20 of the Best First Basemen of All-Time

20 of the Best First Basemen of All-Time

We’ve witnessed a wide range of quality and reliable first basemen throughout the history of the MLB, but have you ever wondered who the best first basemen of all-time are? There’s probably a few names coming to mind right away, but would you be able to come up with 20 names? 

The first baseman is one of the most important and most-used players on the defense. They’re involved in a majority of the defensive plays. When they’re not fielding a ground ball, they’re catching the ball with their foot on first base – stretching their body to get an out, if they have to. 

Due to their high usage on defense, it’s important that your team has a reliable and consistent first baseman – which the best first basemen of all-time are, for the most part. Of course, you also want your first baseman to be productive on the offensive end – which is always a plus.

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Who Are the Best First Basemen in MLB History?

20 of the Best First Basemen of All-Time
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The best first basemen were everything their teams needed them to be. When at the plate, they were efficient and productive – either with power or contact. When at the bag, they were always ready to catch the ball and they were capable of turning a bad throw to first base into an out. 

As of 2022, 25 of the best first basemen of all-time have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame – which is the third-most players from one position, excluding pitchers. For reference, there are currently 27 right fielders in the Hall of Fame and 26 shortstops in the Hall of Fame. 

With that said, not all of the best first basemen in MLB history have made their way to the Hall of Fame. For example, Fred McGriff, Steve Garvey, Gil Hodges, Don Mattingly, Will Clark, and Rafael Palmeiro aren’t in the Hall of Fame, despite having incredible careers at the position. 

Still, none of those players are on our list of the 20 best first basemen of all-time. And as a side note, some of the best first basemen of all-time listed below spent time as designated hitters when not at first base, but we’re considering them first basemen for the sake of this article. 

20. Roger Connor

Roger Connor made his major league debut on May 1, 1880 and played his final game on May 18, 1887 – spending a total of 18 seasons in the MLB. He played 1,998 career games and played 1,759 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976. 

Connor finished his career with a .316 batting average, 2,467 hits, 441 doubles, 233 triples, 138 home runs, 1,323 runs batted in, 244 stolen bases, and 1,620 runs scored. He won two World Series with the New York Giants in 1888 and 1889, and also won the batting title in 1885. 

19. Cap Anson

Cap Anson made his major league debut on May 6, 1871 and played his final game on October 3, 1897 – spending a total of 27 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,524 career games and played 2,152 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. 

Anson finished his career with a .334 batting average, 3,435 hits, 582 doubles, 142 triples, 97 home runs, 2,075 runs batted in, 277 stolen bases, and 1,999 runs scored. He won the batting title four times, led the league in RBIs eight times, and even led the league in walks in 1890. 

18. Frank Chance

Frank Chance made his major league debut on April 29, 1898 and played his final game on April 21, 1914 – spending a total of 17 seasons in the MLB. He played 1,288 career games, playing 999 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.

Chance finished his career with a .296 batting average, 1,274 hits, 200 doubles, 79 triples, 20 home runs, 596 runs batted in, 403 stolen bases, and 798 runs scored. He led the league in stolen bases twice and won two World Series in 1907 and 1908 with the Chicago Cubs. 

17. Stan Musial

Stan Musial made his major league debut on September 17, 1941 and played his final game on September 29, 1963 – spending a total of 22 seasons in the MLB. He played 3,026 games and played 1,016 of those at first base. He also played a lot of outfield, proving to be versatile. 

Musial finished his career with a .331 batting average, 3,630 hits, 725 doubles, 177 triples, 475 home runs, 1,951 runs batted in, 78 stolen bases, and 1,949 runs scored. He was a three-time MVP, 24-time All-Star, three-time champion, Hall of Fame player, and won seven batting titles. 

16. David Ortiz

David Ortiz made his major league debut September 2, 1997 and played his final game on October 2, 2016 – spending a total of 20 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,408 games and played just 278 games at first base. He was mostly a DH, but we’re counting him as a 1B.

Ortiz finished his career with a .286 batting average, 2,472 hits, 632 doubles, 19 triples, 541 home runs, 1,768 runs batted in, 17 stolen bases, and 1,419 runs scored. He’s a home run derby champ, three-time World Series champ, 10-time All-Star, and Hall of Fame player. 

