Albert Pujols vs Phillies

15 greatest first basemen in MLB history

Home » MLB » Best First Basemen of All Time: Greatest First Basemen in MLB History

Determining the best first baseman of all time is not as easy as it looks. There have been countless legendary players to man first base across several generations.

Some of the best first basemen in MLB history were outstanding power hitters, some were brilliant defensive players, and some were a combination of both. But who was the best first baseman of all time?

Counting down to the best first baseman of all time

To answer that question, we decided to put together a list of the 15 greatest 1B of all time. That made it a little easier to separate the best from the best.

Of course, even keeping our list to the 15 best first basemen in MLB history wasn’t easy. Nevertheless, here is the list we came up with on our way to naming the best first baseman of all time.

15. Roger Connor

Before Babe Ruth, Roger Connor was the all-time home run king in baseball. That’s enough to consider him among the best first basemen of all time.


Between 1880 and 1897, Connor hit 138 home runs, which was a lot for that era, while batting .317 during his career. While not much is known about his career, Connor was a big deal in his era and was eventually put in the Hall of Fame in 1976

14. Johnny Mize

Johnny Mize is perhaps the most overlooked Yankee legend. He was a part of their five straight championships from 1949 to 1953, and that was after he missed three seasons during the middle of his career while serving in the military during World War II.

Mize actually made the All-Star Team five times before his military service and five times after it. He won a batting title and led the American League in homers four times on his way to 359 career homers. Mize also hit .312 during his career, although the Hall of Famer could have had far more impressive numbers if he hadn’t missed those years during World War II.

13. Jim Thome

Despite starting his career as a third baseman and ending it as a DH, Jim Thome was a great first baseman during his prime.

In more than two decades in the majors, he hit at least 30 homers 12 times, reaching 40 homers on six occasions. Outside of hitting for power, Thome didn’t bring a lot to the table. But hits 612 homers and over 2,300 hits speak volumes.


12. Frank Thomas

Defensively, Frank Thomas was never among the best first basemen in the league. He also spent a little more than half of his career as a DH, largely because of foot injuries, which hurts his standing among the best first basemen of all time.

That being said, the Big Hurt was undoubtedly one of the great hitters of his era, especially since he was one of the few who was never connected with PEDs during the steroid era. The guy was just naturally strong, mashing over 500 career home runs while also batting over .300 in his career. Thomas took home MVP honors in 1993 and 1994 and later won a batting title in 1997. He might have been a bat-first player, but what a bat it was.

11. Keith Hernandez

It’s an utter travesty that Keith Hernandez isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Defensively, he revolutionized the way first base was played by covering far more ground than most first basemen could ever dream of doing.

We’re talking about someone who won 11 straight Gold Gloves, creating a strong argument for him being the best defensive first baseman of all time. Hernandez also won two Silver Slugger awards and took home the 1979 batting title, which was the same year he won MVP honors. How is that not the resume of a Hall of Famer, especially for such an influential first baseman?

10. Harmon Killebrew

Even for a player in his era, Harmon Killebrew would be considered a little undersized. But he was also one of the best power hitters to ever play the game.

He led the American League in home runs on six occasions, including the 1969 season when he took home MVP honors. He would have been a great power hitter in any era, as he was both strong and patient. Killebrew still ranks among the top 20 players all-time in both home runs and walks. He also amassed over 2,000 hits in addition to his 573 career home runs.

Unfortunately, we have to dock him a little because he played several other positions and not first base, although he spent more time at first base than he did at any other position.

9. Jeff Bagwell

Even after getting into the Hall of Fame on the seventh ballot, Jeff Bagwell still remains somewhat underrated in the grand scheme of things.

He won Rookie of the Year in 1991 and MVP in 1994, and even after that, he continued to have an impressive career. His defense was vastly overlooked with Bagwell only winning one Gold Glove. He’s also the only first baseman in baseball history with over 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases. For his career, Bagwell hit .297 with 449 home runs, which is no small feat.

8. Cap Anson

As a person, Cap Anson had a problematic history of helping to establish and perpetrate segregation in baseball. But as a player between 1871 and 1897, Anson was a genuine star of his time.

His career was so long ago that we don’t have reliable stats on him. However, he was likely the first player to surpass 3,000 career hits. He won two batting titles and led the National League in RBIs eight times. Anson spent most of his career with the organization that is now the Cubs and holds several franchise records. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939 and should be considered among the best first basemen of all time.

7. Willie McCovey

They don’t name coves in San Francisco after just anybody. For nearly two decades, most of which was spent with the Giants, Willie McCovey was among the elite first basemen in baseball.

