20 Greatest Third Basemen in Baseball History

Jake Cain

Jake Cain

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Last Updated: February 20th, 2024 by Jake Cain

Third base, often referred to as the “hot corner,” is a position in baseball that requires quick reflexes, strong defensive skills, and significant offensive production.

The history of baseball has seen some incredibly talented athletes manning third base, players whose performances have set the standard for both defensive wizardry and offensive firepower.

Mike Schmidt, a Hall of Fame inductee, epitomizes the archetype of an all-around third baseman, with a career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 106.8 and 548 home runs to his credit. His defensive prowess is highlighted by 18.4 dWAR, and offensively, he boasts a .527 slugging percentage.

This combination of skills earned him accolades throughout his career and a dominant presence in MVP discussions, reflecting the impact he had every year.

Similarly, Eddie Mathews, another Hall of Famer, left an indelible mark on the position with a 96.0 WAR and 512 home runs, underscoring the power third basemen can contribute to a lineup. These legends set the standard for what it means to excel at third base, as evidenced by their perennial presence in the upper echelon of league leaders and accolades.

The value of a third baseman is not merely in their individual stats but in how they elevate the team’s success. Players like Wade Boggs and George Brett, each with a career batting average over .300 and WARs above 88, were not only exceptional in isolation but also pivotal in their teams’ fortunes.

There are a total of 17 third basement in the Hall of Fame, and we’ve put together a list of the 20 best third basement of all-time.

Mike Schmidt

Mike Schmidt, a decorated third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, is widely recognized as one of the greatest third basemen in baseball history. His Hall of Fame career spanned from 1972 to 1989, during which he became a 12-time All-Star and received three Most Valuable Player awards—evidence of his impact and dominance in the game.

Schmidt’s powerful hitting resulted in an impressive tally of 548 home runs, establishing him as a premier slugger among third basemen. His career statistics reflect excellence: accumulating a .267 batting average, .380 on-base percentage, and a .527 slugging percentage. His contributions to the Phillies were not just offensive; his defense earned him 10 Gold Glove Awards, showcasing his comprehensive skill set at the hot corner.

Beyond the standard batting metrics, Schmidt’s value is also illustrated by his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) score—an astounding 106.8, the highest among all third basemen according to the Jaffe WAR Score system (JAWS). Schmidt’s offensive WAR (oWAR) is noted at 91.8 and defensive WAR (dWAR) at 18.4, underscoring his all-around performance on the field. These figures cement his status as an elite player at his position and as a key figure in baseball history.

For more detailed information on Mike Schmidt’s career and his position among the all-time great third basemen, see the ESPN and Baseball-Reference articles.

Eddie Mathews

Eddie Mathews, renowned for his time with the Milwaukee Braves, is often remembered as one of the most dominant third basemen in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB). He made his mark with an impressive 512 home runs during his career. His power at the plate and ability to change the game earned him not only a spot in the Hall of Fame but also a staunch place among the best at his position.

Career Highlights:

  • Teams: Milwaukee Braves, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers
  • Years Active: 1952-1968
  • All-Star Appearances: 12

Notable Achievements:

  • Hall of Fame Induction: Yes
  • Home Runs: 512
  • WAR: 96.0

With a career that spanned over 17 years, Mathews’ consistent performance is evidenced by his 96.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a metric that demonstrates his value to his team’s victories. His peak seven-year WAR (WAR7) stands at 53.8, ensuring his position as the second-ranked third baseman according to this metric. With such an impressive WAR, it’s no surprise that Mathews has been honored by being placed in the upper echelons of baseball greats, despite never having the most valuable player title.

Eddie Mathews Stats:

Home Runs512
Batting Average.271
On-base Percentage.376

In addition to his outstanding offensive statistics, Mathews was also valued for his defensive skills at third base, contributing positively to his teams’ defensive efforts. His excellence at the hot corner and his home run prowess make Eddie Mathews an exemplar of baseball talent and one of the greatest third basemen to ever play the game.

Brooks Robinson

Brooks Robinson, commonly associated with the Baltimore Orioles, is often regarded as one of the greatest third basemen in baseball history. His defensive capabilities were second to none, earning him 16 Gold Glove Awards throughout his career. This achievement underscores his prowess on the field and solidifies his place among the all-time greats in defense at third base.

Robinson’s skill set extended beyond just his glove work. He was also a valuable contributor with his bat, hitting 268 home runs and driving in 1357 runs over his career. Born on May 18, 1937, Robinson played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball, all with the Orioles, from 1955 to 1977. He appeared in a remarkable 2,870 games at third base, more than any player before him.

Career Highlights:

  • Gold Glove Awards: 16
  • All-Star Appearances: 18
  • World Series MVP: 1970
  • Career Hits: 2,848
  • Career doubles: 482
  • Career home runs: 268

His sterling performance in the 1970 World Series earned him the World Series MVP honor. Notably, his world-class defense was a key contributor to the Orioles’ success during that championship run.

With a lifetime batting average of .267, on-base percentage of .322, and slugging percentage of .401, Robinson’s offensive statistics were indeed impressive. Yet, it was his defense that truly made him a legend, boasting 39.1 dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement), a testament to his impact on the game.

Statistical Snapshot:

  • Games Played: 2,896
  • Hits: 2,848
  • Home Runs: 268
  • RBI: 1,357
  • dWAR: 39.1

Wade Boggs

Wade Boggs, celebrated for his tenure with the Boston Red Sox, is a name synonymous with excellence at third base. His career statistics are a testament to his consistent performance and dominance during his 18-year career in Major League Baseball.

Career Highlights:

  • Team: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
  • Batting Average: .328
  • On-base Percentage (OBP): .415
  • Slugging Percentage (SLG): .443
  • Hits: 3,010
  • Home Runs: 118
  • Runs Batted In (RBI): 1,014
  • All-Star Appearances: 12 times
  • Batting Titles: 5 times

Boggs was an exceptional hitter, earning 5 batting titles and surpassing the 3,000 hits milestone, making him a legend in the sport. He was not only a hitting machine but also a strategic and disciplined player, known for his high on-base percentage and ability to rarely strike out. His brilliance at the plate earned him a well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame.

Defensive and Offensive Prowess:

  • Hall of Fame Induction: Yes
  • Gold Gloves: 2
  • Silver Slugger Awards: 8

Boggs’s contribution on the field extended beyond just his bat. He was a reliable and skilled defender, earning 2 Gold Gloves for his work at third base. His offensive and defensive contributions make him one of the Greatest Third Basemen of All Time and a classic example for aspiring players.

Pete Rose

Pete Rose, affectionately known as “Charlie Hustle,” holds a unique place in the annals of Major League Baseball (MLB) not just as a phenomenal player but also for his versatility across the diamond. While Eddie Mathews swung for the fences, Rose was racking up hits at every corner of the field. His MLB record of 4,256 hits remains a towering achievement that reflects his sustained excellence and durability.

Career Highlights:

Teams: Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos

Years Active: 1963-1986

All-Star Appearances: 17 Notable Achievements:

Hall of Fame Induction: No (ineligible due to ban) Hits: 4,256 WAR: 79.7 Throughout his 24-year career, Rose brought his competitive fire to various positions, including a significant tenure at third base. With a 79.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), his contributions across the field were invaluable. His WAR7 stands at 44.6, showcasing a remarkable peak period of his career. Rose’s tenacious play and unmatched hit totals secure his legacy as one of the most adaptable and accomplished players, even if his Hall of Fame induction has been made impossible due to his lifetime ban from baseball.

Adrián Beltré

Adrián Beltré is often celebrated for his exceptional career as a third baseman in Major League Baseball (MLB). Playing for 21 seasons, Beltré’s consistently impressive performance at the hot corner places him among the legends of the game. Notably, as a member of the Texas Rangers, he solidified his reputation as one of the all-time greats.

  • Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers
  • Career Hits: 3,166
  • Gold Gloves: 5

With a career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 93.5, Beltré’s value on the field is undeniable. He commanded respect both offensively and defensively, contributing significantly to his teams’ successes throughout his career. His defensive prowess earned him five Gold Glove Awards, indicative of his elite fielding abilities.

Career StatisticsTotal
Games Played2,933
Home Runs (HR)477
Runs Batted In (RBI)1,707
Stolen Bases (SB)121
Batting Average (BA).286
On-base Percentage (OBP).339
Slugging Percentage (SLG).480
On-base Plus Slugging (OPS).819

Beltré’s achievements extend beyond his remarkable fielding. His career hit total exceeds the 3,000-hit mark, making him one of the rare hitters to accomplish this feat. He displayed prowess and consistency at the plate, solidifying his place as a model of baseball excellence. The harmony of his offensive talents and defensive skills places Adrián Beltré confidently in the conversation about the greatest third basemen of all time.

George Brett

George Brett is revered as one of the finest third basemen to have played Major League Baseball (MLB). Playing his entire 21-year career with the Kansas City Royals, Brett accumulated impressive statistics that include a .305 batting average, 3,154 hits, and a solid .487 slugging percentage. His consistent performance at the plate and on the field earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Brett’s accolades are numerous. He was a 13-time All-Star, a World Series champion in 1985, and he earned an American League MVP award. His offensive prowess is highlighted by one of his most notable seasons in 1980, where he chased a .400 batting average, finishing the season at .390. In that same year, Brett led the Royals to a World Series appearance, further solidifying his place in baseball history.

But it wasn’t just Brett’s batting that made him exceptional; he was also a skilled defender. Although his defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) was 2.2, his overall contribution to the Royals’ defense was crucial. His consistency and longevity in the sport are evidenced by the fact that he played more than 2,500 games, predominantly at third base but also as a first baseman later in his career.

Brett is often remembered for his fiery competitiveness, most famously exhibited during the “Pine Tar Incident” in 1983. This integrity on the diamond was matched by his commitment to excellence throughout his career, underscoring the reason he is counted among baseball’s elite third basemen.

Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones, a legendary figure for the Atlanta Braves, has secured his place among the greatest third basemen in baseball history. His impressive career spans 19 years, marked by a consistent batting average and powerful offensive performance. Jones was not only a skilled switch hitter but also an esteemed MVP, showcasing versatility and mastery from both sides of the plate.

He boasted a career batting average of .303, which, coupled with his .401 on-base and .529 slugging percentages, yields an impressive .930 OPS. This keen eye at the plate and his ability to hit for both average and power are underscored by his 468 home runs and 1,623 RBIs. Jones’ accolades include eight All-Star selections, attesting to his status as a premier player during his active years.

Notably, Jones’ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stands at a remarkable 85.3. The component of his WAR that accounts for offensive gameplay (oWAR) is an impressive 88.3, demonstrating his substantial contribution to the team’s success. Although his defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) was slightly negative at -0.9, his overall impact was undeniably positive, which was integral to the Atlanta Braves’ competitiveness during his tenure.

While navigating both sides of the field with ease, Chipper Jones’ excellence at third base has etched his name into the annals of baseball history, warranting his inclusion as one of the game’s all-time greats.

Pie Traynor

Pie Traynor, a name etched in baseball lore as one of the early masters of the hot corner for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is revered as an exceptional third baseman throughout the annals of the game. His defensive ingenuity was remarkable, leading to his recognition as one of the most adept fielders of his era. Traynor’s quick reflexes and strong arm were instrumental in setting a high standard for future generations at the position.

In addition to his defensive prowess, Traynor was equally proficient with the bat, amassing 2,416 hits and 1,273 RBIs during his illustrious career. Born on November 11, 1899, Traynor graced the Major League Baseball scene for 17 seasons, from 1920 to 1937, all with the Pirates. His dedication to a single team was a hallmark of his storied career, becoming a revered figure in Pittsburgh sports history.

