Alabama may not be known for many things in the sports world. Outside of the Alabama Crimson Tide college football dynasty, there is not much else the state has going on for it. That is, outside of producing multiple members of the MLB Hall of Fame. There are also some current Alabama baseball players in MLB today. Do any of them make the list of top-10 players from Alabama? Let’s dive in and find out!
The Ten Best Alabama Baseball Players
10. Heinie Manush
We begin our list with none other than Hall of Famer Heinie Manush. He debuted in 1923 for the Detroit Tigers and would go on to play a total of 17 Major League seasons. Manush led all of baseball in hits in 1928 with 241. He carried a career line of .330/.377/.479 with a 121 OPS+. He would finish top-5 in MVP voting four times and was an All-Star once. Manush was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1964 and would be immortalized forever as a member of the Washington Senators, who we now know as the Minnesota Twins.
9. Jimmy Key
The one player on our list today to not be a member of the Hall of Fame is Toronto Blue Jays legend Jimmy Key. Debuting in 1984, he would go on to play a total of 15 seasons in the Majors, holding a career ERA of 3.51, and ERA+ of 122. His best season came in 1987 when he led baseball in ERA (2.76), ERA+ (164), and WHIP (1.057), and lead the American League in H/9 (7.2). Despite ERA+ considering him the best pitcher in all of baseball for that season, he would finish as runner-up to Roger Clemens (not born in Alabama) for the Cy Young award that year. He finished in the top five for Cy Young voting two more times in his career and was a five-time All-Star.
8. Joe Sewell
We now make our way back to Cooperstown with Cleveland Guardians‘ own Joe Sewell. Debuting in 1920, he would play 14 Major League seasons. He carried a career line of .312/.391/.413 with an OPS+ of 109. Sewell led the American League in doubles (45) in 1924 and would retire after the 1933 season, spent with the New York Yankees. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977 and would go in wearing a Cleveland hat.
7. Early Wynn
Another of the many Hall of Famers we will be covering in today’s list is another Cleveland Guardians Hall of Famer, Early Wynn. Debuting in 1939, Wynn had 300 career wins in 691 appearances and a 3.54 ERA. He did only carry a career ERA+ of 107, but at the peak of his career, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Wynn led baseball in wins twice, and H/9 once. He would win the American League Cy Young award in 1959 as a member of the Chicago White Sox. That would be the only time he would be in the running for a Cy Young, despite being a 9-time All-Star. Wynn would retire after the 1963 season and be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
6. Billy Williams
We now turn our attention to the first National League legend, none other than Chicago Cubs great, Billy Williams. Billy would debut in 1959, but he would not have a full rookie season until 1961 when he would subsequently win the National League Rookie of the Year award. Billy played 18 years in the Majors and carried a career line of .290/.361/.492 with 426 home runs and a 133 OPS+. He finished top-10 for MVP voting on three separate occasions and was a 6-time All-Star. Billy retired after the 1976 season and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987 as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
5. Willie McCovey
Many people consider the next five players that make up this list to be some of the best in the history of the sport. Three of these top-5 all came from the same city! We start the top five with San Francisco Giant legend Willie McCovey. Willie debuted for the Giants in 1959. He played a total of 22 seasons in the Majors, making stops at two other clubs along the way, but subsequently finishing his career with the Giants. He carried a career line of .270/.374/.515 with 521 home runs and a 147 OPS+. Willie was one of the most feared hitters of his time. He won the 1959 Rookie of the Year and the 1969 National League MVP. He was a 6-time All-Star and retired after the 1980 season. Willie was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 as a member of the Giants.
4. Don Sutton
The highest-ranked pitcher on our list today is Los Angeles Dodgers legend, Don Sutton. He debuted for the Dodgers in 1966 and would pitch in the Majors for a total of 23 seasons. The 4-time All-Star never won a Cy Young award but did finish in the top five in voting on five occasions. Sutton carried a career ERA of 3.26 with 324 wins, 3,574 strikeouts, and a 108 ERA+. He would retire after the 1988 season at the age of 43 and be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 as a member of the Dodgers.
3. Ozzie Smith
We continue our climb up the Mount Rushmore of Alabama baseball players with someone that most consider the best fielding shortstop of all time, Ozzie Smith. Debuting for the San Diego Padres in 1978, Ozzie would play a total of 19 years in the Majors. He would become a household name as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Ozzie was a 15-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glover, and 1-time Silver Slugger. However, at the plate, Ozzie was not as good as he was with the glove. He carried a career line of .262/.337/.328 with 28 home runs and an 87 OPS+. Despite his struggles at the plate, his fielding prowess made him an all-time great. Ozzie would retire after the 1996 season and be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002 as a member of the Cardinals.
2. Hank Aaron
We now take a massive leap of almost 70 points of WAR to one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. Mobile, Alabama’s own, Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron. What more is there to say about Hank Aaron that you do not already know? That he was a 25-time All-Star? That he only won one MVP award in his illustrious career? Did you know that he won the batting title twice? Or that he won three Gold Glove awards?
Despite Barry Bonds holding an asterisk in Cooperstown, Hank Aaron still holds the all-time career records for RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856). Hank would retire after the 1976 season and be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. With a career line of .305/.374/.555 with 755 home runs and a 155 OPS+, it is plain to see how great Aaron was. Despite his greatness, there is still one more player to cover. Can you guess who it is?
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) December 17, 2022
1. Willie Mays
Did you guess San Francisco Giants legend Willie Mays?
Willie Mays made his AL/NL debut in 1951 and would win the Rookie of the Year award that season. He would go on to play a total of 23 seasons in Major League baseball. Willie was a 2-time MVP, 24-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glover, and one of the greatest to ever put on a pair of cleats. He carried a career line of .302/.384/.558 with 660 home runs, 3,283 hits, and a 156 OPS+. Willie would retire after the 1973 season and be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979 as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
That will wrap up our list of the best Alabama baseball players to ever set foot on a Major League Baseball field. There are a handful of Alabama baseball players that are active currently, and who knows? Some of them could end up on a list like this in the future!
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