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With some big PED-era names facing judgment day next month in the Baseball Hall of Fame voting and with the everlasting cacophony over who belongs in Cooperstown and who doesn't, we decided to take a fresh look at the greats of the game.
Out with conventional wisdom and hidebound opinions; in with a new analysis of which players really are the best of the best.
And so we present the ESPN Hall of 100: the top 100 players of all time. Period. -- Steve Wulf
More: Full intro | Methodology | #Hallof100
Tuesday: Nos. 100-76 | Wednesday: Nos. 75-26 | Thursday: Top 25
Career: 1969-93, Red Sox, White Sox
Fun fact: 1972 ROY, 11-time All-Star
Immortalized by his dramatic, arm-waving home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, "Pudge" amassed 2,356 hits in 2,499 games over 24 seasons -- 2,226 of them as a catcher. (Only Ivan Rodriguez logged more games behind home plate.)
Fisk was a fiery competitor. Just ask the Yankees, Deion Sanders or any player who attempted to run him over at the plate.
Career: 1978-98, Brewers, Jays, Twins
Fun fact: 1993 World Series MVP
Appearing in 1,171 of his 2,683 career games at designated hitter, Molitor batted .300 or better 12 times and .325 or better five times, collecting a grand total of 3,319 hits (ninth most all time) over 21 seasons.
Molitor had a 39-game hitting streak in 1987, the longest streak since Pete Rose hit in 44 straight in 1978. The Twins Cities native finished his career in Minnesota.
Career: 1992-2007, Dodgers, Mets, others
Fun fact: Six 30-HR/100-RBI seasons
Arguably the greatest-hitting catcher of all time, Piazza surpassed legendary backstop Carlton Fisk (No. 76 on our list) in home runs in 2004 and just kept on slugging. The 1993 National League rookie of the year finished his 16-year career with 427 homers, 1,335 RBIs and a .308 batting average.
Not bad for a 62nd-round draft pick.
Career: 1948-66, Phillies, Orioles, others
Fun fact: Pitched 28 consecutive complete games
A workhorse starter for much of his 19-year career, Roberts led the National League in wins in four straight seasons for the Phillies, winning 28 games in 1952, and 23 in '53, '54 and '55.
He compiled a career mark of 286-245 with a 3.41 ERA with four teams, earning 20 or more wins six times.
Career: 1924-42, Tigers
Fun fact: Led AL 2B in fielding five times
Pitcher Lefty Gomez, and many others, marveled at Gehringer's remarkable consistency: "Charlie Gehringer is in a rut. He hits .350 on Opening Day and stays there all season."
Nicknamed the "Mechanical Man," Gehringer batted .300 13 times, scored 100 runs 12 times and collected 200 hits seven times. The longtime Tigers second baseman won the American League MVP award in 1937 when he batted .371.
Career: 1947-64, Dodgers, Mets, Giants
Fun fact: Five straight 40-homer seasons
During the golden age of center fielders in New York, there was Willie, Mickey and "The Duke." In his 11 seasons in Brooklyn, Snider helped Dem Bums to six National League pennants, five World Series appearances and one World Series title.
The "Silver Fox" belted 407 career home runs and batted .300 seven times, including a career-high .341 in 1954.
Career: 1890-1906, Beaneaters, Cardinals, Phillies
Fun fact: Compiled 361 wins over 15 seasons
Back in Nichols' day, being a 20-game winner wasn't enough. He won 27 games as a 20-year-old rookie for the Boston Beaneaters in 1890 and was a 30-game winner seven times.
Nichols almost always finished what he started, completing 532 of his 562 career starts.
Career: 1986-2001, Athletics, Cardinals
Fun fact: Hit a 538-foot home run off Randy Johnson in 1997
Eleven years after setting the single-season home run record (49) for rookies, Big Mac shattered Roger Maris' single-season home run record of 61 in 1998, finishing the history-making season with 70.
From 1996 to 1999, the most productive period of his 16-year career, Big Mac slugged 245 of his 583 career home runs. He averaged a home run every 10.61 at-bats in his career -- better than both Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth.
Career: 1962-82, Pirates
Fun fact: Won 1979 NL MVP at age 39
Renowned for his tape-measure home runs, the man known as "Pops" guided Pittsburgh to two World Series titles.
Stargell on the Series-winning "We Are Family" '79 Pirates: "We were products of different races, were raised in different income brackets, but in the clubhouse and on the field we were one."
Career: 1993-2011, Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox, Rays
Fun fact: Had a career-best 165 RBIs in '99
There was never a dull moment with the always-entertaining Ramirez. One of the greatest right-handed hitters of his era, the enigmatic slugger who once disappeared into the Green Monster for an impromptu bathroom break belted 555 home runs, drove in 1,831 runs and batted .312 over 19 seasons.
