Fifty years ago, baseball was the sport that had the hearts of African-American children across the country.
Before Major League Baseball integrated, African-Americans created the Negro Leagues, which was a farm full of fresh Black talent that was home to the likes of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson to name a few.
But what was once the most popular sport amongst African-Americans, has now become an afterthought in the community. And while the lack of Black baseball players is a major concern (8 percent), we can’t forget the great players who have donned uniforms for various ball clubs from the Willie Mays to present day stars like Derek Jeter.
Below is a list of the best Black baseball players of all-time. We compiled it in a starting lineup format.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions.
“The Big Hurt” Frank Thomas leads off our list of “Best Black Baseball Players of All-Time” as one of the greatest first-basemen ever.
Thomas, who spent 15 years on the Southside of Chicago with the White Sox, hit .301 for his career, hit 521 homeruns, and drove in 1,704 runs.
The man who broke the baseball color barrier in 1947, Jackie Robinson, was a six-time all-star selection.
Robinson, whose jersey has been retired by every MLB team, is most remembered for work both on and off the field in advancing the cause of Black athletes in the sport.
While Derek Jeter isn’t a third basemen, we didn’t think he should be left off the list for someone like the Atlanta Braves Terry Pendleton. While Pendleton has a solid career, it wasn’t a Hall of Fame one like Jeter.
Jeter, who joined the 3,000 hit club this past weekend with a classic 5-for-5 game, has won 5 World Series titles with the Bronx Bombers.
He’s also a twelve-time all-star, and is signed with the Yankees through 2015.
The man known around North Chicago as “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, signed with the Cubs in 1953 after playing for years in the Negro Leagues.
Once he joined the Cubs in 1953, he never left. He spent his next 18 years there batting .271, hitting 512 homers, and driving in 1,636 runs.
One of the most controversial athletes of all-time, Barry Bonds takes the left field slot in our list.
Bonds, who is reviled across the country by most sports fans, is second on the all-time home run list with 762.
Bonds finished his career with the Giants batting .298 with 1,996 runs batted in.
He was convicted on an obstruction of justice charge earlier this year.
Many consider Willie Mays to be the greatest all-around baseball player of all-time. As dazzling as he was in the batter’s box, he also shined as a fielder catching up to fly balls and line drivers unlike any player of his time. Mays won a record tying twelve Gold Gloves, won the MVP award twice, and won a World Series title in 1954.
Before injuries derailed his career, many thought Ken Griffey Jr. was on his way to becoming the greatest player of all-time. He had all the tools – he could run, play defense, hit for power, hit for average, and throw. While Griffey finished his career in Cincinnati and back home in Seattle, many choose to remember his glory years. He hit .284 for his career and hit 630 home runs.
Henry “Hank” Aaron is most remembered for being the home-run king with 755 dingers. But many forget that he’s also part of the storied 3,000 hit club.
For 23 years, Aaron was one of the greatest baseball players to ever step foot on the field. He finished his career with an impressive .305 batting average, 2,297 runs batted in, and made the all-star twenty years in a row from 1955-75. He led the Atlanta Braves to a 1957 World Series title.
Considered by many as not only the greatest catcher to ever play in the Negro Leagues, but the greatest catcher in baseball history period, Josh Gibson hit an astounding .359 for his career.
Known as the “Black Babe Ruth,” he never played in the Major Leagues because of their exclusionary rules towards Blacks.
One of the most dominant pitchers of all-time, lifetime St. Louis Cardinal Bob Gibson struck fear in all opposing batters.
Gibson went 251-174 for the Cardinals and had a 2.91 ERA for his career.
He won the Cy Young twice, and was a two-time World Series MVP.
Lee Smith was one of the most dominant closers of all-time. He held the record for most saves for 13 years until 2006 when San Diego Padres closer, Trevor Hoffman, passed him.
Smith finished his career with 478 saves and a 3.03 ERA.
He spent the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs.