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This is the eighth installment of the Cooperstown’s Best Series. We only have one more to go after this, and then the recap showing each position’s leader.
This position has more Negro League players than most of the others. They are Cool Papa Bell, Willard Brown, Oscar Charleston, Pete Hill, Turkey Stearnes and Cristobal Torriente. As has been my policy, I cannot rank them on this list.
As you would expect, there have been some great Center-fielders in the history of the game. Look at some of the ones who are in the Hall of Fame: Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio, Duke Snider and Hugh Duffy. That is just enough to get your attention.
Some of these players are not only very good, they are great! Ty Cobb has the second most hits of anyone who ever played the game. Willie Mays ranks fourth on the career HR list. Mickey Mantle has a career OPS+ of 172. This should be interesting.
I have made a change in the statistics display. There is a table at the end of this list showing each player with their stats.
I have run out of prologue material, so let us move on.
10. Kirby Puckett
Born: March 14, 1960 in Chicago, IL Died: March 6, 2006 in Phoenix, AZ
Kirby Puckett played his 12-year career with the Minnesota Twins. He was runner-up in MVP voting once and placed third twice.
He was a 10 time All Star and played in the 1987 and 1991 World Series’.
Puckett won one batting title, led the league in hits four times, and once in RBI. He batted over .300 times eight times, hit over 20 HR six times, had over 100 RBI three times, had over 200 hits five times, and scored over 100 runs three times.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
9. Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider
Born: Sept. 19, 1926 in Los Angeles, CA
Duke Snider was with the Dodgers both in Brooklyn and Los Angeles in 16 of his 18 seasons. He spent the last two years with the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants. He was runner-up in MVP voting once and finished third once.
He was an eight time All Star and played in six World Series.
Snider won one HR title, once RBI crown, was the league leader in hits once and in runs scored three times. He batted .300+ six times, hit over 40 HR five times, knocked in over 100 runs six times, and scored 100 runs or more runs six times.
From 1953-56 he averaged .320, with 45 HR and 133 RBI, 195 hits and 132 runs scored.
Snider was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.
8. William Robert Hamilton
Born: Feb. 16, 1866 in Newark. NJ Died: Dec. 16, 1940 in Worcester, MA,
In his 14-year career Billy Hamilton was with the Kansas City Cowboys for two years, the Philadelphia Phillies six years and the Boston Beeneaters six years.
Hamilton won two batting titles, was the league leader in hits once, runs scored four times, stolen bases five times. His .344 batting average is just .0001 behind the great Ted Williams.
He batted over .400 once, .300+ 11 times, had over 200 hits twice, scored over 100 runs 11 times (10 consecutively) and stole over 90 bases five times, three of them over 100.
Hamilton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1961 by the Veteran’s Committee.
7. Hugh “Sir Hugh” Duffy
Born: Nov. 26, 1866 in Cranston, RI Died: Oct. 19, 1954 in Boston MA
Hugh Duffy played 17 seasons in the major leagues; two with the Chicago White Sox, one with the Chicago Pirates, one with the Boston Reds, nine with the Boston Beaneaters, one with the Milwaukee Brewers (not a misprint), and finished with three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Duffy won one batting title in 1894 with the MLB highest average ever recorded in a single season, .440. He led the league in HR twice, in RBI twice, hits twice, runs scored once and in doubles once. Not counting his .440 season, he batted over .300 nine times, he hit over 10 (dead ball) HR three times, had 100+ RBI eight times, had over 200 hits twice and scored over 100 runs nine times.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Veteran’s Committee.
6. Howard Earl Averill
Born: May 21, 1902, in Snohomish, WA Died: Aug. 16, 1983 in Everett, WA
Earl Averill played 13 years in the big leagues, with the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and the Boston Braves.
He led the league in hits once and in triples once. He batted over .300 eight times, he had over 20 HR five times, over 100 RBI five times, over 200 hits and scored over 100 runs nine times.
Averill was a six-time All Star and played in the 1940 World Series.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975 by the Veteran’s Committee½
5. Tristam E. “Spoke” Speaker
Born: Apr. 4, 1888 in Hubbard, TX Died: Dec. 8, 1958 in Lake Whitney, TX
Tris Speaker spent the first nine of his 22 seasons in 1907 with the Boston Red Sox (called Boston Americans for the first year). He then played 11 years with the Cleveland Indians and then played in 1927with the Washington Senators. He finished his career the following year with the Philadelphia Athletics.
Speaker won one MVP Award in the American League, won one batting title, one HR title, was the league leader in hits twice, doubles eight times, and in OBP four times.
He batted over .300 18 times, five times .380 or higher, knocked in over 100 runs twice, had over 200 hits four times, scored over 100 runs seven times, and had over 40 doubles 10 times.
Speaker played in three World Series, two with the Red Sox and one with the Indians. his team winning all three times.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937.
4. Mickey Charles “The Mick” Mantle
Born: Oct. 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, OK Died: Aug. 13, 1995 in Dallas, TX
Mickey Mantle played all 18 seasons of his career with the New York Yankees.
He won three MVP Awards, was runner-up three more times, and finished third in voting once. He won one batting title in 1956 when he won the Triple Crown in the American League. He also won four HR titles, one RBI crown, and led the league in runs scored six times. He was the league leader in walks five times and in intentional walks twice. He led the league in OPS+ nine times being 200 or over three times.
Mantle batted over .300 10 times, hit more than 30 HR nine times, twice over 50, had over 100 RBI four times, and scored over 100 runs nine times, all consecutively.
He was named to 20 All Star teams (some seasons two games were played), and he won one Gold Glove Award. He also won the 1965 Hutch Award.
Mantle played in 12 World Series with the Yankees and they won seven of them.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
3. Joseph Paul (Joltin’ Joe) DiMaggio, Jr.
Born: Nov. 25, 1914 in Martinez, CA Died: March 8, 1999 in Hollywood, FL
Joe DiMaggio played his entire career of 13 years with the New York Yankees.
He won three MVP Awards and was runner-up twice in voting. He won two batting titles, two HR titles, two RBI crowns, triples once and in runs scored once.
He batted over .300 11 times, hit over 20 HR 11 times, had over 100 RBI nine times, had over 200 hits twice and scored 100+ runs eight times.
From 1939-41 DiMaggio averaged .363 with 38 HR and 159 RBI with an OPS+ of 180.
DiMaggio was an All Star in all 13 of his seasons. He was in 10 World Series with the Yankees with them winning nine of them.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.
2. Willie Howard “Say Hey” Mays, Jr.
Born: May 6, 1931 in Westfield, AL
Willie Mays played 22 years in the Major Leagues, 20 1/2 with the Giants franchise and the last year and a half with the New York Mets.
He won the Rookie of the Year Award, won two MVP Awards, was runner-up twice and finished third in voting twice. He won 12 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, and the 1971 Roberto Clemente Award. Mays won one batting title, four HR titles, was the league leader in hits once, in runs scored twice, and in stolen bases four times. He also led the league in OPS+ six times.
Mays batted over .300 10 times, hit over 30 HR 11 times, twice over 50, had over 100 RBI 10 times, had over 200 hits once, and scored over 100 runs 12 consecutive times.
In a seven-year stretch from 1959-65 he averaged .310 with 43 HR and 118 RBI
Mays was named to 24 All Star teams (some seasons had two games). He was in four World Series, three with the Giants where they went 1-2 and one with the Mets which they lost.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
1. Tyrus Raymond “The Georgia Peach) Cobb
Born: Dec. 18, 1886 in Narrows. GA Died: July 17, 1961 in Atlanta, GA
Ty Cobb played 24 years in the major leagues, 22 with the Detroit Tigers, and the last two with the Philadelphia Athletics.
He won one MVP Award, one Triple Crown, 11 batting titles, one HR title, four RBI crowns, led the league in hits eight times, in runs scored five times, in doubles three times, in triples four times, and in OPS+ 11 times, nine consecutively. He was also the league leader in stolen bases six times.
He batted over .400 three times, over .300 20 times, had over 100 RBI seven times, had over 200 hits nine times and scored over 100 runs 11 times. He also had over 30 doubles 15 times and over 10 triples 17 times.
Cobb played in three World Series with the Tigers and they lost all three.
He is the major league leader in career batting average with a .366 mark.
Cobb was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936 with the inaugural class.
Statistics of the Top 10 Center Fielders in the Hall of Fame
· = Leads all Center Fielders in the Hall of Fame
SOURCES: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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