He won two World Series rings during his seven seasons in Boston.
Career: 1974-92, Expos, Mets, others
Fun fact: 11-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner
Nicknamed "Kid" for his youthful exuberance and infectious smile, Carter was a rare breed of catcher. He slugged 324 career homers and threw out 35 percent of would-be base stealers in his 19 seasons -- a dozen of them with the Expos.
Perhaps fittingly, it was Carter -- No. 86 on our list -- who sparked the Mets' comeback in the 1986 World Series with a 10th-inning single in Game 6.
Career: 1919-37, Giants, Cardinals
Fun fact: Went directly from Fordham to the majors
A cross-handed switch-hitter from the right side, Frisch batted .300 13 times in his 19-year career. He never struck out more than 28 times in a season.
"The Fordham Flash" was also pretty flashy with the glove, prompting famed sportswriter Damon Runyon to write: "His range was such that he played second base, some of center field, and a slice of right, too."
Career: 1871-97, Forest Citys, Athletics, White Stockings
Fun fact: Starred in the Broadway play "A Runaway Colt"
The first player to reach 3,000 hits and the second manager to win 1,000 games, Anson was one of the game's first superstars. He is the Cubs' all-time leader in hits (3,012), doubles (529) and runs batted in (1,880).
Anson played in the majors for 27 seasons, his last coming in 1897 at age 45.
Career: 1965-84, Orioles
Fun fact: Winningest AL pitcher in the 1970s
An eight-time 20-game winner, Palmer won 268 games over 19 seasons with the Orioles, posting a .638 winning percentage. He claimed three AL Cy Young Awards (and was the runner-up twice) and four Gold Gloves.
In 3,948 innings over 558 appearances, Palmer surrendered 303 home runs but amazingly never gave up a grand slam.
Career: 1988-2007, Astros
Fun fact: Stole 50 bases in 1998
An All-Star at catcher and second base, Biggio became the 27th player in history to collect 3,000 hits. During his 20 seasons, all in an Astros uniform, Biggio recorded 414 steals, 291 home runs and 1,884 runs.
Biggio hit more doubles (668) than any other right-handed batter in history and is the modern leader in hit-by-pitches (287).
Career: 1926-45, Pirates, Braves, others
Fun fact: Extra-base hit in 14 straight games in 1927
The pitcher-turned-outfielder nicknamed "Big Poison" (his brother Lloyd was called "Little Poison") was the seventh member of the 3,000-hit club. He finished his 20-year career with a .333 average and 3,152 hits, batting .300 14 times and collecting 200 hits eight times.
He won the NL MVP Award in 1927, his second season in the majors.
Career: 1998-present, Blue Jays, Phillies
Fun fact: 18-7 with a 2.98 ERA against Yankees
How's this for a postseason debut? Against the Reds in 2010, Halladay joined Don Larsen as the only pitchers to throw a no-hitter in a playoff game.
A two-time Cy Young Award winner, Doc has a career mark of 199-100 with a 3.31 earned run average. The right-hander with the compact and fluid delivery has pitched 200 innings or more eight times.
Career: 1987-2008, Braves, Mets
Fun fact: 14-16, 3.30 ERA in postseason
Lefties like Glavine are a rarity. A 17-game loser in his second season, Glavine finished his 22-season career with 305 wins (fifth-most among left-handed pitchers), five 20-win seasons and a pair of NL Cy Young Awards.
A durable starter for most of his career, Glavine made 30 or more starts in a season 17 times and topped 200 innings 14 times.
Career: 1991-, Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins, Orioles
Fun fact: .402 career OBP
Over his 22 seasons in the majors, Thome has compiled impressive career numbers: He ranks fifth all time in at-bats per home run (13.8) and seventh all time in home runs (612) and walks (1,747).
Thome has homered against 403 different pitchers, including eight off Roger Clemens and seven off Justin Verlander, and in 38 different parks.
Career: 1989-2007, Rangers, White Sox, Cubs, Orioles
Fun fact: Only player in history with three 60-homer seasons
Slammin' Sammy smashed 609 career home runs (eighth-most all time) in his 18-year career, 545 of them coming with the Cubs.
During the summer of 1998, Sosa and Mark McGwire (No. 83 on our list) captivated the sports world as they chased Roger Maris' single-season home run record.