15. Todd Helton

Todd Helton made his major league debut on August 2, 1997 (where he hit a home run) and played his final game on September 29, 2013 – spending a total of 17 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,247 games and played 2,178 of those games at first base. He was consistent. 

Helton finished his career with a .316 batting average, 2,519 hits, 592 doubles, 37 triples, 369 home runs, 1,406 runs batted in, 37 stolen bases, and 1,401 runs scored. During the 2000 season, he won the batting title and led the league in hits, doubles, OBP, and runs batted in. 

14. Harmon Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew made his major league debut on June 23, 1954 and played his final game on September 26, 1975 – spending a total of 22 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,435 games and played 970 of those games at first base. He also played third base and outfield (left field). 

Killebrew finished his career with a .256 batting average, 2,086 hits, 290 doubles, 24 triples, 573 home runs, 1,584 runs batted in, 19 stolen bases, and 1,283 runs scored. He won the MVP award in 1969, was a 13-time All-Star, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. 

13. Dan Brouthers

Dan Brouthers made his major league debut on June 23, 1879 and played his final game on October 4, 1904 – spending a total of 19 seasons in the MLB. He played 1,676 games and played 1,636 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945. 

Brouthers finished his career with a .342 batting average, 2,303 hits, 462 doubles, 206 triples, 107 home runs, 1,301 runs batted in, 1,529 runs scored, and 840 walks. He won the 1887 World Series with the Detroit Wolverines, won five batting titles, and led the league in hits three times. 

12. Jim Thome

Jim Thome made his major league debut on September 4, 1991 and played his final game on October 3, 2012 – spending a total of 22 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,543 games and played 1,106 of those games at first base. He also played third base and designated hitter. 

Thome finished his career with a .276 batting average, 2,328 hits, 451 doubles, 26 triples, 612 home runs, 1,699 runs batted in, 19 stolen bases, and 1,583 runs scored. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018 and was a five-time All-Star. He led the league in home runs in 2003.

11. Eddie Murray

Eddie Murray made his major league debut on April 7, 1977 and played his final game on September 20, 1997 – spending a total of 21 seasons in the MLB. He played 3,026 games and played 2,413 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. 

Murray finished his career with a .287 batting average, 3,255 hits, 560 doubles, 35 triples, 504 home runs, 1,917 runs batted in, 110 stolen bases, and 1,627 runs scored. He won the 1983 World Series with the Baltimore Orioles and he holds the all-time record for sacrifice flies (128).

10. Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire made his major league debut on August 22, 1986 and played his final game on October 7, 2001 – spending a total of 16 seasons in the MLB. He played 1,874 games and played 1,763 of those games at first base. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1987. 

McGwire finished his career with a .263 batting average, 1,626 hits, 252 doubles, 6 triples, 583 home runs, 1,414 runs batted in, 12 stolen bases, and 1,167 runs scored. He won the 1989 World Series with the Oakland Athletics and was the 1992 Home Run Derby champion.

9. Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas made his major league debut on August 2, 1990 and played his final game on August 29, 2008 – spending a total of 19 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,322 games and played 971 of them at first base. Thomas also played 1,310 games as a designated hitter. 

Thomas finished his career with a .301 batting average, 2,468 hits, 495 doubles, 12 triples, 521 home runs, 1,704 runs batted in, 32 stolen bases, and 1,494 runs scored. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, was a two-time MVP, Home Run Derby champ, and won a batting title.

8. Johnny Mize

Johnny Mize made his major league debut on April 16, 1936 and played his final game on September 26, 1953 – spending a total of 15 seasons in the MLB. He played 1,884 games and played 1,668 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981. 

Mize finished his career with a .312 batting average, 2,011 hits, 367 doubles, 83 triples, 359 home runs, 1,337 runs batted in, 28 stolen bases, and 1,118 runs scored. He won five straight World Series with the New York Yankees between 1949 and 1953, and even won a batting title.

7. Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera made his major league debut on June 20, 2003 and is currently playing for the Detroit Tigers – he’s currently in the midst of his 20th season in the MLB. He has played 2,613 games and played 1,195 of them at first base. He also played third base, outfield, and DH. 

