Baseball is a sport with a rich and long history. The first ever Major League Baseball game was played in 1871, and since then there have been controversies, dynasties and some truly exceptional ballplayers.
888sport is the home of baseball news, betting tips and MLB odds. This article takes a look at the greatest players ever, including Hall of Famers, should-be Hall of Famers and someone who is still active, but on the right trajectory to be perhaps the greatest ever...
Babe Ruth is an icon of sport. The Great Bambino started as a pitcher for the Red Sox before joining the arch-rival New York Yankees in 1920.
Ruth changed the game as a hitter, lifting baseball from the dead ball era as he led the American League in homers in 12 straight seasons and won seven World Series titles along the way.
Finishing with 714 home runs, and a legacy like few other in the history of sport, Ruth was always a lock for this list. A few have made a claim since, but there always has been, and always will be, a compelling argument for Ruth as the greatest to ever play the game.
Bonds is yet to be elected to the Hall of Fame. There’s no arguing with what he achieved, however, holding the all-time home run record, most career walks and the most intentional walks at a frankly hilarious 688.
Winning seven MVPs, Bonds was as dominant as any ballplayer has ever been. The controversy of the PED era has harmed his legacy, but Bonds’ career should not be whitewashed from baseball history.
Whatever offensive metric you pick, Bonds is up there with Ruth and Mays – you can put qualifiers on his achievements and his numbers, but he belongs in that group and the discussion with the iconic names in baseball history.
The ‘Say Hey Kid’, Willie Mays shares the record for most All-Star games with 24. His 660 home runs are fifth on the all-time list, and he is considered the finest five-tool player to have played the game.
Not just a power hitter, he boasted a career average above .300, exceptional speed and was a remarkable defender in centre field. Mays only won the one World Series title, but there’s no doubting his place at the top table.
We may never see a career like Mays’ again, and like Bonds and Ruth, he’s got a very good argument as the greatest.
Like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens is yet to be named to the Hall of Fame and may never be. That’s not what we’re here to talk about, though. This is about the greatest to play the game, and controversy or not, Clemens ranks right up with the best to take the mound.
His numbers speak for themselves. Along with two Triple Crowns, an MVP and seven Cy Young awards, Clemens ranks eighth all-time in Baseball Reference’s version of WAR.
A career ERA of 3.12 is mightily impressive, and even more so when he pairs that with the longevity of a 24-year Major League career.
Despite being interrupted by mandatory military service, Ted Williams constructed a monumental career, including 19 All-Star appearances, two MVPs and two Triple Crowns.
He batted .406 in 1941 and remains the last player to bat above .400 for the entirety of an MLB season. His career OPS+ of 190 is second only to Babe Ruth, and he would be a member of the 3000-hit club had he not missed three prime years of his career.
Williams wanted people to regard him as ‘the greatest hitter who ever lived’, and he did a pretty good job of that. 888sport is one of the leading baseball betting sites and offer Williams’ Red Sox at 16/1 to win the World Series.
Rickey Henderson is regarded as the greatest baserunner and leadoff hitter in MLB history. No one comes close to his 1406 career stolen base tally, and when paired with a brilliant eye and a fair bit of pop, he slugged .419 for his career. Henderson was a truly special talent.
The unique skillset and career that spanned from 1979 to 2003 earned Henderson first ballot entry into the Hall of Fame, and rightly so.
Above his sporting talents, Henderson was admired and adored for his love of baseball and uplifting personality, making him an entertainer on and off the diamond.
Mike Trout is the only active player on this list, which is an achievement in itself. It is all the more remarkable when you remind yourself he’s only 27 years old and continues to improve.
Trout has finished in the top two in MVP voting every full season he has played, and the general trend is of improvement across the board. There are some special five-tool players on this list, and Trout is one of them.
Underrated in a struggling Angels team, the New Jersey born centre fielder is already a lock for Cooperstown (providing he plays 10 years) and could surpass some of the other names in this article by the time he retires. Trout’s 176 career OPS+ is fifth all-time.
With only two MVP awards to his name, Trout is always a favourite to add another in 888sport’s online MLB betting odds.
Texas native Nolan Ryan was a pitcher like no other. His stuff was special, pairing a red-hot fastball with a nasty curve, and he broke countless records as a result, striking batters out at a prolific rate and walking them almost as often.
Despite a tendency to hand out the free pass, Ryan was immensely successful, pitching in 27 Major League seasons. No other pitcher has thrown more than four no-hitters. Ryan threw seven.
He is tied with Bob Feller for the most one-hitters with 12. A 98.8% first ballot Hall of Famer, Ryan’s records may well never be beaten.
Mickey Mantle had a career, like so many great athletes, that was plagued by injuries. He suffered, often playing through pain, caused by osteomyelitis, yet he left a legacy in Major League Baseball that earns him a spot in the Hall of Fame’s inner circle.
The Mick was a 20-time All-Star, a three-time MVP and won seven World Series, playing on several dominant New York Yankees teams alongside fellow Cooperstown inductees Yogi Berra, Enos Slaughter and Whitey Ford.
Mantle ranks seventh all-time in OPS+, and the second best ever for a centre fielder, only bettered by current superstar Mike Trout.
Only The Babe and Walter Johnson have more bWAR than Cy Young. The righty, whose career ran from 1890 to 1911, is the all-time leader in games started, complete games and innings pitched.
The award for the best pitcher in each league is named after him. It was a different time – we’re talking about well over 100 years ago – but his career is the stuff of baseball legend.
History is a major part of baseball, it is a sport that prides itself on tradition and it’s longevity, and few players are significant in the game’s story as Cy Young.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*