Career: 1979-2002, Expos, Yankees, others
Fun fact: 84.7 SB% is highest ever (min. 500 attempts)
There is a strong argument to be made that Raines is the most underrated player ever, and a lot of that is because he played in the shadow of Rickey Henderson (No. 14 on our list), the greatest leadoff man ever.
Raines reached base safely more often than Tony Gwynn (No. 61), a contemporary corner outfielder, while providing far greater offensive value.
Career: 1960-74, Cubs, White Sox
Fun fact: Only 3B with eight straight 90-RBI seasons
It took way too long for Santo to make it to Cooperstown, and his place on this list is evidence of that. He led the league in walks four times, had eight straight 90-RBI seasons and won five Gold Glove awards.
His incredible numbers are even more impressive when you consider that he was diabetic and had to manage the disease during most of his career.
Career: 1926-45, Red Sox, Senators
Fun fact: Served as AL president for 24 years
It used to be that shortstops didn't hit for power, but Cronin was a rare exception, posting a career .857 OPS. Many of the dents in the Green Monster can be attributed to him; he hit more than 40 doubles on six occasions, twice leading the league.
Cronin held pretty much every possible post-playing job within the game, serving as Red Sox manager, GM and league president.
Career: 1922-44, A's, White Sox, others
Fun fact: 11 straight years of .300/100
When you are a kid, they teach you not to "step in the bucket" when you are hitting, as it makes it hard to cover the outside part of the plate. That's how Simmons -- a right-handed hitter who stepped toward third base -- did it, and it wasn't an issue.
Simmons was a model of consistency, and he helped the Athletics win back-to-back World Series in 1928 and 1929.
Career: 1964-87, Braves, Yankees, others
Fun fact: Ranks fourth all time in innings pitched
Knuckleballers are a unique breed, and it's somewhat fitting that the list's lone knuckleballer comes in at No. 100. Knucksie wasn't flashy, but he got the job done for decades.
Niekro led the NL in starts, complete games and innings every year from 1977 to '79, and he is 10th all time for wins above replacement among pitchers.
Career: 1930-50, White Sox
Fun fact: Hit .300 nine straight years, including .388 in 1936 to win his first of two batting titles
The man called "Old Aches and Pains" was famous for complaining, but that act rarely seemed to keep him off the field. He finished as baseball's all-time leader in games and double plays at shortstop (since broken).
Appling's remarkable bat control gave him another skill -- the ability to seemingly foul off pitches at will. Legend has it he once fouled off 10 pitches just to provide souvenirs.
Career: 1908-20, A's, Indians, White Sox
Fun fact: .356 career batting average is the highest for a player not in the Hall of Fame
It is Shoeless Joe's tragedy to be known more for his place in the infamous "Black Sox" conspiracy to throw the 1919 World Series, leading to his banishment from baseball. He's still on baseball's ineligible list.
Jackson was a top slugger and still holds several records for the Sox and Indians. Babe Ruth said that he copied Jackson's stroke at the plate, feeding expectations of what he might have done if he'd gotten to play in the live-ball '20s.
Career: 1901-14, 1916-17, A's & Browns
Fun fact: Owns the record for career shutouts by a left-handed pitcher with 66
If anyone created the archetype for the "finesse lefty," it might have been Plank: He was famous for a wicked sidearm curve and deliberate pace on the mound.
With seven 20-win seasons for the A's, Plank was a mound ace, pitching Philadelphia to five World Series appearances in 10 years. He was the first southpaw to win 200 and then 300 games in a big league career and is still third all time among MLB lefties in career wins.
Career: 1973-95, Padres, Yankees, others
Fun fact: Taken in MLB, NBA and NFL drafts
Winfield is your classic compiler -- an excellent player for a long time (3,110 career hits) who led the league in any category in only one season (118 RBIs in 1979).
That lack of dominance, plus a career .208 postseason average that made George Steinbrenner call him Mr. May, is why he's outside the 100.
Career: 1988-2007, Orioles, Astros, Phillies, Red Sox, Diamondbacks
Fun fact: Career 2.23 postseason ERA
Your opinion of Schilling probably has a lot to do with how much you think October performance should be weighted, as he is arguably the greatest postseason pitcher ever, with legendary performances -- such as The Bloody Sock Game -- to match his numbers.
And he's no regular-season slouch either. A known workhorse, Schilling twice led the league in innings pitched, and his career 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the second best in baseball history.
Career: 1950-67, Yankees
Fun fact: Yankees' all-time leader in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched
The ace of the Yankees' Golden Era dynasty, Ford still holds records for the most World Series wins, losses and starts, and he broke Babe Ruth's record for scoreless inings in the World Series; his mark of 33 2/3 consecutive blank frames still stands.