Career Highlights:

Hall of Fame Induction: 1948

Batting Title: 1924

Career Hits: 2,416

Career Triples: 164

Career Batting Average: .320

Traynor’s offensive talents shone brightly, particularly in 1924 when he captured the National League batting title. A skilled contact hitter, he left an indelible mark with a robust career batting average of .320. His leadership both on and off the field was also a significant factor in the Pirates’ competitive edge during his tenure.

Although individual defensive awards were not established during his playing days, Traynor’s legacy as a defensive stalwart is irrefutable, often cited for his impeccable fielding and smart play. His offensive and defensive contributions have enshrined him as a true pioneer at third base, paving the way for those who followed.

Ron Santo

Ron Santo, a cornerstone of the Chicago Cubs during his playing career, earned his place among the greats with his considerable talent at third base. His impressive career, fueled by consistency and skill, included being a nine-time All-Star—a testament to his prowess and popularity. Santo also secured five Gold Gloves, acknowledging his exceptional defensive abilities at the hot corner.

Statistically, Santo’s prowess is evident with a lifetime WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 70.5, placing him firmly in the echelons of top third basemen. His offensive and defensive contributions were integral to the teams he played on, and his WAR7 (the sum of a player’s seven best seasons by WAR) of 53.8 underscores his sustained peak performance. Santo’s JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system), which averages a player’s career WAR and their WAR7, stands at 62.2, affirming his stature in baseball history.

During his 15 years in Major League Baseball, predominantly with the Cubs, Santo compiled 2,254 hits, 342 home runs, and a batting average of .277. These figures underscore his balanced skill set, which combined power and average, exemplifying why he was a feared hitter throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Off the field, Santo was beloved for his positive nature and after his playing days, he continued to be a friendly and familiar voice in Chicago as a Cubs broadcaster.

GamesHitsHome RunsBatting AverageAll-Star AppearancesGold Gloves

Paul Molitor

Paul Molitor, often remembered for his remarkable hitting and versatility on the field, boasts a career that solidifies his place among the greatest third basemen of all time. Molitor excelled not only as a third baseman but also made significant contributions as a designated hitter, indicative of his adaptability and focus on offensive production.

Throughout his 21-year career in Major League Baseball, Molitor amassed an impressive 3,319 hits, showcasing his consistency at the plate. His offensive prowess was highlighted by not only the quantity but also the quality of his hits, which included 605 doubles and 234 home runs.

Molitor’s notable achievements extend beyond regular season play, as he was an integral part of the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays’ World Series championship team. His performance in the series not only earned him the World Series MVP award but also capped his comeback story, demonstrating resilience in overcoming injuries and setbacks throughout his career.

Games Played2,683
At Bats10,835
Home Runs234
Stolen Bases504
Batting Average.306

Molitor’s blend of speed, demonstrated by his 504 stolen bases and his ability to get on base, provided immense value to the teams for which he played. A seven-time All-Star with a Hall of Fame induction in 2004, Molitor’s accolades are a testament to his exceptional career and his standing among the top third basemen and hitters of the game.

Scott Rolen

Scott Rolen, acclaimed for his tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies, s widely considered one of the greatest third basemen to grace the diamond. With a career that spanned from 1996 to 2012, Rolen was not only known for his offensive capabilities but also for his exceptional defense, reflected in the eight Gold Gloves he earned during his career.

At Bats (AB)Hits (H)Home Runs (HR)Runs Batted In (RBI)Slugging Percentage (SLG)

Rolen’s consistent performance is highlighted by his 316 home runs and a .490 slugging percentage. His skill on both sides of the play places him at the Hall of Fame level with a JAWS score of 56.9, well above the average for third basemen in the Hall. He struck a balance between power and precision, elevating his team’s performance throughout his career.

This blend of strategic hitting and defensive prowess allows Scott Rolen to claim his rightful place among baseball’s elite third basemen. His legacy is marked by stellar numbers and the respect of both teammates and opponents alike.

Edgar Martínez

Edgar Martínez, known for his exceptional skill as a designated hitter and for his tenure with the Seattle Mariners, is often celebrated for his impressive offensive abilities. His consistent high batting average and equally impressive on-base percentage earned him a revered place in the game. Throughout an impressive 18-year career in Major League Baseball, Martínez established himself as a formidable force at the plate, with statistics that corroborate his accolades.

