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Second to none
When one thinks about a second baseman, one thinks of a smallish guy with quick hands and quick feet — all the better to avoid sliding base runners. And if he could hit and produce runs, all the better. Our top 10 second basemen of all-time could do it all, especially hit. — Hal McCoy
10. Rod Carew
Rodney Cline Carew was born on a train in the Panama Canal Zone and his mother named him after the physician who delivered him, Dr. Rodney Cline. He was Rookie of the Year in 1967 when he stole home seven times, one shy of the all-time record of eight held by Ty Cobb. Starting in his rookie year, Carew made the All-Star team 18 straight times. Carew won seven batting titles, four in a row from 1972 to 1975 and he hit .388 in 1978 with 239 hits. He finished with a .328 career average and collected 3,028 hits.
9. Charlie Gehringer
Nicknamed The Mechanical Man, teammate Doc Cramer once said, “You wind him up on Opening Day and forget him.” And that was on both the offensive and defensive side. Playing all 19 years with the Tigers, Gehringer collected more than 200 hits seven times and won the MVP in 1937 when he led the league with a .371 average. And he led the league seven times in putouts and assists for a second baseman. He not only started all of the first six All-Star games, he played every inning of every game.
8. Jeff Kent
The all-time home run leader for second basemen with 377 and he is the only second baseman in history with 100 or more RBI in six consecutive seasons. He was a doubles machine with 550, 21st on the all-time list and was NL MVP in 2000. Because of a cantankerous attitude, he wasn’t always popular with his teammates and once engaged in a dugout fight with teammate Barry Bonds. He was a five-time All-Star and won the Silver Slugger award four times.
7. Ryne Sandberg
Ryno came to the majors with a glue-like glove but wasn’t much of a hitter. His glove earned him nine straight Gold Gloves and 10 straight All-Star appearances. But by the end of his career he had developed into a feared hitter. In 1990 he hit 40 home runs, third most in history for a seond baseman, while driving in 100 runs and batting .306. His .989 career fielding average is the all-time best for a second baseman.
6. Craig Biggio
One of the game’s all-time best leadoff hitters, he holds the National League record for leadoff home runs with 50, but was known more for getting hit by pitches. He wore protective armor to the plate and was hit a record 267 times and sent an arm guard to the Hall of Fame when he set the record. He played all 20 years with the Houston Astros, collected 3,060 hits, won four Gold Gloves, six Silver Sluggers and was an All-Star seven times.
5. Jackie Robinson
The first African-American to play in the majors, Robinson endured racial prejudices early in his career, including a threatened boycott by the St. Louis Cardinals if he was in the lineup against them. But he endured with his impeccable character and immense aggressive talent. He won the first Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, an award that is now named after him. His uniform number, 42, was retired by Major League baseball for all teams. He was a six-time All-Star but played only 10 years because he was 28 when he broke the color barrier. He averaged .311 for his career and stole home 19 times, none as part of a double steal.
4. Roberto Alomar
He is recognized by many as the best defensive second baseman ever and won 10 Gold Gloves, most ever by a second baseman. And he could hit, too, winning four Silver Slugger awards while hitting over .300 nine times. He missed making the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility by eight votes and his 73.9 percent of the votes (75 percent is required) is the highest for a player in his first year who didn’t make it. Many attribute it to a 1996 incident in which he spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck, but they later became close friends and Alomar made the Hall of Fame in his second year with 90 percent of the votes.
3. Eddie Collins
One of the players who was not part of the 1919 World Series fix when he was with the White Sox, he hit over .320 in 14 of a 15-year period, over .340 10 times and over .360 three times. He was a team player, too, credited with 512 sacrifice bunts, more than 100 more than any player in history. He stole 744 bases, 81 in one season.
2. Joe Morgan
Little Joe, all of 5-foot-7 of him, wore a glove so small it resembled a kindergartener’s mitten. While batting, he flapped his back arm like a chicken as the pitch was delivered to keep his elbow up. He stole 689 bases and displayed great power for his size — 268 homers and 447 doubles. As an integral part of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, he won the MVP back-to-back in 1975 and 1976 when the Reds won the World Series both years. He was an All-Star 10 times, eight straight during his years with the Reds.
1. Rogers Hornsby
That unusual ‘s’ on the end of his first name stood for ‘stud.’ This is a guy who hit more than .400 not once, not twice, but three times, including .424 in 1924. The Rajah won seven batting titles, two MVPs and nine slugging percentage titles, still a record. His career average was .358, second highest all-time behind Ty Cobb. Fellow Hall of Fame second baseman Frankie Frisch once said of Hornsby, “He is the only guy I know who could hit .350 in the dark.”