Ford's stats were hurt by manager Casey Stengel's tactic of slotting him against top foes. Free to start every four days from 1961 on, he led the AL in wins twice in three years.
Career: 1936-42/1946-53, Cardinals, Giants, Yankees
Fun fact: Holds the MLB record for most three-homer games with six
The Big Cat was a slugging terror at the height of his career, leading the NL in total bases and slugging three straight seasons (1938-40) yet striking out infrequently (just 524 times, against 359 career homers).
If anything holds back Mize in terms of modern memory, it might be the three years he didn't play because of World War II. After returning from his service, he added two home run titles.
Career: 1986-2005, Cubs, Rangers, O's
Fun fact: His 2,831 games are the most by any player to not play in the World Series
Palmeiro's swing was a thing of beauty, but it would be hard for a career to end any uglier than his did. In 2005, he denied using steroids in Congressional testimony, notched his 3,000th hit and days later was suspended -- for testing positive for steroids.
While Palmeiro is one of four players with 500-plus career homers and 3,000 hits, unlike Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray he may never reach the Hall of Fame.
Career: 1966-88, Dodgers, Astros, Brewers, Angels, Athletics
Fun fact: Most PA without a homer (1,559)
It might seem hard to call a man with 324 career wins unlucky, but Sutton never led his league in wins. Winning the ERA title in 1980 might be his highlight. He had seven 9-inning no-decisions despite not allowing a run.
What Sutton did have going for him was durability, which is why he racked up big career totals. He ranks seventh all time with 3,574 strikeouts, yet he never won a strikeout title.
Career: 1914-1932, Tigers, Reds
Fun fact: First to homer in every MLB ballpark during his career
"Slug" was an appropriate label for the hard-hitting Heilmann. The contrast between the thunder in his lumber and his slow feet made the label appropriate twice over for this slugging star in the heavy-hitting '20s.
Heilmann won four batting titles, and his .403 average in 1923 made him the last AL right-hander to hit over .400 in a full season and the next-to-last man in the AL to do it at all.
Career: 1875-92, Pirates, Bisons
Fun fact: Baseball's first 300-game winner
Galvin ranks second only to Cy Young in complete games and innings pitched. Like Young, he was a durable starter, belying a physique that gave him the nickname Pudding -- hence the more dignified Pud.
In a reflection of modern concerns, Galvin acquired latter-day notoriety for perhaps being baseball's first-ever PED user because he admitted to drinking an elixir that contained monkey testosterone in 1889. Nobody's rushing to kick him out of the Hall of Fame, though.
Career: 1981-97, Cubs
Fun fact: His final game at Wrigley was also Harry Caray's final performance of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
One of the most beloved Cubs of all time, Ryno's combination of power at the plate and steadiness afield made him a star while the franchise set attendance records.
Sandberg holds the MLB record for best career fielding percentage at second base (.989), highlighted by a then-record 123-game errorless streak. He made 10 consecutive All-Star Game appearances and hit 282 homers.
Career: 1928-46, Yankees
Fun fact: Had the highest single-season batting average (.362) for a catcher until Joe Mauer hit .365 in 2009
The Yankees' legion of second-tier stars behind the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and Jeter can count Dickey as their patron saint. The tough backstop was a tremendous second banana for the dominant Bombers teams of the '30s, as he set records for 100-game seasons behind the plate, playing for eight World Series winners before getting another six rings either managing or coaching for the Yankees. His best stretch was from 1936-39, clouting 102 homers.
Career: 1915-30, Browns, Braves
Fun fact: Held the single-season record for hits (257) from 1920 until Ichiro Suzuki broke it in 2004
Perhaps the greatest player in St. Louis Browns history, Sisler was an early success story with the move to the live ball, ripping 257 hits in 1920 and 246 in 1922, hitting over .400 in both seasons.
Sisler set the AL record for hits in consecutive games (41) in 1922, which was the mark that was subsequently eclipsed by Joe DiMaggio's legendary streak in 1941.
Career: 1880-93, Giants, Phillies, others
Fun fact: Record-holder for winning a game in the most ballparks (47)
If you include everyone who played before the distance between the mound and plate was 60 feet 6 inches, you have to make room for Keefe, a 19th century gent dominant from 45 and 50 feet.
Before they moved the mound back in his final season, Keefe won three ERA titles and had a run of 32 or more wins in six straight seasons, topping out at 42 in 1886. With the move of the mound, his ERA almost doubled and his career was over.