  • Teams: Seattle Mariners
  • Positions: Designated Hitter, Third Baseman
  • Career Span: 1987-2004
  • Awards: 7× All-Star, 5× Silver Slugger, 2× Batting Title
  • Hall of Fame: Yes
Batting Average (BA).312
On-Base Percentage (OBP).418
Slugging Percentage (SLG).515
On-base Plus Slugging (OPS).933

Martínez’s career highlights include a batting average that exceeds .300, an on-base percentage that soared to over .400, and an OPS that speaks to his all-around offensive prowess. His induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame is a testament to his impact on and off the field, encapsulating the respect and admiration he garnered throughout his career. He stands out not only for his individual performances but also for his contribution to the sport, leaving a legacy that secures his position among the greatest third basemen of all time.

Graig Nettles

Graig Nettles is often remembered as a cornerstone of the New York Yankees during the 1970s and early 1980s. Known for his defensive prowess, Nettles was awarded the Gold Glove twice, showcasing his exceptional fielding skills at third base. His career was marked by a combination of deft fielding and power at the plate, where he hit a significant number of home runs.

  • Teams: Primarily New York Yankees
  • Gold Gloves: 2
  • Home Runs: 390
  • Career WAR: 67.9

Season Highlights:

  • All-Star Appearances: 6
  • Defensive WAR (dWAR): 21.4

Nettles’ defense was so remarkable that he accumulated a dWAR of 21.4 over his lengthy career, affirming his status as one of the finest third basemen in the history of the game. At the plate, Nettles’ ability to hit for power is evident by his 390 home runs, placing him in the upper echelon of power-hitting third basemen. His all-around abilities and contributions to his teams make him an iconic figure and solidify him as one of the greatest third basemen the sport has seen.

Home Run Baker

John Franklin “Home Run” Baker earned his nickname for his ability to hit home runs during an era when they were exceedingly rare. Playing primarily at third base, Baker’s robust slugging ability was a critical component of the famed Philadelphia Athletics’ $100,000 infield, a quartet known for their defensive and offensive prowess. During his tenure with the Athletics, he was instrumental in claiming the World Series titles in 1910, 1911, and 1913, where his hitting was particularly crucial in the team’s successes.

Baker’s notable career statistics affirm his legacy as one of baseball’s greatest third basemen. Over the course of 13 seasons, from 1908 to 1922, Baker accomplished an impressive .307 batting average with a solid .363 on-base percentage and a .442 slugging percentage. His offensive contributions included 1838 hits, 96 home runs, and 991 RBIs. Despite the rarity of home runs in his time, he led the American League in this category for four consecutive years, from 1911 to 1914, highlighting his exceptional power at the plate.

Defensively, Baker excelled as well, providing reliable fielding with a career .948 fielding percentage. His defensive skills coupled with his offensive abilities create a lasting image of a well-rounded player who made significant contributions to his teams’ victories and the game of baseball itself. His Hall of Fame induction is a testament to his impact on the game and cements his place among baseball’s elite third basemen.

Ken Boyer

Kenton Lloyd “Ken” Boyer made an indelible mark on baseball as a power-hitting third baseman. His career statistics reflect why he’s a notable figure amongst the greatest at the hot corner. During his 15-season tenure from 1955 to 1969, Boyer amassed a .287 batting average and connected for 282 home runs. He also excelled defensively, recording a dWAR of 10.7, demonstrating his prowess in fielding as well as at the plate.

While playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, Boyer’s remarkable performance earned him 11 All-Star Game appearances. In both offensive and defensive domains, he provided the Cardinals with consistent and exemplary service, helping cement his legacy within the team’s storied history. Boyer’s 1964 season was a standout, clinching the National League MVP award thanks to his leadership and significant contribution to the team’s World Series victory that year.

Boyer’s career highlights include five Gold Glove Awards, a testament to his exceptional skill at third base. His defensive metrics place him among the elite at his position, reflecting his ability to impact the game both at bat and in the field. This balanced excellence is a key reason he ranks highly among the top third basemen of all time.

