Sluggers make the highlight reels, but don’t forget the table-setters. With that in mind, we present the top 30 MLB leadoff hitters of all-time.
Home run hitters and RBI guys make the SportsCenter and MLB Network highlight reels, but don’t forget about the table-setters that set the tone for a ballgame with a bunt for a base hit, a sharp single up the box or a leadoff triple that can pave the way for a crooked number in the first inning.
Without question, Rickey Henderson is the best of the best and he is the player to which all other leadoff hitters are measured, but a great top of the order hitter can take many forms. While we often think base stealers that are capable of turning a single into a double, the most important thing he must do is get on base. After all, you can’t steal first base.
Therefore, several of the greatest leadoff hitters in Major League Baseball history aren’t speedsters. In fact, one of our top 30 had fewer career stolen bases (24) than Rickey had with the New York Mets (37 in 1999 and 5 in 2000), Seattle Mariners (31 in 2000) and San Diego Padres (25 in 2001) in three separate seasons after he turned 40 years old.
A few old-timers made our list, but it mostly consists of players from the past 50 years. Billy Hamilton (the Hall of Famer, not the Cincinnati Reds’ current leadoff hitter), should certainly be considered. Hamilton hit .344/.455/.432 from 1888-1901 and stole 100 or more bases four times, but he played in an era that can really be described as a different game.
More from Boston Red Sox
- Braves-Red Sox start time: Braves rain delay in Boston on July 25
- MLB Trade Grades: Dodgers reunite with familiar face in Red Sox deal
- MLB Rumors: Braves trade package, White Sox-Reds deal, Mets disaster
- Former Red Sox slugger has surprising criticism for Manny Ramirez’s son
- Alex Cora delivers trade deadline ultimatum for Red Sox front office
Stan Hack, who led off a franchise record 1,358 times for the Chicago Cubs from 1932-47, compiled a terrific .301/.394/.397 slash. Harry Hooper stole 375 bases in 17 combined seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox from 1909-1925 and hit .281/.368/.387 along the way. Lloyd Waner collected 2,459 hits, scored 1,201 runs and compiled a healthy .316/.353/.393 slash across 18 big league seasons, but all three narrowly missed the list.
Some great leadoff hitters of the modern era also missed the cut, some of which did extraordinary things at the top of the order.
For example, Bobby Bonds hit 11 leadoff home runs in 1973, which ranks second among National Leaguers in a single season. Jacque Jones also had 11 in 2002, which was the third best mark in American League history, behind two players that are on our list. Others like Dwight Evans, Lenny Dykstra and Chuck Knoblauch had great stints among baseball’s best top of the order performers, but either spent too little time on the top of the lineup card or couldn’t put it together over a long enough timeline.
So, who are the 29 best leadoff hitters in big league history not named Rickey Henderson? Let’s take a look.
Next: Jacoby Ellsbury