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Center of attention
A center fielder is the "boss man" in the outfield, the take-charge guy who catches everything he can chase down. Nearly every center fielder is the best defensive player on the team, but he is also expected to swing a mean bat, which all of our top 10 all-time center fielders do. — Hal McCoy
10. Jim Edmonds
May be the best defensive center fielder of all-time, with apologies to Willie Mays. He made more wall-climbing catches than anybody in history. When he robbed Cincinnati’s Adam Dunn of home runs three times in one season, Dunn said, “I’m never hitting the ball to center field again when he’s out there.” Edmonds won eight Gold Gloves over a nine-year period and hit .284 for his career.
9. Andruw Jones
One of the all-time best defensive players, he is still going in his 16th year. He won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves at one point. He finished second in the MVP voting in 2005 when he led the league in home runs 51 and RBI with 128. He has made five All-Star teams.
8. Kirby Puckett
An eye problem cut his career to 12 years, but in those 12 years he was an All-Star 10 times. He won six Silver Slugger awards and had a career .318 average. He was known almost as much for his defense as his offense and won six Gold Gloves in a seven-year span. Puckett’s all-around play was displayed for the Twins in the 1991 World Series when he made a game-saving leaping catch against the wall, then hit a game-winning home run in Game 6 against the Braves. His 2,040 hits in his first 10 years was the most for any player in their first decade in the 20th century.
7. Tris Speaker
He played the most shallow center field in history and often snared low line drives and sprinted to second base to complete unassisted double plays. His career average was .345, but he won only one batting title (.386 in 1916), but that’s because Ty Cobb was winning most of them. His 792 doubles are the most all-time, accumulated in the dead ball era. He is fifth in hits with 3,514 and won two World Series with the Red Sox and one with the Indians when he was traded during a salary disagreement.
6. Duke Snider
The Duke of Flatbush was overshadowed during his time in Brooklyn by Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. The song, "Talkin’ Baseball" said it all with the phrase, "Willie, Mickey and The Duke." He wasn’t as flashy as Mays or Mantle, but was a study in consistency. He hit 40 or more home runs in five straight seasons and finished with 407. He consistently finished in the top three in every NL offensive category.
The all-time hits leader with 4,191 until Pete Rose came along, The Georgia Peach was not considered such a peach to his opponents due to his violent play that included using sharpened spikes to slide into infielders. His lifetime .366 average is the all-time best and he won a record 11 batting titles in a 13-year span. He hit over .400 three times. Not noted for defense, he still is second all-time in assists and double plays for an outfielder.
4. Ken Griffey Jr.
The Kid, with his radiant smile was the most vibrant and popular player in the 1990s. He arrived in the majors at age 19 and stayed and is credited with saving the wobbly Mariners franchise. He hit 56 home runs in both 1997 and 1998 without the stigma of enhancement drugs. He won 10 straight Gold Gloves at one point and he hit 630 home runs. He returned to his hometown Cincinnati in 2000 but his time there was littered with injuries.
3. Mickey Mantle
The Mick is the man who took DiMaggio’s place with the Yankees and spent his career fighting injuries, mostly to his knees. After his career, he admitted his active night life took its toll, but his numbers are DiMaggio-like. He won three MVPs. He hit 536 home runs, some of the longest in history, and was the best switch-hitter of all-time. His career average was .298 and was on seven World Series champions.
2. Joe DiMaggio
Joltin Joe, often referred to as The Greatest Yankee ever, only played 13 seasons and made the All-Star team all 13 years. He won three MVPs and hit a career .325. Incredibly, he won a World Series ring for all but one finger (nine). He made everything look easy with no wasted effort, but put a lot of effort into a 56-game hitting streak in 1941, an accomplishment that most baseball people believe will never be touched. Adding to his mystique was his marriage to movie star Marilyn Monroe.
1. Willie Mays
The Say Hey Kid made the most famous catch in history, his over-the-shoulder grab of Vic Wertz’s smash in the 1954 World Series. Of the catch, Mays said, “I’ve made a lot better than that, but they went unnoticed because that one was in the World Series.” Mays may be the best all-around player in baseball history, a five-tool player. Mays won the NL MVP in 1954, hitting .345 with 41 homers. Eleven years later he won MVP again when he hit .317 with 52 homers. He finished with 660 home runs.