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Left their mark
Left field, they say, is where you put the outfielder with the weakest arms — you know, shorter distances to throw. But when you are talking about the all-time best left fielders, most of them not only were strong hitters, but they knew how to play defense. And while their arms may not have been the strongest, their accuracy made up for it and their ability to play the nuances of their own ballparks made up for any perceived lack of arm power. These top 10 left fielders could do it all. — Hal McCoy
10. Albert Belle
Surliness with the media and a hip injury that ended his career at 33 prevents Belle from receiving his just due. He played only 12 seasons, but averaged 40 home runs and 130 RBI per 162 games. He had nine straight seasons of 100 or more RBI, leading the league three times. Of Belle’s battles with the media and his enforced silence, Ken Griffey Jr. once said, “Just look at his numbers, that's all you have to do. He goes out and plays hard. He's really different from how he's portrayed and the media don't give him a chance. Everything is blown out of proportion."
9. Billy Williams
While everybody bemoans the fact Ernie Banks never played on a championship team for the Cubs, they forget Billy Williams, the second best left fielder named Williams of all-time. Billy played 16 years with the Cubs without ever tasting championship champagne. He hit .290 for his career with 426 homers and a .492 career slugging percentage. He won a batting title in 1972, hitting .333 while hitting 37 home runs and driving in 122 and finished a close second in the MVP balloting to Johnny Bench.
8. Manny Ramirez
His name will be forever linked with performance-enhancing drugs, and he retired early in 2011 after he failed his second drug test and was suspended. His numbers, though, are glossy and he was known for clutch hitting. He batted .312 during his 19-year career and hit 555 home runs while driving in 1,831. Ramirez combined hitting for average with power. He won a batting title in 2002 and led the league in RBI in 1999 with 165. He had 11 seasons of hitting more than .300 and 12 seasons with more than 100 RBI.
7. Al Simmons
Called “Bucketfoot Al” due to an unorthodox batting style, Simmons was a star on some great Athletics teams the the late 1920s and 1930s, winning back-to-back World Series titles in 1929-30. He had a career .334 average and drove in more than 100 runs the first 11 years of his 20-year career. He won two batting titles and finished in the top five of the MVP voting four times, including second in 1925.
6. Carl Yastrzemski
Yaz was a magician at playing caroms off The Green Monster left field wall in Fenway Park during his 23 years in Boston and he won seven Gold Gloves. He is the last player to win the Triple Crown when he hit .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBI in 1967. He was an 18-time All-Star and won three batting titles.
5. Pete Rose
Where do you put this guy? He played second base, third base, first base and left field (he won two Gold Gloves in left field early in his 24-year career). “The Hit King” has to be somewhere, despite the fact he besmirched his name by betting on baseball that resulted in a lifetime banishment from the game. But think about it. He finished with 4,256 hits. For anybody to match that total they would have to get 200 hits for 20 straight years and they’d still be 256 hits short. Charlie Hustle won three batting titles and collected more than 200 hits 10 times while making the All-Star team 17 times. He won the NL MVP in 1973 and engaged in an infamous second base wrestling match with Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson in the 1973 playoffs.
4. Rickey Henderson
During his incredible 25 years in the majors, Henderson was known for his outrageous utterances, as in after he struck out once, teammates heard him say as he walked toward the dugout, “Don’t worry, Rickey, you’re still the best.” And he was. As baseball’s all-time best leadoff hitter, Henderson stole an unfathomable 1,406 bases. And his 2,295 runs scored are the all-time best, and he drew 2,190 walks. He made the All-Star team 10 times and had a career .401 on-base percentage.
3. Barry Bonds
His numbers classify him as perhaps the No. 1 all-time left fielder, but his performance-enhancing drugs controversy tainted his name and accomplishment. Bonds won a record seven MVPs, four in a row, and he won three before he allegedly began using, ostensibly because he wanted to keep up with Mark McGwire later in his career. His 762 homers are most all-time and he was four shy of 2,000 RBI. He was on 14 All-Star teams and his offensive output overshadowed his defensive prowess — eight Gold Gloves, all won in eight straight years.
2. Stan Musial
When the media and fans began calling Albert Pujols “El Hombre,” Spanish for "The Man," he asked them to stop, saying: “There is only one ‘The Man’ in St. Louis and that’s Stan 'The Man' Musial." During his 22-year career with the Cardinals, he made the All-Star team 24 times (they had two All-Star games a year for two years). He finished with a .331 career average, won seven batting titles, hit 475 home runs and batted .310 or better for the first 16 years of his career. Sometimes he was called Stan The Man Unusual because of his corkscrew stance in which his back faced the pitcher, but the stance didn’t matter and Joe Garagiola once said, “Musial could hit .300 with a fountain pen.”
1. Ted Williams
He was so good he had three nicknames — Teddy Ballgame, The Thumper and Splendid Splinter. He once said his goal was, “To have people say, ‘There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.’” To some, he achieved that goal. Williams finished with a career .344 batting average and the all-time best on-base percentage of .482, meaning he was on base nearly half the times he batted. He hit 521 homers, won six batting titles and was on the All-Star team 18 out of the 19 years of his career with the Red Sox. And the most amazing thing — he missed nearly five years of prime playing time serving in the armed forces. — Hal McCoy