Career: 1975-98, Indians, Red Sox, Cubs, Athletics, Cardinals
Fun fact: First pitcher to have a 20-win season and a 50-save season
Few players have packed so many feats into one career. Eck threw baseball's 200th no-hitter as a 22-year-old, won an MVP and Cy Young Award as a closer in 1992 and is the only reliever to notch more saves than baserunners allowed (1990).
Beyond those achievements, Eckersley was the reliever who redefined the closer's role as that of a ninth-inning-only specialist.
Career: 1899-1917, Reds, Tigers
Fun fact: Most inside-the-park HRs (51)
If the triple is baseball's most exciting play, perhaps no player was ever as exciting as Wahoo Sam, who holds the MLB record for three-bag hits with 309. He starred on the Tigers team that won three straight pennants from 1907-09 only to lose the World Series each time.
Before free agency, Crawford was a free agent of sorts. When the AL and NL were rivals for players, he signed with both the Reds and Tigers. A judge put him with Detroit and compensated the Reds.
Career: 1938-52, Indians, Red Sox
Fun fact: Set a record by turning 134 double plays as a player-manager in 1944
The Indians last won a World Series in 1948. Who was their manager? Boudreau, who also won the AL MVP Award that season while hitting a career-high 18 home runs. It was an unusual achievement in an unusual career.
As a manager, Boudreau is best remembered for his tactical innovation of deploying an infield shift to defend against Ted Williams' dead-pull tendencies at the plate.
Career: 1897-1910, Pirates, A's, Browns
Fun fact: Held K's record by LHP (349)
The top power pitcher of his day, Waddell won six strikeout titles with plus stuff: plus heat, big-bending curve and a screwball. He was a bit of a screwball too, frustrating teams, chasing passing fire engines, drinking heavily and losing focus easily.
Waddell was eccentric on the field, having his outfielders sit down before striking out the side. In one exhibition, he took the field with just his catcher for the final three innings, getting 9 K's.
Career: 1959-1976, Cubs, A's
Fun fact: Beat out Joe Torre to win National League Rookie of the Year in 1961
Machine-like efficiency was sweet-swinging Williams' greatest feature, as year after year, the Cubs' left fielder drove in runs from the three-hole. Spending his prime seasons during the death valley of offense that was baseball in the '60s hurt his overall numbers. Once the mound was lowered, his production spiked at the end of his career. He belted a career-high 42 homers in 1970 and slugged .606 in 1972, hints of what might have been.
Career: 1888-1903, Phillies, Senators
Fun fact: Only player to hit four inside-the-park home runs in the same game
When baseball moved the mound back in 1893, batters celebrated, but Delahanty enjoyed the benefits more than most. Already a slugger, he became one of the premier power hitters in baseball, batting .400 or better three times, finishing with five slugging titles and narrowly missing a Triple Crown season. He was one of the high-profile stars whose jump to the AL helped legitimize the new rival to the National League.
Career: 1987-2004, Mariners
Fun fact: Only DH to have won a batting title, hitting .356 in 1995
There are only so many positions, so there are only so many opportunities for one player to define. With his, Martinez defined the designated hitter. Average, patience and power, Martinez had it all, but early-career injuries forced him off the field, making DH the spot for him.
Martinez won two batting titles and three OBP titles. If a DH can make it to the Hall of Fame, Martinez is the first and best choice.
Career: 1956-69, Dodgers
Fun fact: Owns modern NL record for hit batsmen (154)
Arguably everybody takes a backseat to Sandy Koufax, but teammate Drysdale would have been an ace on any other team. Drysdale won the NL Cy Young in 1962 with 25 wins and claimed three strikeout titles.
While Drysdale's reputation for protecting the inside corner was well-earned, he was the rare pitcher who was equally fearsome at the plate, hitting 29 home runs during his career.
Career: 1932-43/1947-48, Pirates, Dodgers
Fun fact: Bill James rated his 1935 season (1.098 OPS) as the best by a shortstop not named Honus Wagner
Great things come in threes, and three times Vaughan led the NL in runs, walks, OBP and triples. He is something of an underrated great because he spent most of his career on poor Pirates teams.
Vaughan's career was abbreviated by his retiring in 1943 after clashing with manager Leo Durocher; he returned to a reserve role for the 1947 and '48 seasons.
Career: 1948-57, Dodgers
Fun fact: Threw out 57 percent of stolen-base attempts, highest career tally in MLB history
One of the first four African-American players to make the All-Star team (in 1949), Campanella went on to win three MVP awards and set the Dodgers' record for RBIs with 142 in 1953 (later broken). That same season, Campy hit 41 homers as a catcher, an MLB record that would stand until 1996. Tragically, Campanella's playing career was cut short after he was paralyzed in an auto accident after the 1957 season.