With 521 career home runs, he’s still remembered as one of the best power hitters in baseball history, leading the National League in homers three times. He could make contact and hit line drives with the best of them. As a dead-pull hitter, some teams even tried to use a shift against him. McCovey also won Rookie of the Year honors during his first season in 1959 and MVP honors a decade later. With six all-star selections to go along with over 2,200 career hits, McCovey was also a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

6. Hank Greenberg

In baseball history, Hank Greenberg is a sometimes forgotten or overlooked trailblazer as one of the first Jewish stars in American sports. He was also a great first baseman, playing almost his entire career with the Tigers.

During his career, Greenberg won MVP honors twice while leading the American League in home runs and RBIs four times each. He was also a five-time all-star and helped the Tigers win two World Series titles. Of course, his career numbers, including 331 home runs could have been far better if Greenberg had kept playing baseball rather than serving in the military during World War II. He put his country first, joining the Army in 1941, and didn’t return to the majors until the summer of 1945, making him a great player and an American icon.

5. Miguel Cabrera

In his prime, there was no better hitter during the first part of the century than Miguel Cabrera. The guy just raked year after year.

While he moved around to various positions and spent a lot of time at DH late in his career, hurting his standing on this list, Cabrera did play over 10,000 innings at first base, which is a lot.

Defensively, he never did much to stand out. However, Cabrera did hit over .300 11 times, including a run of eight consecutive seasons. That’s how he won back-to-back MVP honors in 2012 and 2013 while also winning the Triple Crown in 2012.

He did win seven Silver Slugger awards, although only three came as a first baseman. Nevertheless, Cabrera’s longevity helped him to eclipse 3,000 hits and 500 homers while also batting over .300 in his career, numbers that will surely give him a one-way ticket to Cooperstown one day. Even if he didn’t do all of it as a first baseman, Cabrera’s accomplishments are too much to ignore.

4. Eddie Murray

It’s almost impossible to find a better switch-hitter in baseball history than Eddie Murray. He’s also more than deserving of a spot as one of the best first basemen of all time.

Murray won Rookie of the Year in 1977 and played another 20 seasons after that, earning eight all-star selections.

Those two-plus decades were enough to get Murray to 504 home runs and over 3,200 hits in his career. He also deserves credit for winning three Silver Slugger awards and three straight Gold Gloves from 1982 to 1984. In fact, he twice won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in the same season, showcasing just how special of a player he was.

3. Jimmie Foxx

Jimmie Foxx is the classic example of what a first baseman should be both during his era and in today’s game. With 534 career home runs over 20 years, he was one of the great home run hitters of his day.

When Foxx retired, only Babe Ruth surpassed him in career home runs. In 12 straight seasons, Foxx hit at least 30 homers, and in 13 straight seasons, he had at least 100 RBIs.

Teams throughout baseball history would kill for that kind of production. During his 20-year career, Foxx was an all-star in nine consecutive seasons and won MVP three times, including back-to-back years in 1932 and 1933. His Triple Crown and first of two batting titles came during the 1933 season, which came after he helped the Philadelphia Athletics win back-to-back championships in 1929 and 1930.

When all was said and done, Foxx was in the 500 home run club and a .325 career hitter, making him one of the best all-around hitters of his day.

2. Lou Gehrig

History mostly remembers Lou Gehrig as baseball’s original Iron Man and as the victim of a terrible disease that now bears his name. But before illness forced him to walk away from the game as the “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” Gehrig was one of the best first basemen the game has ever known.

While playing virtually every game during his 17 seasons, Gehrig helped the Yankees win six world championships. He also won MVP honors twice, yet somehow didn’t win MVP in 1934 when he won the Triple Crown.

That season was his only batting title but one of three years he led the AL in homers and one of five years he led the league in RBIs. Gehrig is also on the shortlist of players who have hit four home runs in a game – despite falling seven homers shy of the 500 mark – and served as captain of the Yankees, which he did during the last five seasons of his career. Given all of that, it’s surprising and a little difficult not to rank him as the top first baseman of all time.

1. Albert Pujols

Debates in the 21st century have been based on Cabrera vs Pujols. But those debates are pointless because there should be no doubt that Albert Pujols is the best first baseman of all time.

Even if he closed his career primarily playing at DH, he put together one of the most impressive careers of any player in baseball history. Keep in mind Pujols began his career with arguably the greatest rookie season of all time.

He proceeded to make 11 All-Star Teams, win MVP three times, and help the Cardinals to two World Series titles. To top it off, Pujols won two Gold Gloves as a first baseman and six Silver Sluggers.

Even in the last of his 22 seasons in the majors, Pujols was producing, which is why he was able to finish his career with 703 home runs. He also got to over 3,300 hits with a career average of .296. His swing was close to perfect and his production was almost mind-blowingly consistent. There have been a few first basemen almost as good as Pujols, but he surely deserves a place at the top.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *