Rating the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time

My rankings of the greatest baseball players ever, starting with number 1, in order.

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Monday, March 01, 2004
 
Number 87: Bill Dickey

The New York Yankees' star catcher of the 1930s and early 40s, Dickey was an excellent offensive player, and also a top-notch defensive player. He became a coach after his career, and was credited with making his successor Yogi Berra into a fine defensive catcher, from a very rough start.

Dickey broke in during the 1928 season, with 15 ABs, and became the regular in 1929. While he never said as much, manager Joe McCarthy used Dickey largely as a platoon player, usually resting the lefty hitter when a lefty pitcher was on the mound. There were a lot of doubleheaders in those days, and it was rare for catchers to play more than 130 games, so the Yankees could get away with this fairly easily. Dickey learned to take advantage of the short right-field fence at Yankee Stadium, and peaked offensively in the late 1930s, batting .362 with 22 homers and 107 RBI in 1936, and .332 with 29 homers and 133 RBI in 1937 in the middle of the Yankees' powerhouse lineup.

Dickey played in 8 World Series, and the team won 7 of them. He hit .255 in 38 Series games, with 5 homers. He finished 2nd in MVP voting in 1938, and was in the top ten five times. 11 times he was on the all-star team. He set a new standard for how catchers could hit, in an era when backstops were mostly just glove men. Dickey and contemporary Gabby Hartnett took offense for the position to new levels.

Dickey earned 172.08 ratings points.

Dickey's stats: .313 average, 202 homers, 1209 RBI, 1969 hits, 678 walks.


 
Number 86: Harry Heilmann.

Heilmann debuted in MLB with Detroit at age 19, but was not impressive, batting .225 in 69 games in 1914. He returned to Detroit in 1916, and this time hit .282 to stick. Sam Crawford was getting old and the Tigers needed a new RF, and that soon became Heilmann. He would win four batting titles, oddly in four odd-numbered years (1921, 23, 25, and 27) and finished 2nd in the MVP vote for 1927. After the lively-ball era hit, he showed more extra-base power, and was a consistent 100-RBI guy. He was below average in the field, and even spent prime years in 1919 and 1920 at first base. But he could hit.

Heilmann never played in a World Series, coming to Detroit between the Cobb-Crawford and Greenberg-Gehringer powerhouses. But he provided excellent offense in the middle of the order for years. In 1930 he went to Cincinnati where he ended his career. His nickname, "Slug," pretty much sums it up.

Heilmann earned 172.19 ratings points.

Heilmann's stats: .342 average, 2660 hits, 183 HR, 1539 RBI, 542 doubles, 151 triples.