In summary, Ken Boyer’s statistics and impact on the game make him a notable entry in the list of greatest third basemen. His contributions to the Cardinals, coupled with his MVP and Gold Glove accolades, exemplify his all-around skill set and justify his stature as one of the best to have played the position.

Buddy Bell

Buddy Bell, a veteran third baseman, is revered for his remarkable defensive skills and consistent offensive contributions during his baseball career. Bell’s career spanned 18 years, from 1972 to 1989, during which he played impressive seasons with notable teams including the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians.

Renowned for his defensive prowess, he secured six Gold Gloves — an accolade awarded to players who exhibit superior fielding performance. Bell was a master at guarding the hot corner, consistently showing quick reflexes and a strong arm. This infallible defense contributed to his high dWAR, a defensive wins above replacement metric, which at 23.8 reflects his significant impact on the teams he played for defensively.

Career Highlights:

  • Teams: Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Others
  • Gold Gloves: 6
  • ALL-Star Appearances: 5
Plate Appearances10,009
Home Runs201

Bell’s legacy may not include a Hall of Fame induction, but his achievements, particularly his exceptional fielding, earn him a place among the greats at third base. His career statistics, such as a stellar .279 batting average and 2,514 hits, showcase his well-rounded game. Bell remains one of the esteemed third basemen to have graced the diamond, leaving a lasting imprint on the history of baseball.

Sal Bando

Sal Bando was an integral part of the Oakland Athletics during a period where the team achieved tremendous success. His performance as a third baseman was characterized by his consistency and ability to contribute significantly to his team’s victories.

Career Highlights:

  • Teams: Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers
  • World Series titles: 3 (1972, 1973, 1974)
  • All-Star selections: 4

Playing from 1966 to 1981, Bando’s leadership on and off the field led to him being named the team captain of the A’s. Under his captaincy, the A’s secured three consecutive World Series championships. His career contributions include a .254 batting average, with 242 home runs and 1,031 RBIs.

Statistics Overview:

  • WAR: 61.5
  • Home Runs: 242
  • Hits: 1,790
  • RBIs: 1,031

Bando’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) impressively ranks him amongst the greatest at his position. His career statistics reflect a robust combination of offensive and defensive skills, earning him a place on this list of the best third basemen of all time.

Dick Allen

Dick Allen was a formidable player in Major League Baseball, primarily known for his time with the Philadelphia Phillies. His powerful batting left a lasting impression on the game, earning him a reputation as one of the top sluggers during the 1960s and early 1970s. Allen’s career statistics include a significant number of home runs, further cementing his status as a baseball great.

Games Played1,749
Home Runs351
Slugging Percentage.534
Batting Average.292

He was an All-Star seven times and won the National League MVP award in 1972. With a career slugging percentage of .534, Allen consistently showcased his ability to hit for both power and average. Allen’s impact on the Phillies and the sport itself was substantial, making him one of the most memorable third basemen in baseball history.

Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria stands out as one of the premier third basemen in recent baseball history. He made his mark primarily with the Tampa Bay Rays, showcasing both offensive prowess and defensive acuity. His impressive career includes numerous accolades, such as three-time All-Star selections and multiple Gold Glove Awards, signifying his elite fielding skills at third base.

Longoria’s offensive statistics also highlight his significant contribution to the Rays; his home run tally captures the impact he had in the batter’s box. Through the course of his career, he has secured a place among other great third basemen by consistently delivering both at the plate and in the field.

While he may not lead in historical career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) when compared to other legendary figures at his position, Longoria’s balanced game, key role in the Rays’ success, and individual achievements make him a notable mention among the greatest at the hot corner. His tenure with the Rays helped redefine the franchise and left a lasting legacy in Tampa Bay’s baseball history.

7 thoughts on “20 Greatest Third Basemen in Baseball History”

  1. Brooks is #1. Period. Then Schmidt. Then Pie Traynor…. Pete Rose…you gotta be kidding! He was not primarily a third baseman!

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