There have always been dominant shortstops in the game of baseball even since the creation of the MLB in 1903. There was always a sort of leadership that came with the roll of shortstop on the team. More often than not your team’s shortstop is the team captain, they are expected to be the ones to lead the team on and off the field. There have been tons of guys who have done this in the past, let’s look at the top 5 of all time:
Larkin spent his entire career in a Cincinnati uniform, his career batting average was .295, he finished with 198 HRs and 960 RBIs. He was voted to the all-star game a total of 12 times as well as 3 Gold Glove awards and 9 Silver Slugger awards. In 1990 he helped bring a world Series championship to the city and 5 years later he won his first MVP award. Barry Larkin is known as a legend in the city of Cincinnati for his leadership qualities as well as his showcase of great talent. He finished off his distinguished career with a trip to Cooperstown in 2012 when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Although the Brewers’ Robin Yount played positions other than shortstop in his career, his most prolific moments have come in between 2nd and 3rd base. In his career Yount batted .285, had 251 HRs, and 1406 RBIs. Very respectable numbers especially for a shortstop. Yount received accolades such as 2 MVP awards, 3 all-star appearances, 3 Silver Slugger awards, 1 Gold Glove, and an induction to the baseball Hall of Fame.
Onto the Top 5:
#5: Ozzie Smith
Ozzie Smith, aka The Wizard of Oz was undoubtedly one of the best defensive infielders of all time, he rarely ever hit a homerun, but he rarely disappointed when the ball was in his hands. Smith finished his career with 13 Gold Glove awards which ties him with Ivàn Rodriguez for 2nd all time among position players. Smith also ended up with 15 all-star appearances, a silver slugger, and a Hall of Fame induction. If not the most defensively reliable shortstop ever he was definitely one of the most memorable, doing backflips onto the field, he was never out of energy always ready for more action.
#4: Ernie Banks
Mr. Cub, one of the most liked players of all time, Ernie Banks was a legend to say the least. Banks hit an astonishing 512 HRs and 1636 RBIs over his 19 year career. At 6’1’’ 180 lbs, number 14 was the epitome of the Cubs franchise, with 2 MVP awards, 14 all-star game appearances, 1 Gold Glove, and a Hall of Fame induction, Banks solidified himself as a legend among the streets of Chicago, becoming a household name for every Cubs fan.
#3: Cal Ripken Jr.
The Iron Man. Ripken’s consecutive games streak of 2632 is one that could stand forever. However that isn’t the only reason he sits #3 on this list. As well as his illustrious record, Ripken was an all around player, he hit for average as well as power (.276 avg. 431 HRs), and he was arguably the best fielding shortstop in his era due to his ability to get to any ball and utilize his cannon of an arm (.977 Fld% 6977 Assists). On top of all this Ripken won Rookie of the Year in 1982, won the MVP award in both 1983 and 1991, all-star appearances from 1983-2001 (19), 8 Silver Sluggers, and 2 Gold Gloves, and a Hall of Fame induction. Another impressive statistic from the career of Ripken are his 3184 hits, placing 14th all time in the category.
#2: Derek Jeter
El Capitan. Derek Jeter has had one of the most illustrious careers in all of sports history. From iconic moments like Jeter’s famous dive into the stands, sacrificing his body by flying into the stands to make a play, becoming Mr. November with a clutch home run in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, passing the legendary Lou Gehrig for the top spot on the all time Yankees hits list, making his 3000th hit iconic by pulling the ball into the left field stands, and finally the most amazing of them all the flip play, which showcased Jeter’s baseball I.Q. more than anything else. Coming over from the shortstop position to cut off a bad throw from Right fielder Shane Spencer and flipping the ball into Jorge Posada to save a run, an iconic play to say the least. Aside from those, Jeter played 20 years in the pinstripes, batting .310, with 260 HRs, and 1311 RBIs. In addition Jeter earned many accolades for his talent on the field, earning the Rookie of the Year award in 1996, having 14 all-star game appearances, earning 5 Gold Glove awards, 5 Silver Slugger awards, and to top it all off, 5 World Series Championships. Jeter is the definition of a leader on the field and off, a legend to say the very least.
#1: Honus Wagner
Honus Wagner’s distinguished career started in 1897 when he joined the Louisville Colonels, but most know him from his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he played 18 years. Wagner’s story is found in his statistics, the shortstop led the league in runs twice, hits twice, doubles seven times, triples three times, RBIs four times, stolen bases five times, batting average eight times, on-base percentage four times, slugging six times, on-base + slugging eight times, OPS+ six times, and total bases six times. On top of this Wagner almost never struck out. In 11,749 plate appearances, Wagner only struck out 735 times, an amazing feat from the shortstop who played for 21 years in the Majors. In addition Wagner was known in the field for his enormous hands, old teammates told stories about Wagner saying, “Bowlegged, barrel-chested, long-limbed… he was often likened to an octopus. When he fielded grounders, his huge hands also collected large scoops of infield dirt, which accompanied his throws to first like the tail of a comet” (BaseballLibrary.com). Wagner’s stats tell the whole story, he is by far the best shortstop to ever live.