Over the past 20 seasons, Cabrera has tallied a .310 batting average, 3,010 hits, 600 doubles, 17 triples, 503 home runs, 1,803 runs batted in, 39 stolen bases, and 1,513 runs scored. He has won back-to-back MVPs in 2012 and 2013, a triple crown, four batting titles, and a World Series. 

6. Willie McCovey

Willie McCovey made his major league debut on July 30, 1959 and played his final game on July 6, 1980 – spending a total of 22 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,588 games and played 2,045 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. 

McCovey finished his career with a .270 batting average, 2,211 hits, 353 doubles, 46 triples, 521 home runs, 1,555 runs batted in, 26 stolen bases, and 1,229 runs scored. He was named the Rookie of the Year in 1959 and then was named the league MVP ten years later in 1969. 

5. Jeff Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell made his major league debut on April 8, 1991 and played his final game on October 2, 2005 – spending a total of 15 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,150 games and played 2,111 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017. 

Bagwell finished his career with a .297 batting average, 2,314 hits, 488 doubles, 32 triples, 449 home runs, 1,529 runs batted in, 202 stolen bases, and 1,517 runs scored. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1991, then was miraculously named league MVP three years later in 1994.

4. Hank Greenberg

Hank Greenberg made his major league debut on September 14, 1930 and played his final game on September 18, 1947 – spending a total of 13 seasons in the MLB. He played 1,394 games and played 1,137 of them at first base. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956. 

Greenberg finished his career with a .313 batting average, 1,628 hits, 379 doubles, 71 triples, 331 home runs, 1,274 runs batted in, 58 stolen bases, and 1,046 runs scored. He was named league MVP twice (1935 and 1940) and won two World Series (1935 and 1945) with Detroit.

3. Jimmie Foxx

Jimmie Foxx made his major league debut on May 1, 1925 and played his final game on September 23, 1945 – spending a total of 20 seasons in the MLB. He played 2,317 games and played 1,918 of those games at first base. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1951. 

Foxx finished his career with a .325 batting average, 2,646 hits, 458 doubles, 125 triples, 534 home runs, 1,922 runs batted in, 87 stolen bases, and 1,751 runs scored. He was a three-time MVP, two-time World Series champion, won two batting titles, and even won a triple crown. 

2. Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols made his major league debut on April 2, 2001 and is currently playing with the St. Louis Cardinals – he is currently in the midst of his 22nd season in the MLB. He has played 2,985 games and played 2,005 of those games at first base. He’s a future Hall of Famer. 

Through 22 seasons, Pujols has recorded a .297 batting average, 3,310 hits, 673 doubles, 16 triples, 681 home runs, 2,155 runs batted in, 116 stolen bases, and 1,878 runs scored. He’s a three-time MVP, two-time World Series champ, 10-time All-Star, and former Rookie of the Year. 

1. Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig made his major league debut on June 15, 1923 and played his final game on April 30, 1939 – spending a total of 17 seasons in the MLB before being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He played 2,164 games and played 2,137 of those games at first base. 

Gehrig finished his career with a .340 batting average, 2,721 hits, 534 doubles, 163 triples, 493 home runs, 1,995 runs batted in, 102 stolen bases, and 1,888 runs scored. He was a two-time MVP, a six-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees, and triple crown winner.

Who Are the Best First Basemen in the MLB Today?

First basemen have played a major role in the continued growth and development of baseball – something we continue to see to this day. In fact, some of the best first basemen in the league today could find their name on the list above if they continue to perform well and execute.  

The best first baseman in the major leagues so far during the 2022 season include Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Freddie Freeman, Matt Olson, Paul Goldschmidt, Pete Alonso, José Abreu, Anthony Rizzo, C.J. Cron, Rowdy Tellez, Christian Walker, Eric Hosmer, and Josh Bell

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A quality first baseman is hard to find, but that’s what makes them so valuable – not every team has one, but those that do make sure they treat them right. It’s safe to say that it’s a good time to be a first baseman and definitely a good time to be one of the best first basemen in the MLB.

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