Commerce Comet and The Mick, was an American professional baseball player. Mantle played his entire Major League Baseball (MLB) career (1951–1968) with the New York Yankees as a center fielder, right fielder, and first baseman. Mantle was one of the best players and sluggers and is regarded by many as the greatest switch hitter in baseball history. Mantle was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. Mantle was one of the greatest offensive threats of any center fielder in baseball history. He has the second highest career OPS+ among center fielders, (behind Mike Trout) and he had the highest stolen base percentage in history at the time of his retirement. In addition, compared to the other four center fielders on the All-Century team, he had the lowest career rate of grounding into double plays, and he had the highest World Series on-base percentage and World Series slugging percentage. He also had an excellent .984 fielding percentage when playing center field. Mantle was noted for his ability to hit for both average and power, especially tape measure home runs, a term that had its origin in a play-by-play caller reacting to one of Mantle's 1953 home runs. He hit 536 MLB career home runs, batted .300 or more ten times, and is the career leader (tied with Jim Thome) in walk-off home runs, with 13 — twelve in the regular season, one in the postseason. He is also the only player in history to hit 150 home runs from both sides of the plate. Mantle is 16th all-time in home runs per at bats. He is 17th in on-base percentage. He was safe three out of four times he attempted to steal a base. He won the MVP Award three times, came in second three times, and came within nine votes of winning five times. Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956, when he led the major leagues in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and runs batted in (RBI) (130). He later wrote a book (My Favorite Summer 1956) about his best year in baseball. He was an All-Star for 16 seasons, playing in 16 of the 20 All-Star Games that were played during his career. He was an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and a Gold Glove winner once. Mantle appeared in 12 World Series including seven championships, and he holds World Series records for the most home runs (18), RBIs (40), extra-base hits (26), runs (42), walks (43), and total bases (123). Despite his numerous accolades on the field, Mantle's private life was plagued with tumult and tragedy, including a well-publicized bout with alcoholism that resulted in a notable Sports Illustrated cover story and led to his death from liver cancer.
With an HPI of 61.89, Yogi Berra is the 10th most famous American Baseball Player. His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was an American professional baseball catcher, who later took on the roles of manager and coach. He played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–1963, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only six players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Berra was a native of St. Louis and signed with the Yankees in 1943 before serving in the United States Navy as a gunner's mate in the Normandy landings during World War II, where he earned a Purple Heart. He made his major-league debut at age 21 in 1946 and was a mainstay in the Yankees' lineup during the team's championship years beginning in 1949 and continuing through 1962. Despite his short stature (he was 5 feet 7 inches [1.70 m] tall), Berra was a power hitter and strong defensive catcher. Berra played 18 seasons with the Yankees before retiring after the 1963 season. He spent the next year as their manager, then joined the New York Mets in 1965 as coach (and briefly a player again). Berra remained with the Mets for the next decade, serving the last four years as their manager. He returned to the Yankees in 1976, coaching them for eight seasons and managing for two, before coaching the Houston Astros. He was one of seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. Berra appeared as a player, coach or manager in every one of the 13 World Series that New York baseball teams won from 1947 through 1981. Overall, he played or coached in 21 World Series, 13 on the winning side. Berra caught Don Larsen's perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. He also holds the all-time record for shutouts caught, with 173.The Yankees retired his uniform number 8 in 1972; Bill Dickey had previously worn number 8, and both catchers had that number retired by the Yankees. The club honored him with a plaque in Monument Park in 1988. Berra was named to the MLB All-Century Team in a vote by fans in 1999. For the remainder of his life, he was closely involved with the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, which he opened on the campus of Montclair State University in 1998. Berra quit school after the eighth grade. He was known for his malapropisms as well as pithy and paradoxical statements, such as "It ain't over 'til it's over", while speaking to reporters. He once simultaneously denied and confirmed his reputation by stating, "I really didn't say everything I said."
Pantheon has 54 people classified as baseball players born between 1867 and 1992. Of these 54, 35 (64.81%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living baseball players include Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Sandy Koufax. The most famous deceased baseball players include Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Jackie Robinson. As of October 2020, 14 new baseball players have been added to Pantheon including Hank Greenberg, Greg Maddux, and Johnny Damon.
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Which Baseball Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 18 most globally memorable Baseball Players since 1700.