Here in 2020 we get to enjoy an extra day during the month of February thanks to the Leap Year. That means we get this one more day during Black History Month as well.

Undertaking a project like putting together a top ten list that is not based solely on some pure numerical statistic is always going to be a bit subjective. That is certainly the case here.

In putting together my personal opinion on the top ten black players in the history of baseball, I took a few factors into consideration. Certainly my own education in the game over 50 years of following closely is the main factor. That education includes research on the Negro Leagues.

My own opinion has always been that the vast majority of players who have competed over the last five or six decades should be given the benefit of the doubt over those who went before.

Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Grove, Buck Leonard, Bullet Rogan, and Cool Papa Bell were undeniably among the greatest players in the history of the game. However, they never had to play against one another on a regular basis over a full career.

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and baseball slowly integrated during the 1950’s. By the 1960’s, the game was pretty much fully integrated. From that decade onward it would be hard to argue that the best players were not competing against one another in Major League Baseball.

By the way, Jackie did not make my list. There is no doubt that on his overall contribution to the game, what he went through as the trailblazer, Robinson is the single most important black player in baseball history.

He was also an outstanding player in his own right. The 1947 NL Rookie of the Year, 1949 NL MVP, and a six-time NL All-Star. No argument with anyone who wants him on their top ten list. Simply felt that the below ten players were better in my eyes in a comparison of many, all of whom are the greatest in the history of the sport.

The top three players, and six of the top ten players, on my list below all competed against the very best of all races and backgrounds that the game had to offer over a full career. There are also four players on the list who competed either solely or almost exclusively in the Negro Leagues.

There are certainly players who deserve legitimate consideration for the list who did not make it. You would almost certainly include someone who I left off. In that case, would love to hear your opinion in a comment after this piece, or on social media. That is a part of the enjoyment of such an effort, to spark research and discussion by others.

However, if you are going to tell me that someone not listed below needs to be a part of a top ten black players in baseball history, then you need to tell me who you would knock off. Would love to hear why you would make such a replacement. Not just telling me good things about your player, but why they deserve a spot over someone on the list.

I think that a great final point is that every one of these players is a Baseball Hall of Famer. They are among the greatest players – not just “black” players – in baseball history.

 

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4 thoughts on “Black History Month: Top ten greatest black players in baseball history

    1. Gibson would definitely be my second pitcher behind only Satchel, but not on my own top ten black players of all-time. Still, wouldn’t hold it against anyone who wanted him on their list. Truly an all-time great, as are all of these players.

  1. Good work. Barry Bonds has too many duplicitous stats to make such an exclusive list, let alone at number two. No way in heck was he better than Aaron, who earned his homers on merit. Bonds would have not hit more than 650 homers without the steroids; maybe not even 600. I agree about Jackie Robinson.

    1. I agree that Bonds would not have reached 650 home runs without PEDs. However, perhaps you are downplaying a couple of things. First, let’s say for the sake of argument that he would have only hit half as many home runs after 1998 than he actually did. I believe it would have been more, but let’s go with that as a low mark. He would still be in 10th place on the all-time HR list, 4th at the time of his retirement. But, of course, home runs are not the only unit of measurement. Second, he would remain not only the only 400/400 HR/SB player in baseball history, but would also be the only 500/500 player. He would still have won those three NL MVP’s, eight Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and been an eight-time NL All-Star through 1998. At that point he had a .290/.411/.556 career slash line and was just shy of the 2,000 career hit mark. No one reasonably believes that he took a single PED before the 1999 season. Aaron had just 240 career steals spread over a 23-year career, one MVP, three Gold Gloves. We’re splitting hairs in talking about two of the greatest players in baseball history. But for me, Bonds power/speed combo and defense elevate him above Hank.

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